Tomoaki Maeno (Voice Newtype Vol. 077 2020)

前野 智昭

A professional who does not neglect preparations and reliably responds to what is required on site. On the other hand, I can’t help but fall in love with each character I’ve met. Tomoaki Maeno-san’s journey is a trajectory of a dream that bears fruit from “sincerity”.

It will be the first time in 5 years that you are on the cover of this magazine. Maeno: Five years ago, I was on the cover of Voice Newtype, it was my first solo magazine cover. For the first time in a TV anime, I was the main character, and I was able to wear the uniform of Atsushi Dojou from “Library Wars”, which is deeply rooted in me as a starting point. I can’t forget it, so I thought it would be nice if I was given another chance. Please ask me anything.

In these interviews, you always start by saying, “Ask me anything.” Maeno: Is that so?  In that sense, I don’t think things have really changed in the last five years. As a result, I feel sorry since I can only talk about the same things.

Even so, on your birthday in May this year due to the corona crisis, you must have been feeling a little different than usual. Maeno: It’s true that the opportunity to meet people in person has been lost, even within the industry. We couldn’t afford to gather dozens of people for recording, but I was thankful to be able to work until now. I felt it again around the time of my birthday. At my event on the weekend, we let the audience enjoy the content live, and with the energy they gave us there, we can do our best for normal recording on Monday. If you realize that it’s not a matter of course, you’ll think you’ve done something more. The whole industry can do it in a limited situation, but I feel like I’m looking for something and having fun with you. I’m constantly thinking about whether I can deliver. So, I really was able to have my face on the cover at such a timing. It was a blessing.

Was that the reason you started your own Twitter account? Maeno: Yes, I sent it on the Internet at that time, I’m everyone who started the game had the same thought. I hope that by doing something, someone will feel a little more joyful.

Looking back, what have these five years been like for you? Maeno: I met various characters over the years. I think that the number of artists in the field increased tremendously. Did I lose my strength? I wonder if I’m grown up.

How do you feel grown up? Maeno: What it’s like? I feel like I’ve been swayed by the evaluations around me more than before. I have a very strong feeling that I don’t want people to hate me, but it’s impossible to get 100 percent of people to like me. While taking negative opinions seriously, I think I’ve become able to switch my feelings by protecting my own stance and say, “I’ll do my best for those who have fun with my characters.”Ichirou-san said, “I love being hated,” and I thought what a big person he was. When I hear that kind of opinion, I get chills. I don’t think I’ll ever reach that point.

Maeno-san, do you have a policy that you will stick to even if you are disliked at work? Maeno: I think it’s a lot. For example, when I say something to my juniors. Recently, I’ve had many opportunities to work with young people, and there are times when I feel like, “If I do this a little more, the evaluation will change.” Because I think it belongs to them who only grows up when they realize it.

This is because you have a strong sense of how you grew up and how you came to be. Maeno: That’s right. There’s a lot of advice I got from my seniors, but it’s only now that I understand what they were trying to say. Of course, when a junior asks me directly, I would like to respond empathetically.

What other policies do you have? Maeno: It goes without saying that we should rehearse properly at home before the performance. It’s only natural to prepare for post-recording, and if you’re recording a character song, you’ll memorize the songs. There are some people who say it’s better to do it with intuition than preparing, and I think it’s one of the ways I do it, but I’m sure I’m prepared to some extent.

Five years ago, you said that you can work hard because you lack self-confidence. As you said earlier, are you the one who don’t change even if the number of artists is increased? Maeno: The experience of going through a lot of events has certainly helped me, but as a person, I still lack self-confidence. That’s why I say that I can’t speak for some reason, and I wonder what I have in myself, and whether I have the charm to live with pride.

In the past 5 years, have you had any encounters with people or works that changed your awareness of your own play and work? Maeno: Kenichi Suzumura-san, we met a long time ago, but in the last 5 years I’ve been on good terms with him. I learned from him the way of thinking and the attitude of actively challenging the rules that I have never experienced. Also, in terms of works, there are so many, and I think that each one has been a turning point in various ways.

