Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hirano Aya's New Single -- Preview On Line

Lantis has created a special site for the three Hirano Aya singles that are coming out this fall: three singles in three months. The first, Love Gun, will be out 10 October. Part of the promotional video (PV) is now on that site, and there is a brief TV commercial on YouTube.

It looks and sounds good to me. Another step forward. She apparently wrote the lyrics herself. She plays guitar in the PV, but I would be surprised if we are actually hearing any of her playing.



The second single, Neophilia (good title) will be out 7 November. The site blurb says it emphasizes "cool and elegance," and is "blue and black," visually strong, and shows a new image of Aya. The third single will be out 5 December, and will have a happier, more pop-rock sound.

She has clearly been working hard on her singing and on the PV. She has reduced her VA work this fall to make a final push toward becoming the pop idol she started working toward as a young teenager. As far as I know, she only has four comparatively minor VA jobs this fall: she will be a non-starring voice in Dragonaut; will continue doing voiceover on the educational TV show Kaitai Shin Show; and she has starring roles in the PSP game Suzumiya Haruhi's Promise, and in the Wii RPG Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon - the Maze Where Time is Forgotten. There is a promotional video for this last under "Movie" on the game's official site.

There are some good photos (left) of the event at the Tokyo Game Show for Suzumiya Haruhi's Promise. She was there along with Sugita Tomokazu and Shiraishi Minoru.

There is an interesting, if rather negative, piece on the Livedoor news called "The Melancholy of the Seiyuu." It quoted an "informed person" as saying that Aya really never wanted to be a seiyuu, and that although she has been busy this year with recording shows and doing events, she gives the impression that she sometimes wonders what she's doing there. In fact, there are "whispers" about her mental condition, and some people think she may not even play Haruhi in the second season of Suzumiya Haruhi.

The so-called "informed person" pointed out that her agency, Spacecraft Entertainment, is not basically a seiyuu agency, but mainly represents actresses, idols, and singers. But he said that her success so far has been due to her major seiyuu roles, and it is far from certain that she can gain anything like the same success as a singer and idol. The piece also mentioned her recent stay in hospital for her appendix.

I think the piece makes some reasonable points, despite the fact that it has an anti-Aya tone and assembles the more rational points made by anti-Aya posters on 2channel -- even putting "appendix" in quotation marks, to continue the canard that it was a different medical problem. A group of passionate haters of Aya continues to bombard 2channel with posts, mainly but not entirely rather childish ones.

In my opinion, the fact is that making a decent living as a seiyuu is pretty difficult, and Aya would rather be a singer, idol, and personality, which would bring a much more worthwhile income and higher status, to say nothing of being what she always wanted to do, anyway. It is hard for anime fans to realize just how low on the entertainment totem pole seiyuus are in Japan.

As one indication of that low status, Aya reports in her blog today about going to a recording session with her manager on the subway. Try to imagine a top idol on the subway.... The post is headed "I am not a dojikko, but..." She says that recently she has been falling over for no reason, even on flat ground, and that she actually fell right over on the train, landing on her bottom on a high-school student's briefcase, to the amusement of other passengers. At right is the photo from that piece.

85 comments:

hl said...

Thanks for the Aya news!

Mei said...

I agree with your opinion. Ever since I saw her at AX, I've gotten the feeling that she'd rather be an idol than a seiyuu. The temptation is easy to succumb to with, like you've said, the low income and how under appreciated seiyuu are. Hirano is definitely a person that loves to be in the spotlight (I could feel that aura from her even if we didn't talk formally). I wouldn't be surprised if she stopped becoming a seiyuu and ventured full-time in the idol business. Actually, I'd like to see her as more of an actress, not to let her acting skills go to waste.

hashihime said...

@mei -- I'd love to see her get a chance to audition for the role of Haruhi in a live-action SHnY. I don't know whether she could do it or not -- I think she could -- but I'd love to see her get the chance. I can see her continuing to do some seiyuu work, since she is good at it, while doing more things in other fields. Like you, I get the sense that she loves to be the centre of attention, and enjoys entertaining people and getting their warm response. To say nothing of just being ambitious and achievement-oriented. In an interview recently, she was asked about her crying at the end of Gekisou, and she said that she was crying out of gratitude to everyone, and that it felt like getting into a warm futon.

paranda said...

My only real problem with Aya isn't her own ambition of course, as most would-be idols probably are doing anime as a last resort, but her success bothers me more because of how her presence basically eclipses almost everyone during events and casting. I will admit some skill on her part, but that's par for the course given how competitive seiyuu have become. Maybe when you take the whole package of looks, dancing, singing, fashion, and so on, Aya has a lot to offer. However, as core fundamentals for voice actors, I look at acting, voice range, singing, and radio. I would say it is a stretch that she is anything supremely exceptional in these areas when compared to her peer group. This gives her the problem of having too much general talent on whole to escape scrutiny, and not enough specific talent to avoid the criticisms of hardcore voice fans. The impression that she gives off of not caring much for being a seiyuu tops it off and gives some voice fans reasons to hate her other aspects...especially if there are many struggling stars who excel in these areas and would be happy to get even a 10th of her publicity.

