Thursday, January 18, 2007

Yuri Seiyuus? -- Koshimizu Ami "weds" Sanpei Yuuko

Many seiyuus are said to be gay. There are Japanese websites like "Yuri Seiyuu News" and "Lesbian Seiyuu Research" devoted to tracking quotes that supposedly show one or another seiyuu is "rezu".

Koshimizu Ami (left) and Sanpei Yuuko prepare to cut the cakeIs it true? I don't know. Nothing on those websites proves it. But the seiyuus themselves are the ones that fuel the rumors. They joke about preferring girls to guys and about who turns them on. And on a radio show last Sunday, there was a "wedding banquet" for talented 20-year-olds Koshimizu Ami (Karen in Code Geass) and Sanpei Yuuko (Renton in Eureka 7).

Photos: mouseover for captions, click to enlarge.

If they really are in a long-term relationship, congratulations to them. They seem like good people. But the event was played for laughs on the show, which is called Anispa and is hosted by Washizaki Takeshi and seiyuu Asano Masumi (who herself has been included in lists of who's gay).

All the yuri talk by seiyuus is probably just a kind of PR fanservice, a way of exciting eager fans. They can joke about it because it isn't true. If there were real relationships involved, there might not be so much joking. But joking could also be a way of being somewhat open about it, if it were true.

(l-r)Asano Masumi, Koshimizu Ami, Sanpei Yuuko, Washizaki Takeshi 'congratulations on your marriage' Sanpei Yuuko ('Pe')

On the show there was a quiz for Ami and Yuuko (whom Ami calls "Pe"): where did you meet? Was it love at first sight? Where was your first date? Your first kiss? They met at school when they were 12. Ami said she admired Pe. Pe said Ami was a noisy and bothersome tomboy. Pe appears to be a real-life tsundere.

Asked about their first kiss, Ami said it was going to be on the show, and the host and others started chanting "kiss! kiss!" and then "use your tongue!" One of the guests was their friend Nazuka Kaori (Eureka in Eureka 7), who said: "Yuu-Yuu is awful! When she was with me, it must have been just physical. She was just playing around." Ami turned to Pe in pretended shock and said: "Darling! What did she mean?" There was an atmosphere of daring and somewhat raunchy hilarity.

There are pictures of the event on the radio show's website, and Pe put pics of her tie (she was the groom) and the cake on her blog -- but didn't say whose wedding it was.

itou shizuka Matsuki Miyu Ueda Kana Chiba Saeko

The names that come up most in lists of yuri seiyuu are Nabatame Hitomi, Matsuki Miyu, Itou Shizuka, Chiba Saeko, Ueda Kana, Noto Mamiko, Tamura Yukari, Horie Yui, Nazuka Kaori, Ami and Pe. And there are many more names tossed around.

However, the quotes supposedly demonstrating that these people are in fact gay do not seem to me to prove much. Here are some examples: Itou Shizuka, in a radio interview, asked Ochiai Yurika if she was Lesbian. Yurishii answered that she wasn't, that she wasn't interested in girls. Shizuka-sama replied that she did like girls, that she wanted to confess to and go out with a girl. In her blog, Yurishii said she loved (daisuki) Shizuka.

Nabatame Hitomi said in an interview about Strawberry Panic that she liked women, and with so many women in the cast she expected there would be some good ones. Naba-sama (30) is portrayed as a kind of queen bee of yuri seiyuus. Her character in Strawberry Panic seems almost written for her. Her character in Ichigo Mashimaro isn't far off, either. The legend is that in real life her "first wife" is Itou Shizuka -- with whom she has done a long-running radio show -- and her lovers have been Noto Mamiko, Shimizu Kaori, and Koshimizu Ami.

Kaori Nazuka, Nabatame Hitomi, and Koshimizu Ami (l-r) on Naba-sama's birthday cover of CD by Nabatame Hitomi (l) and Itou Shizuka Koshimizu Ami (l) and Noto Mamiko

Matsuki Miyu said that since she likes women, the number of women in the cast of Strawberry Panic with her had her in a state of high excitement. In a radio show, she asked Chiba Saeko what kind of men she liked. Sae-chan answered that she liked women, that she liked cute girls with gentle smiles, girls that were like pets. Miyu-miyu said she wanted to be Sae-chan's pet. Ueda Kana once said her secret fantasy was have a date with Toyoguchi Megumi.

Sanpei Yuuko once said that she really liked Nazuka Kaori, and wanted to hook up with her. She said that she sometimes lost attention in the middle of recording because she was thinking of her. They worked together closely on Eureka 7, as Renton and Eureka.

