ODDTAXI interview – Iida Riho

ODDTAXI interview - Iida Riho

We have an interview from Iida Riho, the star of this years new anime called ODDTAXI.

Riho Iida (飯田 里穂, Iida Riho, born 26 October 1991 in Saitama) is a Japanese ex-child model-turned-actress, voice actress and singer. Her nickname is Rippi.

Odd Taxi, stylized as ODDTAXI (Japanese: オッドタクシー, Hepburn: Oddo Takushī), is a Japanese anime television series produced by OLM and P.I.C.S. The series aired on TV Tokyo and AT-X in Japan from April 6 to June 29, 2021.

Check out the whole interview below.

1. Please tell us how you got the role of Shirakawa.

The production company offered my agency the role, which I am thankful for.

2. Is there anything you paid special attention to while acting this role?

We’d discussed in meetings that the acting should sound as natural as possible. Throughout the recording process, I focused on speaking flatly and naturally, as though speaking to the person sitting next to me, in a way I’d normally speak. That was the direction I received, so I did my best to follow it as closely as possible.

[But I ended up performing a character as an anime voice actor, so in the first episode… Oh, I guess that’s the answer to the next question.]

3. What did you do to prepare for the role of Shirakawa?

Shirakawa looks like a 28-year-old woman. When I recorded this role, I was basically the same age. I think my voice sounded neither like a woman older than 30 years old, nor like a woman in her early 20s. It was calm, mild, and also mysterious.
But since she’s the heroine, I wanted to make her a little cute. Since the role’s age was close to my own, there wasn’t too much of a difference. But when I began recording, I found that I was stuck on the idea of putting on a “performance by an anime voice actor,” so the first day involved a lot of discussions, retakes, and trial and error.

4. What do you believe is Shirakawa’s charm?

[She and I are pretty different. She doesn’t speak very much or at great length—actually, wait. Nevermind. Question 6 is about what we have in common. This one’s about her charm. Could you cut this part, please?]

I think Shirakawa-san is an attractive woman with a mysterious relaxed feel to her. If I developed feelings for someone like her, I don’t think I’d act on them. Shirakawa-san seems like someone who knows how to attract people. During one of the earlier episodes when Odokawa-san asks her if she likes anyone and asks to see a photo of him, she sets her phone camera to selfie mode so he’ll appear on the screen. That’s not something a normal person could come up with. It’s like something a spy would do. She’s a very attractive woman surrounded by a veil of mystery. She’s strong, too.

5. What do you think Shirakawa’s personality is like?

At first, she seems mysterious and somewhat spy-like, but as you follow the story, you discover that she has a tendency to enter close co-dependent relationships. Her maternal instinct is strong. She knows Dobu-san is a bad guy, but she claims he has his good parts, too. The word “co-dependent” comes up in the story as well. That’s exactly who she is: the type of person who gets close to people emotionally. Essentially, she’s a very kind and gentle person. More like ripples than raging waves.

6. Do you share anything in common with Shirakawa?

I think we feel like pretty different people. I’m not very mysterious and talk about everything, but Shirakawa-san is also a considerate person. It’s a little odd to describe oneself as considerate, but I do end up looking after younger colleagues maybe a bit too much. I’ve even gone so far with it that I’ve ended up hurting myself. I wouldn’t call that co-dependence necessarily, but in that way, we might be similar. I think we both have older sister vibes.

7. Shirakawa and Odokawa have an interesting relationship. How did you feel about their relationship?

I’m not sure! It’ll take a little extra effort for their relationship to become romantic. It’s complicated. Neither of them is the type to directly communicate their feelings. Their conversations tend to take an indirect path. Personally, since Shirakawa says she likes Odokawa-san, I think it would be nice if they got together, but I’m not sure it’ll be easy. Their relationship is uncertain.

[Is that okay? Yes, totally fine.]

8. What do you think it would be like to live with someone like Odokawa?

What?! I don’t know, but I think it would be fun to live at his house that appears in the series. Recently people have been remodeling housing complexes and DIY renovating 100-year-old buildings. It seems fun. It feels like your parents’ house, with its paper sliding doors and tatami mats. I think they’d live rather plainly together while cracking jokes. I bet Shirakawa-san would cook proper meals. It seems like it would be fun.

[Oh, wait. If I were to live with him, not Shirakawa?]

I think it’d be fun to live in that house, but I’ve never spent much time around someone who mumbles so much, so I’m a little curious to know how that would turn out.