Then, let me ask you about some of your works. Regarding “Touken Ranbu – ONLINE-“, you also mentioned on Twitter that “it’s amazing to have him in everything.” Maeno: When I first recorded the audio for the browser game, it was supported by so many people, and the anime is also “Touken Ranbu – Hanamaru” and “Katsugeki Touken Ranbu”, and there are stage musicals. To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be a big development work. I had a chance to talk personally with Yoshihiko Aramaki-kun, who also plays Kunihiro Yamabakiri on the stage. That’s why when “Library War” was made into a movie, there were moments when I couldn’t help thinking about Junichi Okada-san, who played the role of Atsushi Dojou, and had mixed feelings, but recently there is no such thing at all. Rather, I feel like a comrade who played the same character. I would like to think that the most important contribution to the work is to act carefully with my voice. It was influenced by “Touken Ranbu”, but the same applies to “Star-My” and “Ensemble Stars!”

Also, I picked up a remark on Twitter, but there are times when I want to listen to the song of “Star-My” for no reason. Maeno: Yes, it was sudden. There are character songs for other works, but in the case of “Star-My, the event that was touted as the finale last summer was cancelled due to the typhoon, and I was left with a feeling of grief. I think there is still a place where there is no break. I don’t know what it’s like in reality, but I don’t know if I’m the one who hasn’t finished the work, or rather, there’s still something like hope that’ll I’ll be able to meet it again.

I feel like Maeno-san is the kind of person who makes you want to meet him. “Ensemble Stars” Hokuto Hidaka also appeared on the “KIKI” side in this magazine. Maeno: At the time, I was the second generation to take on the role, so there was no question and answer, and I spoke with the powerful words, “I love you.” They are not mine; they have their own lives. The rest is probably because I’m basically an otaku (laughs).

What’s more, for example, even after you’re finished working on the anime, you still use their goods daily, and you continue to have the existence of the character in yourself. Maeno: It’s a world where the possibility of performing in a few years are not zero, so I want to always be ready to go back. While the characters stop aging in the works, we grow older. 20 years from now, at the site of re-recording a work from 30 years ago, I often realize the greatness of my seniors who are doing the same play as at the time.

Regarding Hiro Hayami from “King of Prism”, you also talked about how you felt that you still had a lot to play. Maeno: To be honest, I’m happy to see the junior actors doing their best to liven up the work. Fortunately, I still want to play Hiro-sama. I want to see the future story after becoming the Prism King.

He’s still such a gorgeous character, and Naoya Shiga from “Bungo to Alchemist” is also a very popular character. Maeno: In terms of my natural voice, it’s easier for me to play a character with a thin line because I don’t have to worry about the tone, so I can play with various nuances. Shiga-san is a clear-cut character, so you can play around with him within the range of the character, and he’s fun to play. I received a cool highlight in the anime, but since I was recording the game, it’s mainly a favourite work.

Naoya Shiga is said to have a style that exposes the inner workings of invisible human beings. Maeno: He must replace himself and build like he does. For example, in the scene where his friend died in front of him, what kind of expression would he have at that time? So, what kind of voice will I use… Of course, it’s just my imagination, but there are quite a lot of opportunities to act out things that you don’t often experience in life. However, I cannot sympathize with their actions. For that reason, in such a case, the character will say, “I’m sure I’ll do the same.” I’m going to give it to a target and make an image.

From last year to this year, you played the main roles, Mika in “Drifting Dragons” and Free Underbar in “Fairy Gone”. Maeno: Certainly, I came to feel that I reached an age where I could play a grown-up character. When I auditioned for Mika in “Drifting Dragons”, I imagined the voice of the seniors, so I was very happy to be given the role. I feel like I was able to open a new door. Also, Takahiro Sakurai-san praised me so much that I was happy. “Maeno, it’s fine,” he said. I don’t know what was good about me (laughs).

Mika and Free, in case of emergency, they can be relied on at times, and I think that having Maeno-san in the works gives me a sense of security. Starting with Atsushi Dojou, how do you perceive the fact that there are many roles that can be trusted, such as the captain of the unit? Maeno: I think it’s just a coincidence, but I’m grateful. I’m not the type to say, “It’s great for me!” There is something to be happy about.

Is there something you are conscious of to be trusted in the field? Maeno: After all, to face each other sincerely is the only thing. Both for customers and staff. Originally, I was very shy, but I think that the fact that I’ve become able to talk to various people is a part of me that have grown in these five years.

Free cherished the words of his friend, “When you are afraid, move forward!” Do you have any fears, Maeno-san? Maeno: It happens all the time! And I have no choice but to do it. Even if I don’t show confidence, I’m in a position where I must show my juniors that I can do it with confidence. I think it’s important for me to pretend that I’m a professional because I can’t understand what I’m afraid of.

