Jill Harris spoke to The Natural Aristocrat® about voicing broken teen runaway Sayu Ogiwara in the Higehiro english dub. One of Crunchyroll’s must see, standout dubbed shows of the fall season.
This interview contains major spoilers for anime series ‘Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway‘.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT (NIR REGEV): The scene in Episode 6 “Starry Sky” where Yaguchi attempts to force himself on Sayu is difficult to watch, enraging.
The audience can truly feel Sayu’s helplessness when you say, “I should have never let him in here.” What was it like for you to record this moment?
JILL HARRIS: I’m glad it came across, I was really trying to pull on the audience’s heartstrings there. It was certainly a difficult scene… Our director, Jonathan Rigg is really good about creating a safe space for me to be vulnerable like that.
Usually for scenes like that, he’ll get up and lock the door so nobody barges in. And we’ll try to take the whole scene in one pass… So I don’t have to do it over and over and over again.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What are your feelings about Sayu largely staying silent about Yaguchi and even continuing to work at the same convenience store?
JILL HARRIS: I feel like unfortunately, that’s kind of what a lot of women have to do. First, sometimes when women speak up, they are not believed. Secondly, sometimes when those things are reported to the police, the cases are very low priority if they’re even looked into at all.
And then thirdly, that’s just your safest bet. Sometimes, these men retaliate. It’s such a shame that oftentimes it is a woman’s best bet to just stay silent.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What was your initial audition for Sayu like and what were your first impressions of the series?
JILL HARRIS: I actually didn’t audition for Crunchyroll. We don’t have time to hold auditions very often anymore.
But what happened was the director, Jonathan Rigg DMed me on Twitter.
He wrote, “Hey, I’m interested in getting you for Sayu in Higehiro! There is all of this sensitive content that happens in the series. And so if you would just think on it, please get back to me by tomorrow with your answer.”
I actually stayed up until around four or five am and watched the whole series in one night.
It’s a difficult show, so I wanted to get a full sense of it before I agreed to be a part of it.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: In Episode 9’s dub that streamed this week “Past“, Sayu Ogiwara has a massive, pain drenched scream after her best friend Yuuko Masaka jumps off the rooftop of their high school to her death.
Was that rough on your voice to dub? Also, what are your thoughts on the aftermath where Sayu’s mother blames her for the death and unwanted media attention?
JILL HARRIS: That scream was actually really fun to do! It’s one of my most favorite things to do. When I watched the original episode and saw that I would get to do a big scream, I was like, ‘Yes!’
But yeah, it was definitely a very emotional scene. I was shaking and a little bit out of breath as we were recording it. My heart started racing just like Sayu whose heart was racing.
The scene with her mother was really brutal. I cannot comprehend why her mother would say that. And it just really highlights to the audience why she ran away.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What kind of work did you do with ADR Director Jonathan Rigg to make Sayu’s portrayal feel so lifelike from the opening episode?
You can really hear Sayu’s low self esteem and masked thoughts early, before there’s a single tear shed.
JILL HARRIS: From day one, Jonathan Rigg was effusive about how much he cares about this show and how much he wants to do this show justice.
When we’re in the booth, we talk a lot about the character and what’s going on and go back and forth. And then another thing that he does, which I think is really great is all of the reactions in this show, he wants them to be very quiet and very subtle…
Because sometimes a big anime reaction can kind of pull you out of the moment a little bit. And so those are just a few things that we do to kind of bring it down to a more film, like natural sort of acting.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: According to a Nippon.com account by a 17-year old runaway, she ran away to Tokyo but soon realized she had ‘no money, no place to stay, and no job’ just like Sayu.
Do you feel at those ages it’s hard to comprehend the tremendous financial support from family necessary just for day-to-day life?
JILL HARRIS: Yeah, absolutely! I think there’s a lot of people that sign up for student loans and they don’t realize at the time what exactly they’re signing up for… Because at 17 we have no real concept of money and yeah, it really does take a lot of financial and also just emotional support from our family.
