The “Monogatari” series by Isin Nisio, which has been published by Kodansha BOX since 2006, is a fantasy novel about the main protagonist, Araragi Koyomi and his encounters with multiple “oddities.”
The series has gained its popularity for combining various romance, comedy, and battle elements along with its charming characters .

The “Monogatari” series is now available in audiobook format on “Audible” by Amazon.

“Audible” hosts audio content (such as books)read by professional narrators and voice actors .
Voice actors of the anime series will be in charge of reading the “Monogatari” series on Audible starting from the first part of the series .

Therefore, this time, Kamiya Hiroshi (as Araragi Koyomi in the anime) read the first volume of “Bakemonogatari” (“Hitagi Crab” arc, “Mayo Snail” arc), and the second volume of “Bakemonogatari” (“Tsubasa Cat” edition)) was read by Saito Chiwa (Senjogahara Hitagi in the anime).

We talked with them about the appeal points of Bakemonogatari that can only be conveyed through voice acting,, the fun and difficulty of expressing Isin Nisio-san’s unique style of writing with “voice”, and the life of voice actors during the coronavirus crisis.
[Interview / text = Kazu SP, shooting = Ayumi Fujita]

■ Coming back to the origin of the “ series” after “Zoku Owarimonogatari” has received an anime adaptation
――What was your impression returning to the first season and reading it aloud?

Kamiya: When I read the novel again this time, I was thinking, “Early Hitagi-san was like this”, and “Araragi Koyomi was such a person.” I was surprised that I didn’t lose that initial feeling of when I read the first volume of “Bakemonogatari” for the first time.
The character of Senjogahara Hitagi changed as the story progressed, but what lies at her core hasn’t changed at all. I felt like I was able to confirm lots of things about the two of them.

Saito: I was in charge of reading the second volume of “Bakemonogatari”, “Tsubasa Cat”. When I read it for the first time, Araragi-kun’s feelings got into me too much, so I had to stop there.

As the voice actress of Senjougahara Hitagi, I ended up knowing more than I needed to, so I stopped myself. The plot of “Tsubasa Cat” contains lots of things you’re better off not knowing (from Hitagi’s point of view), given that she’s dating Araragi-kun (laughs).

――Especially, “Black Hanekawa” reveals Hitagi’s complicated feelings, isn’t it?

Saito: That’s precisely why I wanted to pursue only Hitagi’s feelings and perform only according to what Hitagi knew, so I kept my distance from the novels while working on the anime.
When I read the second volume of “Bakemonogatari” this time around for the Audible recording, it really made me think “Oh, so that’s what Araragi-kun was thinking about while interacting with everyone”, it was a truly refreshing experience.

Araragi-kun, who you see in the anime, feels so crazy (laughs), but I can nowunderstand what feelings lead him to such crazy actions. “So this is how Araragi felt spending his time with Hitagi”… His feelings were also refreshing.

Since I had to pursue Hitagi’s emotions during the recording, I also filled in the space between the lines while imagining it myself. So this time, I really enjoyed reading what was between the lines of Araragi-kun.

■ Unlike the dubbing of anime, you had to read the lines of all the characters this time around. How difficult was that?
――What was the difference between the anime dubbing and the recording for Audible this time?

Kamiya: In the animation script of the “Monogatari” series, for me who plays Araragi, everything was divided into three categories: “narration”, “monologue”, and “dialogue”. However, there are only descriptive parts and conversations in the novel, so there is no clear line between narration and monologue.
So I divided the text the main text into the sentence and devoted myself to processing it in a form close to the narration. Frequent switching between monologues and narration mixes objective explanations with the feelings of the Araragi Koyoumi. It was a particularly difficult point I had to be wary of as not to make listening to the book harder.

――Is it easier to listen when it is unified?

Kamiya: I think so. However, in the emotional scenes, there are some parts where I opted for a performance closer to that of the anime..

Saito: I thought that if the voice actors were to read it aloud , many people would like to listen to the books with Hitagi’s normal voice, so that’s what I did.. However, the narration of Kamiya-san’s voice stuck in my head, and I had a hard time not imitating it (laughs).
The same also applies to the lines of the other characters. By trial and error, I figurehad to out how to express the other voice actor’s rhythm as Senjougahara Hitagi.

―― So you read the lines of other characters with the Hitagi’s voice. The more the rhythm of the voice actors remained in your head, the harder it was, is that right?

Saito: Since using the voice of Senjogahara Hitagi, I figured it would feel off if I were to impersonate the acting of other people only in the dialogue parts. How to balance it is what bothered me. But it was a lot of fun once I got the grasp of it (laughs).