By the way, what are you most afraid of in this world? Maeno: At the scene, “This is something interesting”. It’s about being told to ad-lib. In fact, I do it when I think of it. But I’ll never come out unless I’m in a tight spot. I feel scared every time.

Konro Sagamiya from “Fire Force”, the battalion commander is Benimaru Shinmon. It is also a role that preaches the way of life, but that’s up to you. Maeno: I agree, Benimaru is a splendid guy, and I play the role of supporting him in the shadows. He’s such an unsung hero like Konro.

The white blood cell (neutrophil) in “Cells at Work!” can be called the hero. Maeno: I think it’s true that I’m influenced by his “I’ll do something about it!” feeling. He also has a caring side, and he’s a character that men think is cool. He gave me various experiences through the work, and it expanded my world. There will also be a second season, and he has become a very important character.

This autumn, theatrical release of the “WAVE!! ~ Surfing Yappe!!~” trilogy in which you play the main character, Masaki Hinaoka, will be played. Maeno: Originally, I wanted to make a work set in Ibaraki, so I asked about it. At that time, I thought, “I have a character that I can do. If you are here, please let me cooperate with you.” But later, when I looked at the character design I received and said, “Maeno-san, this role,” it was a very cute Masaki-kun. As expected, I thought that he was strict with me (laughs). Starting with Showtarou Morikubou-san, the co-stars also confirmed it. “Are you sure you want to play that character?” However, it was a great opportunity to contribute to the local community, so I would like to do my best while making it one of my motivations.

You played Mika and Free, and he’s a character who embodies such youth. Being able to take on challenging roles is one of the fun things about being a voice actor. Maeno: I don’t have the image of “this kind of character is Maeno”, and I feel like I want to do various things, so I’m grateful. Of course, I’m happy when people say, “Maeno is good at this kind of role.” I want to pursue a play that changes into various colours depending on the position.

In terms of unexpectedness, recently, I was surprised by the “I will die if my favourite idol goes to Budokan.” Maeno: Oh yes, I was very happy to hear that it was “surprising”. When I was asked to audition for Kumasa, I was like, “Is this the role?” (laughs) The thick vocalization itself could have been devised as an extension of the older roles (old man roles) that I often played in my early twenties, but I was worried about how much “otaku feeling” I could give. During the recording of the first episode, I had a lot of discussions with the sound director about whether I would be able to do it. “It’s going to be a cool voice.” I’ve decided on an emotional policy in terms of the character.

Kumasa says that meeting an idol is a “treasure of life.” However, what is Maeno-san’s “treasure of life?” Maeno: I’m not saying that in a cool way. I don’t have it… but that’s it. It’s a character I’ve played until now. I would like to thank everyone for your support.

It feels like it. What time was it? Maeno: I feel it most when I read your letters. The words of those who encourage me are the source of my daily life, and I think that I really am who I am because of everyone. As I said a little earlier, there is no doubt that my desire to be sincere with everyone is the principle of my behaviour.

The live stage of “Uta No Prince-sama” is also a place where Maeno-san’s sincerity towards the work can be conveyed. I also heard that you began to build your body for the annual live performance. Maeno: Aside from my actual performance, I continue go to the gym. When it was first decided that was going to appear in STARISH, as Camus, who stands in the position of “senior”, and because all the QUARTET NIGHT cast members are also involved in music activities, I thought, “I don’t want to hold back. No matter how hard it gets, I must do my best.” I want to never forget that feeling even after 10 or 20 years from now.

It was a pity that the “Maji Love Live 7th Stage” had to be postponed this year. Maeno: From the rehearsal stage there were moments when I thought, “Even if I remember this choreography, maybe I won’t be able to do it this year. Let’s do our best for when we can.”  We encouraged each other. Tatsu (Tatsuhisa Suzuki) was injured just before the rehearsals and went to the hospital, and when he didn’t know what would happen to him in the actual event, he said, “But I might come back and say I’ll do it.” I remembered the feelings I had when we were united to prepare. No matter what I do, I’ll do my best. We also want to do it in a state where everyone can enjoy it 100%, so I think they made a wise decision to postpone it.

When I look back on it again, I can really feel that you have been acting while being close to your characters, but I wonder if Maeno-san’s desires and aspirations can be drawn out. If we were to act together, what kind of role or work would be good? Maeno: The feeling of wanting to do trash or a third piece has changed from before. Also, recently, the age of the cast list is getting older, and I would like to play a final boss-like role that is hated by the viewers. I feel that they thought, “If it’s Maeno-san, I can entrust you with such a big thing,” and if I can do something, I feel like I can take another step forward.

