"Seiyuu Awards" is a new Japanese annual awards show that gave out its first set of awards last spring -- the awards for 2006. General voting for the 2007 awards starts now and runs into January, with the show itself scheduled for Japanese TV next March.
The categories are fairly straightforward:
-- leading man and leading woman (in an anime that started in 2007)
-- supporting man and woman
-- "new" man and woman (debut no more than 5years ago)
-- "personality" (appearing on radio, TV, etc.)
And there is a special top award for the seiyuu who has spread word of the seiyuu profession most in various media. That award, along with three other special awards, will be voted on only by industry members, but the main awards are open to public voting. I believe the public voting just creates the short list of nominees, and the final voting is by an industry panel, but I'm not sure.
Last year, the winners were: Fukuyama Jun (Lerouche in Code Geass) and Paku Romi (Nana O. in NANA) in leading roles. Best supporting females were Koshimizu Ami, for Karen in Code Geass, and Gotou Yuuko, for Mikuru in Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. Best supporting males were Ishida Akira, for Athrun Zala in Gundam Seed Destiny, and Miyata Kouki, for Yoshinaga Kazumi in The Gargoyle of the Yoshinagas. (mouseover photos for captions)
Best new females were Hirano Aya, for Suzumiya Haruhi, and Kano Yui, for Momoko in Sumomo mo Momo mo. Best new males were Kakihara Tetsuya, for Mikoto in Princess Princess, and Morita Masakazu, for Ichigo in Bleach. Top seiyuu/singer was Mizuki Nana, for her CD Justice to Believe. Best personality was Asano Masumi, host of the A&G Super Radio Show ~Anisupa~ (from the broadcaster which is one of the sponsors of these awards...).
From what I've seen in 2007, the male lead I've most appreciated is Kamiya Hiroshi as Zetsubou Sensei. The fact that just over a year ago he was almost dead in a motorcycle accident may have something to do with my preference, but I thought "zetsubou shita!" sensei was a brilliant comic portrayal. There are lots of other possibilities: Seki Tomokazu as Chiaki in Nodame Cantabile, for one. I'd also think of Ono Daisuke with his undramatic but effective portrayal of Kazuya in Kaze no Stigma. And I'd think of Kiuchi Hidenobu (Ren in NANA, Tenma in Monster) as Hei in Darker than Black.
For the women, the leading role that bowled me over was Hirano Aya as Konata in Lucky Star. That slurping comic voice gave the whole show a special earthiness. I'd also think of Kuwashima Houko as Claire in Claymore, or as Shuurei in SaiunkokuII. Or Kawasumi Ayako as Nodame in Nodame Cantabile (as well as Sara in Soukou no Strain). There's also Andou Mabuki as Balsa in Seirei no Moribito. Yajima Akiko's 40-year-old voice is bringing such a fresh tone to Mari in Blue Drop. And since OVAs appear to count, I'd also consider Orikasa Fumiko as Miu in Ichigo Mashimaro OVA.
Male supporting actor: I'm a bit at sea here. My knowledge and appreciation of male seiyuu is better than it was, but still rudimentary. I came up with Konishi Katsuyuki as Kamina in Tengen-Toppan Gurren-Lagann. He had a big effect in a few episodes. You could also go for Seki Tomokazu as the king in SaiunkokuII -- or with any of several other strong male supporting performances in that show. Or maybe Ikeda Masaru as Huang in Darker than Black. If he reappears in SaiunkokuII, I'd give it to Koyasu Takehito, whose performance as "Rin Senya" in the first series was dominating. I might even give it to him for Zhuge Liang in the bizarre Koutetsu Sangokushi.
For supporting actress, Yukino Satsuki's Mirei in Hitohira stands out for me. Paku Romi's Teresa in Claymore was also riveting, but she won best lead female last year. I'd also think of Itou Miki for her over-the-top Yumiko in Touka Gettan. And personally, I thought Matsuoka Yuki was great as Setsuna in Kyoushirou to Towa no Sora. There's Kitamura Eri as Makoto in Touka Gettan. And there are any number of top women seiyuu in Nanoha Strikers and in Idolmaster Xenoglossia.
For male newcomer, I am in a quandary. I had to scour the lists for actors who had been in the business five years or less. In the end, I came up with Ono Daisuke's Kazuya in Kaze no Stigma: Ono-san made his debut in 2002. There's also the younger Miyano Mamoru in Gundam00 and in Koutetsu Sangokushi. He should have won last year for Death Note.
For female newcomer, I have my own unlikely choice: 16-year-old Hayami Saori -- Momoka in Touka Gettan. I thought she was outstanding, both as an actress and as a singer. Or I could go for Hanazawa Kana -- the newcomer who is in the running (with Sasaki Nozomi) for most moe voice in anime -- as Shiika in Mushiuta or Sora in Sketchbook ~Full Colors~, or even for Potemayo. Toyosaki Aki as Amuro in Umishou deserves consideration. And there are numerous top seiyuu who have not yet been in the business more than five years: Inoue Marina (Mina in Getsumen To Heiki Mina and Kanna in Minami-ke); Nonaka Ai (Mikan in Manabi Straight, Kafuka in Zetsubou Sensei, Fuuko in Clannad), and even Nabatame Hitomi (Nobue in Ichigo Mashimaro OVA, Rina in Mushiuta).
For singer, Mizuki Nana won last year. I'm not familiar enough with all the CDs that have come out featuring seiyuus under their own or their characters' names, but of those that I do know, my own personal favorite by a long shot is Hayami Saori's ED for Touka Gettan. On that song, her voice is as skillful and beautiful as any of the non-seiyuu pro singers who do OPEDs. Second is all of the fascinating stuff that Hirano Aya has produced this year, from Motteke! Sailor Fuku and the karaoke EDs for Lucky Star through her three singles in a row this fall. She may not be as technically good a singer as Hayami Saori or Chihara Minori, but everything she does has something special about it.
For top personality, there are numerous seiyuu with radio shows or who act as hosts on TV. Asano Masumi won last year, so perhaps it's time for another seiyuu with a long-running radio show: Takahashi Mikako. Or perhaps Yamamoto Maria or Nogawa Sakura for their TV work.
In fact, the most active seiyuu personality this year has been Hirano Aya, appearing on radio and TV, in live shows, in her popular blog, and in numerous magazines. I personally would make her the top personality of the year. But I actually think she could be in line for the special top award to a seiyuu who does the most to publicize the seiyuu profession. She brought admiration for a seiyuu's verbal skills to mainstream TV shows.
Just for the heck of it, I tried voting -- and the site said it accepted my vote. So maybe overseas voting is possible. I'm not sure it should be, but anyway the list of categories and criteria is here, and the voting page is here.
The awards event is sponsored by the Tokyo Anime Centre, Kadokawa publishers, Shogakukan publishers, Bunka Housou broadcasting and others. General voting is open from 20 October to 15 January, and the awards ceremony will be on Saturday 8 March.