――In this Audible release, both the first and second volumes of “Bakemonogatari” have exceeded seven and a half hours, which is quite a long time.

Kamiya: The number of sentences was overwhelmingly large, so if there is a number of words that one person could speak in a day, it seemed that one recording clearly exceeded that (laughs).

Saito: although the parts involving Hitagi went smoothly, it sometimes took time for me to record sentences about things that are unacceptable from Hitagi’s point of view.

――What about the scenes where Araragi Koyomi does sexual harassement-like acts to Hanekawa Tsubasa??

Saito: That’s right! If she would witness it, she might stab him (laughs).
At the time of the second volume, Hitagi has not yet liked Hanekawa-san. I remember that the progress wasn’t very smooth in Hanekawa and Mayoi’s parts.

――The talk between Kanbaru Suruga and Araragi-kun in the second volume was interesting. The tempo was fast, was it difficult for you?

Saito: As a Hitagi, I love Kanbara, so even without making a conscious effort to be aware of it, it was a place where the recording progressed smoothly with the momentum of “Today, the Hitagi in me is on a roll!”

――Kamiya-san, have you noticed something like this during the recording for Audible?

Kamiya: By reading for other characters, I realized again that Araragi Koyomi had all the answers in the anime of the original story.
What kind of things does Araragi Koyomi think about when he is talking? It is written in the novels, and you can see it if you read it.

――Since the novel is from the first-person view of the Araragi Koyoumi, the novel properly explains his emotional state .

Kamiya: But the other cast members don’t find such answers in the novels. Suddenly, a wild line appears: “Potsun”. “Why does Senjougahara Hitagi come out suddenly and say it?”, the inner side of Hitagi is not explained at all.
The actress Saito Chiwa, who made this sound, reminded me that she is a really good actress.

Saito: thank you!

Kamiya: Of course, I have the same feelings about Hakuji Mayoi and Oshino Meme, who appeared in the first volume. I found out that I was provided with lots of information and clues into acting my role.
There was a lot of physical difficulty in the anime, but when it came to reading those sounds aloud, I went to the scene with a clear vision. Therefore, I didn’t have difficulty capturing such feelings.

――During the reading, you also need to understand the emotions of other characters.

Kamiya: However, in the anime, the voice actor who played the role have already done it once. This time, I relied on it to create the voices and rhythms of other characters. Other people’s acting gave answers, such as “Saito-san did it in this way, she put those feelings, I should read with this rhythm.”

However, had this not been animated before, I think it would have been difficult if I was suddenly asked to read Hachikuji and Oshino Meme ‘s lines.

■ What Kamiya imposed on himself by reading the anime “Zoku Owarimonogatari” and Audible “Bakemonogatari (above)”
――What was the difficulty for you, Saito-san, in recording for Audible?

Saito: The hardest part was to be prepared in advance. It has a huge amount of text and a lot of kanji! (laugh)
It was very difficult to find out how to read kanji, intonation, and meaning.
Kamiya-san was always doing during the anime recording, and I respect him for that brilliancy. Kamiya-san always prepared a red book (* If you remove the binding of the original novel, it will have a red cover) at the dubbing sessions.

――It seems that Kamiya-san was checking the original and the script in advance before the anime recording.

Saito: That’s right. This time I was suffering behind mydesk like I was studying for an exam.
There is a lot of idioms I haven’t seen, some sentences have no punctuation marks and it is impossible to separate those, so if I would see at that moment Isin Nisio-san, I would complain a lot (laughs).

――Isin Nisio’s writing style is very quirky, and it seems difficult to read it.

Kamiya: From the first work “Bakemonogatari” to the final season, I imposed one rule on myself while voicing Araragi ‘s linesKoyomi . The hurdle was to “respect all punctuation marks”.

――For example, if it was written, “The wound in his mouth, had already, healed without a trace.”, it should be read aloud one part at a time..

* Quoted from page 419 of “Bakemonogatari” Volume 1 (Kodansha)

Kamiya: Even such places will be separated if there are dots in the original. In the anime “Zoku Owarimonogatari” it becomes sound.

――You are really faithful to the original.

Kamiya: Until the last day of Araragi Koyomi’s high school life, I read all the stories and make sounds after understanding the meaning of all the lines. When thinking about how I can handle it as a voice actor, When I thought about the mark I could leave as a voice actor, the answer I came up with was, “Breath at all punctuation marks according to the original.” Keeping that in mind, I performed all sounds in “Zoku Owarimonogatari”.

