Exclusive Interview with Voice Actress Megumi Ogata (Part 1)

Exclusive Interview with Voice Actress Megumi Ogata (Part 1)

Heralded as an unprecedented success on the Japanese crowdfunding platform CAMPFIRE, the Megumi Ogata 25th Seiyuu Debut Anniversary Project reached its crowdfunding goal of approximately $100,000 USD in just 90 minutes after opening on May 12, 2017. Following its success, the project is now open to fans worldwide via crowdfunding platform Tokyo Mirai Mode.

Who is Megumi Ogata?
An extremely prolific singer and voice actress in the Japanese anime industry, you’d be hard pressed to find any anime fan in the world who hasn’t heard her voice at least once in their lifetime. As a well respected veteran in the industry, she welcomes her 25th voice acting debut anniversary this year. Notable roles that old-school anime fans may recognize include Kurama ( Yu Yu Hakusho, Dub name: Ghost Files), Haruka Tenou/Sailor Uranus ( Sailor Moon ), and Shinji Ikari ( Neon Genesis Evangelion ). Die-hard shojo fans will know her as Yukito Tsukishiro/Yue from Cardcaptor Sakura, and fans focusing on newer anime will have heard her as Ayato Naoi from Angel Beats! or as Makoto Naegi & Nagito Komaeda from Danganronpa: The Animation.

With this interview, we hope that fans who did not know Megumi Ogata beforehand can learn more about her, and hope to offer a deeper insight to connect those who are already fans of Ms. Ogata with her purpose, motivations, and mission for this project!

About the Crowdfunding Project

Q. When your project first opened on CAMPFIRE, it reached its goal of 10,000,000 yen in just 90 minutes. Was this something you had expected?

A. Not at all. I was very shocked, and am so grateful for to everyone that supported me.

Q: Were there any reasons why the Japan and overseas crowdfunding didn’t launch at the same time?

A: Although it’s imperative that both goals are met for the total success of the project, we were not sure at first how much of our budget should be allocated to the domestic and international crowdfunding goals respectively. As a result, I discussed with the project team and decided to crowdfund a certain amount domestically first, and move forward with overseas crowdfunding once we were able to hit that first goal.

Q: What was the reason that you decided to carry out this project by crowdfunding?

A: One of the most important reasons was that works (i.e. anime, CDs) produced domestically do not often see legal international distribution easily. This is especially the case for works that are produced as a physical product, like CDs and DVDs. I had no way of delivering my own products legally to fans that would ask me how to obtain my works authentically, and I wanted to change that. There are many factors that come into play for each country, but I think the fact that these products just are not being distributed widely overseas doesn’t even cross most people’s minds in Japan. For example, there is the image in Japan of our music and animation being popular abroad, but everything is not as accessible as one may expect. Even if distribution was happening, due to contractual reasons and the number of rights holders, the reality is that us creators don’t see much feedback or reaction from the fans for our own works.
Because of that, anime studios have disappeared, and the need to decrease anime production is always being talked about in the industry.

So my second reason is that I want to spread awareness that even though there is the demand for authentic works, it is not reaching its audience. This phenomenon is making it so that creators are no longer able to make the content they and the fans want. By creating this crowdfunding project and laying out my reasons on the page, I want to spread this message to all fans that love Japanese anime throughout the world.

Q: To put it plainly, rather than simply raising the funds to create the album, there is a bigger problem at work here that you are hoping to solve as the driving force behind this project?

A: That's right. If I just wanted to create an album, I could have done it the same way most artists do. To put this in perspective, I could have released this CD easily for the domestic market, but if I failed this crowdfunding project, I wouldn't be able to make this CD at all. But that's the risk I'm willing to take because I felt it absolutely necessary for fans overseas to understand and be aware of the message and circumstances behind this project. That's why the project has taken form in this way.

Q: It was quite a big risk for you to take here, despite knowing that there was the possibility for this project to have failed, no doubt filled with your own worries amongst the determination to see the project to fruition. Do you have any specific episodes to share where you experienced first hand, the voice of fans who wanted your work but was not able to obtain it?