Everybody really deserves that kind of safety net. It’s unfortunate because there are a lot of people that don’t have that.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: What is your personal interpretation of Sayu and Yoshida’s relationship?
JILL HARRIS: It’s interesting… For Sayu, I totally understand that it makes sense that she would have romantic feelings for this person. Because to my knowledge, aside from her brother, this is the only man who’s ever treated her well.
And he really is invested in her in the way that a father figure would be. I’m not sure where Sayu’s father is, but you know, maybe this is the first time she’s had a father figure and those feelings are confusing with Yoshida.
I think it’s difficult for him as well. I think he does absolutely love Sayu and care for Sayu just not in the same way that she does him. And it’s just a really tricky situation for him to navigate.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Do you see Airi Gotou as a motherly figure to Sayu midseason or as self-interested in pushing her to go home?
JILL HARRIS: I think it’s a little bit of both. I think she absolutely does care about Sayu and would like to help her process her trauma.
But I think she also recognizes that Yoshida is maybe not the most appropriate person for her to do that with too.
While he certainly serves as a father figure, there are some kind of confusing emotions happening there with Sayu. Maybe this sort of work would better be done with a therapist or something like that.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: How do you feel about the idea of goodwill sometimes having an expiration date? No matter how good the person or their intentions are.
JILL HARRIS: It’s certainly kind of tricky, especially in Sayu and Yoshida’s instance.
I would hope that Goodwill wouldn’t have too much of an expiration date, but certainly there are some instances where you would maybe need to cut it off a little bit early.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: In Episode 8 of Higehiro “Summer Festival” Yuzuha Mishima gives advice to Sayu in a karaoke bar private room. “Some people you can only meet now. Some things you can only do now.”
I was wondering if you personally believe in that philosophy?
JILL HARRIS: Interesting. There are certainly situations that if they happened to me in my early twenties and they happened to me now, I would have different feelings about them or I would respond differently just because my brain was different back then.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Have you ever felt the need to use a ‘plastic smile’ like Sayu Ogiwara in your life?
JILL HARRIS: Yeah, absolutely. It’s really just a reflex right now. I think a lot of women do for our safety.
Obviously, when we feel comfortable around a person, we don’t do that as much. but yeah, sometimes men get mad if you don’t laugh at their jokes. And so it’s easier to just slap on a smile.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Higehiro is grounded in something incredibly real.
According to an interview with a 16-year old female runaway from the magazine ‘Shukan Taishu’ (translated by Tokyo Reporter), men in their 30s are considered ‘the best’ for ‘their living spaces and because they work in the daytime’.
The runaways then offer their bodies as ‘compensation’ or ‘Enjo kōsai’ to these ‘salarymen’ for a place to live.
What does it mean to you as an actress to bring attention to a societal issue that largely remains unspoken and falls under the radar?
JILL HARRIS: Yeah… It’s really unfortunate. You know, I think people don’t like to talk about it or think about it, because it’s just so disturbing.
I feel it’s not only a big problem over in Japan though, it’s something that happens over here too, a lot of vulnerable women fall into sex work just out of necessity. And I wish we would do a better job of protecting those people.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: According to Youth.gov, “about half of youth who ran away did so more than once and about 30 percent ran away three or more times.”
Do you feel when we meet Sayu, it might actually not be the first time she attempted to run away from Hokkaido?
JILL HARRIS: If she has attempted it in the past, it certainly was never on this scale. I think in a lot of those cases, people will like emotionally run away. If that makes sense.
They’ll maybe lock themselves in their rooms, or spend lots of time out with friends or at a coffee shop so that they can be away from their abusers.
So maybe she didn’t physically run away, but emotionally she did.
THE NATURAL ARISTOCRAT: Thanks Jill!
JILL HARRIS: Thank you!
– The first season of the ‘Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway English dub is being released weekly every Thursday on Crunchyroll.
There are thirteen episodes of Higehiro total and the Season 1 English dub is almost at completion.
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You can also contact Jill Harris for work related opportunities at her official website.
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