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.
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.
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