――You said that you followed to that rule for Audible as well.

Kamiya: Of course, in moments where the sentences were too long, there are moments to take some breath because there isare limits to a human’s lungs . Also, there were some parts where I really didn’t want to make a pause no matter what, so I didn’t fully abide by this rule in the end . However, I tried to be perfectly faithful to the text of Isin Nisio-san.

――Is “Isin Nisio” ingredient what made reading aloud so highly pure?

Kamiya: In a sense, Nishio-sensei is a crazy person who does not fit into the prescribed frame. According to the flyer, which is distributed once a week at the theaters, if he needs to write a short story of 2000 characters, he will write 20,000 characters. He is a person who gives back 10 times more (laughs).
I think I understand Isin Nisio-san’s commitment to writing. What should I do when I make the sound at first? When I realized it, I read the unique style of Isin Nisio with that rhythm. That’s all I can do.

――Saito-san, how do you feel about the text by Isin Nisio-sensei?

Saito: What I found interesting was playing with kanjis. For example, in the second volume of “Bakemonogatari”, there is a problem with how to read “Shirohebi Park”, because there is no pronunciation is written.
It’s a sentence that I (Araragi Koyomi) still don’t know how to read, whether it’s “rohaku” or “namishiro”.
The correct reading of “Koyomi Park” is a hint that connects later, but at that point, Araragi-kun does not know how to read it. But Audible is about reading aloud, so I have to read it out aloud one way or the other.

――There are differences between the letters and sounds, books and Audible.

Saito: Of course, I read this part after consultation with the staff, so I would like you to listen to how it should be read.
Nishio-san is playing with the readers, there is a mystery you need to find by chasing certain print. Other interesting parts were the rhyme and the fact that the letters were connected but not the sound.
When I played Hitagi in anime, I always changed “But” to “Although” to give a comfortable feeling when I heard it, and put out the rhythm of Hitagi.
On the contrary, Nishio-san gives a feeling of comfort when you follow the print with his eyes. It is interesting because it contrasts with the work of voice acting.

■ How to enjoy reading to your ears through “Audible” in a new daily life
――Are there any things that you both enjoyed of “voice only”?

Kamiya: When I was young, I used to like listening to drama CDs. However, I have never tried a medium-size whole novel like this.
When I was a student, I liked the radio and listened to it all the time. In the old days, there was only one CRT TV in the living room, and the only device that I could monopolize was the radio.

Currently, the content that I enjoy only with my eras may be concentrated on Amazon Echo. I think that music fills the space comfortably, and with the command “Alexa, play music”, the unobtrusive sound that is suitable for space will be played. I’m enjoying that kind of thing.

Saito: I already have to deal with my children who are quite noisy, so I don’t really get to listen to music (laughs)..

――(Lol). Is there any change in your profession as a voice actor during the coronavirus?

Kamiya: I almost never appear in front of people. The number of jobs that I used to perform in public, such as events and live performances, had decreased to almost a zero.

――There are online opportunities.

Kamiya: I feel that this situation has already become commonplace. Therefore, I feel that my job as a voice actor must also create content and entertainment that suits the new daily life of coronavirus.
There is no longer a situation where “originally, we could all do dubbing together”. So how do you record everything separately and improve the quality of the work? I feel that I have to think about that.

――Is it necessary for each voice actor to adapt to such new daily life?

Kamiya: But I think there are many people who think they will be able to come back to their daily routine before coronavirus, and if all would think like me it would be suffocating. I think everyone doesn’t have to think that way.

――As a change on the user side, I think that the more time you spend at home, the more opportunities you have to enjoy the story with Audible.

Kamiya: I’ve heard that long-distance truck drivers and people who are too busy with housework to read books overseas use this method.
I feel that such usage is still rare in Japan, and I hope that the style of “listening and reading” will become established in everyone as new entertainment.

Saito: It’s nice to listen while doing housework! When I am busy with housework, I couldn’t afford the time to read a book, which was very tough.

Kamiya: This Audible recording was a long recording time, and I couldn’t help but think that I was doing something like training (laughs), but I can’t say that.
We -voice actors- work in an industry where we have to convey everything orally, so I think it should become natural for us to take on jobs such as reading aloud entire novels. I hope you all enjoy it in that way.

Saito: it is a depressing time now because of the coronavirus, and I think it is even worse when you can’t going out and need to stay at home. At that time, I would be happy if you could listen to “Bakemonogatari” on Audible to heal yourself.