Artesia Som Deikun / Sayla Mass actress

Megumi Han

Ms. Megumi Han, who plays the role of Casval's younger sister Artesia, is the daughter of Keiko Han, who played Lalah Sune in "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM." Through a remarkable twist of fate, mother and daughter have both become deeply involved in the Gundam series. We spoke to her about her thoughts on becoming involved with Gundam after being in contact with it since her youth, and on the role of Sayla.
- You got the role of Artesia, who grows up to be Sayla, through an audition, but how did you feel when you won it?
Han: In the audition I actually tried out for Artesia and Sayla, plus one other role. Perhaps it was a long-held desire, but as the daughter of Keiko Han, who played that role, I had the extravagant feeling that I wanted to take on an additional role as well. My mother also said, "If someone is going to inherit the role, it's long been my hope that it would be you, my daughter." So my mother was really taken aback when I won the role of Artesia/Sayla. I myself felt overjoyed and honored to audition for "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN" (hereafter referred to as "THE ORGIN"). But in a personal sense, there was a little bit of regret mingled in that I didn't inherit the role my mother played.
That said, the role of Artesia/Sayla Mass is a crucial one, so I felt a lot of nervousness and pressure in playing it, and I felt the gravity of its being a Gundam series, so I certainly felt very happy and grateful about it too.
- Artesia/Sayla is a character who goes through a growth process, but were they treated as separate characters in the audition?
Han: The audition material was divided into an Artesia role and a Sayla role, so each had to be auditioned for individually. In the auditions, they wanted different performances for Artesia and Sayla. Artesia is young and still has some innocence about her. She seems kind of pure. Sayla is grown up, and so even when she expresses her feelings, at some point she holds back. And I was conscious of her holding back something in her mind as I did the audition.
- Before you got to the audition stage, had you read the original manga?
Han: I had. I watched the first "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM" anime when I was little, and I saw all of them afterwards. I started reading the manga when I heard from my mother that "THE ORIGIN" complemented the anime. The nature of the story made it a good opportunity to reconnect with Gundam again, so I picked it up.
- After absorbing the main "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM" anime, which was the starting point, and then reading the comics, when it came to auditioning for "THE ORIGIN," you must have been mentally prepared.
Han: That's true. "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM" was a work that I always had near me. But some of the developments were deep in my memory, so it's like I had some preconceived ideas when I performed. Even so, without knowing some of the details, there were some moments where I wouldn't properly be able to invest Artesia's thoughts into the lines, so it was a good thing that I'd watched and read it. Also, I felt like, "If I'm going to speak this line, it would be a disservice not to watch it." Gundam really is a special work, and I think you need to show respect for it.
- What were your feelings upon reading the "ORIGIN" comics?
Han: It was really remarkable to be able to learn the backgrounds of these characters that I'd been fascinated with since watching the anime. Why are Ramba Ral and Hamon together? Is Ramba Ral really that charming a character? How did Char and Lalah meet, and how did they end up together? All those parts I had questions about were depicted by Mr. (Yoshikazu) Yasuhiko through his world view, and it was very moving. In "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM," these stories are depicted through their reunions on various battlefields, but in "THE ORIGIN" you get detailed depictions of what happened before all that. You get an increased sense of the characters' personalities and humanity. Even the concept of Newtypes, which has a special weight just from watching the anime, somehow feels closer to you here, like it has a human touch to it. That's how I felt about it.
- Did Mr. Yasuhiko and the director Mr. (Takashi) Imanishi talk to you about how to perform Artesia and Sayla?
Han: We didn't have any sorts of talks like that before the fact. After the recording, I thought it would have been good if there had been. I maintained the feelings I had when I got the audition, and I was allowed to perform freely. During the recording, Mr. Yasuhiko and Director Imanishi may have given some direction through the sound director Mr. (Sadayoshi) Fujino, but they didn't speak to me directly.
In the first episode, Artesia is a little girl, so I thought I should make her really emotionally direct. I thought her happiness, sadness, and anger should be sincere, so I think I was able to perform her with a clear mind. Actually, I didn't get any particular direction while I was performing.
In that respect, Sayla in episode two was more difficult. As I thought about the world view of the project, looking at the visuals of this person who had grown up through hard experiences, and considering her personality as well, I felt she should be more adult than her actual age of ten years old. When I first performed, I was too conscious of that. And maybe because of that, I played her too adult. But then the director Mr. Fujino said, "She's still young," and told me to be careful that I didn't play her too grown up.
- Were you conscious of Sayla's growth and change in the story?
