Japanese actress Mayumi Shintani's voice is instantly recognizable to many otaku. An esteemed member of the Nylon 100°c theatre group, Shintani's sharp, witty lines can be heard in acclaimed anime like His and Her Circumstances, Black Butler: Book of Circus, FLCL, Petite Princess Yucie, Space Patrol Luluco, SSSS.Gridman, and Kill la Kill.
I had the honor of sitting down with Ms. Shintani at Anime NYC late last year just as FLCL's third season, FLCL Alternative, was wrapping up. Read her thoughts on returning to Haruko Haruhara after so many years and her frame of mind when voicing Kill la Kill's Nonon Jakuzure below:
You voiced Nonon Jakuzure. How do you get yourself in the frame of mind to deliver her lines?
I probably got the role of Nonon because my personality is just as crude as hers!
Kazuya Tsurumaki was the director of the original FLCL, and he mentioned that your performance as Tsubasa in Kare Kano/His and Her Circumstances was used as an inspiration for Haruko’s personality. When it came for you to record your dialogue as Haruko, what kind of direction did he give you? Were you able to take things in your own direction since you were an inspiration for the character in the first place?
The biggest order I received from Tsurumaki-san is to act as this obscure figure to Naota. At the same time, Haruko is meant to be straightforward and honest. She makes it clear to Naota that she likes him. In those scenes, I was specifically told by the director to be true to myself and make it seem like Haruko is being true to herself as well. In other scenes where Haruko is being selfish and doing whatever she pleases, I sometimes went a little too far and was told by the director to take it a few notches down.
What was it like to return to the character again after all these years?
It’s been 18 years! However, I view Haruko as a different character because the director is different. It’s not directed by Tsurumaki-san anymore, it’s directed by Uemura-san. Obviously it’s a different direction, so it’s a different character. If it was the same exact character, I probably wouldn’t have accepted the offer.
There has been footage showing the English actors dubbing FLCL Progressive when the animation wasn’t even finished yet. Did you also record Alternative under similar circumstances?
No. The newer FLCL seasons were aired in the West first, so maybe that’s why the English voice actors had to record under those circumstances. It was nothing new for us in Japan.
Many people overseas have noted how closely Kari Wahlgren’s performance in the English dub of FLCL sounds to yours. Do you have any opinion on the way that FLCL was localized?
I’m very envious of Kari Wahlgren! I don’t think I became as famous for my rendition of Haruko. As far as Japan is concerned, fans there try to copy me often. I assume that’s what people do here in the west too! Whenever I get to know people well, I’ll hear them try to imitate my voice eventually (Ms. Shintani laughs).
FLCL Progressive and FLCL Alternative are available to watch right now on Adult Swim. Kill la Kill can be streamed on Crunchyroll and Netflix. Thank you Anime NYC for the wonderful opportunity, and thank you The Cartoon Cipher for help with questions.