Thursday, January 18, 2007

Yuri Seiyuus? -- Koshimizu Ami "weds" Sanpei Yuuko

Many seiyuus are said to be gay. There are Japanese websites like "Yuri Seiyuu News" and "Lesbian Seiyuu Research" devoted to tracking quotes that supposedly show one or another seiyuu is "rezu".

Koshimizu Ami (left) and Sanpei Yuuko prepare to cut the cakeIs it true? I don't know. Nothing on those websites proves it. But the seiyuus themselves are the ones that fuel the rumors. They joke about preferring girls to guys and about who turns them on. And on a radio show last Sunday, there was a "wedding banquet" for talented 20-year-olds Koshimizu Ami (Karen in Code Geass) and Sanpei Yuuko (Renton in Eureka 7).

Photos: mouseover for captions, click to enlarge.

If they really are in a long-term relationship, congratulations to them. They seem like good people. But the event was played for laughs on the show, which is called Anispa and is hosted by Washizaki Takeshi and seiyuu Asano Masumi (who herself has been included in lists of who's gay).

All the yuri talk by seiyuus is probably just a kind of PR fanservice, a way of exciting eager fans. They can joke about it because it isn't true. If there were real relationships involved, there might not be so much joking. But joking could also be a way of being somewhat open about it, if it were true.

(l-r)Asano Masumi, Koshimizu Ami, Sanpei Yuuko, Washizaki Takeshi 'congratulations on your marriage' Sanpei Yuuko ('Pe')

On the show there was a quiz for Ami and Yuuko (whom Ami calls "Pe"): where did you meet? Was it love at first sight? Where was your first date? Your first kiss? They met at school when they were 12. Ami said she admired Pe. Pe said Ami was a noisy and bothersome tomboy. Pe appears to be a real-life tsundere.

Asked about their first kiss, Ami said it was going to be on the show, and the host and others started chanting "kiss! kiss!" and then "use your tongue!" One of the guests was their friend Nazuka Kaori (Eureka in Eureka 7), who said: "Yuu-Yuu is awful! When she was with me, it must have been just physical. She was just playing around." Ami turned to Pe in pretended shock and said: "Darling! What did she mean?" There was an atmosphere of daring and somewhat raunchy hilarity.

There are pictures of the event on the radio show's website, and Pe put pics of her tie (she was the groom) and the cake on her blog -- but didn't say whose wedding it was.

itou shizuka Matsuki Miyu Ueda Kana Chiba Saeko

The names that come up most in lists of yuri seiyuu are Nabatame Hitomi, Matsuki Miyu, Itou Shizuka, Chiba Saeko, Ueda Kana, Noto Mamiko, Tamura Yukari, Horie Yui, Nazuka Kaori, Ami and Pe. And there are many more names tossed around.

However, the quotes supposedly demonstrating that these people are in fact gay do not seem to me to prove much. Here are some examples: Itou Shizuka, in a radio interview, asked Ochiai Yurika if she was Lesbian. Yurishii answered that she wasn't, that she wasn't interested in girls. Shizuka-sama replied that she did like girls, that she wanted to confess to and go out with a girl. In her blog, Yurishii said she loved (daisuki) Shizuka.

Nabatame Hitomi said in an interview about Strawberry Panic that she liked women, and with so many women in the cast she expected there would be some good ones. Naba-sama (30) is portrayed as a kind of queen bee of yuri seiyuus. Her character in Strawberry Panic seems almost written for her. Her character in Ichigo Mashimaro isn't far off, either. The legend is that in real life her "first wife" is Itou Shizuka -- with whom she has done a long-running radio show -- and her lovers have been Noto Mamiko, Shimizu Kaori, and Koshimizu Ami.

Kaori Nazuka, Nabatame Hitomi, and Koshimizu Ami (l-r) on Naba-sama's birthday cover of CD by Nabatame Hitomi (l) and Itou Shizuka Koshimizu Ami (l) and Noto Mamiko

Matsuki Miyu said that since she likes women, the number of women in the cast of Strawberry Panic with her had her in a state of high excitement. In a radio show, she asked Chiba Saeko what kind of men she liked. Sae-chan answered that she liked women, that she liked cute girls with gentle smiles, girls that were like pets. Miyu-miyu said she wanted to be Sae-chan's pet. Ueda Kana once said her secret fantasy was have a date with Toyoguchi Megumi.

