North Texas Daily

UNT alum voices major anime characters

UNT alum voices major anime characters

February 06
20:27 2013

Trent Johnson / Senior Staff Writer

In a Flower Mound sound booth, scripts and computerized characters come to life through trained voice manipulation.

The voice belting into the microphone no longer belongs to its owner at all, but instead portrays the emotions and livelihood of a character created in Japan.

UNT alumna and Funimation voice actor Trina Nishimura performs in these booths regularly, providing anime characters with their distinct sounds, from chewing to actual dialogue.

The art of voice acting

Growing up as an actor, the transition from stage acting to voice acting was a bit of a culture shock, in the beginning, Nishimura said. Performers are required to deliver every ounce of a character’s emotion through only sound, which can be challenging.

“It’s acting but it’s different,” Nishimura said. “You can’t use all your facilities because you can’t use your face or your body.”

A picture of the character, a backstory of the show and its world, accompanies the script, Nishimura said. She then does her best to immerse herself in the environment, which can range from a middle school draped in magic to a fantasyland with talking animals.

“I try to imagine what I would sound like if I was a crazy teenager saving the world,” Nishimura said. “It’s just pretending and I’ve always loved that.”

Her role as Mare Illustrious Makinami in “Rebuild of Evangelion,” was especially memorable to Nishimura, as she played a super confident pilot, with no fear and an eccentric personality.

“That show was definitely a hard show to work on,” Nishimura said. “When I recorded for Mare, I had to be well-rested because of the emotions and intensity involved.”

Anime, a Japanese style of animation, is a dramatic art, so screams and shrieks are often required. To keep her voice healthy, Nishimura often warms up by singing in the car and drinking lots of water and hot tea. She runs the risk of permanently damaging her voice without taking these precautions.

“You have to be honest with yourself,” Nishimura said. “You have to quit when you can’t continue.”

Small beginnings in Amarillo

Growing up in Amarillo with a single mother, Nishimura started acting when she was nine, performing at a community theater and in small commercials before joining the Lone Star Ballet Company at 13, where she performed musical until college.

Though she now provides English speaking fans a chance to enjoy foreign characters without subtitles, Nishimura’s aspirations did not include being the human side of an animated character.

Instead, she wanted to be a traditional stage actor, with singing and dancing. Early on she looked up to a famous child actor whose name is associated with a beverage.

“I loved Shirley Temple when I was a kid,” Nishimura said. “I wanted to be Shirley Temple more than anything in the world.”

UNT and her first anime role

Nishimura came to UNT for the liberal arts program and studied English with a focus on creative arts. She graduated 2005.

Her original plans included going to law school, but eventually was persuaded to audition at Funimation, then a small company, by an old Amarillo friend working as a sound engineer.

Her first role was the voice of a little girl, Namiko, in a post-apocalyptic world.

“I was cast in the show ‘Desert Punk,’” Nishimura said. “My first character had an insatiable appetite so for my first session I ate a Tootsie Roll for an hour, trying to make eating noises.”

Soon after, Nishimura was both a full-time student and part-time actor for two years before graduating and moving to Dallas.

Fashion, studying and a final career choice

After graduating, Nishimura decided to get a “real” job. She started working as a fashion representative in Dallas while simultaneously studying for the LSAT exam to get into law school.

“I’ve always known fashion,” Nishimura said. “It was fun, the travel was great, and the parties were great. I got to wear designer clothes but eventually I decided that it wasn’t for me.”

She dropped studying as well, deciding to finally dedicate herself to the craft of voice acting, which she had only been doing sporadically. According to CNN, voice actors make an average salary of $47,000 annually.

“I like voice acting the most out of the three things,” Nishimura said. “I started auditioning more and I got better.”

Her peers agree, as Nishimura always had a knack for cutting loose behind the microphone, making voice acting the natural choice for her.

“I think Trina is amazingly talented,” Funimation actor and director Jamie Marchi said. “She seems to have no fear behind the microphone, and that has allowed her to convincingly and wonderfully capture numerous varied characters.”

Fans, conventions and the future

Fanfare is something that goes hand and hand with acting, Nishimura said, but finds the idea of complete strangers knowing her name and wanting her signature extremely odd, including UNT students.

“I really liked her as Akira Takano in ‘School Rumble,’” chemistry senior Sefora Lieber said. “I’ve always admired the opportunity voice actors have to be closely involved with bringing anime to American audiences.”

Nishimura plans to write a book, using her UNT degree to fictionalize her life.

“I have met some of the best people through Funimation,” Nishimura said. “I can’t imagine my life without them, so I can’t imagine my life without anime.


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