Sakura-Con 2015: An Interview with Sumi Shimamoto


 Born December 8, 1954 in Kochi, Kochi Prefecture, this prolific Japanese voice actress’s debut was in 1979 as Mutsumi Hoshikawa in The Ultraman TV series.  Later that year, she was cast as Lady Clarissa in The Castle of Cagliostro.  Since then, she has appeared in numerous films and television series, including several Miyazaki films and as Kyoko Otonashi in one of my favorite animes, Maison Ikkoku.  Currently, she is starring as the voice of Dayan in Neko no Dayan.

After starting with pleasantries in English and Japanese, I began with my first question.  Unless noted below, all of my questions were in English, and all of her answers were in Japanese.  A translator acted as intermediary.

GS: This is your second time at Sakura-Con.  Since you rarely attend anime conventions in the U.S., what made you decide to return to this convention?

SS: (Laughing) Because they invited me! I hope I’ll be invited a third time, too.

GS: You worked with many different directors on Maison Ikkoku.  How does that experience compare with working on a movie with one director, such as Miyazaki?

SS: When I work on a TV series, it feels like I’m commuting to work.  With a movie, I feel there’s a deeper involvement, and that we’re creating something greater.

GS: Who are some voice actors that you admire?

SS: I admire many voice actors — for instance, the actor who played Maetel in the space train movie [voice actor Masako Ikeda in Galaxy Express 999] — but there are many other examples.  Sadly, they are departing one by one from this world.

GS: You’ve had a long career, as long as I’ve been alive.  What are some of your most treasured memories?

At this, she looked surprised and asked me in English, “You are 35?” to which I replied, “Yes, but I’ll be 36 in a few weeks.”

SS: The Castle of Cagliostro, in which I play Lady Clarisse.  It wasn’t my debut [as a voice actress], but it was the same year as my debut, so it has a big place in my heart.

This led naturally to the next question.

GS: What’s it like working with Miyazaki?

SS: (Laughs) I’m nervous every time [we work together]!  It’s not often that there’s an ‘okay’ take with him.

GS: Do you still remember how to do every character’s voice?

SS:  Not all of them.  For instance, I played the wife of the dead husband in The Sixth Sense on TV [the Japanese dub].  My kids were watching the movie and asked me if I played her, as it sounded like me, and I said, “No.”  That’s an example of my forgetting a role I’ve played.

GS: What is your favorite anime series?

SS: [Soreike!] Anpanman.  It was 27 years in the making, so I felt very involved with the show.

At this point, the translator asked me if I meant series she worked on or in general.  I said in general, so he rephrased the question.

SS: I really like Sazae-san.  Have you heard of it?

GS: No, I haven’t.

SS: There’s no one in Japan who doesn’t know it. It’s been around for [over] 40 years.

GS: Wait, is it the one about the Japanese housewife and her family?  I think I do know it.

At this point, there was a knock at the door.  The guest relations person poked her head in and told me I had about a minute left, so I should start wrapping up the interview. Since I had no more questions to ask, I asked for a photo, saying, “写真をとってもいいですか。She posed for a couple of them, then signed a card nearby with a cat drawing on it and gave it to me.

SS: This is a series I am working on right now [Neko no Dayan].  I hope you will tell people about this show.

With that, the interview was over.  After grabbing all of my bags and thanking Shimamoto-san in Japanese, I did some slight bows and left the room.  Her full voice-acting credits can be found on IMDB, though they don’t yet include Neko no Dayan.



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