Which Character Did Sailor Mercury’s Voice Actress Apply For First?

The original Sailor Moon voice cast and characters

The original Sailor Moon voice cast and characters

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!

The Sailor Moon voice cast comes together in 2009

The Sailor Moon voice cast comes together in 2009

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.

Interview with Aya Hisakawa

Interview with Aya Hisakawa

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?

Goodbye, Ami?

Goodbye, Ami?

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.

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  1. See p. 4 of the October 1992 issue of Animage; I’ve uploaded a copy here
  2.  See this report on the recording of the anime Sket Dance
  3. See Kotono Mitsuishi (Wikipedia)
  4. See Aya Hisakawa (Wikipedia)

15 thoughts on “Which Character Did Sailor Mercury’s Voice Actress Apply For First?

  1. Always enjoy reading these interviews with the voice actors. It’s so hard to find translations of them. So I hope you post more in the future.

    I’m presuming what Aya meant, is that she wanted to put the same mark and effort into her performance like Kotono did. I remember seeing a clip online with them (and Michie Tomizawa) recording a scene together in front of a giant screen.

    PS: It has to be said, those costumes in the first image are quite unsettling… O_o

    • It’s a shame, really, since nearly all of these interviews are in old paper magazines and are getting harder and harder to find as the years go on. Some of the information and interviews I’ve found have been only by chance from buying old anime magazines, or from finding references to specific issues in weird places online. The article about the catchphrases was mentioned once in a 2005 post on a Japanese Yahoo! page. o_O

      I’d love to translate more of these. The piece that Aya’s quote comes from is actually from a 3 page roundtable with the voice actresses for Usagi, Ami, and Rei. It’s only maybe 1/30th of the total content there. Unfortunately, pure translation is beyond the scope of this blog – research and commentary on Sailor Moon history – so I don’t know the best way to fit this kind of content in.

      Another neat tidbit from an interview: Shino Kakinuma (VA for Naru) couldn’t make it through her lines when Nephrite died without crying. They gave it three tries before finally using the audio as-is – her sobs were real.

      As for the scene you’re referring to, I think this is the interview you mean? BSSM Cast Interview Part 1
      I can only find part 1 subbed, can’t find part 2, and parts 3 and 4 are unsubbed.

  2. Aya Hisakawa is one of my favorite voice actresses, so I would love to hear what her Usagi would have been like.

    Interestingly, this kind of thing is common on the English side as well. Like Jill Frappier said she originally auditioned for Miss Haruna, and only got the role of Luna because DiC hadn’t cast the part yet and time was running out. Even the Viz dub was similar, with Cherami saying she almost got the part of Moon instead of Venus. I understand why they don’t, but man, I wish America and Japan would release everyone’s original auditions! It could make a fun DVD/Blu-Ray extra, and it would be cool being able to hear the different ways casting could have gone.

    • I totally agree! I think the mistakes, trials, and tribulations on the way to making an excellent production like Sailor Moon (in its English, Japanese, or many other incarnations) are just as important as the successes in the end.
      I’d absolutely love to see the road they took to get there.

  3. Another int’resting parallel is that Miyabi Matsuura, the first Mercury of the Sera Myu revival, also auditioned for the role of Usagi. She didn’t got the part and was asked to audition to the part of Ami.

    • Oh, wow, I didn’t know that! That’s really interesting. Poor Mercury… no one wants to be her. =p
      Do you remember where you read that?

