Tarako (1960-2024) – All anime

“Tarako” Isono, who died on March 4, often fought against the media’s assessment of her. Repeatedly in interviews, she claimed that she identified as a “singer-songwriter,” despite constant descriptions of her as a “voice actress.” But her career as a performer and lyricist, though multifaceted and lengthy, was destined to be overshadowed for forty years by her most famous role in Japanese animation.

Born in Tokyo but raised in nearby Gunma Prefecture, she was a prominent member of several school clubs and preferred music to her initial interest in basketball because meeting times better suited her mother’s schedule. When she became a teenager, a school friend noticed the similarity of her voice to the toddler Tara-chan in the anime Sazae-sanand the nickname not only stuck, but became her default media identity.

She wrote her first song in high school, but had already decided to train as a voice actor and study at the Tokyo Academy of Visual Arts. While working a number of part-time jobs, she also played live sets in local clubs, being offered larger gigs by the president of the Troubadour Music Office.

Through him, she met Shigeharu Shiba, an anime audio director who auditioned her to play the role of Lum in the upcoming film. Urusei Yatsura. Although she did not get the role, she did debut in the anime TV series in the role of a preschooler. Throughout her twenties, she enjoyed a dual career as both an actress and singer, combining her talents with regular appearances on radio, most notably on “Hyper Night” on KBS Kyoto.

In Japanese, dragon is the term for pollock roe, a common sushi ingredient for which she also expressed a strong preference. After having a food poisoning incident from eating a gift of dragon onigiri from a female fan, Tarako would appear as herself in an animated short film about the incident, as part of the series Trivia Fountain: Beautiful Useless Facts. Among her many anime appearances, she gained many fans for her role as Chill in Xabungle and Meta-ko BY Knight Lamune & 40and more recently Monokuma Danganropa from season three. She would write the theme songs and insert music for over twenty anime, and several of her compositions would also be used in commercials, sometimes starring her live-action self.

Her really big break was in 1990, when she got the title role of Chibi Maruko-chanostensibly because her voice was almost identical to that of the original manga’s creator, Momoko Sakura. Maruko-chan was and still is a gentle comedy set in a nostalgic version of suburban Japan, and which can perhaps best be described as a pastiche of Sazae-san, as if narrated not by an all-powerful observer, but by the family’s precocious youngest daughter. Taking advantage of a broadcast slot just before Sazae-san on Fuji TV, the Chibi Maruko-chan series would eventually surpass it in the ratings. One episode in October 1990 would achieve a 39.9% audience share, making it the highest-rated anime in history. Today, in a more broadly diversified broadcasting environment, Chibi Maruko-chanThe company’s share is around 5.6%, which still gives it six million viewers, and double the viewership of A piece.

Comic Natalie’s photo

When Momoko Sakura died in 2018, Tarako was the keynote speaker at her memorial ceremony. “If I hadn’t had you,” she said, “I think my life would be different. I had a pretty hard life until I became popular Maruko. I had so many part-time jobs, and even when I debuted as a voice actor, I was good at it arm, but… I was happy because my voice was similar to Momoko-chan’s.’ She then switched to the voice of Maruko herself, and addressed her own creator.

“To the (version of) me that has grown up… You made my dreams come true. You’re truly amazing! … To the me who will grow up, become an angel and go to heaven. Please sign Maruko sometimes. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kojikoji, Nagasawa or a little kid, please keep drawing wherever you go. Even if I am reborn, I will always be you.”

She then gave an interview in 2021 on the theme of the afterlife. “When I realized that one day I was going to die,” she said, “I wasn’t afraid anymore. But I live with four cats and I could never leave them behind. It makes me sad, and I don’t even want to think about it, but I think it would be wonderful if I could say goodbye to them all properly and then die in my sleep, surrounded by the memorials of everyone who I love. ”

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