Ami pats Pe's head in a 2006 photo from Ami's blog 'Our love is eternal' (caption from Ami's blog) Sanpei Yuuko. Beautiful. (from Ami's blog)

In a piece on Kashimashi radio, Shintani Ryouko, Ueda Kana, Tamura Yukari, and Horie Yui all tried to convince Asano Masumi that loving a girl would be all right. During a Christmas show, Masumin (Asano Masumi) asked Hocchan (Horie Yui) to become a "rezu couple" with her. Hocchan said "that would be great!," hitting the table in her enthusiasm.

Nakahara Mai and Shimizu Ai do a radio show together, and are a singing duo called Himitsu Dolls. They have been linked romantically, but theirs is clearly commercial yuri, whatever else it is. Ai wrote -- with a smilie -- that Himitsu Dolls was the crystallization of her and Mai's love. Mai wrote that she once confessed to a girl, and that her first kiss was with a girl, at school. The quite erotic first ED for Strawberry Panic featured a seeming kiss.

Shimizu Ai Ai and Mai in the first ED for Strawberry Panic Nakahara Mai

On the radio show she hosts with Kawasumi Ayako, Noto Mamiko once announced her marriage to Sawashiro Miyuki . On the show last November, Ayachii asked Mami to marry her, and Mami accepted. One site said there is a term "Noto spacetime": that Mami creates a certain atmosphere around her that is like a drug for young and old, male and female -- but especially for women seiyuus.

Most of these quotes come from the many internet radio programs in which seiyuu banter in support of their current shows. Most of the comments sound more like jokes than anything remotely serious.

There are other stories that just seem to reflect ordinary friendship, sexualized only in the boiling minds of the fans.

Kugimiya Rie said that she and Paku Romi were like sisters, that she wanted to go over to her house, eat her wonderful cooking, have a bath, and then sleep there -- maybe together. And there is a story that Horie Yui and Tamura Yukari were naked together in the room they shared on tour. Intimate but platonic female friendships are hardly unusual, especially in Japan.

New Year's card from Ami's close friend Mizusawa Fumie's blog Eating together: Ami, Fumie, Pe (l-r, from Ami's blog) Ami, Kaorin, Kitamura Eri, Pe (l-r, from Ami's blog)

What I can say for sure is that many seiyuu are good friends. Koshimizu Ami's blog is full of pictures of her friends: Sanpei Yuuko, Mizusawa Fumie, Nazuka Kaori, Kitamura Eri, Kadowaki Mai, and others. They look like a close group that has fun together. In fact, the photo above left is the New Year's card from Fumie's blog, with a photo of Ami and her. In Ueda Kana's blog, it appears that her younger sister often stays with her; she mentions Saiga Mitsuki a lot; and she links to Morinaga Rika's blog and others.

I suspect that a lot of the talk is just intended to excite the fans, or is fun talk among friends and colleagues. But there may also be truth in some of it. In regard to both Strawberry Panic and Simoun, seiyuu have commented how comfortable it was to have a cast entirely made up of women.

These are independent women in an entertainment industry dominated by men who may not be that nice, and legions of male fans pant after them. The men they come in contact with may not seem that attractive or that safe.

The seiyuus' joking shows that relationships with other women are at least not unthinkable to them. On the one hand, the joking panders to male fans. But on the other hand, these women share a lifestyle and some social isolation. Why shouldn't they feel free to share more?

Ami and Pe are both emerging stars. After Renton, Pe has now taken over another role as a young boy: that of Souta in Otogijushi Akazukin, a long-running (and excellent) kids' show with a cast of top pros. And Ami has shown her extreme range recently by playing roles from the amazing Tenko in Kamisama Kazoku, to mannish Paraietta in Simoun, to the wise friend Kotomi in Asatte no Houkou, to Karen in Code Geass -- all with great success.

It must be a happy time for both of them. And their friendship is deep: in Ami's blog, in captions to pictures of Pe, you see the phrases "love, love, kiss, kiss" and (in English) "I love you, my wife."

websites (all in Japanese):
Anispa radio
Amisketch (Koshimizu Ami's blog)
Yukobako (Sanpei Yuuko's blog)
Kamosan no Rakugaki Chou
(Nazuka Kaori's blog)

Lesbian Seiyuu Research
A Gentleman with Wild Ideas about Yuri and Lesbian Seiyuu
Yuri Seiyuu - FC2 Blog
Yuri-Lesbian Seiyuu Image Board (has relationship map)
2channel Lesbian Seiyuu current thread
Yuri Seiyuu News (Blog 360)
Yuri Seiyuu News

Seiyuu Watch (general seiyuu news)


Lil Donkey said...

And Ami has shown her extreme range by playing roles from the amazing Tenko in Kamisama Kazoku, to mannish Paraietta in Simoun, to the wise friend Kotomi in Asatte no Houkou, to lovestruck Shirley in Code Geass -- all with great success.

I think you did a little mistake there. ^^"

Those seiyuu seem to like making their fans get ecstatic by saying those kind of quotes - and it's working. ><

Tsubaki said...