Han: I wasn't very conscious of her development process. She's in a situation where she is forced to grow due to her environment and the course of events. So I wasn't really changing on my own. Instead, I felt like I was changing due to everyone else's performances and my interactions with them, or maybe being influenced by that. You get the sense that Casval is getting sharper and sharper as he gets older, but Artesia not changing is something I thought was part of the conscience of the story. Casval has the ability to sense the perceptions and emotions of adults, and contrary to that, Artesia's own feelings and feelings towards her mother are more precious to her. So the two of them are close, but their hearts are moving further and further apart. That's the sense I had.
- What was the thing you were most conscious of when playing Sayla?
Han: Maybe the wavering in Sayla's own mind. Even when she addresses Casval in the dialogue, she doesn't always refer to him in one way. She calls him "Brother" or "Édouard", and in their final parting scene, she calls him "Casval." I was careful about the way I expressed those parts. In the dialogue, Artesia says, "I'm Sayla Mass," and, to match her environment, strives to change from Artesia to Sayla. Only when she is with her brother Casval is she called Artesia, and in those moments she is Artesia, his only family member, the one person he lets into his heart. I was conscious of that relationship with Casval.
- Was there any scene that struck you while you were performing?
Han: As the subtitle "Artesia's Sorrow" suggests, Artesia has many farewells. Her mother dies, her cat Lucifer dies, and she parts ways with her brother. But among these, the death of Lucifer particularly stays in your mind. Artesia has suffered through a lot, and it's like Lucifer was always by her side to share those feelings. When Lucifer looks up at Artesia's face as if to say "What's the matter?" you really get that feeling. I think from Artesia's point of view, she took that cat with her all over the place, experiencing many kinds of gravity. Those changes are punishing for a little cat's body, and because the pet is the closest thing to her, it is easily influenced by its master. There's a line, "Lucifer made a funny noise just now. He's gotten older, too." Knowing what would happen later, it made me want to cry. For Artesia, Lucifer's death is almost the same as the death of her father actually happening before her eyes. I think it's a situation where she truly experiences the end of a life again. It's a turning point. It left a deep impression on me.
- You have a lot of scenes in this episode, and you also perform with Mr. Shuichi Ikeda. Were you nervous about that?
Han: I was always doing my lines while he stood in front of the mic next to me, so I didn't have time to be nervous. But, I did feel some joy and tension at being next to Mr. Ikeda playing Édouard. Artesia is always being protected by Casval and being drawn along by him, and is always following behind him. But for me, that's how I feel about Mr. Ikeda too. He has protected me in some ways, and taken me by the hand and said, "Come on, Megu-chan." He's been a wonderful mentor who I am always following behind. So I wonder if maybe my feelings towards Mr. Ikeda are similar to Artesia's feelings towards Casval.
If you're talking about nervousness, the meeting between Édouard, played by Mr. Ikeda, and Char, played by Mr. (Toshihiko) Seki, had my heart racing. The way they paused at that moment was tense, and during the actual recording, I was in between the two of them, and I felt an intensity I never had before. It was like being stuck between two Chars. I thought I'd never have such an experience again.
- We've heard that Mr. Ikeda and your mother Ms. Keiko Han are friends, but when did you first get to know him?
Han: I think the first time we met was around when I was in high school, before I'd started working. I met Mr. Ikeda right at the age that Sayla was during the One Year War. At a talk event, Mr. Ikeda looked back on that time and said, "I'd already met Artesia back then." So it feels like destiny that we got to work together like this. He sat beside me during the post-recording and I was able to record my work with both energy and peace-of-mind.
- Could you tell us your thoughts about episodes 1 and 2?
Han: Well, about the main theme song. The main theme for episode 1, "Blue-Eyed Casval," is a song about Artesia's thoughts. When you think of those lyrics and watch episode 2, you completely understand them. With episode 2, "Artesia's Sorrow," the main theme is about Casval and his thoughts as the Red Comet. The main theme songs point towards the next story. The episode 1 theme song connects to Artesia's story in episode 2, and I feel the episode 2 theme song will definitely connect to the story of Casval becoming Char in episode 3. In that sense, you feel the overall story, including the theme songs, is one that's drawing closer to the characters. I feel certain that when you see episode 3, the meaning of the chorus which talks about "wearing eternal red" will become clear.
Also, the dialogue in episode 1 where Casval is going berserk in the Guntank Early Type and I say, "Stop, Casval!" and "Those poor people" – those lines connect to episode 2. As well as Sayla's lines when she stops Édouard going berserk at Texas Colony, there's a scene where Mirai uses the words "Poor things" to refer to Édouard and Sayla, in a different kind of situation. You feel the deep karma in the intersection of those lines when you watch episodes 1 and 2 together, so I really hope after watching episode 2, people will go back and watch episode 1 again.
- Finally, do you have a message for the fans?
Han: To participate in a major work like "THE ORIGIN," I rewatched "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM," and I too deeply felt something like fate or destiny. I hope lots of people will watch "THE ORIGIN," and that destiny and fate will connect multiple generations through the work, so I thank you for your continual support.