[EVENT REPORT] Anime Festival Asia 11 Report Part 1: Saito Chiwa Live Dubbing

Posted by

At last year’s Anime Festival Asia, I went in with my eyes peeled and camera ready for photo-ops, mentally ready to take notes and burn moments into my memory, with the intention of documenting my experience afterwards. Not that I ever fully completed my report…but I did have an amazing time, and I was glad to be able to share it in writing – didn’t matter if anyone was interested in reading.

This year, though? Not so much; I was tired after a long week of work and all I wanted to do was enjoy it. Just attend the events and visit the booths I was really interested in, don’t bother about anything else then go home and rest. Kind of a pity in hindsight. There was so much worth writing about.

It’s been a month. Let’s see how much of it I can remember.

Saito Chiwa Live Dubbing

SPOILERS for Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica up ahead!

The ‘Stage’ area — a separate hall from the main festival area, where stuff like artist appearances and performances took place – was packed. All the seats taken, people standing in the aisles, and at the back; a testament to the show’s popularity here (not to mention a good indication of how many of us are on fansubs…) Not that I was surprised, mind you. I mean, she’s only the popular voice actress of a popular character from a phenomenally popular show.

Saito-san was sweet, bubbly, and chatty – it’s pretty hard not to be charmed. Of course, I wasn’t actually expecting her to resemble Akemi Homura but it was still quite interesting to think that this woman could pull the character of so well. She mentioned that it was the first time she had done a live dubbing in front of an audience – she hasn’t done this even in Japan. How awesome is that?

Danny Choo, though, I have to say, is a better emcee than he is an interpreter, and what I really wanted at that event was a good intepreter. Sigh. Well, we did kind of get the gist of what Saito was saying most of the time, but I’m afraid I can’t give a very good account of what she said. I do remember being impressed as passionately talked about how she seeks understand and bring out the personalities of the characters she plays through her voice acting.

There was a particularly memorable moment where the sound crew mistakenly played a clip from Madoka, with the BGM Sis puella magica! and a bit of Kyubey’s voice. After they killed the track, Saito-san yelled, feelingly, “Kyubey ga iru!” (“Kyubey’s here!”) That was adorable. And hilarious.

She dubbed three scenes – Homura/Moemura having cake with Mami and Madoka in the very first timeline, Homura’s monologue in episode 10 as she travels into time after the fourth (onscreen) timeline, and the scene in episode 9 where Homura violently interrupts as Madoka almosts contracts with Kyubey.

The first and second scenes were I mentioned were interesting enough to watch – we got to hear live how she sounded like as Moemura, and the contrast when she voiced the Homura we’re more familiar with. But it was that episode 9 scene that was truly amazed. The emotion in Saito-san’s voice as Homura pleads with Madoka after barely preventing the latter from contracting by riddling Kyubey with holes (everyone cheered at that bit with Kyubey, by the way) was heartbreaking. And within that same take for that scene, after Madoka runs off and Homura converses with the regenerated Kyubey, her voice had reverted back to Homura’s more characteristic flat tones, with no trace of the earlier emotion. An amazing transition to pull off live; overall an impressive display of voice acting. I’m very thankful to have witnessed it.

There was a Q & A session towards the end, one I can’t say very much about due to my bad memory and Danny Choo’s tendency to lose a lot of things in translation. From what little I remember and inferred), it seems that the character she feels she most resembles is Senjougahara Hitagi (Bakemonogatari), her favourite character that she’s voiced is Natsumi from Keroro Gensou and that in response to the question “Are you a tsundere?” (what kind of question is that??) she feels that she’s more “dere” than “tsun”. Well, that pretty much fits with what we’ve seen.

There was a surprise appearance by Iwakami Atsuhiro, Madoka‘s producer, who was actually at AFA to talk about Fate/Zero. He spoke about how Saito had been picked for Bakemonogatari (another SHAFT production Iwakami worked on) without having to audition (seems that her previous work had impressed them enough), and that after her work on Bakemonogatari she was subsequently chosen to be part of Madoka. He didn’t stay long, claiming that he had to fly back quickly to work on the upcoming Madoka movies (yay!)

And that’s pretty much all I have to report. The second and final part will cover angela and Kalafina’s live performances – stay tuned!