Kycilia Zabi actress

Akeno Watanabe

In "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN" (hereafter referred to as THE ORIGIN), Kycilia Zabi is an Amazon of the Zabi family, with an overwhelming presence. We spoke to Kycilia actress Ms. Akeno Watanabe about the impressive Kycilia as she conducts covert operations in "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THE ORIGIN IV Eve of Destiny" before the outbreak of the Zeon war for independence, and she told us about the appeal of the character and the key points in portraying her.
- How did you end up getting the role of Kycilia?
Watanabe: At first, I went in to audition for the role of the young Casval, but then the sound director, Mr. (Sadayoshi) Fujino, said, "Why don't you try reading the lines for these roles too?" So I auditioned for Kycilia and Hamon as well. I only really know about my own auditions, but it seems on "THE ORIGIN," lots of people auditioned for multiple roles.
- Of the auditions you did, which role was the hardest?
Watanabe: Hamon was tough. In the middle of the audition, I tried to read it like I was feeling, "Hamon belongs to me," but the instant I did it, I thought, "This is no good. I'll never get it." I couldn't express her enveloping kindness at all, it wasn't anything like Hamon. But in only about ten minutes, I felt like this role was my own, and it felt amazing.
- And so finally you landed the role of Kycilia.
Watanabe: With Kycilia too, when I tried it, I found it difficult, and I thought I probably couldn't pull it off. But when I was given the Kycilia role, I realized I just had to do it. Any way you look at it, when you think of Kycilia, Ms. Mami Koyama is who comes to mind. They really feel blurred together. She has that overwhelming presence and fearsomeness, and I didn't try to mimic that, but I often thought, "Am I trying to do something similar to that line?" It may have been scariest before recording started. The things Kycilia does, and the way she is portrayed, are different in the old "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM" and "THE ORIGIN," but it feels like you always hear Ms. Koyama's voice in there somewhere. When performing, that fear left an impression on me.
- General Director Yoshikazu Yasuhiko has said that Kycilia is an important character, but did he talk to you about it?
Watanabe: He certainly did say that she was an important character. He didn't give me any sort of concrete advice about it, but it was just sort of gossipy, like, "About the Kycilia role. She's a bad woman, so it'll be tough." (laughs)
- What approach did you take to the Kycilia role?
Watanabe: Kycilia is shrewd, but she tends not to follow through all the way to the end. She's thoughtful, insightful, and dynamic. And what's more, because she's a member of the Zabi family, she pretty much has the authority to act. But, because she's a woman, since she's a woman – I don't know quite how to phrase it –she invariably feels inferior to her brothers and father, and I think she has a strong desire to be seen as more amazing than them. Thus she becomes more and more proactive, which yields results, and I think that secures her position. Meanwhile, I also considered that in terms of environment, she was also raised as a child with insufficient love. If her big brother were the type to praise her with words like, "You're a good girl, Kycilia," then I don't think she would have turned out this way. As a result, her need for approval is incredibly strong, and she develops a misdirected hatred and vanity about her own superiority. I think maybe that's a reflection of her own inadequacies. That seeming perfection which is imperfect is what's interesting about her, and it's also her weak point. I was extremely conscious of that while playing the role.
- So, the general image is that Kycilia should be the perfect evil woman, but it's the complex behind that which was a crucial element in playing the role.
Watanabe: I think she's a person who goes through life with constant negative feelings of frustration and hate. Because of that, she also has strong feelings of wanting to be dashing and courageous. She went to meet Casval as a child because she wanted to push him around a little, and she was seriously overpowered, then she specifically reported that to Gihren. That feels incredibly womanly, and as a woman I paid close attention to the thought process behind that need for approval.
- When you actually portrayed Kycilia, were there any difficulties?
Watanabe: It actually was difficult. It's founded on the old "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM," and while the casting has changed greatly, it still has the original cast for Char, Amuro, Gihren, and Kai. So there's a feeling of catching up and passing our elders, but also not wanting to drag them down. "THE ORIGIN" is also a Gundam series which the new cast are creating in our own way, so it's difficult when it comes down to it. But it's interesting and there's a sense of accomplishment, and it also feels satisfying. In that sense, the time I spent at home thinking before we started was the most nerve-wracking. Now I have no choice but to do it, so to a certain extent I'm free from that.
