Sophians Talk about Japan and the World

Anime Can Bring Young Japanese and Russians Closer

Sumire Uesaka
(Voice Actor)

Moscow Study Trip Left a Lasting Impression

Sumire Uesaka  Voice Actor

I was attracted to the Soviet Union and Russia after hearing the national anthem of the USSR when I was in high school. The anthem fascinated me with its magestic melody and beautiful Russian tune. I was lucky to get a recommendation to enroll in the Department of Russian Studies at Sophia University, and I made my decision immediately without any hesitation.

At Sophia University, the teachers of the Russian speaking classes were all natives. Also, the professors of forefront of Russian Studies Department taught us with materials they had developed themselves and literature only available in Russia, imparting knowledge that was completely different to what I had gained from my own reading of books available to the general public. It made me realize then how special it is to learn from true specialists. In my second year, I was awarded a prize for academic excellence. I managed to all my effort studying the compulsory subjects because I simply enjoyed learning what I loved.

The Faculty of Foreign Studies runs a foreign-language drama festival, where the drama groups from the Russian, Spanish, and Portuguese departments perform plays in the language of their study. I belonged to the Russian department's drama group, and during my freshman year I spent two weeks in Moscow on a study trip.

At the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), we took Russian lessons and interacted with local students. I met a girl who was taking classes from Japanese Studies, and she often helped me out. She knew a lot about Edo-era social systems, and wrote reports in perfect Japanese. Meeting her spurred me to work harder.

Moreover, she liked anime (Japanese animation) which was what had initially attracted her to studying Japanese. This was a big encouragement to me, since I was aiming to become a voice actor. It was then that I realized there were a lot of anime fans in Russia. It is not too much to say such an experience led me to where I am today.

The Sophia University campus has great atmosphere and I often come here for walks, even though I have graduated. Some universities have different campuses for different years or departments, but at Sophia I can always see everybody together: younger and older students, students from different faculties, and international students and teachers from many countries. I like the feel of such a community where everyone mixes together.

Several buildings are historical and connected with the Jesuit Order. Also, Mass is often held in the chapel. I feel that by spending time in such an atmosphere students learn to be refined and gain characters that leads to good judgment.

The Power of Japanese Anime

Sumire Uesaka  Voice Actor

Voice actors are considered actors in the broad sense although our job is just to give voices to two-dimensional characters. The attractiveness of such characters is not that they are realistic and have human sympathy, but they are the creation of human dreams reflecting our desires and fantasies It is not crucial how realistic the characters may be. So they are a little more exaggerated than regular TV dramas or stage plays. It's important to make the clear cut characters so that the audience can easily identify them being cool or cute.

I am the one playing the role, so I must fall in love with the characters I play. A role really comes alive when my affections are in synch with the character I am giving voice to. When this happens, it leaves a long-lasting impression on viewers even after the show ends.

I quite like the small-time crooks that appear in most tales. The characters in the evil gang aren't smart, but act domineering under the boss's influence. One of these days, I'd like to try acting one of those kinds of characters.

Working as a voice actor was my dream ever since I was little, but after I actually started my work, I realized what a magnificent industry I had involved myself in and how much Japanese anime and pop culture have to offer. It is much more than I had imagined.

The first overseas event I attended was in Qatar, in the Middle East. To be honest, I didn't have much knowledge of the country before going, and I was a little doubtful how they would respond to Japanese anime. I was totally astonished by their loud cheers. Although I was just a starting my acting career and had just made my debut, all these Arab fans in white keffiyeh came to see the show. Some of them liked Hatsune Miku and bought figurines. People were only buying the latest series, because everyone was very up-to-date and already owned all the old series. That was the moment I realized the formidable power of Japanimation.

I was also surprised to find the Japanese word kawaii in common use in many countries. Moreover, it wasn't used simply to mean "cute" or "pretty" but had the positive connotation of the good characteristics of Japan as a whole. In this sense, Japanese anime, character goods, and fashion all reflect Japanese beauty and quality that are backed by exquisite and detailed craftsmanship. I am honored to be a part of such a wonderful culture.

No Fear or Prejudice Needed for Russia

Sumire Uesaka  Voice Actor

A voice actor with Russian language skills is a rare find; therefore, voice acting for Russian characters is an expertise of mine. People say my love of Russia as a country and my interest in Russian military together with my Lolita fashion are a very unique although in fact I have simply adopted motifs that I like from my heart.

To sum up Russia in a word, I would say Russia is complex. Its history is full of unrest, and just as their dark and mysterious side strikes me, I may hear a bright, happy-go-lucky Russian song, or I find a crazy science fiction story or surreal poem in the prestigious national literature. Russia is always full of surprise with something new to discover.

I have a particular affection for the Soviet era. After centuries of Tsarist rule, Lenin and his comrades built a completely artificial political system that continued for more than 70 years. The USSR spent huge amounts of its budget on its military and pushed out the boundaries of space exploration while the common people stood in lines at supermarkets with empty shelves. You might say that it is unscrupulous of me to say this, but I personally find such an absurd society stimulating.

I was born just as the Soviet Union was collapsing. Perhaps I fantasize about Russia the way I do because I don't have any experience with the USSR of the days before I was born. When you look at things like old aviation magazines, they only tell you about how horrifying Soviet warplanes were. Maybe the common image of the Soviet Union has been shaped by such icons for many people.

Reports about Russia are still full of hair-raising news. But I don't want anyone to prejudge or be fearful of Russia. I went back to Moscow for an event and visited a place called Gorbushka, which is known as a center of electronics, like Tokyo's Akihabara district, and a magnet for people seeking Japanese anime and character goods. There are "cosplayers" (people in character costumes) and girls dressed in Lolita fashions. It may be a tiny part of Russia, but seeing Gorbushka as such I felt it was my mission to tell young people in Japan that there are Russian people who like anime and "cosplay" just like us.

When people talk about international cultural exchange between Japan and Russia, the Japanese tea ceremony and ikebana or Russian folk ballads and dances may come on the top of list, but I believe that if cultural exchange among young people who are fans of pop culture was to be successful, it may support building good relations between Japan and Russia in the future. As a voice actor, I would like to take a part in building friendship between Japan and Russia.

Sumire Uesaka  Voice Actor
Sumire Uesaka
Voice Actor

Born on December 19, 1991, Ms. Uesaka is affiliated with Space Craft Entertainment. She graduated from the Faculty of Foreign Studies of Sophia University in 2014. She launched her voice acting career in January 2012, while still studying at university. She also made a debut as a singer with "Nanatsu no umi yori kimi no umi" (Your sea above the seven seas), the theme song for the animated TV show Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san (Muromi-san on the shore), which screened from April 2013. She has performed in a string of hit TV anime including Chunibyo de mo koi ga shitai (Love, chunibyo & other delusions), Hozuki no reitetsu (Cool-headed Hoozuki), and Kantai korekushon (Kankore) (Fleet girls collection).

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