A: Whenever I release a new album, I always receive comments on Twitter asking where they might be able to buy it, or if it would be difficult to obtain. The same voices reach me when I'm invited to and attend overseas events once or twice a year. Industry members like CD publishers and anime producers that I meet with often have said it's quite difficult to deliver physical products to fans as well.
When I ask specifically, "Why?", some factors include license holders having to relinquish the right to distribute and sell to that local area's seller all at once in some cases. This makes it so that overseas profits don't return to the original rights holders based on the amount sold.

Further, with cases of legal online streaming, free unlicensed fan subtitles tend to appear the day immediately after an anime has been aired. Of course, there is no way for creators to be paid for what's being distributed for free, while there are also people who only learn of us and have become fans of us from watching through such sources. Some have told me that they saw me and became a fan that way, and I'm very appreciative and happy of this sentiment. However, without utilizing available legal sources, the fact remains that it pushes animators and creators who made these works into an increasingly dire situation.

And I don't expect that anything can be fixed just by me stating the way things are here, Japanese animation companies are already trying hard, but I would be happy if fans could learn and be aware of the fact that this situation is causing Japanese creators to suffer heavily. While it's truly regretful that we aren't currently able to make content more easily available, if even just one more person each day decides to switch to using legal sources to get their content, I would be very grateful.

There is a legal anime song streaming service overseas, called "ANiUTa", that will be opening towards the end of this year. Just by paying $5.00, you'll be able to stream Japanese anime and game songs legally and support artists by doing so. I implore fans to contribute what they can, little by little, starting with using existing streaming sites and e-commerce sites that legally offer services and goods.
Since streaming is the primary trend now overseas, I think media such as CDs are likely to become simply "merchandise" from here on out. It will probably be the first and last time I will be able to release a physical album through crowdfunding. I don't mind at all if this effort only leads to strengthening the trend in streaming; please lend us your support in building a future for the anime industry. The album itself is meant to be more of a commemorative item, and I would be very happy for you to receive it in such a manner.

Q: Can you leave a message for those that might not know you well, or those learning of you for the first time through this project? What is something they can lookout for in this album?

A: I'm amongst the first generation of voice actors in the Japanese anime industry who came to be called "artists" as well. During the past 25 years, I've remained active in singing and voice acting in anime in main roles as well, something that not many "seiyuu" (voice actor/voice actresses) of my generation are still doing.
You could call me a “rare species” in that sense (laugh). And this rare species has chosen popular, well-known songs from anime throughout my career of 25 years to cover in the album. I'll be singing in the voice of the character I played in those series; using Kurama’s voice in the Yu Yu Hakusho song, and Uranus’s voice in the Sailor Moon song. For songs that have lyrics that match the the character, I'll be singing as in-character as possible.

I also spent a lot of time making my own music during this time as well. I am "three octaves strong"; I'm able to sing in the original key for most songs no matter if it's a female or male vocalist. There will be some conscious changes to the cover songs so that they aren't exactly the same as the originals, but I hope to bring them to you in familiar form. It's because I have acted in these series that I am able to understand the works well, and have a great love for them. The same can be said for the characters and songs of these series, and I think I will be able to make a lasting memory for all the anime fans who enjoyed these iconic works as well.

Q: Thank you very much! Covering a span of 25 years, meaning fans of anime old and new will have the chance to hear a variety of songs from this selection, correct?

A: I think that more fans overseas have a greater love for the more nostalgic, classic series. I suppose that those series from the 90s are replayed more on the air and sticks to people's memories longer. Of course, there are amazing works amongst newer released series as well. I will work hard so that the album will appeal to an audience with a wide age-range.

Read Part 2 here!

Project page: https://miraimode.com/projects/animeg25th

Exclusive Interview with Voice Actress Megumi Ogata (Part 1) 1
Exclusive Interview with Voice Actress Megumi Ogata (Part 1) 2
Exclusive Interview with Voice Actress Megumi Ogata (Part 1) 3
Exclusive Interview with Voice Actress Megumi Ogata (Part 1) 4

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