Personally, I don't have a problem if you happen to be idol-like on the side, but if you don't really want to be seiyuu, at least pretend to be genuinely into it! I suspect many fans would resent investing their energies into someone who only keeps up her image just to use it as a stepping stone to break into mainstream media. If Aya had played her hand as gracefully as Amisuke, she probably wouldn't be as polarizing as she is today.

Of course, I also understand that fandom is not a zero sum game. Most likely, her popularity does not actually take away from the net fandom of others. I can acknowledge that she probably added MORE to the entire pool and got the notice of some who never cared about voice actors before, but as these fans come in, and as agencies take notice, she is able to have a strong influence on what people look for in seiyuu. Idol seiyuu have been around forever, but there always seemed to be a distinction between them and mainstream idols. To further her own goal, she is taking the concept and blurring the lines way too much for my own personal preference.

This is probably how I view it now so I simply choose not to support her, because it doesn't align with my interests. I had been down the Hirano hate road before, although after Haruhiism died down I became a bit more rational and downgraded by hatred to mere "sort of dislike." A lot of it really just isn't her fault, it's more the way the market is reacting. It's just easier to consolidate the dislike of that trend and focus it into her as the figurehead. Actually I hope she really succeeds so she can hurry up and move on to what she really wants to do instead of siphon off this niche group and get so much undue grief.

hashihime said...

@paranda -- Excellent comments. Thank you. You put a highly reasonable version of opposition to Aya. I can feel what you say. They are valid opinions, even though I don't share them.

For one thing, I think you underestimate her acting. Not "acting" as in sounding indistinguishable from a real character, but acting as in communicating presence and emotion.

I think many seiyuu do standard professional turns better than Aya, but she tends to give things a twist that makes them particularly effective, for me. It can sound like incompetence, but it is also Art. She never did go to seiyuu school, as far as I know, and she isn't that accomplished with the various standard voices and turns that many seiyuu have down pat. But she makes up for it in what sounds to me like originality and emotion.

Layla is a perfect example of something that is not exactly natural or believable but that is emotionally extremely effective. And I think her Haruhi (sharp, but with an undertone of sadness) and Konata (bizarre comic burbling) contributed a lot to the success of those shows, as well as vice-versa.

But it is certainly true that she is as much a celebrity as a seiyuu, right now. I myself, based on her blog and interviews, etc., find her an interesting personality: sharp, emotionally fragile, somewhat cultured, natural, mysterious. As for radio, she's not the most accomplished performer, but at least she seems kind of natural to me, a real person as well as an entertainer trying to put on a show for the listeners. And she is very attractive. I have absolutely no understanding of the people who think she isn't, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I find Hocchan and Yukarin more attractively ugly than actually pretty, myself.

You ask her to "pretend" to be into voice acting and to "act like" she cared. You say that this, and her desire to expand beyond voice-acting, gives "some voice fans reasons to hate her other aspects."

First, one of the good things about her is that she doesn't pretend that much or that well. I think it's wrong to ask her to be a fake. And the word "hate" is so emotional. Exactly why should people feel betrayed if she wants to expand into the mainstream? Is it that they want her to remain their creature? To remain trapped in the underpaid and underappreciated world of seiyuu, rather than opening into a larger world? Is this more about them than about her? I'm glad that you recognize that her "blurring the lines" between idols and idol seiyuu is just something you yourself don't like, as opposed to something that is objectively wrong.

I'm not going to make any great claims for her singing. I wish she liked music other than rock, which I don't think she is that convincing with. But she does seem to be constantly improving, to me. And once again, I find that she has a special emotion in her singing -- not an emotion that is necessarily under control, but one that comes from her own nature.

In general, I prefer Aya's sometimes awkward naturalness to the accomplished fakery of many seiyuu. Her voice itself has a special set of qualities: a smooth, sinewy sharp strength (Haruhi); or a breathy and heartbreaking weakness (Layla). And to me, she seems to be improving all the time. She's not quite 20, and until last year she only did one or two shows a year, and never went to seiyuu school, so she is learning all the time, it seems to me.

I'd also add that I think voice fans underestimate how much she appreciates them. She doesn't suck up to them, and she has interests beyond the voice world, but my reading of her is that the audience support in Gekisou, etc., makes her feel great -- so great she ends up crying.

Eric said...

I'd just like to say that I am extremely skeptical of the rumor about her not wanting to be a seiyuu.

The source of that newspiece is Cyzo, a very unreliable tabloid magazine which should always be taken with a grain of salt. And the 2ch rumors - we all know how reliable 2ch is...take all these "inside sources" (who are unquoted and unnamed) with a grain of salt.

I do not believe that she "never wanted to be a seiyuu" or "she wants to quit being a seiyuu for good." Us anime fans are her first group of fans, and without us she would not have the initial success to use as a jump-board to reach out to mainstream entertainment.

Understandably, I think her ultimate ambition is to break out into mainstream entertainment - it's probably the dream of all those involved in show-biz. Who would not want to achieve the status of Hamasaki Ayumi or Koda Kumi (granted, Koda Kumi is a very poor role model -_-).

As a loyal faithful Aya fan I sincerely hope she achieves her goal. And I can see that she is starting to make such moves and I am extremely happy for her.

Whether it's acting or singing or just good old voice acting, I only wish the best for her, and no rumors or haters will make me change my mind.

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