Kanae Itō is a Japanese voice actress who has been voicing anime and video game characters since the mid 2000s. She has played a wide variety of characters, including Amu Hinamori in Shugo Chara!, Fumino Serizawa in Mayoi Neko Overrun!, Airi in Queen’s Blade, Ruiko Saten in A Certain Scientific Railgun Series, Yui from Sword Art Online, and Carrot from One Piece. I first heard Itō’s voice through Shugo Chara!, and when I learned she would be coming to Otakuthon for the first time, I was eager to sit down for a conversation (with the aid of interpreter Alexe Frédéric Migneault) about her roles and inspirations, her work, and her experience at the convention.
ImaginAtlas: This is your first appearance at Otakuthon. Is there something that drew you to this event in particular?
Itō: There isn’t really a reason. My manager told me about this convention, we were graciously invited, and I accepted. I was interested in meeting some of my fans.
You have done some singing, as well as voice acting. What drew you to these fields of work? How did you move from singing to anime?
Itō: I was not a singer before voice acting in anime. I was hired by a voice dubbing agency in an office, from which I started auditions and was selected to play Koume-chan, the protagonist of Taishou Yakyuu Musume (Taisho Baseball Girls). In this work, there was a song in the very first episode, an old song for which I was asked to perform a cover. After the recording, it was suggested that I release it with my own name, Itō Kanae.
How do you prepare for a voice acting role? Is there any routine that helps you get in the zone?
Itō: I read the script several times. If it is based on an original piece of work, like a manga, I read that as well and take in the emotions and look of the story in order to understand it fully before going into the recording. [After all of this reading,] I feel like I get a good grasp of the characters.
You have done a wide variety of voice roles, both main characters and some supporting roles. Do you find there is a difference in playing different kinds of characters? Do you have a preference for the roles you play?
Itō: Whether it is a main character or not, it makes no difference to me. They are all important roles, and I take them very seriously, so there is not one type I prefer over the other. My focus is on playing the character and capturing their arc as they grow.
Have you ever read a manga and later been asked to work on an anime adaptation?
Itō: As I told people yesterday at the panel, there was one manga I really liked to read in my free time called Ōkami Shōjo to Kuro Ōji (Wolf Girl and the Black Prince). When I heard there was an audition for the anime, I gave it my best. The producer for Ōkami Shōjo actually knew me personally and reached out to me for the role of Erika-chan, which I gladly accepted. That is an example of an encounter with a manga that finished with me landing a role.
What kind of anime/manga do you enjoy in your free time? What genres capture your imagination?
Itō: For a manga I really like, there is Tokyo Revengers. I saw the live-action version, and it made me want to read the manga. I loved it to the very last. There is also Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You); I saw the anime and then read the manga. In general, I love Shōjo manga, but I am not picky; I love a lot of different styles.
What are some of the stand-out projects of your career? Are there any smaller works that you wish had gotten more attention?
Itō: I learned today while signing autographs that a lot of people have enjoyed a wide variety of the characters I have played so far. Encountering them [yesterday and today] made me feel that [love] on a personal level, and it was great to see how much people enjoy my work in general.
You have voiced roles in some major franchises, including Shugo Chara! and Queen’s Blade, and the Digimon and Dragon Ball Xenoverse video games. How does it feel to contribute to larger franchises?
Itō: There are some franchises like Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon that I not only watched but collected cards and stickers for as a kid. Being able to participate in these series now is a huge source of happiness for me, and it feels a bit like a miracle that I am able to actually take part in [them].
You have voiced characters for a variety of genres, including some stories that would be classified as fantasy. Do you find a difference between roles in more realistic stories and fantasy/science-fiction, and do you try to incorporate the genre into the characters?
Itō: I have never really felt any difference between genres when I am voice acting. No matter the role, I try to internalize how the character feels and how they evolve with the story, regardless of the type of show.
One difference I can discuss is that slice of life (shōjo) and [similar] genres are more human-centred. In fantasy and science fiction in general, there are more life-threatening battles and magical powers [than in other genres]. They shed tears and blood, and they have stories more focused on the importance of life; it is something I feel a little heavier on my shoulders when I perform. When I am performing for a video game, the directors also often ask me to perform in a way that makes it feel like I am battling a really strong opponent, and it is landing hard on me, [which reminds me of science-fiction].
Can you tell us about your upcoming work? Are there any projects our readers should keep an eye out for?
Itō: I am not at liberty to discuss anything yet, but I hope people keep rooting for me because I will hopefully be able to play a new genre of character in the near future. So watch out for my next work!
During our interview and her panels, Kanae Itō had a kind and bubbly demeanour. It is clear that she takes her work as a voice actress very seriously, and her dedication to each of her roles has won her many fans. If you are interested in her work, I highly recommend looking her up; you may be surprised by the number and range of roles she has played.