By ATSUSHI OHARA/ Staff Writer
August 4, 2021 at 10:30 JST
Between her busy professional life working as a voice actress and a musician, and her behind-the-scenes personal struggles, Megumi Ogata has lived as if she has been riding three roller coasters at the same time.
But facing one hurdle after another, from finances to personal health and troubles brought on by the pandemic, the popular anime voice actor has always pulled through thanks to her hard work and perseverance.
Ogata, famous for her role playing the 14-year-old protagonist Shinji Ikari in the popular anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion” for about 25 years, has released her first autobiography, titled “Saisei (Kari)” (Rebirth—tentative), published by Kadokawa Corp. in April.
“A ‘14-year-old’ version of myself still lives inside me,” she said, reflecting on the character and her own life.
The book launched as the franchise’s latest movie, “Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time,” which proved to be a blockbuster hit in theatres, finished the “Rebuild of Evangelion” series.
Ogata voiced a diverse range of characters in animation, and works in other media as well, such as music and radio. A true Jill of all trades, she writes her own music and sings.
In the book, she details being a young trailblazer in the industry, although noting that young voice actors today do not know the same barriers she once faced.
“I had always been at the turning points of eras, so I have gone through many trials and errors,” she said. “But without them, I would not be who I am now.”
Ogata was born into a musical family and aimed to perform in musicals one day. But she developed a herniated disc and ultimately abandoned that dream.
But then she was told that her deep voice would be “brilliant if she played a male character.” In her mid-20s, she became a voice actor.
In 1992, she made her debut playing Kurama in the anime “Yu Yu Hakusho” and gained great popularity.
When she was initially offered the Shinji role in “Evangelion,” her talent agency refused it due to her tight schedule. The agency did not even tell her about the offer.
But then she went on a trip with the staff and cast of the anime “Sailor Moon S,” for which she was a voice actor. At the travel destination, Ogata met “Evangelion” director Hideaki Anno for the first time, and he started to negotiate with her.
She clashed with her agency for the first time, auditioned and won the role. She chalks her success up to that string of events.
“If even one (of those) things had not occurred, my life could have been very different,” she said. “I think it can be said to be destiny, but I still feel a (sense of) mystery (about it).”
The production process for “Evangelion” was full of drama.
For instance, Ogata needed to wait in the studio during dubbing day because the script was not ready. When she played Shinji, who at one point in the anime chokes the character Asuka, Ogata actually had to grab another voice actor’s neck and choke it. After that, the actor lost her voice for a little while.
In her mid-30s, Ogata decided to leave the entertainment industry because she ended up shouldering debt from touring. She learned later that her parents’ business was at the brink of bankruptcy, so she decided to return to show business to support her family.
Around that time, she had an angina attack. Although she did not have vein problems, it was induced by stress, so she now always carries nitroglycerin tablets around with her.
“I think that actors are more likely to suffer from illness due to their mental health. I have seen my voice actor colleagues die when they were still young, and I could have been one of them, too,” she said. “I am still surviving because God might be saying that I should do what I need to do for others and put up with a little more suffering.”
She said she has always been immature and young at heart. In her book, she writes that having a vulnerable “14-year-old mind” is a core part of her acting.
“Things in my life often became difficult, and I always made mistakes,” she said. “But my perspective broadened only because I persevered.”
“Even I am still getting my life under control. My wish is that my book can give courage and hope to readers, like through letting them feel that they can manage their lives, too.”
The COVID-19 pandemic brought several setbacks with it.
The latest “Evangelion” movie was postponed twice. The private school Ogata established for young voice actors was suspended.
When she was asked about live-music houses and musicians suffering from the impact of the pandemic, she said, “We are all friends. I can’t die without doing anything (to help).”
She is struggling in her efforts, such as the livestreaming she started in February 2020.
But that is not enough to stop her.
“You can give excuses that you can’t do something in a million different ways. I am just going to do what I think I can.”
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