Interview: Iwao Junko and Kawamura Ryu (Otakon 2023)

Iwao Junko is a singer and voice actor most famously known for playing Daidouji Tomoyo in the anime Cardcaptor Sakura. Kawamura Ryu is a musician and composer who has frequently collaborated with Iwao on musical projects. This interview was conducted at Otakon 2023 in Washington, DC.

My first question is for Iwao-san: I first came to know you through your role as Tomoyo in Cardcaptor Sakura, and you helped make her one of my favorite characters ever. I’ve noticed that in the first series, our approach to Tomoyo was a little different from how it turned out later on. Was there any catalyst for this change?

Iwao: Daidouji Tomoyo in the Clow Card series is an elementary school girl, and she’s grown up a bit in Clear Card. So as some years have passed, I played her a little more mature.

Iwao-san, your singing as Tomoyo is beautiful but also notably different from how you approach your personal music. How do you manage to stay in character so well while singing as Tomoyo?

Iwao: When I sing as Tomoyo, I sing as an elementary school girl. But when I sing as myself, I use my natural voice. 

Is it a challenge to play Tomoyo while singing?

Iwao: It’s not all that difficult, actually.

My next question is for Kawamura-san: What made you decide on the bass as your instrument of choice? 

Kawamura: I’d have fewer rivals.

And how did you go from playing music yourself to also arranging for others?

Kawamura: It’s actually something I learned from Tanaka Kohei-san. What he mentioned was that, as a musician/player, you don’t get the same royalty payments as you would if you’re a composer. So what I learned is that you should be well-rounded, and have both “composer” and “player” under your belt.

Are there any other lessons you’ve learned from working with Tanaka-san that have stuck with you?

Kawamura: His policy was “make something other people won’t make.” He’s ingrained that in me.

Speaking of Tanaka Kohei, I also know Iwao-san from a series called Betterman, and your performance really stands out to me when you play Sakura—it’s very haunting. What was it like working on Betterman?

Tomoyo: So on Betterman, which Tanaka Kohei-san did the music for, I auditioned and landed that role. I wanted to play the character of Sakura as a girl who is cute, yet enigmatic and even a little frightening. Expressing that scariness was not so much about changing my tone, but rather taking care to change the tempo within the lines.

Kohei-san was the one who basically welcomed me into the world of anime, so I’m very grateful to him. I had done various jobs as a singer and such, but I always longed to be involved in the world of anime—to be a voice actor. I was missing that step towards that industry, though, and It was Kohei-san who allowed me to get into singing covers of other songs, providing me opportunities for people to see and hear me. So he is a very important figure to me. 

Another series Iwao-san worked on that is very influential is Evangelion. Do you have any memories of working on Eva that stand out strongly in your mind?

Iwao: I got the role of class rep Horaki Hikari from auditioning. When playing her, Director Anno-san asked me to express her energeticness and her “class-rep feel” through my voice. However, in Shin Evangelion, Hikari is a mother, and as a mother, she would have a different voice tone as well as a different emotion to her compared to the television version where she was a school girl and a class rep.

On that note, over the past decade or so, you returned to many roles—in Evangelion, in Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, and you even reprised the role of Sakura in Super Robot Wars 30. What is it like to revisit these older characters of yours?

Iwao: Going back to previous roles is very interesting because what I thought I remembered I may not actually remember, and some things might have changed—like the tone of my voice. I would want to focus on meeting the expectations of my fans. For example, for Super Robot Wars 30, the Betterman director, Yonetani-san, was actually there to see over my breaths and my tones so that I was better able to reproduce what I sounded like and what the fans expected me.

Thank you very much!

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