Sanpei Yuuko once said that she really liked Nazuka Kaori, and wanted to hook up with her. She said that she sometimes lost attention in the middle of recording because she was thinking of her. They worked together closely on Eureka 7, as Renton and Eureka.

Ami pats Pe's head in a 2006 photo from Ami's blog 'Our love is eternal' (caption from Ami's blog) Sanpei Yuuko. Beautiful. (from Ami's blog)

In a piece on Kashimashi radio, Shintani Ryouko, Ueda Kana, Tamura Yukari, and Horie Yui all tried to convince Asano Masumi that loving a girl would be all right. During a Christmas show, Masumin (Asano Masumi) asked Hocchan (Horie Yui) to become a "rezu couple" with her. Hocchan said "that would be great!," hitting the table in her enthusiasm.

Nakahara Mai and Shimizu Ai do a radio show together, and are a singing duo called Himitsu Dolls. They have been linked romantically, but theirs is clearly commercial yuri, whatever else it is. Ai wrote -- with a smilie -- that Himitsu Dolls was the crystallization of her and Mai's love. Mai wrote that she once confessed to a girl, and that her first kiss was with a girl, at school. The quite erotic first ED for Strawberry Panic featured a seeming kiss.

Shimizu Ai Ai and Mai in the first ED for Strawberry Panic Nakahara Mai

On the radio show she hosts with Kawasumi Ayako, Noto Mamiko once announced her marriage to Sawashiro Miyuki . On the show last November, Ayachii asked Mami to marry her, and Mami accepted. One site said there is a term "Noto spacetime": that Mami creates a certain atmosphere around her that is like a drug for young and old, male and female -- but especially for women seiyuus.

Most of these quotes come from the many internet radio programs in which seiyuu banter in support of their current shows. Most of the comments sound more like jokes than anything remotely serious.

There are other stories that just seem to reflect ordinary friendship, sexualized only in the boiling minds of the fans.

Kugimiya Rie said that she and Paku Romi were like sisters, that she wanted to go over to her house, eat her wonderful cooking, have a bath, and then sleep there -- maybe together. And there is a story that Horie Yui and Tamura Yukari were naked together in the room they shared on tour. Intimate but platonic female friendships are hardly unusual, especially in Japan.

New Year's card from Ami's close friend Mizusawa Fumie's blog Eating together: Ami, Fumie, Pe (l-r, from Ami's blog) Ami, Kaorin, Kitamura Eri, Pe (l-r, from Ami's blog)

What I can say for sure is that many seiyuu are good friends. Koshimizu Ami's blog is full of pictures of her friends: Sanpei Yuuko, Mizusawa Fumie, Nazuka Kaori, Kitamura Eri, Kadowaki Mai, and others. They look like a close group that has fun together. In fact, the photo above left is the New Year's card from Fumie's blog, with a photo of Ami and her. In Ueda Kana's blog, it appears that her younger sister often stays with her; she mentions Saiga Mitsuki a lot; and she links to Morinaga Rika's blog and others.

I suspect that a lot of the talk is just intended to excite the fans, or is fun talk among friends and colleagues. But there may also be truth in some of it. In regard to both Strawberry Panic and Simoun, seiyuu have commented how comfortable it was to have a cast entirely made up of women.

These are independent women in an entertainment industry dominated by men who may not be that nice, and legions of male fans pant after them. The men they come in contact with may not seem that attractive or that safe.

The seiyuus' joking shows that relationships with other women are at least not unthinkable to them. On the one hand, the joking panders to male fans. But on the other hand, these women share a lifestyle and some social isolation. Why shouldn't they feel free to share more?

