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".
Is 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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)