You nearly frightened me for a moment when I saw the heading. I LOVE AMI-CHAN! And she isn't gar for Yuuko! Lol.

Anonymous said...

What a great read.I wonder why Toyoguchi Megumi is isn't/seldom mentioned as might-be-rezu.From what I heard from radio shows,she's quite otoko-ish and not to mention
appeared in most shoujo-ai anime.

to lovestruck Shirley in Code Geass

Actually Ami voiced Kallen/Karen in Code Geass.Just to let U know.

tj han said...

Yet another very well researched and informative seiyuu post! Whee.

I have no doubts that these are mere banter designed to further stimulate the minds of dribbling otaku.

Oh yeah, in the past para, you mentioned Ami was "love struck Shirley from Code Geass". But earlier you said Karen. We all know it's Karen! Shirley is done by Orikasa Fumiko, aka the MAHO girl.

nae said...

I can't but feel disturbed that most of your post seems to be giving evidence of their relationships, and only at the end does the writing return to a more realistic assessment; I actually got quite agitated while reading and could hardly get to that point because they read so much like misleading statements. :) I see what this article is doing, though, giving an overview of the situation and allowing the possibility that it may be something more, which I like as a device rather than anything else....

I believe that this is completely about trends among female seiyuu, and, sometimes, marketing. It pleases fans, and makes for fun gossip, when they elevate close friendship to sexual relationships. (What's odd is how those involve can make these claims so freely; there's one angle in which real lesbian relationships are so impossible that they can joke about them more readily.) The Mai-Ai thing is an extreme example of what a lot of other seiyuu do. Putting together what I've heard of their past blog content and interviews, I can only conclude that their mutual liking encourages their management to place them in these positions. This really requires specific understanding of homosexuality in Japanese media, LOL.

I'd just like to stress that people take this stuff with a spoonful of salt. It's fun, but I think that's about where it ends.

On a more positive note, the Anispa radio show was spread on BT, to my surprise, j1m0ne blogged about the wedding, and thank you for the links. I had no idea.

Anonymous said...

eh? throughout the post there's bits where the truth of the supposed relationships is questioned and it's not just at the end. I honestly think it was just you because I had no such problems whilst reading it.

Anyway it was an interesting read, thanks.

hashihime said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I did get Ami@Karen right in one place, lol. I'm still kind of baffled by the whole phenomenon, but I think nae's comment about real Lesbian relationships being so impossible it makes it easy to joke about them rings true. Not that I can figure out why they'd be impossible. And the picture painted in Ami's blog is fairly romantic. But there is clearly a strong PR aspect to anything a performer puts out in public.

j1m0ne said...

It was an interesting piece, but like most of the comments already made I just take stuff like this with a pinch of salt - it's fun and makes for interesting reading: I probably wouldn't find half of the seiyuu as interesting otherwise.

Of course, even if they were gay they would never be prepared to publicly confirm it - it'd be career suicide. The majority of Asian communities won't readily accept homosexuals, especially not ppl in the public eye though that trend is changing with the younger generation.

Sonhex said...

Fascinating and well written post, Kaoru. I take it there is still some doubt over the actuality of Ami and Pe's 'wedding' though?

hashihime said...

I don't think there's much doubt that the "marriage" was a prank. As far as their relationship is concerned, they are very close friends, as their blogs reflect. They could be more, but it's hard to draw that conclusion.

As other comments say, this genre of statement is probably mainly a kind of PR fanservice. That's certainly how the statements from most other seiyuu read. And Ami and Yuuko's agents would have been involved in scheduling this appearance.

Rick said...

"I can't but feel disturbed that most of your post seems to be giving evidence of their relationships, and only at the end does the writing return to a more realistic assessment; I actually got quite agitated while reading and could hardly get to that point because they read so much like misleading statements. :) I see what this article is doing, though, giving an overview of the situation and allowing the possibility that it may be something more, which I like as a device rather than anything else...."

Wow, really, what is your problem Nae? I'm sorry but as a gay man I can't help feeling annoyed at the pretentious homophobic jab this poster is melting out. Why don't you just come out right out and say that you are a homophobe and hate the idea of anyone being remotely gay instead of hiding under the pretext of finding "fault" with the article where there is none. Firstly, this isn't the new york times but a blog thus there is no "right" way of writing anything and secondly you are contradicting yourself. You see, if you are of the firm and confident belief that they ain't gay, why would you be "disturbed" by anything Hasihime writes?

Personally, I enjoyed Hasihime's writing style of the article. It's fun, refreshing and I liked the contemplative tone of it. The article would have been a turn-off if it's presented in a biased, narrow-minded, full-of-yourself kind of perspective.