- In Episode 4 the image of Kycilia is different from how she's been depicted up until this point. What were your feelings about performing that?
Watanabe: Kycilia was mischievous, wasn't she? She disguises herself and goes to the moon, but although what she does is inhuman, overall it somehow seems fun to her. She knows about the betrayal of Major Bergmann but she deliberately makes him accompany her, keeps him at the closest possible distance, and once she has the goods on him she kills him. It's terrible. But you don't see that side of her again, and I thought about that mischievous aspect as if she were insisting, "I am a woman, too!" while I played her.
- At the end of the post-recording of Episode 3, you commented, "She's getting steadily scarier." Did you mean that with respect to your performance this time around?
Watanabe: As far as Kycilia goes, I think this is the last we'll see of her playful side. As the story develops and war begins, there's no place for that mischievousness. But Kycilia is very scary this time around. With Bergmann, she gives him a loose rein until she's able to get her evidence, then she sets things up so that he's in absolute distress. Partly she seems to be enjoying it, and she's also wondering to herself how he's going to react. I think that makes her a scary person.
- Ms. Watanabe, do you feel any points in common with that side of Kycilia?
Watanabe: I don't want to! (laughs) Maybe my strong ego is similar to hers to a certain degree, and our not following through... I haven't experienced any incident in my own life in which I really felt that kind of lack of follow-through, but I can't compare my capabilities to hers either. Also, our temperaments may be similar. Naturally, in this job you perform a role by expanding elements inside your own self through your imagination, so I can't say there are no factors of her in me at all. But if you're going to ask whether or not I resemble Kycilia, I'd like to say, "Not at all!" (laughs) If you told me I did, I would have complex feelings about that.
- Had you seen "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM" before this?
Watanabe: Of course I had seen it, so I knew it to a certain extent. When it came to "THE ORIGIN," once I got the role of Kycilia, I went and got every volume of the original comics. I watched the original "MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM" on TV in the past, and its details have been revised in my memories. In the comics, several famous scenes are redrawn and I felt, like, "Was it really this quick?" while I read it. The speed, the pathos, and the split-second depiction of war left a deep impression on me. Also, I had forgotten the TV version at pivotal points, but reading "THE ORIGIN" brought those back to life, and it was amazing to be able to read about Casval up until he becomes Char the Red Comet in the prequel chapters. I felt it filled in every part that was lacking in the TV version, and did it meticulously. The sensation was close to rereading a historical novel written with a new interpretation and thinking, "Behind the scenes of what we knew, this is what really happened." That many-sided way of depicting things was wonderful.
- Which character do you like most of those that appear in "THE ORIGIN"?
Watanabe: I like Astraia. In the scene where she sends off Casval and Artesia, I cried so much during recording. With all that love, and knowing she would never see them again, I really understood what that mother felt saying goodbye. It was a truly bitter parting, and the scene the night before where she says, "Count the waxing and waning of the moon until we can meet again," makes you cry. I thought those motherly feelings were incredible. Ms. Ayumi Tsunematsu's performance as Astraia is incredibly good too. No matter how many times I see that scene, I cry. But in the audition, when it came to Astraia, I didn't even get the "P" in "Please read for it." I realized there was no hope. (laughs)
- Finally, do you have a message for the fans who are enjoying "THE ORIGIN"?
Watanabe: Episode 4 finally features the mobile suit battle the fans have been waiting for. There's still only a little bit of the Gundam, but I hope people will enjoy the way that appearance happens. As for Kycilia, while she may chatter and giggle, she also watches for her moment to strike and is thinking about her future moves, and I hope people notice that. Also, the meeting between Char and Lalah. It depicts Char with a passion we haven't seen before, and that's a major point of interest. So I hope people will enjoy the entire episode including parts like those, and I thank you for watching.

Next time in our Relay Interview series, we talk to Art Director Junichi Higashi and Art Setting Designer Yohei Kodama about the art of "THE ORIGIN".