When ef - a tale of memories began, I knew none of the main voice actresses in it. It turned out that they came over from the game, and had not done an enormous amount of anime work.
Their voices in the preview made me worry that they were not up to the job of doing a dramatic anime. But their voices in this show have been excellent, in my opinion. So I wanted to find out more about them.
The three actresses are Okada Junko (Kei), Taguchi Hiroko (Miyako), and Yanase Natsumi (Chihiro). I recently found a TV interview (YouTube) with the three of them. The images in this post are screencaps from the interview.
Okada Junko 岡田純子 (Kei) is 34 and is married to Sakai Nobokazu (also known as nbkz), the chief producer for minori, the company that makes the ef games. She was Fujimiya Nozomi in Wind: A Breath of Heart, both in minori's game and the anime made from it. And she was Fosetta in Zegapain. But she really hasn't done that much anime. She has been in several games, including ero-games, has done TV commercials, and has been on stage in several plays. In the video, she seems funny, active, and warm. She has no home page, but here is her agency profile page. (click images to enlarge)
Taguchi Hiroko 田口宏子 (Miyako) is 33. She hasn't done that much anime, either, but she was Suzuna in the ero-anime Moonlight Lady, Yayui in Hit wo Nerae!, and Sakura in Lamune. She is one of the most active ero-game seiyuu, however, having appeared in over 65 games under 19 different names. In the video, she sits in the middle and is the main spokesperson for the group. On her home page (which is called "Bunny Yawn") she says she likes bunnies and everything to do with bunnies, likes to draw, and likes to shop.
Yanase Natsumi やなせなつみ (Chihiro) is 36. She has had a few prominent anime roles, having starred in First Kiss Story in 2000, and having had roles in Hanaukyo Maid Tai, Lamune, and _summer. She is Akane in the current Da Capo 2. And she has appeared in over 60 ero-games, mainly under the name Maki Izumi. In the video, she seems to be a fairly elegant and contained person. On her home page she says she likes writing essays, playing with cats, and watching plays.
I basically love all three of their voices in ef. It seems to me that their delivery is more musical than naturalistic, and I am imagining that the sound director asked them to do that, partly to work with the background music, which is so important to this show, and partly to create a magical atmosphere. The sound director is Tsuruoka Yota, one of the top sound directors in anime, having done shows like Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, Negima!?, and Rozen Maiden. I really don't know if their voices would be as effective in other roles in other shows. I hope we will find out.
Chihiro's voice is quite extreme in its weakness and pleading quality. But that works beautifully in this context. Kei's voice has a bit of boyishness about it, which suits her athleticism in the show. And Miyako's voice is more sultry and playful than the others, which fits her character, too.
It is interesting to see a show stick with the game seiyuu, and use such comparatively elderly voice-actresses for youthful roles. I certainly don't hear their ages in their voices. What I hear is their emotional expertise.
In the interview, Taguchi-san said that the various love stories are quite deep, and give you a lot to think about. Okada-san almost bounced in her seat saying how much fun the story was, even though it was so difficult. And Yanase-san said that there were a lot of feelings in every half-hour.
Seeing that two of these women were in Lamune reminds me of that show's star, Gotou Yuuko. She was mainly an ero-game seiyuu herself until Lamune. She, too, has done over 65 games. In Lamune, and in Mizuiro before that, she used what sounds like a real ero-game voice, even higher than Chihiro's. But Gotou-san has gradually now expanded into other voices. Perhaps these women are about to get the chance to do the same, if they want it.