This was Kotono's first panel of the convention, and her most popular. She was aided by a translator, but seemed to understand parts of the questions fans asked in English. At the beginning of the panel, Kotono mentioned that Sailor Moon was her first role in a series and she focused on doing her best.
Regarding Ebichu: The Housekeeping Hamster, Kotono said that she had been a big fan of the manga series and found it really funny. The anime series had the same director as Neon Genesis Evangelion. When Kotono heard about the anime being made, she told the director that she really wanted the role and promised to even do the embarrassing lines with a straight face.
Regarding the more "mature" role of Misato, Kotono acknowledged that most of her previous roles had been pretty and cute girls. This encouraged her to want to do a more mature role. She also found that voicing a more mature role helped her grow. Compared to other strong females in Evangelion, Kotono found that her role was different from the others. When she first voiced Misato, the age of the character was very close to her own age, so she based some of her performance on her own feelings and how she thought she would feel in the situations Misato was presented with – which meant approaching the role differently. At first she had focused on technicalities, but Kotono affirms that feelings are key to a good performance.
Before acting in One Piece, she was unfamiliar with the series. However, when Kotono found out she got the role, she read over 40 volumes of the manga and became a fan of the series herself. The scenes she liked most in One Piece were the ones where her character was involved, especially when Boa Hancock would be looking down on others.
Regardless of the character she's playing, when deciding how to approach a new role, she doesn't focus on how she thinks the character would react. She tries to start with a blank slate for every character.
Regarding working on Revolutionary Girl Utena, which shared some of the same production staff as Sailor Moon, including writer and director Kunihiko Ikuhara. Kotono thinks that one of the reasons she was cast as Juri was that the director wanted her to play a different kind of character.
When Kotono's daughter was little, they watched the Sailor Moon series together multiple times. Kotono said that she thought the series was really amazing and likened watching each episode with opening a treasure box.
There were many scenes that Kotono liked in Sailor Moon. She said she especially liked the Sailor Moon R Movie. Another of her favourite scenes was in the TV series when (spoiler alert!) Saturn dies and Sailor Moon jumps in the whirlpool to try to save Saturn.
When asked what it was like to say goodbye to Sailor Moon, Kotono said that since the show ran for five seasons, she worked on it for five years. At the end of each season, they would wait and wonder if it would be renewed. Kotono said that she always wanted to do her best with her performance, so she had no regrets. Kotono also said that voicing Usagi changed her and affected her life, particularly by giving her more self-confidence.
What about other manga series that Kotono likes? She said there are many manga series she'd like to see developed into anime series as well. One series that sticks out as something she would like to be in if there were an anime made is 20th Century Boys (although there is already a live-action movie).
What kind of advice does Kotono have for aspiring voice actors? She said that there are lots of people trying to get into voice acting in Japan. But, Kotono said that she believes everyone should chase after their dreams and not give up. If you want to become a voice actor in Japan, Kotono said it is best to study acting first, but knowing how to speak English as well as Japanese can be an advantage.
At this point of the panel, Kotono hosted a short quiz show, to see how well the audience knew her roles. Each person who correctly answered a quiz question first received a gift bag from Kotono. Here are the questions and answers for fans interested in what was included:
- What is the name of Misato's penguin? (Pen Pen)
- What is the name of the ship she captains in Gundam SEED? (The Archangel)
- Which Pokemon did she play? (Metamon, a.k.a. Ditto in English)
- What is the name of the devil's fruit that Boa Hancock ate? (The Mero Mero fruit, a.k.a. the Love Love fruit) Kotono liked the English name for this fruit a lot! She said she'd like to try a fruit with that name!
- What is the pendant Misato always wears? (A cross that she received from her father)
- The dog in Excel Saga, Menchi, is what to Excel? (the emergency food supply)
- What was Doraemon's original colour? (yellow)
- What kind of flower appears when Sailor Moon is in a pinch? (a rose)
- What does Misato say at the end of the episode previews? (Service, service!)
- When Kotono does Japanese dubs, which of the following actresses has she dubbed? Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, or Natalie Portman. (trick question: all of the above)
A fan asked if Kotono had ever seen a Sailor Moon musical, and Kotono said that she had. She also confessed that she got caught up in the excitement of it just like the rest of the audience. She has also seen PGSM and enjoyed watching it. She noted that Luna's voice is the same in PGSM as well as the anime. She thought the actors in the show put in great effort to do a good job. She also felt that the actress who played Usagi was very good at physically showing the clumsiness of the character.
If she couldn't play the role of Sailor Moon, Kotono said that she would have also liked to play Sailor Neptune because she's older and more experienced. This was a hard question for her to answer! She also said that although she doesn't have a favourite character in the series, Sailor Moon was very close to her heart.
After re-watching Sailor Moon, Kotono said that she doesn't feel that Sailor Moon should have done anything differently. When she played the character, she voiced straight from the heart.
As for Kotono's desire to become a voice actor, she recalled that being in an elementary school broadcast club was part of her original motivation.
Photo credit: source is Sakuracon.org