2019 Anime Central: Interviews with Special Guests and Cosplayers
• Japanese anime and pop culture enthusiasts gathered
in Rosemont for Anime Central, the “largest anime, manga and Japanese
pop culture convention in the Midwest,” held at the Donald Stevens Convention
Center and Hyatt Regency O’Hare from May 17 to 19.
• The convention is designed to provide anime fans with a chance to meet artists, creators and character players in person, as well as to enjoy cosplay and mingle with fellow fans. This year, it featured over 50 groups and individuals as special guests, such as anime voice actors, character designers, anime studio members, anime song (“ani-son”) singers and writers. At least 25 of them were from Japan (including anime TV studio Cinema Citrus and VR novel/manga production Tokyo Chronos), actively engaging in guest panels, signings, Q&A sessions and concerts.
• The Chicago-based Japanese Culture Center offered martial arts demonstrations and traditional culture exhibits, while the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago presented Japanese armor try-ons, Tsukasa Taiko drum performance, and classical dance performance by Shubukai.
Interview with Jerry Jewell, Voice Actor
• Jerry Jewell is a voice over actor known for his performances
as key characters from hit anime series, such as Kyo Sohma in “Fruits
Basket” and Jimmy Kudo in “Case Closed” (or “Detective Conan”). He is
also an ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) director for Funimation Productions,
which specializes in dubbing and distribution of foreign-made animations
in the U.S. As such, 42-year-old Jewell plays a critical role for Japanese
anime distribution in the U.S. market.
Q: What made you choose the career as a voice actor?
• Jewell: I came from a family of musicians, so I was
interested in entertainment of all different kinds. I decided to become
an entertainer from a very young age, and when at school, I took all of
the speech and drama classes.
Q: Tell me how you got the part of Kyo Sohma in Fruits Basket.
Jewell: I auditioned for it in 2001. I saw it [the original
animation] and thought it was a pretty good show. Back then nobody knew
how popular it was going to be until it was released [in the U.S.].
Q: Do you feel any perception differences in terms of language between English and Japanese?
Jewell: Yes, very. For example, there will be jokes [in
Japanese] that they don’t translate into English, so we have to figure
out what we can say that makes sense as a joke.
Q: What kind of connections do you have with Japan?
Jewell: [Aside from the obvious connections with Japanese
anime companies,] we occasionally get to correspond with some of our Japanese
counterparts, asking questions to each other about the show and characters.
It helps a lot because we get another perspective of someone who is playing
the same character but with different information.
Q: How difficult is it to lip-sync with the anime character on the screen?
Jewell: We try very hard to match the voice over [to the mouth movement]. Our segment starts when the mouth opens and ends when the mouth closes, and it’s very difficult. Though there’s software today that can stretch and shrink things a little bit to match it better.
Q: You also work as an ADR director.
Jewell: I’m currently working on two seasons of the anime
series called Million Arthur. Every director of Funimation directs two
shows on an ongoing basis, and we release 18 shows per 12-week season.
It’s a pretty fast pace.
Q: Is translation done by American staff?
Jewell: Yes. We have four to five translators. They have studied Japanese and many of them have visited or lived in Japan. But it’s their passion [that makes them do it]. They love Japanese culture and language, so it’s a perfect job for them.
Q: And you are a very busy man.
Jewell: That’s why it’s a kind of relief to come to an
event like this. It’s nice to get away – I enjoy meeting with my fans.
Q: Thank you very much.
Interview with Ani-Son Singers
• Japanese anime has multiple theme songs, and songwriter
and singer of such songs are now established occupations.
Asaka was another guest ani-son singer. The Japanese-born
19-year-old has spent five years in Michigan from the age of three.
Q: Were you always an anime fan?
Asaka: I began watching the anime called Suzumiya Haruhi’s
Yu-utsu (”The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”) when I returned to Japan
from Michigan. It was a shock to me.
Q: Did that make you decide to become an ani-son singer?
Asaka: When I heard that there’s such an occupation as
ani-son singer, I decided to be one. I wanted to be an interpreter before
Q: Then someone saw that you have a talent in singing?
Asaka: My junior high teacher, who heard me sing in a
music class, said I had a talent and should pursue a career in singing.
That teacher passed away a year later, but I remembered what he said.
So I started a singing lesson when I was 15.
Q: That’s pretty quick.
Asaka: Things went smoothly, fortunately.
Q: Did you compete in NHK’s ani-son singing contest?
Asaka: My dad found out about it.
Q: How was your debut experience?
Asaka: I couldn’t believe it at first. Then I really
felt it was real when I heard my singing on TV as the anime theme song.
Q: Thank you very much.
Savii Haris (L) and Jacky Sahn (R) from Kansas City, in their handmade costumes, returned to Anime Central for the 8th time.
From Left: Matt Groboske, Julia Larich, Ichigo Miyazaki, and Rebekah Perkins. Julia, who started cosplaying at 12 or 13, made her costume from scratch by using steel wire. Matt’s great jacket was made by his grandmother.
Jillian Snyder (L) poses in her handmade costume with
Samantha Raines, who come to the event from
Yokohama for the first time in 5 years.
Cosplayers pose for a photo in Anime Central