Of the many (many!) things that we can praise the Sailor Moon anime production for, I’d definitely rank the excellent and highly talented voice cast right up near the top. Without their wonderful voice work to strike a chord with the viewers, I’m not sure the anime would have been as much of a success as it was.
But things very well could have turned out differently. As it turns out, Aya Hisakawa – voice of our beloved Ami Mizuno – actually went in to try out for someone else at first.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane!
If you guessed “Usagi,” well, it’s probably because it’s a fairly obvious answer, or you’ve heard this story before. But yes, Ms. Hisakawa originally went in to the recording studio to audition for the role of Usagi Tsukino, and came away with Ami Mizuno.
Though the order of events is a bit fuzzy, the story goes that Aya went and auditioned for Sailor Moon, but was turned down for the role. The casting director was apparently pretty impressed with her work, though, and offered her the role of Sailor Mercury.
She was initially pretty broken up on this since playing the lead in a major up-and-coming anime is obviously a pretty big deal.
However, when Aya finally entered the recording booth to actually record lines with the other cast members – and saw Kotono in action playing her heart out in the role of Usagi – she completely changed her mind. According to an interview with Animage:1
And for those of you who’d prefer to read in English:
You know, I also auditioned for the role. For Sailor Moon, I mean. I really wanted it, being the main character and all, but I was offered the job as Ami instead. The first time I came into the studio as Mercury and saw Kotono’s performance, I knew that I didn’t stand a chance. I could feel that she was just absolutely perfect for Usagi. ‘Wow, she’s nailed it,’ I thought. But you know, this made me want to create an Ami that Kotono could never be.
That last line, that she “want[s] to create an Ami that Kotono could never be” is a bit interesting to me. It almost sounds like, at the time at least, she wasn’t entirely over the thought of losing out on the role. But I don’t want to imply that there was any bad feelings among the cast, of course. All information I can find suggests they were all really good friends.
Just to provide you with a bit of extra background information, it’s helpful to know that audio recording in Japan is typically done in a big room with all of the voice talent recording together, rather than each person recording their lines separately as is done in the west.2
One of the benefits of this approach is that the voice actors can play off of each other in real time, and even go off script and ad lib in lines. For example, Usagi’s trumpeting stomach and Tuxedo Mask’s speeches are said to have been made up on the fly, and many of the arguments between Rei and Usagi were also said to be off script.
Aya was apparently particularly impressed by the off-the-cuff interactions between Kotono and Toru Furuya (voice of Mamoru), which brought a playful back-and-forth nature to the arguments between the soon-to-be lovers.
So, I guess this leaves us the question of: how different would Sailor Moon have been if Aya did get the role, and if our beloved Ami was actually the voice of our favorite crybaby, Usagi?
To be totally honest, I think the show would have been different, but not necessarily worse for wear. Much like Kotono,3 Aya Hisakawa4 is an incredibly talented voice actress, with many impressive credits to her name. This is the adorable-and-witty Kero, of Card Captor Sakura fame, that we’re talking about. She couldn’t do Kotono’s Usagi, but I think she could’ve done a good one.
What do you think about the voices in the series, though? Obviously it’s hard to “un-hear” a certain voice talent after the fact, but is there anyone that you feel didn’t quite fit the role? Off the top of my head, I was never totally sold on Nephrite’s voice as he sounded a bit generic, but that’s just a personal preference.