Wednesday night, Hirano Aya 平野綾 was the guest on the new "Anime Giga" interview show on NHK's BS2 satellite channel. For 40 minutes, Aya talked with the two interviewers and did readings. If I didn't like her before, I sure would now. She came across as a rather serious, fairly intelligent, somewhat insecure person with great skills.
And her outfit was remarkable, not least for some of the most absolute "absolute territory" I have ever seen. "Absolute territory" (zettai ryouiki) is the few inches of bare leg between the top of long stockings and the hem of a short skirt. The outfit, a colorful checked suit with a mini-skirt and dark stockings, was by the English doyenne of punk high-fashion, Vivienne Westwood, who appears to be madly popular in Japan. Aya always wears a tubular Vivienne ring. (click photos to enlarge)
One of the most interesting parts of the show was a mock recording session in which you saw Aya doing Haruhi's voice in scenes from Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. The interviewers were impressed by her vocal and emotional range. I was impressed by the professional way she slipped in the heavy breathing when Haruhi was running up and down stairs, and by the facial expressions she seemed to naturally generate to accompany the voice. The interviewer quoted someone saying that Hirano had enough vocal range that even when she screamed, her voice didn't crack.
Aya also read from an illustrated book that was one of those she used as a teenager to practice her vocal skills and reading. The book was Prototype Myth (試作品神話 Shisakuhin Shinwa) by Ootsuka Eiji 大塚英志. She said that she read a lot as a teen, partly to make it easier to read scripts, and learned a lot of kanji.
They showed a clip of her in her first role, as Monkey Momo in Tenshi no Shippo, at 13, and a clip of her as Lumiere in Kiddy Grade. The interviewers were blown away by how adult her voice sounded at that young age. Aya said that it did give her a bit of a complex, since she had that voice, yet was particularly baby-faced.
Perhaps that helps explain why she puts on a pretty high voice normally now, especially at the beginning of interviews like this one. Her voice dropped an octave after the first few minutes of the interview. When she was introduced, she burst in with a fake super-genki stiffness and a burikko high voice, the way I've seen her do for less serious interview shows. Although she definitely seems like a tense, high-strung person, she settled into something that seemed almost real as she answered the intellectual-seeming male interviewer's questions. The interviewer was Watanabe Takashi, former editor of NewType and producer of the award-winning 2006 feature-length anime Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo.
Being on NHK was clearly a big deal for her. She has been talking about it for weeks on her blog. She has also got a gig as narrator on an NHK educational program about the human body, and she has regaled us with shots of food from the NHK cafeteria, which she said was delicious, and with a shot of a poster advertising this show in one of the elevators in the building.
Aya said that getting the role of Haruhi seemed to awaken a lot of power in her somehow. She said that every role seems to bring something new out of her that she didn't know was there. But a role like Haruhi, so much the main role that the show is named after her, made her feel a lot of pressure. When she was younger, she felt no pressure and just enjoyed the work, but now she feels more responsibility.
No wonder she felt pleased to get this interview. She is in some great company. The show is a feature broadcast that airs every month or so, and its next guest is Kon Satoshi 今敏, the director of Millennium Actress, Paranoia Agent, and Paprika.
She does seem to me like a good fit with the public broadcaster. It disappointed otaku and probably pissed off a few seiyuu when she was rumored to have said that she wouldn't do ero-games, that she had too much self-respect. And she probably disappointed otaku in this show when, in answer to a question sent in by fans about what kind of guy she liked, she said "one who looks good in a suit." But we saw a room full of otaku cheering her as she got on stage at the Kiddy Grade movie premiere a few weeks ago.
The show's web site apparently received a huge number of messages with questions for her. The second question they asked was which foreign country she wanted to visit. Aya said she's had Egyptomania since she was little and would like to see the ancient sites there. I don't think she's above putting on a good front, but she has mentioned this before on her blog, so I think it's true.
I'll add a few recent photos. The first is an animated gif from 2channel of the Galaxy Angel Brigade show a couple of months ago, in which she showed the rocker side that she didn't show on NHK. I think she's more a wannabe rocker than a real one. Avril Lavigne is one of her favorites. But she can sure put on a good show. The other shots are from her blog. (click photos to enlarge, and to run animated gif)
More of the goth photos on Anime Desho Desho and lots more photos of all kinds on Aya's own blog. There's a video on YouTube of the photo session from which the last photo comes, and in which she poses both as angel and as devil.