By Andrew Osmond.
One of Yui Ishikawa’s voice-acting roles tends to overshadow the others. We’re thinking about the taciturn giant-killer called Mikasa Ackerman. Ishikawa has voiced the character since the anime version of Attack on Titan debuted in 2013, and she’ll certainly be with her to the story’s end.
But as Ishikawa reveals in the following interview, her favourite character is someone else – namely the ex-army girl Violet Evergarden. First created by Kana Akatsuki in light novel form, the character’s journey through trauma and healing was animated by Kyoto Animation in an acclaimed Netflix series and now continues in feature films. As the first Violet Evergarden feature, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll, comes to Britain, here are Ishikawa’s own thoughts on the character.
Can you tell us what your initial thoughts were when you received the offer to play Violet?
Although I’ve done auditions for all sorts of projects, the one for Violet was very memorable. They sent me materials and synopses beforehand, and there was a message from the staff that said: “We would like this work to be distributed in Japan, or course, but also internationally, so we are looking for someone who is actively inspired to get involved in promotions.”
When you’re just doing an audition, getting an actual message from the staff is very rare. But when I saw it, I began to feel the staff’s passion for their work. That made me want to get involved in a work that could be invested with such energy, with a desire to distribute internationally and to create something great. That stayed with me.
Well, when I was playing Violet, at first she does not have emotions, so she cannot even cry when she is sad. Playing that was really distressing. That made me realise how lucky I am that I have emotions and I can cry if I am sad.
Violet can seem like a robot when we first meet her, but she becomes more human towards the end of the original series. How did you play that?
The change is very gradual because Violet’s maturation is gradual, too, so I added emotional responses, but very slowly. I cannot tell you exactly what I did, but I added a little bit of warmth as each episode went, and because she starts to smile as the story develops, I started raising the corners of my mouth more.
The emotional breakdown that Violet has in the middle of the series – the storyline about Violet losing Gilbert and having to cope with that loss – is very intense. Was it emotionally difficult for you to do those scenes?
It wasn’t difficult as such. It was distressing, because I felt like her. The story of Violet has a solid base, so I didn’t feel any sense of contradiction. I could get into the role without trying to create her or having to think particularly deeply about it, but that also meant that she started to take me over, and that led to a stronger sense of distress. Even after we were done recording, I felt a bit depressed.
Were there any favourite characters in Violet Evergarden?
I really love all the characters, but the one I often mention is Roland. He is not one of the main characters, but he always has kind words for Violet when she needs to hear them, and he can make her realise something or help others when she repeats them. So I always feel the weight of words from Roland, the experienced postman.
Were you excited to be able to reprise the role of Violet in the film Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll?
Of course. When the TV series ended, I heard that they were planning to create something new, and she is my favourite character from my favourite work, so playing her again made me happy.
There is a new Violet Evergarden film scheduled for release in Japan this year. Are you already working on it, and can you say anything about where the new film will take Violet?
Yes. The recording’s already complete. I can’t say much more than that now, but I will say that you should definitely see it in a cinema. And make sure you bring a handkerchief.
Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll is coming soon on Netflix.