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Otakon 2015: Press Conference With Voice Actress Romi Park


romiparkBorn and raised in Tokyo, Korean-Japanese voice actress Romi Park is one of the most prolific performers in her field, with years of experience doing voiceover work for for not only Japanese animation but also Japanese dubs for other cartoons (most notably Finn the human from Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time), video games, movies and television programs. Among anime fandom Ms. Park has built a reputation in Japan and abroad for sterling performances in a range of roles for teenage and preteen boys such as Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist), Loran Cehack (Turn A Gundam)  and Toshiro Hitsugaya (Bleach), as well as tough female characters like Temari (Naruto), Naoto Shirogane (Persona 4) and the villainous Ragyo Kiryuin (Kill la Kill).

During Otakon 2015, a 45 minute press conference was held where Ms. Park discussed some of her acting roles over the years, the experiences of her career, her feelings about growing up in Japan, and much more. The following is an edited transcript of this session. 

Q: Can you talk about your relationship with Rie Kugimiya? How was she in person while working on Fullmetal Alchemist, did you develop a close bond with her doing the show?

ROMI PARK: So the first audition was an individual one, but the second one was where the person auditioning for Alphonese would talk to the person auditioning for Edward. So in there I was talking to her as Ed, and she was there talking as Al. I knew when I was talking to her in the audition that this was the person I would do the show with; we felt like we were destined for it. I feel that as actors we the same kind of soul and relate to each other and I keep in touch with her still, even after the show.

AdventureTimeTitleCardQ: I was wondering if you could pick any role, any movie, who would you like to revoice?

ROMI PARK: Adventure Time! *room laughter* I keep on wanting to do Adventure Time. (In English) I love Adventure Time!

TOONZONE NEWS: At the Garo [the Animation] panel yesterday you were talking about how you really enjoyed playing Finn in Adventure Time and you were really pondering who your favorite character was. I’d like to ask a somewhat different question: is there a character most similar to yourself?

ROMI PARK: Finn or Lemongrab! *room laughter*

Q: My question was about the process for you getting into character for voice acting versus live acting, especially with the teenage boy characters that you do so well. How is it different than getting into a female character?

ROMI PARK: I don’t really know because I don’t really tend to think about it, but the expression is – what would you call it? – as an expression, as an actor, I feel there are different rules existing in acting and voice acting. So as someone on the stage, we get to see the audience and be one with the audience and the atmosphere. But as a voice actor, that comes all as an image when I’m in front of the mike imagining things. I think it may actually be difficult for a voice actor voicing it.

Q: In the anime industry and voice acting world, there’s been a big emphasis in the past on “kawaii,” “moe,” the perfect girl. But you’re more known for Temari [from Naruto] and rough and tough roles. What is it like to be in the other direction, and do you wish there were more characters in anime like the rough and tough girls?

ROMI PARK: In general I love violence, so I wish there were would be more masculine women out there as well as more rough and tough strong girls and big guys and boys.

Q: So sugar, but definitely emphasis on the spice?


RomiPark_HangeZoeQ: I’m a big fan of your work on Attack on Titan. Out of all the characters you play, is there anyone you’d want to trade places with?

ROMI PARK: Hange. Hange Zoe. I love Hange Zoe. Adventure Time! *room laughter*

Q: How do you connect to characters of different moralities? For example [with] Edward Elric, who is good, and Ragyo Kiryuin, who is evil?

ROMI PARK: I don’t think they’re evil or anything, they’re just kind of different. I’m sure the characters themselves aren’t thinking they’re evil or anything and I myself, when I become the character, I think I do it justice.

Q: You played a role on Ojamajo Doremi. What was it like working with the cast and director Sato Junichi?

ROMI PARK: It was a very fresh feeling, because there were lots of cute girls talking about sweet things. He [Sato Junichi] was a very deep man. He put lots of passion into the recordings, and he was a big brother kind of man to me. But then he did care a lot about details, details, details, even more details. So you can guess that the recording of Ojamajo Doremi took many, many hours. (in English) Many, many hours!

RomiPark_EmaofGaroQ: You’ve worked on Garo, which is part of a tokustatsu franchise, but it’s not the first one you’ve worked on. I was wondering if you can talk about your work on Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and how it may have informed your work on Garo?

ROMI PARK: For tokustatsu, I never actually felt differently about it because Shinkinger and Garo are both from the same are from the same storywriter, Yasuko Kobayashi. In terms of her writing, she expressed something a bit deeper than your standard women writers. They show deeper thoughts and deeper things going on inside of women’s hearts. It was like I was surrounded by fire on all sides when I was acting in those roles.

Q: I’d like to ask about Air Master. Can you tell us about recording for a character that gets beat up a lot at first?

ROMI PARK: It’s fun! Air Master was a really fun piece to take part of. To expand on it, in Air Master, when a character flies it’s like being together with that character because you feel it with every breath that you take. Even those battle cries that I do – when I was doing the battle cry scene audition, I actually blacked out. But during that blackout, during that slow descent, I was able to feel it: “I’ve got this, this audition’s mine!” (in English): Yeah!

Q: You’ve been involved in the Pretty Cure franchise as Syrup. How does it feel to be part of a well-loved children’s show?