You’ve been building your career for nearly 20 years. Maeno: In fact, it’s become true! My original life plan was to ride a Gundam at the age of 24 and live at 25. I wanted to play the lead role in Tales when I was 27 and buy a house (laughs). I’ve been featured in both series, but it’s been a dream since I was a child. There are many other works that I want to appear in, and this is just the ambition I want to achieve.

Conversely, are there any dreamy events that you didn’t imagine in the beginning? Maeno: I was honestly happy that I was appointed as a tourism ambassador for Shimotsuma City, and that I was given a job related to my favourite team, the Giants. I believe that dreams can come true.

Five years ago, you answered the question, “How many points did you in your current job?” So, what is your score now? Maeno: It’s a difficult question, but I think I’m expected to always be able to say “100 points” when it comes to performance, as someone who delivers something that satisfies everyone. Even though the sound director’s OK is “100 points” at the site, I’m a little concerned when I think that it is about 70 points. However, I did a lot of practises so that the remaining 30 points would be a plus. I want to always put my all into every job so that I can say, “I just couldn’t put it out in production.”

At that time, you answered, “60 points” as a comprehensive work performance, but you also said, “I think there is still room to grow in the play” and “I want to expand the roles I can play.” Maeno: Oh, that’s what happened to me. However, I do not say that I’m on top of things, and I may have changed my mind somewhat. To go a little further, even baseball players can’t hit home run in every turn at bat. Even if you scored 80 points that day, everyone should be 100 points for their enthusiasm. It is only in the last few years that I’ve come to think that I should take care of such feelings.

What triggered it? Maeno: There’s no such thing, but it overlaps with what I said earlier, so I’m the one who was told by a senior when I was a newcomer, and now I’m the senior. “I don’t know how to play this role.” “What are you talking about?” he replied. I want to be able to face any character with the feeling, “Right now, I’m the only one who can bring out 100 points in this role.”

It’s been a long time since you’ve been able to expand your range of roles, just as you were aiming for five years ago. Maeno: I just feel lit. Voice is also a consumable item. These days, I record close to 900 words in about 5 hours a day, so naturally my voice gets tired, but even so, the first word “genki” and the 700th word “genki”, I can’t change it. This made me feel that it was a tough job, and I always thought that maintaining a good condition was more difficult than creating the mood for a play.

What is the joy of working as a voice actor that makes you want to continue? Maeno: It’s true that I haven’t changed much in a long time, but when I was involved in a project that I liked from my school days, and when I was able to work side by side with my seniors, who I had seen their success in, I felt a special joy.

You say it well. Maeno: Especially when it comes to technical jobs, even when you don’t want to do it, you can’t do it without them. This question is…well, it’s difficult. But right now, I’m glad that I was able to do what I love as a job. In the questionnaire when I joined the office, I borrowed the phrase “Dream + Effort = Reality” from Manami Komori-san, a radio personality I’ve liked since I was in junior high school and wrote it as my motto. I think that’s exactly what it is, and it’s true that the reason I’ve been able to continue this far is because I love it. But, after all, when I fail an audition for a role I really wanted to play, and see a friend playing him, it makes me want to scream, “Wow!”

How did you get over it? Maeno: When I have dreams that haven’t come true yet, I try to think, “It’s too early for me right now.” I wonder. No, I’m sorry, it doesn’t matter what I’m talking about, I’m like, “Damn it!”

There was also talk of lack of self-confidence as usual, but such complexes jealousy, frustration, and other emotions that could be considered ugly were portrayed by Maeno-san. I think it is also connected. Maeno: Thank you for saying that, but I want you to. There are parts of me that have grown up, but I think that my unchanging inferiority complex is my weapon, and I think I want to have a rebellious spirit.

I’ll ask you one last question. Do you ever imagine the future? Maeno: Well, I often talk with my friends who were born in 1982 as well. It’s almost time for me to have a vision of the future. But it’s so fluffy that I can’t imagine it. I think that the path of turning to training the next generation is also a goal. But I still want to be a lifelong player. I will continue to work hard with the goal of still standing in front of the microphone 10 or 20 years from now.

Tomaeki Maeno column: Little Happiness:

Game and highball. I’m very happy when I come home after a day’s work and play games and drink high balls. Especially on a workday when I feel a sense of accomplishment, it tastes the best.


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