  4. Well… sorry to say this, but I honestly couldn’t care less 😛 I mean, I can understand how this could have affected the Japanese rendition of the show, but the story itself would’ve been exactly the same, thus such a fact wouldn’t ever have had any influence over other versions of the anime. It’s true I may be a bit biased because of my deep hatred towards Japanese dubbers, whom I find to be so unprofessional, with their inability to emote and the girls’ standard unsufferable squeaky voice, which just makes my ears bleed. And this is considered that I am a huge fan of international dubbing, to the point of watching Disney films in 50+ languages… and finding out that the worst dubs were almost always the Japanese and the English ones :/ (No offense, but the original versions always manage to disappoint me in some way, mainly because dubbing in the USA is not very professional due to the fact that they dub only cartoons and not live-actions!) Actually, that dates back up to when I was a kid and somehow discovered the wonderful world of Italian dubbing, thus eternally blaiming my parents for having raised me in France 😛 (But my dream has recently come true, yeah!) Anyhow, I didn’t come here just to complain, ’cause I know it would’ve been very rude – it’s just that I wanted to correct you about something: the fact is, you say that solitary recording is the standard “in the West”… Well, maybe you should check your information, because I have witnessed many dubbing sessions in Paris, Milan and Rome and I can swear that dubbers usually record altogether – each with their own script and microphone, of course, and under the wise guide of the dubbing director, but still in the same room. Just for you to know. Anyway, I’m sorry for all the wining and the bad language, I know I should probably just shut up.

    • I wouldn’t say you’re whining or anything – everyone has an opinion!

      As for dubbing live action, personally I can’t stand it. There’s just way too much of a gap between the character on screen and the voice coming out of them, and you can just tell that there’s no way this person would sound that way. It’s not so bad with animation (since the character clearly doesn’t exist anyway), but no matter how good the quality of the dubber is, I just can’t get myself past that wall that this voice is totally unnatural.

      Now, Japanese live action dubbing… that’s a whole different beast of bad quality. =p Even Japanese people know it sucks. There are tons of videos on Niconico making fun of the less-than-stellar jobs they do in recording.
      Part of the problem is that, for some god-forsaken reason, many Japanese studios insist on using famous movie actors to record voices for the big Hollywood releases. The idea is that the added star power will help, but the end result is that these talented actors don’t know how to express themselves only with their voice and have a really dry recording with zero emotions.

      And my apologies about rudely clumping European recording studios into “the West.” =p It’s an awful mistake, I know. But to my knowledge, this is true in English-speaking countries.

      SO, with all that said – which is your favorite Sailor Moon voice cast? The Italian?