ROMI PARK: I was really happy to be in the act. Syrup, he’s a penguin, he flies. He’s a penguin, but he flies! He flies with all his comrades on his back. He’s that kind of character that has a very passionate feeling inside of him. But at the same time, he has that kind of cynical feeling where he looks at the world in a skewed manner that is a bit off from the norm. But then, that kind of viewpoint of the world, I feel like I can kind of relate to him, I think he shares something similar with me. So in that sense, it was a very interesting act to get into.

Q: Can you talk about heritage and working in Japan? Any difficulties to overcome?

ROMI PARK: I don’t think there was anything too difficult about my heritage and getting into this field. Or did you mean more in the broad sense as life itself?

RomiPark_RagyoOfKillLaKillQ: Yes, life itself.

ROMI PARK: When I was in my teens, I didn’t have a sense of identity because it felt like at school it was Japanese and at when I went home, it was a mix of Japanese and Korean. At relatives, something Korean-ish. But I think all that feeling of not being on the same ground is what ultimately helped me to express myself like this. I feel that is all part of who I am. Coming to Otakon in Baltimore and New York, I think the United States as a country has many immigrants, and it’s like an immigrant country here. So I would like to ask you, is the United States a place where immigrants of many cultures can live the life that they want?

Q (in response): There are a lot of cultures, definitely, and diversity. There are a lot of different parts of the culture to consider and a lot of times in school, you get to learn about how to relate to one another. I’m from New York City so I grew up with a lot different cultures, you get to experience that. And I think that’s the richness of living in the United States.

ROMI PARK: I do feel it’s a wonderful thing, coming to Otakon, that I can see many diverse people come together on one topic: anime and otaku!

Q: You played so many characters that are passionately beloved by many different sections of fandom. Do you have any favorite fan stories or, barring that, crazy fan stories?

ROMI PARK: I don’t know if this will be a fan story or whatnot, but with Kill la Kill, we got dressed up almost like cosplay and when we went to see the fans, they were all like “yyeeeeaaaahhhh!” And then we just went on and went crazy ourselves too. And then the fans were crazy, we were crazy, and I was going, “Well, what have we become? We can become this crazy!”

TurnAGundam_LoranQ: Could you talk a little bit about your time working on Turn A Gundam with director Yoshiyuki Tomino?

ROMI PARK: I would have to say that Mr. Tomino was a very, very passionate man and a very energetic person. Because when I was taping the voice for Loran in the first episode there’s this scene where he goes, “Everyone, come back to Earth!” And then during that moment I was in character over here…..but then, Mr. Tomino, bursting in the door, came in and said “Here! Over here! Here!” With that much energy, I felt he was a very enthusiastic person.

In episode 2, there was a scene where Loran jumps off his vehicle but when he jumps off, he hits his “weakness” on a plane, I think it was. I was doing that moaning kind of voice. But then the guy voice actors around me were going saying “that’s not it, something’s a bit off there.” And I’m going “I don’t want to be told that by you guys!” but I tried to do something else regarding that. And then again, Mr. Tomino, bursting in through the door, said “That’s not it! Boys, when they get hit there, their pain, it’s a bigger pain but it goes away quickly! Do it!” When I did it like that he said “That! We’ll go with that.” That’s the kind of guy Tomino is.

TurnAGundamOP_2TOONZONE NEWS: I wonder if you could talk about what you feel your first breakthrough role was?

ROMI PARK: I would have to say that would be Turn A Gundam with Loran Cehack. I would expect that most of you think that inside of me is a guy or something, but I am indeed a girl! Expanding on that answer, it was mainly because in the previous work with Tomino, it was Brain Powered. It seemed like I was being tested in Brain Powered, because it looks like Tomino was testing me on how far I could go on the spectrum with that character. And then when I went into the audition for Turn A Gundam as the heroine, Tomino came in and said “Go take the main hero’s role, go take Loran’s role.” Then [I’m saying] “I’m a girl, what are you telling me to do, take a guy’s role?” As you could guess, back then, I never expected to do a guy like that. And then I went in there and took Loran Cehack’s role, and Tomino said “yes, you’re our Loran Cehack now.” You never know how life is, because I never expected it to be like this!

Q: Has working in anime helped you view entertainment any differently?

ROMI PARK: It did indeed change how I feel about expression because as you might have guessed, I felt you could expand on what entertainment really is. Year after year I think of how we can make it more entertaining and more than what it is now. Since I take not only animation but also produce stage action, I’m constantly thinking about how better it can be.

Q: Out of all your characters, which was the most stressful for your voice?

RomiPark_EdwardElricROMI PARK: Edward Elric, I must say, because for him, I eventually killed my voice. Before Edward Elric the roles I did were Loran Cehack in Turn A Gundam and Ken Ichijouji of Digimon and Tao Ren of Shaman King and after that, in Dragon Drive I did Reiji. But while all those boys were different characters, they had some similar traits. Being that kind of character that seems fragile in the moment but have that craziness too. They’d be hot-blooded, they’d be cool, they’d be different things. But Edward was somebody that embraced everything and at the same time had killed off some of his other parts. Taking on Edward’s role, I went off into the karaoke box because I cannot voice this boy with a high-pitched voice through my nose. I’d sing crazy for a few hours, kill my voice. I could not do any higher voices out there because I needed to give Edward lower, stronger voices. He was that kind of character that demanded so much from me, because it felt like he came inside of me barefoot and said “give me all your voice!” Not only voices, he just came inside of me and said “Give me everything you’ve got!” It felt like he took everything out of me. He was a very different and difficult character.