“Kotobuki Minako’s Another Wonderland in the UK” is a series of interviews with voice actress Kotobuki Minako, who is currently living in the UK, to tell us in her own words what her daily life in the UK is like.
In the last issue, we asked her about how she spends her time in the UK now that the lockdown has eased in February and also about her announcement of extending her planned one-year stay in the UK until this fall.
In Episode 13, we look back at her life in the UK over the last month with photos taken by Kotobuki-san herself.
We also asked her about her Easter with her host family and relatives, what she wants to do now that the lockdown restrictions have been relaxed, and her thoughts on her YouTube channel “Kotobuki Minako’s -Maji Kotobuki!-“ which will celebrate its first anniversary this April.
[Interview and text by Kaori Yoneda].
■Delighted to be reunited with schoolmates! Looking forward to the opening of cafes and the theater!
–In the UK, where the easing of the lockdown began in February; you must have had many days of free activity in March.
Kotobuki: I was allowed to meet up to six people outdoors, and I even got to see my Iraqi friends again for the first time in about six months!
–That sounds great! Is it still possible to eat at cafes and restaurants?
Kotobuki: It was difficult in March, but since April 12, we have finally been able to eat and drink outside (*The interview was conducted in mid-April.) Since clothing stores and beauty salons were also going to open this day, I was excited that “the day had finally arrived!”
I heard that there were many people who were even more excited than I was, and when the pubs opened at midnight on April 12, there were many people waiting in line. It was snowing in England that day, but everyone was really into it!
–Kotobuki-san, have you been to any restaurants yet?
Kotobuki: No, I haven’t yet, because basically you can’t eat or drink indoors yet. But before I came to England, I had a plan that I would try to go to a cafe every morning when I started my life in England. I’m looking forward to finally being able to put this into practice.
–You much be really looking forward to April and beyond!
Kotobuki: The first thing that makes me happy is that I can make plans with my friends. I used to say, “I want to go there! I can’t go now, but…” So far, all I’ve done is make vague promises.
The theater is scheduled to open in May, so I’ve already secured tickets for four or five shows.
–On the work front, you appeared as the last voice acting guest on the Nippon Broadcasting System’s radio program “Mu~Comi+Plus” in March.
Kotobuki: I was really happy that they invited Sphere as the last voice actor guest, and I was watching the last episode on March 25 on “Issho Ken Channel” (*a YouTube channel where the personality, announcer Yoshida Naoki, goes as a VTuber), and when Tanaka Rie and motsu-san came out as a surprise, I laughed out loud. I was entertained all the way to the end, but at the same time, I felt sad that the show was coming to an end.
–Let’s take a look back at the memories of March with photos.
■To Kensington Park, that appeared in your first play, “Other People’s Eyes.”
–Right away, that’s a photo taken outdoors. Where was this taken?
Kotobuki: This is the Victoria & Albert Museum, which has a large collection of arts and crafts from all over the world. This is where Britain’s jewels lie, and I’ve always wanted to go there someday, so I was happy to see the exterior for the first time. Unfortunately, I can’t go inside yet.
–So, did you come to this area for some other purpose?
Kotobuki: It was near a massage parlor that I was introduced to. When I was in Japan, I used to go to a massage parlor once a week for constant maintenance, but since I hadn’t done that at all for the past year, my body was starting to reach its limits.
It was a massage parlor run by a Japanese guy, and he was the best I’ve ever had! I felt so much better, so I decided to go for a walk and then go home.
The place in this photo is “Kensington Park”. In my previous performance, “The Public Eye” (2017), I had said “Kensington Park” many times in my lines, so I was thrilled to say, “So this is that Kensington Park!”
■Overcoming my dislike of the “telephone“ in the UK
–Then there is your Easter photo, which was also shown on YouTube. In the video, you mentioned that you overcame raisins and rum after coming to the UK, but are there any other habits or behaviors that you were not good at that you have overcome?
Kotobuki: I feel like I’m getting over the “telephone,” although it wasn’t originally, since I came to England, I’ve felt uncomfortable with the telephone. I still can’t speak English smoothly, so I have to use facial expressions and gestures to convey nuances, and I was really uncomfortable on the phone when I couldn’t do that.
If it was face-to-face, I could just say “this one,” but on the phone, I had to explain in detail, and I didn’t have the confidence to convey that well. …… The phone was the biggest hurdle for me, so I avoided it as much as possible, but I am getting over it now.
–Are there any specific episodes where you felt that you were able to overcome?
Kotobuki: It was when I made a phone call to a store that sells Kobe beef, which is rare in the UK. I was supposed to place an order for pickup on Friday, but I mistakenly placed it on Thursday. I called them and asked how to cancel the order, but they said, “Like this? Like this? I asked a lot of questions, but he was very polite and helpful.
