Interview with Chiwa Saito at Anime Frontier 2023: On Homura’s

Interview with Chiwa Saito at Anime Frontier 2023: On Homura’s Go back, Harrison Ford, and Discovering Time for Your self

Chiwa Saito is one of anime’s most notable and skilled seiyuu, with a career spanning more than twenty years. But as she sat in front of press at Anime Frontier 2023, finally appearing at the con after originally being scheduled in 2020 and unable to attend because of the pandemic, Chiwa showed us something unexpected. She may be known for her incredible voice acting, but Chiwa’s wisdom and thoughtfulness might even outmatch her prolific body of work.

Chiwa is perhaps best known for voicing the relatively monotone characters of Senjougahara (Monogatari series) and Homura (Puella Magi Madoka Magica), an unexpected turn in her career since she excels as bright, bubbly characters. In fact, her audition process for Madoka was originally focused on Kyubey and Kyosuke (Sayaka’s crush) before she was asked to read for Homura. Similarly, Hachikuji seemed a better fit for Chiwa than Senjougahara, but that only at first blush—the girlish qualities and femininity in that character came out as the series moved forward, and Chiwa connected to that part of her personality.

Homura likewise evolves. She’s a complex character, and Chiwa believes that maybe her experience as a voice actress was what helped her land that complicated role. As she explained, the character has now really split into three (original Homura, glasses Homura, and “Homucifier”), which excites Chiwa because that differentiation has allowed more fans to be brought into the series. The upcoming film could evolve the character further, though at this point she doesn’t know anything about the script beyond what we as fans know from the recently-released teaser she recorded with the other seiyuu.

Certainly, fans will be looking forward to Chiwa’s return as Homura. Along with Senjougahara, she’s the character most requested during autograph sessions with the seiyuu. The passion that fans have for these characters has really affected Chiwa, but something she only realizes when going overseas to conventions, since Japan’s opportunities for fans to interact with her about characters are so different. They don’t invite the personal interaction she receives at the cons.

Anime conventions also allow Chiwa to open up more than she can in Japan. She’s able to express herself more personally at these events, which she loves to do! In fact, when I asked her what the 2023 Chiwa Saito would advise the Chiwa Saito just starting in the voice acting industry, she asked if she could reply from a personal rather than career perspective. And her answer was full of wisdom:

Give more time to yourself. Allow yourself more of your own time. It was so hard for me to take time for myself because…a lot of people are pressuring you. As a young seiyuu…you don’t feel you can speak up. Thankfully, mental health is becoming a big topic everywhere, even in Japan. I’ve learned that I need to create that time away so that I can have a fuller life.” (translated)

That “fuller life” now includes family. Chiwa was traveling to Anime Frontier with one of her three children, and it’s easy to tell she treasures motherhood, speaking so adoringly of her kids both during the interview and in an earlier guest session at the convention. She also enjoys practicing karate and watching movies. In fact, Chiwa is a huge film buff. When she has time—and moms know that time is certainly a luxury with young children—she enjoys going to theaters and diving into the world shown on the big screen. Her favorite actor? Harrison Ford! Though she admits that while the younger Chiwa would have wanted to be in a project with him, it’s perhaps better to keep your heroes at a distance.

As part of the conversation about living with perspective, Chiwa also mentioned her practice of considering herself to be part of a greater team. She sees herself as a representative of whatever project she’s working on, remaining aware that she’s just one of many pieces for that work. Chiwa is “just one”; the project is a team effort.

Nonetheless, seiyuu remain in the spotlight. And yet, Chiwa didn’t even feel that voice acting was locked in as a lifelong career choice until perhaps five years ago. She wasn’t sure of this path, and certainly not earlier in life. When considering careers as a youth, being a veterinarian was a likelier career path than becoming a voice actor until an unusual occurrence took her down this road. She asked her mother to pick up a fashion magazine for her, but her mom, taking a magazine from the bottom of the stack, accidently picked up a copy of Seiyuu Grand Prix instead. That volume opened the door to voice acting for Chiwa.

What a wondrous “mistake”! And now, decades later, generations of anime fans have been forever impacted by Chiwa’s work. And if we’re listening closely, we can also discover something else in her voice—the experience of a full life well-lived and advice that we might also do well to embrace.


Twwk


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