Ami and Pe are both emerging stars. After Renton, Pe has now taken over another role as a young boy: that of Souta in Otogijushi Akazukin, a long-running (and excellent) kids' show with a cast of top pros. And Ami has shown her extreme range recently by playing roles from the amazing Tenko in Kamisama Kazoku, to mannish Paraietta in Simoun, to the wise friend Kotomi in Asatte no Houkou, to Karen in Code Geass -- all with great success.

It must be a happy time for both of them. And their friendship is deep: in Ami's blog, in captions to pictures of Pe, you see the phrases "love, love, kiss, kiss" and (in English) "I love you, my wife."

websites (all in Japanese):
Anispa radio
Amisketch (Koshimizu Ami's blog)
Yukobako (Sanpei Yuuko's blog)
Kamosan no Rakugaki Chou
(Nazuka Kaori's blog)

Lesbian Seiyuu Research
A Gentleman with Wild Ideas about Yuri and Lesbian Seiyuu
Yuri Seiyuu - FC2 Blog
Yuri-Lesbian Seiyuu Image Board (has relationship map)
2channel Lesbian Seiyuu current thread
Yuri Seiyuu News (Blog 360)
Yuri Seiyuu News

Seiyuu Watch (general seiyuu news)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Nodame Cantabile - Characters and Voices (w/photos)

On the basis of one episode, Nodame Cantabile is clearly the best show of the new season, and a worthy successor to Honey & Clover in the Thursday Night Noitamina time-slot on Fuji TV.

It has the same director as Honey & Clover, Kasai Kenichi, and is animated by the same studio, J.C. Staff. And it is based on a highly popular manga for young women, as H&C was. Not only that, but it stars two of the biggest names in voice-acting: Kawasumi Ayako (Lafiel in Crest of Stars, etc.) and Seki Tomokazu (Sousuke in Full Metal Panic, etc.) Boy, did they deliver in the first episode. This is a romantic comedy based in the world of classical music, and their performance was like a duet by two great soloists.

I have made a page showing photos of the main seiyuus and their characters. I'll fill in more photos of the characters as they appear:

The anime version, as everyone knows by now, was preceded by a popular TV drama series that just ended its run. I loved that show, but on the basis of this first episode, I think I may love the anime even more. The look of the characters here is, of course, much closer to the manga, and really works better with the story than the live actors did, excellent as they were. And some of the manga humor -- such as the cartoon violence -- always jarred for me in live action. I look forward to following this show through its 23-week run.

The show certainly has a good staff. The sound director, who is usually the one working most closely with the actors, is Aketagawa Jin, who did Honey & Clover, Noein, Uta!Kata, et al. And the screenplay is by Konparu Tomoko, who was involved in Brother Dear Brother, Urusei Yatsura, and the very successful adaptation of NANA. And there's one quite intriguing credit: Tanaka Rie, the seiyuu who just finished a triumphant performance as the heroine in Hataraki Man, is credited as being responsible for some aspect of sound production. I hope I can find out what this means. Can there be another Tanaka Rie (who writes her name exactly the same way)?

The only thing I was worried
about before Nodame Cantabile began was whether the two stars could play these particular characters. I needn't have worried. They are note-perfect.

Manabi Straight - Characters and Seiyuus, w/pictures

With episode 2, I have been officially captivated by the new show Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight. At the end of the show, I had tears in my eyes: tears of sympathy and pleasure. To keep track of the characters and seiyuus, I've made a page showing pictures of the characters and their seiyuus, with links to information about each seiyuu.

After one episode, Nodame Cantabile is clearly the best show of the new season, and I'm enjoying Hidamari Sketch and (surprisingly) Kyoushiro to Towa no Sora. But I don't think I've ever seen a show cuter than Manabi Straight. With episode 2, in particular, the cuteness is industrial strength. The show's combination of heartwarming and moe verges on nuclear fusion.

The animation is outstanding throughout, and particularly in the OP. The music is great. The story is positive and inspiring, at least so far. And the voice-acting is sheer excellence. Of course, with Horie Yui as the star, what do you expect? But Hirano Aya has developed a new modality of tsundere for her character -- both tsun and heartbreakingly dere -- and Nonaka Ai, Inoue Marina, and Fujita Saki are all extremely effective.