I was able to cancel without any problems, and when I went to pick up my order on Friday, I was pleasantly surprised when she noticed me and said, “Minako? (laugh)
–It was definitely a delicious restaurant, even including the episode.
Kotobuki: It tasted really good too! You can see a little bit of rice in some parts, but that’s because I couldn’t resist and ate one piece before taking the picture (laughs).
→Next page: “I want to watch Japanese anime in Japanese”: What is the appeal of Japanese anime and voice actors?
■”I want to watch Japanese anime in Japanese.” What is the appeal of Japanese anime and voice actors?
–Did you spend Easter with your host family?
Kotobuki: I spent time with my host family and their relatives. It was a time when we couldn’t meet other people indoors yet, so we had a bonfire in the garden and grilled sausages and did some activity-like things. My host family’s grandchildren love anime, and they always do their best to talk about it, which made me feel lovely.
–Speaking of anime, it was announced that the release date for “Gundam Reconguista in G III the Movie: Legacy from Outer Space” has been set for July 22 (*Kotobuki-san will be playing the role of Noredo Nag). How is Gundam’s popularity overseas?
Kotobuki: When the live-action film adaptation of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” series was announced the other day, I saw a lot of excitement on the Internet. That’s how much “Gundam” is loved all over the world, and I felt that it is immortal.
–Hisashi: What kind of Japanese anime do the people you meet in England watch?
Kotobuki: Everyone I meet says that the first anime they watched was “DEATH NOTE”. They talk about the psycho-horror elements and the interesting story line.
The other day, I was talking about Japanese anime with a friend and they said, “I want to watch Japanese anime properly in Japanese,” which left an impression on me. When I asked them why they didn’t watch the anime dubbed in English, they said, “The emotions that Japanese people produce are so realistic that I can’t believe it’s anime. They said, “When it is dubbed, it sounds like they are talking in a children’s cartoon.”
Maybe that’s what it sounds like because, in the UK, anime has an image of being educational. I think it’s good that the characters are well-drawn and you can see how they live their lives.
–Didn’t the dubbing story sound very gratifying to you, Kotobuki, as a voice actor?
Kotobuki: I was so happy! It’s an honor to know that people can sense the emotions from my lines even though they don’t know what the Japanese means. Language is important, but it made me realize that emotions are the most important thing.
■The first anniversary of “Kotobuki Minako’s Maji Kotobuki!” A look back at my first year as a YouTuber
— “Minako Kotobuki’s -Maji Kotbuki!-“ will be celebrating its first anniversary in April. How do you feel looking back on your year as a YouTuber again?
Kotobuki: Thankfully, I was able to continue for one year. It’s thanks to all of you who have been watching me.
In March, I uploaded more than 100 videos, “I want to preserve this scenery!”, “I want to share with my fans in Japan!” There are so many things in the UK that I want to share with my Japanese fans, so I’d like to post more videos in the future!
–Personally, I liked Kotobuki’s “Study With Me” because it showed your real life in the UK.
Kotobuki: Really? Actually, that video was something I struggled with for about a month before I finally released it. Personally, I’ve watched a lot of Study With Me videos, and I like the ones with music, so I kept asking myself, “Is it really okay if it’s silent? I had a lot of discussions with the staff. In the end, I was very happy to hear that many people said it was good.
In the comments, some people said they wanted a longer version, so we hope to release a longer version in the future.
–May is the first anniversary of “Sphere’s 4 colors LABO,” and each of the four members has their own unique style in their videos, so please tell us about your favorite videos.
Kotobuki: Since we’re here, let me introduce my favorite video by the other three members. For (Toyosaki) Aki, it’s her makeup video.
I knew she liked make-up and cosmetics, and I saw her always talking about them with a twinkle in her eye, so I really like her.
As for (Tomatsu) Haruka, the legendary “milk and natto chazuke” (laughs).
I had heard about it, but I had never seen it. When I saw the video for the first time, I thought, “Maybe I will become interested”.
(Takagai) Ayahi, the video talking about the contents of her bag.
She has often said that she wanted to introduce the contents of her bag, and I thought it was wonderful that she was able to do so. Ayahi always has a lot of luggage (laughs), so I thought it would be worth seeing.
–Each time, when you introduce yourselves, you make one comment that is very Sphere like.
Kotobuki: When I’m thinking about it, my adrenaline is pumping and I’m in the mood to say, “This is going to be good!” But when I look at the self-introductions again, I often think, “What the heck am I saying? (laughs).
–It’s still fresh in my mind when Yuuki Aoi made her first appearance as a guest. Is there anything new you would like to try in the future?
Kotobuki: I’d like to have Aoi and others as guests again. What I want to do most now is to travel within the UK. When things ease up, I’d like to be able to bring you scenes of England other than London.
I’d also like to introduce afternoon tea stores, and since I didn’t film the Harry Potter Studio Tour when I went there before, I’d really like to film it next time and show you what it’s like inside. Please look forward to it!