It's actually a fact IRL that lesbian flings are not uncommon within the japanese entertainment industry unless one doesn't count these seiyuus as celebrity enough. One also mustn't forget that their private lives belong to no one but themselves, as such they aren't under any obligation to reveal anything or even truthfully about themselves.It's very much like "wink, wink, what you see is open to your imagination, however you choose." ;) In fact, it's proven that fans actually dislike knowing anything real about a celebrity but sticking to an image which they feel fits him/her the best.

Points which were brought across and I say it again, I like Hasihime's questioning of the "wink". For me, I'm taking either statements with a pinch as there is no doubt they could be completely straight, lesbian or bisexual. We will never know after all.

All in all, I find this an intresting and fairly amusing read. Above all, good brain food for fans of rezu seiyuus. ^_^

(Please pardon my rather lengthy post/rant ^^;)

Anonymous said...

I think you misunderstood nae's post, Rick. ^^" When I read nae's post, I didn't feel any 'homophobic' vibes coming out of it. It was more of concern about the privacy of the seiyuu(s)'s 'love life's. And the reliablity of those rumours - please excuse the oxymoron of the last sentence. ^^"

hashihime said...

Thanks, everyone for the comments. Rick, I didn't read nae as homophobic at all. I thought she was (quite reasonably) questioning whether I was not just pandering to some fans' sleazy fascination with the seiyuus' sexual lives and joining the hype machine. I edited the piece a bit after I read her comment, making it clearer near the beginning that I realized there was PR fanservice involved, and the stories should not necessarily be taken at face value. I may take them too seriously myself.

But I was also interested by your statement that fans prefer to stick with a certain image of their stars. Reading 2channel, I've been struck by how little mention of this event there was in the threads for either Ami or Yuuko. Is that because the otaku know it's all a joke, or because they just refuse to think their stars might not correspond to the image they want? Maybe the idea that some seiyuu might be gay actually doesn't please the fans, at least the hard-core fans that post on 2channel.

nae said...

Having somewhat restrained myself in the above comment, and after having read everyone's interesting remarks and another blog... I must add that it's incredibly fun, this slashiness, and hey, I'd rather it were all fact. I happen to follow this stuff enthusiastically.

But that's too many words for 'whee!'

Now all I want to know is if rick's "It's actually a fact IRL that lesbian flings are not uncommon within the japanese entertainment industry" is true. :)

Yamapi said...

Trust me everyone. This is only one kind of PR for the "yuri" anime genre. Not that I against same-sex things but being rational here. I don't think LESBIAN live in Japan. I mean that country has been teaching their generation one after another that "beside god, a man is who you should pray to". Maybe there's gay but lesbians, I think hardly we have 10 in Japan. It's the culture thing. Japanese ladies needs man and man is next to god according to the culture evaluation.

hashihime said...

Just to show that in fact there are gay women in Japan (contrary to yamapi's overstatement of his point) here are a couple of essays on the subject:
Telling Her Story: Narrating a Japanese Lesbian Community
Women-loving Women in Modern Japan

I couldn't find any good statistics, but I did find websites detailing publications, bars, meetings, etc., specifically for gay and bisexual women in Japan. The social pressures yamapi spoke about probably help make the number smaller than in the West, though, I imagine. And the fact that there are gay women in Japan doesn't necessarily mean any seiyuus are among their number.

Just to add another modality to the topic, the second essay discusses the fact that it is possible to feel yuri feelings toward someone without actually going so far as to have sex with them.

Anonymous said...

Ai Shimizu isn't gay but going from what this TV date showed, she's not interested in her otaku fanbase

Anonymous said...

Ai Shimizu obviously not into any women. Judging from her behaviour, she's always acting or trying to be cute to win some love from whoever watching. Her type is so obviously waiting for a big load business man or any wealthy and famous man.

ojisan said...

Hashihime, this is all totally fascinating. I wish there were a site that dealt exclusively in comparing & contrasting queer life in Japan with yuri & shounen-ai representations. Except that refereeeing the comments would be a full-time job -

thank you!

Anonymous said...

Chanced upon this article when I was looking for more info about Koshimizu Ami's latest show - AIKa.

Male dominated industry? I'd think not. Given the extremely wide range of voices in female seiyuus compared to guys, its little wonder that some anime has an entire cast of females.

Being single, amongst a group of same sex friends and with their extremely busy lifestyles that leaves them with little social contact with other people outside the industry (other than meeting fans which they probably regard as part of their job scope) AND with the fact that so many guys out there lusts crazily for Yuri-lovers amongst anime and real life beings, to exploit upon this trend and opportunity to stroke up the entire Seiyuu industry, I guess its perfectly normal.

Of course, I'm not dismissing the probable fact that there may be a homosexual within, but who those are, I can't guess.

But really.... simply a 好き probably means an expression of friendship. I hope people are not going to mistake me as a homosexual simply because I 'like' my 'boy friend of 15 years'! Woo hoo~~~~ @_@

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