      • Sorry but I couldn’t agree less 🙂 I mean, unless you are able to read the labial, which hardly no one can do, then it’s not difficult to accept the -magic of dubbing- with no conditions and be actually convinced that, I don’t know, a Russian actor is speaking Spanish, because that’s simply how it’s supposed to work. Moreover, I am the first one who likes seeing films and series in various versions, but that is just because of my love for comparison, I’d never do such a thing like watchin something subtitled… unless it’s really the only way you can enjoy a show, either because it’s not available in your country – but in that case, even a fandub is preferable – or because you’re such a huge fan that you just cannot wait for it to reach your country (coff Crystal coff). Apart from that, watching an audiovisual work with subtitles is the biggest offense you could ever make it, because the task of reading will prevent you from seeing what’s going on the screen… thus losing a big part of the story. Truth is that there’s much bias on my part about this topic due to my job being translating scripts from French to Italian… so I could never complain about what gives me my bread xD At least I can say that I’ve thought the same since forever (which means, ages before I even considered applying for this job), when I was a youngster who spent her afternoon desperately searching Italian streaming websites because videotapes with other dubs obviously weren’t available in France… But still, I have to admit I cannot ever be impartial about this topic, sorry.
        Oh my, I think I cannot even imagine how horrible are Japanese live-action dubs, then! XD I can speak only about those they make for anime and Disney films, which I’ve already said I find to be very unprofessional (sorry!) – in the latter case it’s also because in Japan, like in the USA, more often than not they hire the same person to do both the speaking and singing parts LIKE WHY!?!
        Now, about Sailor Moon dubs! The plain answer is yes, I do consider the Italian dub to be the best… the only thing is, I must mean the best among those I’ve watched. This is to say that, though I am obviously a huge SM fan, this only applies to the manga and Crystal (which doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the live-action and the musicals), while the old anime is something I watch only out as what I consider to be my duty as a fan – which means that I’m not too eager to do the same thing I’ve done with most Disney Classics. In fact, I’ve watched the anime in three languages only: in French from the tapes I recorded as a kid (though that doesn’t include season 5 because it’s never done it here) and in Italian & Japanese much time later from the Italian DVDs. So I clearly cannot speak properly about it! Anyway, the lengthier version of the answer is this: the Japanese dub is plain horrible like their standard (sorry again), while for the other two things are a bit more complicated. I mean, France tends to do great jobs with both live-action and cartoon films and with live-action series, but sadly the same cannot be said about cartoon series… and Sailor Moon is no exception. On the other hand, Italy usually provides the best dubs in the world no matter what the medium is (crazy fangirl speaking here, mind you), but for some reason Sailor Moon got to be dubbed by an unknown studio with a very low budget 😛 – this is a curse, lol! And while I can at least recognise all the passion the cast put into giving life to their respective characters, the maximum I can say is something like “Well, it’s pretty evident that they’ve simply done the very best they could with that budget”. Not going to mention the fact that all the people involved back then in 1994-98 are now awesome professionists whom I just cannot say anything bad about… The fact is, the low amount of money the dubbing director was given forced him to hire rookies for the main characters and reserve all the goodness for the minor ones – and with this I do not want to offend those rookies in particular, since it’s clear that their lack of experience didn’t imply a lack of study, not to count the fact that they would’ve also become excellent some time after! This means that we had Gianluca Iacono, the sole and undisputed prince of the Sayans, playing a role so minor as Nevius/Nephrite is (lol, he must have a thing for great tragic deaths, though I don’t think that this one could ever compare to Vegeta’s :P), or, now that Dragon Ball has come across my mind, Paolo Torrisi, aka adult Goku (may he rest in peace! but I do think that Claudio Moneta is an awesome replacement for Super), playing none other than… Bunny’s brother Sam (not the only time he and Elisabetta Spinelli are relatives, actually, since she would also be Chichi xD)! As for the main cast… they were all clearly talented people who until then had only worked for direct-to-video hentai! (The fact is, dubbers who don’t start when they’re kids usually begin with porn because, ehm, it’s not like stunning dramatic skills are required for those) So a bunch of people who hadn’t had to say nothing more than “Oh, your xxx is so big!” so far suddenly had to cope with demanding roles, and yes they did well, but this is not the quality I came to expect from Italian dubs. Glad that Cystal is getting a different treatment (season 3 has yet to air, actually, but so far I’m very happy with the job)! 🙂 Last thing about the Italian version of the anime, though I do know that this isn’t technically part of dubbing, it still plays an important role in the impact the series will have on the public: and I just cannot thank Italian SM enough for giving me some of my best favourite songs ever – I don’t care about Madonna’s plagiarism at all, I just love those themes with all my heart (except to the one for season 4, which I’ve never made myself to like)!
        Sorry for the long answer, I know I am way too verbose! Anyway, now I’m very curious to hear your opinion about the English dubs, because I’ve read many people on the Internet only complain about all the consorship of the first one but never about the quality of the dubbing itself! But I did listen to the score of the anime in every language and I must say that, while I cannot stand the English opening theme, I quite like the other songs and the background music, which I prefer to the Japanese one – not a fan of Takanori Arisawa’s, sorry!

        • Well, I’m afraid we’re going to have to agree to disagree. =p I personally feel that watching a dubbed live-action movie takes me out of the experience because of the gap between the voice and the actor/actress. Have you ever had to watch a movie where the audio is off by half a second and it just feels so unnatural? Just like that. But if it doesn’t for you, that’s great!

          As for the Sailor Moon English dub, that’s a hard question to answer. If you think of it as a localization of the Japanese story, it does a pretty awful job. Lots of censorship, lots of plot changes, and characters’ personalities were switched around at will. However, if you think it if as a retelling of the story using the same animation, I think it’s pretty decent. Think of it kind of like the Voltron vs. Go Lion connection. They’re basically two totally different series that use the same animation assets.

