December 21, 2012

Tsuda Minami

Last but not least, I'll round off my Gorakubu cast coverage with Tsuda Minami.

Described as the "Mother of Gorakubu," Minami is the kind of hardworking responsible girl who was trained from childhood to be in show business. When she was only 10 years old she enrolled in a local choir group and began studying singing and acting. With experience ranging from musicals to live action to anime, a reasonably strong singing voice, and conventional good looks, she is probably the most versatile member of the group, and the one least likely of the four to be pigeonholed in the anime seiyuu industry. Tsudachan loves acting in general and one can easily picture her doing commercials, movie dubs, theater, TV dramas. Unfortunately, her mainstreamish charm is also a liability among the quirk-obsessed seiyuu fans who love their 2.5D oddities. As the most "normal" Gorakubu member, her wikipedia page is a bit lacking compared to the rather lengthy entries on the absurdly dojikko Mikashii, devilishly azatoi Rumirumi, and slightly bonkers Yukachin.

But no less than the others, Tsuda Minami has a lot of passion for her seiyuu work. Ever since she was young she knew she wanted to work in the voice industry. In YuruYuri, she plays Funami Yui so well she basically DISAPPEARS into the role. This is a person dedicated to her role enough that she cuts her hair to match the character image of whatever role she has. And while she likes to describe herself as boyish, those who have watched her live or at events know it's a humble statement and she can channel her girly side just as well.

As a child, Minami was part of her school's chorus club through every year. She functioned primarily in the role of mezzo-soprano, but there were also times when she also sang soprano and even helped sing the boy's sections when their dwindling male membership left them short of deeper voices. Her grades at the time were said to be excellent. As mentioned earlier, she also received private training and was part of a local chorus run by musical actress Itou Eri. Through her connections, they would record things like backing vocals for musicals and it was around this time Minami became pretty interested in voice work. She thought about how fun it was to do recording and thought about following in her mentor Eri's footsteps.

From the start, Minami never specifically had the role of anime seiyuu in mind but a few things did eventually nudge her in that direction. For example, at age 8 she remembers enjoying watching Sailor Moon and Pokemon and admiring the voices done there. Another fond memory as a child was when she made a deal with her older sister who originally wanted to be an animator. "When I make my anime, I want you to be the voice" she was told. Her sister eventually chose a different career path, but Minami kept working at her seiyuu ambitions. Once she turned 18, Eri introduced her to Tomizawa Michie (seiyuu for Sailor Mars) with whom she consulted about her career plans. Michie recommended that she enroll in Aoni's professional training program. She followed that advice after high school and began commuting to classes from her home in Kanagawa. The training lasted just one year, but the transition to working was smooth.

Immediately after graduation, she landed a spot in Aoni Production's junior division. Her first ever (uncredited) job was to provide stock voice notifications for cell phones. But a month after joining Aoni, she got a little PR push as a debutante at a series of Newbie Seiyuu chat events. With her previous acting training, she also landed her first musical role, playing a kunoichi "Shige" in the musical production Nintamarantarou. Minami happened to be a BIG theater fan who follows various productions and collects ticket stubs so it was especially exciting for her.

After her 20th birthday and coming of age ceremony, she continued to study and practice her craft and also started changing some habits. She started dieting to improve her image, learning how to be more photogenic (you can actually see the photo improvement on her blog over the years), and when she watched western movies, she attended dubbed showings instead to study the voice acting. The photo practice came in handy when she was called on to participate in a photoshoot for the infamous BiseiTokei smartphone app (but she also suffered some embarrassment there when her skirt flipped up in the middle of a shoot).

At 21 she finally landed her big role in Fractale, and finally followed up with another lead role in YuruYuri. At the time, she wasn't aware of just how big it was going to become. During the auditions, she said they were never even told they would be wearing offical school uniforms. Once she landed the role they suddenly told her they'd not only be voicing for the anime, but also dressing up as the characters to shoot PVs, singing the opening and endings, and doing events across the country.

Describing her YuruYuri character, she says Yui and her are very similar - almost eerily so that even her own family and friends will draw the comparisons. They are both frank with their choice of words, both give an adult-like vibe (like Mikashii, Minami also has a driver's license), both get lonely easily, and both enjoy RPG video games. In Minami's case, the game stuff is not just lip service. She has demonstrated her RPG street cred several times, and she especially enjoys Pokemon, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Quest titles. Her taste for fantasy extends to books/movies as well, and she has described Harry Potter as among her favorite series. Despite being an indoor person like that, Minami is a little bit claustrophobic and doesn't like enclosed spaces without windows. Whenever possible, she'll always take the stairs instead of elevators (tip for stalkers, wait at the stairs!)

