Kubo Yurika and Ichinose Kana were at Anime Central 2023 to promote the game A Light in the Dark. Kubo is best known for her role as Koizumi Hanayo in Love Live!, and Ichinose is currently voicing Suletta Mercury, the protagonist of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury.
I also had the chance to ask Kubo a question specific to Love Live! during her fan panel, which I’ve included at the end of the main interview.
You’re both here at ACen because of your role in the visual novel A Light in the Dark. What are your most memorable experiences being involved with this game?
Do you mean during the recording?
Kubo: Personally, this was during a time when I had a lot to record, so my sessions went on for days. My character, Mysterious Girl, goes through a lot of difficulties, and I was going through a lot of difficulties in my real life as well. So that overlapped, and I really realized that my life can be so easily influenced during recording.
Ichinose: By the roles you play?
Kubo: Yes, yes! That’s it! There’s a part of me that can be hurt quite a bit.
Ichinose: Oh, wow.
Kubo: So my memorable experiences tend to be about the heaviness of the role I play.
Ichinose: For me, I like playing serious roles, and my role hit close to heart. My character starts off very reticent, but there was still a lot of emoting involved. I do like heavy roles—and it was still heavy—but I still enjoyed it.
-How have your experiences playing characters such as Hanayo from Love Live! and Ichigo from Darling in the Franxx influenced the way you play your characters in A Light in the Dark?
Kubo: So for both of us, it probably wouldn’t just be the roles from the works you mentioned—they’re all opportunities for growth as actors.
Ichinose: These are genuine experiences that contributed to our breadth of expression.
How do you balance playing multiple characters at once and keeping track of them?
Kubo: As for keeping track of roles, I think all the characters we’ve played so far don’t necessarily influence who we play in the moment. We just get into the role and do it that way.
Ichinose: And since all the roles are so heavy in A Light in the Dark, resetting the emotions and getting out of the characters tends to be a bit of a challenge. But at the same time, as we work professionally, we do get ingrained with an emotional switch, or an acting switch, where we switch between roles in a very natural way.
Kubo: Yes, you’re right!
How does recording for a visual novel compare with other types of voice work?
Ichinose: Compared to recording for other types of video games, in other games, it’s more typical to do small voices like “Yah!”
Kubo: And “Hah!”
Ichinose: Yeah, and “Hah!” But there is a much longer story in A Light in the Dark, and there is much more emotional continuity. Depending on the recording, we might be skipping chapters, so we have to keep track of the continuity of the story and also the emotions.
Kubo: But there are also branching paths in the story where the user has to select which path to go, and we have to be aware of the pre-selection emotion as well as which path the user chose.
Ichinose: One dialogue path would end, and then we’d have to do a different dialogue path.
Kubo: The level of tension and excitement would have to change too. It’s one of the fun and interesting things about the project.
Ichinose: I would sometimes have to rewind the emotional state of the character and go back.
That general area is part of the difficulty.
What inspired you to become a voice actor, or get into the entertainment industry in general?
Kubo: I started as a model for teenage magazines, but even before then, I was always watching anime and reading manga. While modeling, I was starting to wonder if I was unfit for the job, whereas I could always enjoy anime and manga. So I always wanted to take on the challenge if I ever had the opportunity. I did tell my agency that’s what I wanted to do, but they told me off that it’s not such an easy thing. They didn’t outright oppose what I said, but they said it’s not easy. When I got the role for Love Live!, though, that was my foot in the door into a career as a voice actor.
Ichinose: When I was in grade school and kindergarten I always loved watching anime, and my life more or less involved watching anime. I did play with my friends, but if I were at home, I’d spend pretty much the whole day watching anime. As I watched anime and loved anime, my thoughts turned towards the casts in anime, towards the voice actors, and eventually I would think that I wanted to get involved in the world of these various animation stories. So when it came time to choose a future for myself, one day I went to an open campus at a voice acting school, where I got my determination to go into voice acting.
For my three years in high school, I worked part-time and saved so I would have the money to pay for my own tuition for voice acting school. I paid my way through, did my audition, and got a role. So I started from a love of anime, refined my voice, and tried it out. I have the person who encouraged me to go into voice acting back then, who told me I had a chance, to thank.
Is there anything about your performances as Mysterious Girl and Young Girl that you’re especially proud of?
Ichinose: What do you mean by that?
In the sense of, did you think you felt you had performed well, and can look back and say “I did a really good job here?”
Kubo: For my role as Mysterious GIrl, there is a portion in the latter half of the game where she goes through an emotional explosion. I played that part thinking, “I could lose my voice tomorrow, but I’ll go through with it.” If you can experience that scene, I would be very happy.
Ichinose: My character gets a little bit closer to the main character in the middle of the story, and she begins to open up and start talking about her dreams and aspirations—like how she would like to eat sweets. Normally, that’s the kind of dream that’s easily realizable if you have the money for it, but the girls grew up in an environment where that’s not something they could afford.
How is it to play a character who didn’t have something that was so ordinary and common for normal people? That was my challenge. So this is a serious title, but there are these small slivers of hope that my character can aspire towards, and if that kind of nuance gets through to the player, I think my acting will be rewarded.
Bonus: Extra Question for Kubo Yurika from the Previous Day’s Fan Panel
I love the way that you portray Hanayo’s shyness and intensity. My question is: I noticed your performance of her evolved over time; what changes did you make to playing Hanayo over the years?
Kubo: It wasn’t like I really changed my approach to Hanayo—more like as the years went by, Hanayo saw more of her character, experienced more, as did I personally. I think that’s kind of what led to that natural evolution. I wasn’t very conscious of it at all.