9. What do you hope will happen to Shirakawa in the future?

You mean concerning Shirakawa’s future after the events of the anime, right? She has Dr. Goriki, who she can trust. I hope she apologizes to him. She’s truly blessed. I hope she doesn’t expect too much. She made a mistake, but since she has her nursing license, I hope she works hard as a nurse. I see her as a typical woman, so—oh, but I hope she improves her capoeira to the point that she can call it a skill instead of just a hobby and participates in some tournaments.

[Is that too much? No, not at all.]

10. What do you believe is the charm of ODDTAXI?

It’s difficult to describe. The story itself is mysterious. It’s so different from everything else that’s been produced so far, which may make it difficult to get into, but it’s guaranteed to hook anyone who watches it. Your first impression will definitely be different from how you feel about it by the end. If you’re only familiar with this interview, then I encourage you to watch the series from episode one. The story is told using animal characters, but it expresses the broad spectrum of humanity you’d expect from a live action series.

There are lines of dialogue and scenes that feel like they could apply to anyone. At first glance, it does seem like an unusual series, but once you start watching, you’ll realize that it’s one of the most human series out there. And above all, the music is stylish. For a lot of the staff, including the director and scriptwriter, this was their first anime and kind of an experiment. From that perspective, it’s probably different from any other anime people have seen before. I hope people feel captivated by and are aware of that charm as well.

11. Do you have a favorite scene or line of dialogue?

There are a lot. The script uses a lot of verbal substitutions in its examples and metaphors. In particular, I remember a conversation about the size of something, and a character says it’s as big as an American vitamin capsule. It’s excellent, and I love it. The most obvious example from the earlier episodes is the “S-S-Springsteen” conversation—I’m having trouble saying it right now. Scenes like those are the first time viewers will notice there’s something different about this series that captures their interest. I can’t choose just one scene; there are so many fun details to discover. I have so many favorites. It’s like reading a novel. It’s a wordy script.

12. What do you personally believe is the message of the series?

[That’s a difficult question. The message? I don’t know. Do you think there was a message?]

Each character seems disconnected from the others at first, but ultimately they’re all connected. It’s a small world. But I still felt each individual’s desires or resolve—the strength of their will—their humanity.

[I don’t know. The message? What is the message? I don’t know. It feels very human, doesn’t it?]

The characters feel like people you could become tomorrow or express thoughts that you’ve had yourself. The vague thoughts we have during our everyday lives are spelled out explicitly in the script and made into an anime. That’s ODDTAXI. We all think, “I want to go viral on SNS,” but we don’t often see depicted why and how that happens. We’d never say it ourselves. ODDTAXI wraps that up nicely. It feels very modern.

[Is that an okay answer?]

It’s about modern humanity.

[Does that sound right? Yes, good.]

13. The capoeira scenes were fun. Do you have any memorable anecdotes from the recording?

I personally had heard the term capoeira, but I didn’t know what it was or what sounds people made while doing it or when it was used. I found videos online of people doing capoeira and listened to them in very quiet places to hear the noises people made. It was interesting. I wasn’t expecting to do any capoeira.

Shirakawa-san has a moment in which she explodes on Odokawa-san inside his taxi. Personally, I enjoyed her conversations with him. They were fun.

14. How was working on ODDTAXI different from working on other series (not limited to recording)?

There are a lot of things about ODDTAXI that are different from other series. The most obvious example would be when a character’s mouth opens, they produce an “ah” sound of realization, or grunts associated with motion are included, but ODDTAXI eliminates a lot of those sound effects. It’s true to life. We only included the sounds you’d make in real life. I think that’s pretty different.

15. Is there anything you typically focus on while recording?

Trying not to be nervous. I get so nervous. I’m so nervous on the walk between the studio and the train station. I’m so nervous that I warm up my voice for the role I’m recording quietly enough that the people around me won’t notice. I practice a lot so that I don’t have to be nervous, but I know that I always will be.

Also, I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I try not to think of stuttering as a mistake, but rather as part of the expression. If you’re focused on expressing the line, then you’ll stutter sometimes, so rather than thinking of it as a mistake, I stutter with confidence.

16. Has social distancing affected your work as a voice actor?

We’ll swap out mics for different voice actors. You’re probably familiar with how voice actors stand in front of the mic, but normally we take turns using the same mic. That practice has disappeared completely. Generally, we have a maximum of four mics, so at most four of us will be in the studio at a time. I only met my costars in passing. We used to have meetings, but current circumstances don’t allow it. Not getting to see my costars or attend meetings leaves me feeling lonely.

17. You started as a child actor and have worked a variety of jobs. How did you become a voice actor?

I belong to an agency. I got into voice acting when an audition opportunity for Love Live came to my agency. I attended the audition and was cast.

