Interview with Yui Makino

interview - 28.10.2009 11:01

At the New York Anime Festival, JaME took the time to interview Yui Makino after her concert.

A few hours after her concert on Saturday of New York Anime Fest, JaME met with Yui Makino, a talented young voice actress and musician, to discuss her career in music, her new single, and Hokke-chan, her pet ferret.

Hello Miss Makino. You have a number of fans all over the world who know you as a seiyuu, but could you introduce yourself for our readers who will discover you through this interview?

Yui Makino: I did voice acting as Sakura for the anime "Tsubasa Chronicle" and in the same year, I debuted as a singer as well. I also used to be a child actress, and I have been a pianist since I was little.

In 2007, you represented Japan during cultural exchange festivities with China. This year you played in France at Japan Expo, and now you're a guest at NYAF. It goes without saying that your work is being noticed outside of Japan. How do you feel about this?

Yui Makino: Two years ago when I went to Beijing, I was very surprised that people outside of Japan actually know me - it was pretty exciting. And then this year, I've been to Shanghai and France and now New York; people actually know me and I'm so thrilled. More and more people know me through animation, but then people are actually recognizing and singing my songs. I'm very happy.

Is this your first time in New York City?

Yui Makino: Yes.

Is there anything you'd like to do while in New York?

Yui Makino: I'd like to go shopping and I want to see a musical on Broadway.

So this past July, when you took part in Japan Expo, it was the first time you performed abroad in a Western country and earlier today, you performed at NYAF. How do you feel Western audiences differ from your native audience?

Yui Makino: Even in Asian countries like Japan and China, it's very different the way they receive me. So I can't say the difference of Eastern countries or Western countries, but comparing New York and Japan, I can say that people are much more open here.

Today you performed your upcoming single, Tanpopo Suisha, in your concert, and we would like to know what was the particular inspiration behind it and is there a particular feeling that you want your fans to get from it?

Yui Makino: Actually, this song was originally made two years ago and this was an image song for an anime character and there were three singers singing on it. Earlier this year in August, I played this song by myself at my concert, and I was just looking for good timing to release this song, singing by myself. When I sang this song in the concert, fans liked this and it was well-received by the audience. Back then, I sang this song as a voice actress, but this time I wanted to sing it as a musician and I wanted to make it as a single. To make this as a single cut, we changed the arrangement; it has a much different atmosphere than the original and it's very fun.

Let's talk about how you started in music. You learned piano as a child - what made you start?

Yui Makino: My father was a musician - he was a keyboardist. When I was born, music was already all around me so it became very natural for me to play piano.

And then, while you were very young, the director Shunji Iwai asked you to play in his film when you were only eight years old. How did you meet Mr. Iwai and how do you think this opportunity has impacted your work today?

Yui Makino: My father's friend showed Shunji Iwai a video of me playing piano, and he thought, "Oh, that's interesting. She's plays piano in a different way; it's pretty original." That's how it happened.

What was it like working for him?

Yui Makino: Oni desu ne! (everyone laughs) He was a little strict: he'd give me a lot of difficult themes and tasks. It kind of made me really frustrated whenever I needed to prepare for him. Sometimes, I felt like "You should be playing piano, not me!" (laughs) But, his works are masterpieces and I knew he was saying the right things. The way I am now as musician, it's almost like Shunji helped make me this way. He makes such great movies and meeting with him, it was such a great opportunity and very treasured to me as a musician. He's really a great guy.

You started to sing in 2005 for the ending song of "Sousei no Aquarion", so how did this transition from playing piano to singing take place? Was it Yoko Kanno's idea?

Yui Makino: Actually, someone I know told me about the audition for the ending theme song written by Yoko Kanno, so I entered the audition. At the audition was the producer for "Tsubasa Chronicle". He asked me if I would like to be on it, and that's how I ended up on "Tsubasa Chronicle" too.

Starting in the anime world as both a musician and voice actress, was it natural for you to do both of these things? Is one more difficult than the other?

Yui Makino: They're both very difficult jobs, but they came very naturally for me.

Besides music and acting, are there any artistic domains that you'd like to explore in the future as well?

Yui Makino: Could it be in the non-entertainment business?

Go for it!

Yui Makino: I'm kind of interested in being a pharmacist. (laughs) But if it's in entertainment, I'd like to do musical theatre. All of my talents - singing, acting, and playing piano - can be used in musicals.

You graduated in March from the Tokyo College of Music. Did your early exposure to the professional music world impact what you learned in school or the expectations that your professors had of you?

Yui Makino: Our professors were pretty interesting people too, but as a piano major, unlike many others, I wasn't actually trained to play piano like people who played in recitals or competitions. I don't perform that way and I know that my professors kind of knew that I played piano for the entertainment world and expected me to continue in that path.

You told us at Japan Expo about your desire to compose and write music by yourself. What kind of music would you create and what artists influence you?

Yui Makino: Actually, I've already written and composed some songs. Since today's concert, I've had some songs that I've written. I don't decide that I'll write pop or classical music, it kind of depends on my mood and how I feel that day - that's how I write my music.

Throughout your career, what do you think is the experience that has left the strongest impression on you?

Yui Makino: I think all of them have influenced me.

And we have one last important question to ask you: how is Hokke-chan doing?

Yui Makino: Hokke-chan? (everyone laughs) Is Hokke-chan famous?

Yes, it seems like it. Fans talk about Hokke-chan quite a bit.

Yui Makino: (laughs) Would you like to see a picture of Hokke-chan?

Sure, why not?

Yui Makino: (While Yui Makino pulls out her phone to show the picture, she and a staff member joke about promoting Hokke-chan.) Here she is.

How old is Hokke-chan?

Yui Makino: Now, she's one. Hokke-chan was actually born on the same day as my first single, Amrita, but different year.

So then to finish our interview, could you leave a message for your fans in America?

Yui Makino: I would love to come back to New York and the United States, but I'm going to do my best in Japan as well, so please give me your support.

JaME would like to thank Yui Makino, her staff, the translator Ai, and NYAF for making this interview possible.
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