Thursday, July 12, 2007

Here Comes Yahagi Sayuri

Quietly, quietly, the talents of 20-year-old voice actress Yahagi Sayuri 矢作紗友里 are being recognized. Not by 2channel, the Japanese otaku forum, where she is still on only her second thread. But directors are giving her constant work.

Karin Gretel

After her debut as Karin in Karin in the fall of 2005, she had eight roles in seven shows in 2006, including Otogijushi Akazukin (Gretel and Kewpie), School Rumble 2 (Tennouji Mio), Tokimeki Memorial (Yuka), and Busou Renkin (Hanaka). In 2007, she has already had eleven roles in just over half a year, including the starring role of Kuu in Kyoushirou to Towa no Sora, as well as kiddy tech genius Amano in Gigantic Formula. She is Izumi in Hayate, Mana's classmate Chisato in sola, Kaho in Over Drive, and has made guest appearances in Venus Versus Virus and Gurren-Lagann. She has also had a role in recent episodes of the long-running Kirarin Revolution, as Myuu-tan, and has a minor role in the new show Potemayo.

Kuu

Below is a series of photos of Yahagi Sayuri over the past couple of years. As I have said before, no-one will ever mistake her for an idol. She is a lovely, plain girl with a great voice. Like Kawasumi Ayako, she will have to make her way on talent and personality -- of which she fortunately has lots -- rather than glamorous looks.



She and male seiyuu Fujita Yoshinori (Masumi in Nodame Cantabile) are the 19th generation of hosts of the web radio show Voice Crew, a job given to top young seiyuu from the I"m Entertainment/Arts Vision stable. Previous hosts include Horie Yui, Saitou Chiwa (whose voice Sayuri's most resembles), Morikawa Toshiyuki, Kuwatani Natsuko, Yamamoto Maria, Nakahara Mai, Ueda Kana, Kugimiya Rie, Hoshi Souichirou, Morinaga Rika, Asakawa Yuu, Takahashi Mikako, etc., etc.

Here is an audio sample of her work on the radio show. For a video sample, click here, or click the screencap below to view it on YouTube:



She has even acquired a nickname. She apparently once told Inokuchi Yuka, her sister Anju in Karin, that she wished she had one, and Yuka, Nabatame Hitomi and Shitaya Noriko came up with "oHagi" (ぉはぎ), which she is now known as on radio and on 2channel. It's a nice nickname, and has puns in it that might refer to her being small, to a sweet rice-ball, and to a bush of long poetic significance in Japan that bears discreet purple flowers through the summer.

Two things make oHagi great. First, she has a strong, mobile, liquid voice. Second, she seems to have an intense professionalism that allows her to pick up tone and technique like a sponge. In Karin and Kyoushirou she shows what a unique and identifiable voice she has, but at first in Otogijushi, I didn't recognize her at all. She was clearly able to give the sound director exactly what he wanted, irrespective of her own natural timbre. Playing alongside Tamura Yukari, Kugimiya Rie, and Sawashiro Miyuki, among other top pros, that show was like her post-graduate training. She may still be a voice rather than a real actress, but she's getting there. Her mad weeping scene in Kyoushirou was a triumph.



She seems to be a comparatively unassuming and conservative person, but friendly and popular with her fellow seiyuus. Her co-host on the Gigantic Formula radio show, Satou Rina, kept calling her an "old-man little-girl" (オヤジ小学生).



When Karin came out, I translated an interview with her in which she explained how she came to be a seiyuu. Her classmates made fun of her high, little-girl voice and one day, watching anime, she realized that she could possibly turn that voice into her greatest asset. And she has.

More leading roles are to come, but oHagi has become one of the more active young seiyuus, building a career in voice-acting. She works with the I"m Enterprise agency, which was the agency involved in the recent scandal over sexual harassment of a young seiyuu by its boss. We'll have to see if she stays with them. It's a big agency that can give its performers a lot of help, but the scandal has recently lost it and its sister agency Arts Vision some of its seiyuu -- including Morinaga Rika and (now it can be confirmed) Horie Yui.

Here are links to more info about oHagi:
Hashihime Seiyuu Gallery
Anime News Network
Wikipedia Japan

82 comments:

omo said...

And continuing the tradition of poor dental display. But yes, I too think she does good work, even if being a steady-headed professional "old man" in a girl's circumstances isn't really the most appealing set of personality attributes for this girl's circumstances.

hashihime said...

@omo -- lol. She might not appreciate my choice of that one screencap showing lack of orthodontia. But the more I listen to her and watch the few TV clips available, the nicer (and cuter) she seems. There's more than one reason I can compare her to steady-headed Kawasumi Ayako. Kuwashima Houko is also somewhat plain; her agency tried to make her an idol but finally just gave up. One thing I hope all three can demonstrate is that you don't have to be glamorous to be a successful seiyuu.

Kurogane said...

I don't really love all her roles, but as a rookie seiyuu, I see a good future in her. While Kuu and Karin was pretty much unimpressive, in fact more towards the annoying scale, I loved her Gretel in Akazukin.

She, along with Kana Hanazawa and Yui Makino, are the 3 rookie seiyuus I look forward to see their futures.

hashihime said...

@kurogane -- Ah, but there we differ. Karin and Kuu are the roles I think are her best. The others do not differentiate her from other seiyuu, but those two do. I am eager to hear more of Sasaki Nozomi, since she too has a very distinctive voice.

But we agree about Makino Yui, who I think is terrific. I liked Hanazawa Kana in Getsumen To, but not to that level. I think that Hayami Saori, the very young seiyuu who plays Momoka in Touka Gettan, is a voice to listen for, even though she is more simply excellent than very distinctive.

hashihime said...

@kurogane -- I just have to add that I'm watching ep2 of Mushiuta and want to raise my estimate of Hanazawa Kana. She's very striking as Shiika. Too over-the-top for you?

Kurogane said...

Karin and Kuu, I felt those pretty much one trick pony characters which can't bring out her vocal talent and acting skills.

As for Kana Hanazawa, watch ZEGAPAIN. Her performance as Kaminagi Ryoko in the show instantly captured my heart, just like how I remembered Hirano Aya for Haruhi. I'm extremely glad to see she's getting more roles lately and she has a very unique voice which instantly captures your attention.

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