18. How has being a voice actor affected your career?

I’ve been in the entertainment industry for 21 years now. For half that time, I worked as a child performer as an actor and entertainer. At exactly the halfway mark, I started working as a voice actor. I felt like I couldn’t do just one thing in my career. I’ve seen so many sights and gained so much knowledge. I’ve been influenced by the expansiveness of the world of expression.

19. You’ve played a variety of roles until now. What kind of roles would you like to perform in the future?

I’d like to play a villain. A strong woman who fights. Shirakawa-san is demure and mysterious, even though she practiced capoeira. I think people’s impression of me would change if I played a strong-willed woman who can go toe-to-toe with the men. Also, I’d like to try playing a mom. I bet it would be fun to play a loving mother.

20. Do you have any role models (past or present) as a voice actor?

Everyone is incredible. I can’t choose just one person. I’m always impressed by the performances of other voice actors. I look up to all of them.

21. Is there any kind of work you’d like to try in the future?

Our perspective has really broadened in this day and age. People are able to try all kinds of things. Even people who don’t belong to an agency are getting work, and young people are starting their own companies. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years. Like I mentioned in a previous question, I spent 10 years as an entertainer and 10 years as a voice actor. By the time my career is 30 years old, I’d like to have done something new and broadened my horizons. There are new things I’d like to try, but I also hope I exceed expectations on the work I receive.

22. The capoeira scene got a lot of attention from Brazilian fans. Had you heard of capoeira before this series? What do you think of Brazil?

Oh, right. Capoeira is Brazilian, isn’t it? The director said he received comments calling me the Capoeira Princess.
Here it is. Director Kinoshita liked the name Capoeira Princess for Shirakawa so he drew an illustration. It’s a wonderful name and a cute drawing. It’s interesting how big a reaction the capoeira is getting. The power of anime is amazing.
I’ve been to Brazil once for an event to sing and talk. The fans who showed up were so warm and welcoming.

They smiled the whole time. I remember how warmly they welcomed me. I felt like I was being enveloped by their warmth. I’ll never forget that. I wish I could go back. The trip there was fun, too. It takes a long time to travel to Brazil from Japan. Including that travel time, I love Brazil. I love Brazilian food, too, especially churasco. Getting to eat authentic Brazilian churasco was a moving experience. Also, I was taken to a famous soccer stadium and museums, and the scale of each one was so large. I’ll never forget it. I’m recalling a lot of fun memories.

23. Do you like Alpacas? What’s your favorite animal?

I actually haven’t seen many alpacas. Alpacas seem to appear frequently in the anime series I’m in, but I haven’t actually seen many.
[Someone enters the room, and they exchange greetings.]
By the way, I my favorite animal is… white tigers, I guess? I like white tigers. I don’t think there was one in the series—or was there? I don’t think there were any white tigers, certainly not in the main cast. There was a [polar] bear. I like big heavy animals like white tigers.

24. You appeared in the music video for the opening. How did you end up working on that? Any memorable stories from filming the music video?

I received an offer for this as well. I filmed it on the day of a screening event in Ginza. There were lots of people there, so I felt a little embarrassed. But it’s a very stylish MV, and I love the OP theme, so I was very glad to have the opportunity to appear in it. If you’re ever in Ginza, try following the same path I did.

25. What do you do while you’re riding in taxis?

I usually ride with my manager, who I speak to the whole time. We have endless conversations. I don’t talk to taxi drivers very much.

26. You have a lot of South American fans. Do you have a message for your fans in South America?

When I attended that event, I received tons of comments from South American fans. It makes me so happy. There may be physical distance between us, but I’m grateful to live in a society in which we can connect with each other over the internet. It feels like fate that there are people in South America who know who I am. It makes me so happy. The current circumstances don’t allow me to visit, but I promise I’ll be back. I hope there’s an opportunity for you to visit me. I’ve never forgotten about my South American fans. I appreciate your continued support.

27. Are you familiar with Argentina and the Japanese Garden in Buenos Aires?

What? I’ve never heard of it. There’s a Japanese Garden? I think this is my first time hearing about it. Brazil and Japan share a deep bond, so even though this is my first time hearing about the Japanese Garden, I hope I can visit someday. I love gardens, so I’d like to visit and get something tasty to eat.

28. In the series, there are several characters who want to become famous or go viral. Do you have any advice for people who want to become famous?

I’m in no position to tell people that they can become famous, but in general, I stay to be true to myself. I think it’s important to be yourself and to be honest. That, or like Kabasawa, put a lot of effort into your SNS posts.

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