She takes on a somewhat mature role and functions as a kind of glue that holds the members together. For example she's the one who started the whole UNO boom among YuruYuri seiyuu which as since spread to Milky Holmes cast. Her theater experience also comes in handy as she teaches the members about body language (on the PV making-of bonuses, she can be seen trying to demonstrate proper doyagao and posing). According to Mikashii, Minami has a very strong empathy skills where she will just naturally get on the same wavelength as anyone she talks to. She is most close with Okubo Rumi though. They are the same age, coincidentally buy the same foods, and similar interests. In praise of their high synchronization, Okubo Rumi has called Minami her wife (now husband) several times. In some ways you could call her an emotional empath. Minami herself says she has somehow gotten more sensitive since highschool and even cries a lot more at movies than she used to.

Since Yui and Kyoko are often alone in scenes together, Minami also spent a lot of quality alone time with Otsubo Yuka during afureco sessions. Yukachin has described Tsuda as someone who always calms her down when she's nervious and rubs her head when she is worried. As food lovers, they've shared in some some mischief through their mutual love of snacks. There were times when they'd finish off a whole bag of food meant for the cast, then plotted to hide the empty packaging so the rest of the members wouldn't find out later that their share was eaten too.

Minami can cook a little, and supposedly makes a nice omlette rice (though she denies this and says the ketchup helps disguise her incompetence). She is not picky about foods and enjoys almost everything, including bitter or spicy things. Probably the only foods she doesn't really like are paprika and sweet bean paste. It's much harder for her to name foods she likes, because there are so many, but the two meals she eats the most are likely pasta and yakiniku (her favorite is salty beef tongue). Actually, all Gorakubu members eat a lot of yakiniku. Mikashii once noted that whenever the whole group goes out for food, they wind up at a yakiniku joint 80% of the time. One person on nico said Tsuda used to work part time at a Yakiniku restaurant, but this is unconfirmed.

Minami's signature greeting involves spreading her arms out in a T and exlaiming "Ya-T!" (a shortening of "Yatta, T!") Why T? This comes from a broadcast of DJ TSUDA no COUNTDOWN early in the year. During these broadcasts, Minami would write one katakana on paper at set intervals. Viewers who watched the entire broadcast could then piece together the katakana to form the secret word to redeem for a prize. However, right at the beginning of the show, Minami wrote the first character イ hastily, and it wound up looking like "T" instead. Immediately she realized her mistake and started saying "oh yeah, don't make a mistake. That's I, not T" but by this point commenters already sensed the trends and began replacing I with T in all subsequent scrolling comments while a visibly embarassed and giggling Tsudanyan watched helplessly on screen. This also is how the secret word for the broadcast "イケメン" (Ikemen) turned into "Tケメン" (Tkemen). Eventually liking the ring of it, Minami decided to embrace her I to T mistake, also earning her the "Tkemen" nickname in the process.

Speaking of nicknames, it's been a question among fans for quite some time as to which nickname is dominant. Unlike Mikashii, Yukachin, and Rumirumi, who have a "primary" nickname (though each they all have situational and program specific sub-nicknames), the jury is still out on Tsuda Minami. Aside from TKEMEN, she's been called Tsudanyan, Tsudachan, Tsudamin, Tsudacchi, DJ TSUDA, Tsudealer (because of the UNO tournament), DJ MANGOOnyan, Tsuu, and so many other variations that it's become a running joke. Most recently, the weirder names have been weeded out and we seem to be (MAYBE) arriving at Tsudanyan, Tsudachan, or DJ TSUDA consensus. Though Tkemen persists in written form as a way to refer to her online, as it is too good to discard even if doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. She personally thinks DJ TSUDA sounds the coolest, but it only fits within a certain context so it doesn't get much use.

As for future activities, Tsuda Minami hopes to act someone cheerful like Kyoko, do a dubbing role for a western action movie, and release a song album, but no matter what, she says she wants to stay in this line of work for life.

Posted by Paranda at December 21, 2012 2:12 PM


Yay! DJ TSUDA! Thanks again. I believe that she deserve her own CD. ^_^

Posted by: yue at January 3, 2013 8:30 AM

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