Having the chance to portray Kiriko – I think it was destiny.
The audition felt like taking one step forward, two steps back.
To be honest, I never thought I’d still have this job and be a part of this world by the time I turned 23. The first time I ever said that “I want to be a part of the show” was during my audition for “Drive”. Most of my life experiences as an actress have happened because I am a part of the “Drive” team. Even though there were some rough times, my memories of acting on this show have been overwhelmingly happy ones. That’s what I think. Right now, I’m 22 years old. 23 is coming up soon, and having the chance to portray Kiriko – I think it was destiny. I got to play a heroine, even though I didn’t see myself as one. The audition felt like taking one step forward, two steps back. Because even though I might get this position, there were so many actors portraying police officers around and I didn’t feel like I fit in. But in a way, being given the opportunity to play Kiriko felt like my fate, too.
My mother has been a big fan of Kamen Rider for a long time. And I heard that in the new series one of the Riders might even be played by an actress, which I’m looking forward to seeing. Anyway, on Sundays we used to all get up early so we could watch Rider back then. And it was totally by luck that one day my mother took me to the “Ishinomori Manga Museum” and we saw an image of myself portraying Kiriko. I guess I really do owe it all to my mom. Anyway, my parents were really glad to hear that a girl had made it into the show and they’re looking forward to seeing a female Rider in the future too. When I got the role, they both shouted – “Rio, seeing you go on Kamen Rider – that’s a dream fulfilled”. I didn’t know that they wanted that for me, but I was happy all the same.
Of course, I took the role and my responsibilities to portray a heroine very seriously. Kamen Rider is a historical work, and there are so many fans: like my mother and many of the women in my family. But on my first day on set, I felt the responsibility that was being put on Ryoma (Takeuchi). Even though I was reluctant at first, the work was so interesting that each day I wanted to return to the set. Ryoma and I spent almost every day together, and his role had a huge impact on me. Although sometimes we faced some difficulties, so I will say there were some “tough times”, but that’s just because I’m a whiner compared to my friend Takeuchi. I didn’t want to seem useless in comparison, so I worked really hard, and pulled my own weight so I’d keep up with him.
Anguish as the heroine in the “Eye of the Storm”.
So I upped my game, and this last year has been like a dream gone by. When I finished reading the final script, it felt like “Wow, this really is the end of the story”. That’s how it was. My experience portraying Kiriko for a year felt totally fulfilled – it didn’t feel like just a story, but like a chapter of my life too. Being on “Drive” became just a normal part of my everyday life, just as much as portraying Kiriko. But I don’t often feel that way about most anime or manga series. Our hero fades out with the end of this summer. That was how it felt. But there’s a clear end to it. Rather, it can’t really end – but this chapter of the story is over. I was in tears when I realized that the series was over, as soon as I finished the final script reading.
“Drive” is the first drama series that I’ve been a regular character on. So, every day felt a bit like my first day because I was always learning so much. There’s no correct answer when shooting an episode, so I really struggled to take away certain notes that I learned at the end of each day. Kiriko isn’t a super expressive character, but, she’s still human and she can’t just be a blank slate. In order to portray her character well, I had to learn how to act angry sometimes. I was told many times “Your anger seems weak!” (laughs) But until the very end, I kept up an attitude of wanting to explore different kinds of emotions. Now it’s a much smaller problem for me. But it makes me glad to know that when I go out, I’m seen as a heroine who goes on the battlefield, someone who smiles and who you want to cheer for. Kikiro becomes a person who protects others throughout the series. She has a responsibility to fight but she’s not a fighter, and that makes her a bit impatient. But it’s a natural reaction for her, after all. But for me, getting to be on Kamen Rider was really lucky. And I am always on a frantic lookout to see my character in day to day life.
After that, the story really began to wrap up for Kiriko and the other members on the show. For instance, there’s a lot of love shown between me and the actor who plays Gou, Yu (Inaba). One of the things Yu said to me is “don’t assume anything”, which was good advice – but more to the point, that Kiriko shouldn’t assume anything about what would happen next. Kiriko was the type who always wanted to protect all three Riders, and because of that she was always “in the eye of the storm”. Actually, she was more like a heroine in the heart of a typhoon. So, because she was always waiting around on Gou and having to be really tolerant and flexible, I think in a way it was also frustrating for her.
I think the scenes between Kiriko, Shinnosuke (Takeuchi) and Chase (Taiko Katono) got a lot of fans excited, especially our female fans (laughs). I don’t know if Kiriko was necessarily “in love” with Chase, but there’s definitely something to their relationship. They both understand each other, even though Kiriko is a human and Chase is a Roidmude. He understands what he is and finds that he has feelings for a human anyway. So in a way, he is in “love” – he has a strong urge to protect and defend Kiriko throughout the series. His way of “love” is different from Shinnosuke’s. I think Kiriko has more of a crush on Shinnosuke, but she doesn’t realize it yet. I’m sure her heart was pounding during the scene where she holds hands with him. (laughs)
(Translation by Fandom Services, paid for by this blog to the benefit of all English-speaking and English-learning Kamen Rider fans.)