          The voices were… passable? I mean, nothing amazing, but you have to consider that this was the 1990s and voice acting then (and even now, to some extent) wasn’t exactly taken very seriously. But for the most part, I think all of their voices were decent and fit the dub personalities of the characters. No real complaints there!

          • Oh, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts! 🙂 I find it so annoying that Anglophone SM fans keep on complaining about their first dub without never mentioning the acting part… Anyway, what do you think about the redub? I’ve read both very positive and negative comments about it, so I am really eager to know your opinion, too! As for the changes made to the story itself, I totally understand how you feel (mainly because that’s what happened in Italy with Marmalade Boy or Rayearth, and I know it’s awful), but honestly I don’t think I could ever take it badly because, well, the original anime itself is already a huge alteration of the manga, to the point that they tell completely different stories involving completely different characters who only share names! And this is exactly why I hate the first anime 😛
            Anyhow, I think there is this great Spanish film dealing a bit with the world of dubbing, if you’re interested in it: it’s “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Brackdown” and, though briefly, it portrays perfectly the modus operandi of dubbers in most European country – as you can see there, recording separately is only used when a dubber is ill and so has to record their lines after the others. Just a thought! 🙂

          • Honestly, it’s really hard to explain the old Sailor Moon dub without explaining the anime/TV situation at the time, and about American views of Japanese culture back in the 90s. I’m sure it seems absurd to new/younger anime fans that the series was so radically changed, but that’s just how it was back then. It’s kind of like trying to explain to a 15 year old that, when I was a kid, we didn’t have wifi.

            As for the new dub, I only watched 2-3 episodes, so I’m probably not qualified to talk about it much. The translation seemed all right (but I didn’t actually check against the Japanese), though the voice cast was pretty… bland in my opinion. If I looked away from the screen, it was hard to tell if Usagi was talking or if this was Naru, or maybe Ami. I guess all the voices just sounded similar to me.

            Thanks for the film recommendation! I’ll take a look and see if I can track a copy down!

          • Oh, well, I surely do not find it absurd, I am an old anime fan myself, after all 😛 even though I did note live the years of the greatest boom of anime in Southern Europe, i.e. the 80’s, too bad!
            Why aren’t you interested in fully watching the redub, if I may ask? I get that not anyone is such a dub-comparison addicted as I am, but I thought that, this being your own language, pretty much every Anglophone SM fan was watching it – my bad, sorry. But I thing I am very interested in is listening all the existing Sailor Moon songs from the whole world, so can I ask you if you may find a link to the new theme for the Englishe redub? ‘Cause I am just not able to find anything about it… (But I presume it is not a new song but just a lazy cover of Moonlight Densetsu, instead :/) Anyway, I’ve read that the cast involved in the redub is the same that is working for Crystal, so does this mean that you’re not following this either?
            You’re welcome! 🙂 I personally think it’s a very good film, being both fun and smart, just don’t expect it to deal too deeply with the world of dubbing, because it is not its major topic – it just happens that the protagonist is a voice actress, so you get to see glimpses of her job… and that’s the only film I know to feature anything about this wonderful world!

          • I mean, let’s be real… 80s and 90s anime was the best. =p There’s still some good stuff on from time to time, and I remember watching some decent series during the 2000s like Noir, Gatekeepers 21, and others, but the vast majority of the anime I keep coming back to is from the 80s and 90s. Then again, I’m old, so…

            As for why I don’t watch the dubs, it’s more that I just don’t see a point in it. I speak and read Japanese just fine (other than my job and this blog, my life is all in Japanese actually), so it doesn’t make sense for me to listen to someone else’s translation of Sailor Moon when I can just watch it in Japanese for myself. I do occasionally throw it on in the background when I’m doing coding or translating, but it’s just background noise.

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