Saturday, February 03, 2007

February New Anime

The new season started at the beginning of January, but there is a surprising number of new series and OVAs appearing now in February.

The most interesting one for me is the first episode of the three-episode Ichigo Mashimaro OVA. There is lots of manga available to create stories from, and I except more of the hilarious, yet deep and humane humor that the original series gave us in 2005. One of the best ensemble casts in all anime: Nabatame Hitomi, Orikasa Fumiko (who is a comic revelation as Miu), Chiba Saeko, Noto Mamiko, and Kawasumi Ayako. Released 23 Feb.

As for the others, I just don't know. The new series are: Kemono Soukikou Dancouga Nova, Yes! Pretty Cure 5, Naruto Shippuuden, Rocket Girl, and Ikkitousen Dragon Destiny. The OVAs are: Okane ga Nai, Fist of the North Star - The Legend of Toki, Fuyu no Semi, and To Heart 2 OVA. And ep2 of the Genshiken OVA and ep3 of Baldr Force Exe Resolution will be released. JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, is a movie.

Not being much of an expert on mecha, I can't say evaluate the Dancouga Nova designs, but they are designed, and the show is directed, by the same person who did the Gravion animes and Fatal Fury. I can say that the VA cast looks great: Kuwashima Houko, Tai Yuuki, Ikezawa Haruna (Marimite/Yoshino), Gotou Saori, Fujiwara Keiji, Wakamoto Norio. It starts on 15 Feb and airs at 10:30 pm Thursdays.

Yes! Pretty Cure 5 is a show for children, but the thing that will get me to watch one episode is the presence of the excellent voice of 20-year-old Sanpei Yuuko, who is rocketing to prominence after her role as Renton in Eureka7. She has recently taken over as Souta in Otogijushi Akazukin. It will be good to hear her do a female role. 8:30 Sundays, starting 4 Feb.

Naruto Shippuuden is the latest series in that franchise, and bills itself as showing that Naruto has changed. 7:30 Thursdays, starting 15 Feb.

Rocket Girl is about a girl who is chosen to be an astronaut because she is small and light. This is the director's first series, and the show is from a light novel published in the 90s. The presence of VAs Nabatame Hitomi and Sendai Eri means that I will definitely give it a chance. Midnight Wednesday, starting 21 Feb. Replaces Soukou no Strain, which ends the week before.

Ikkitousen - Dragon Destiny continues the story of the original Ikkitousen, apparently with even more fanservice. The story is of three high schools fighting for supremacy, literally. They are named for the Three Kingdoms of Chinese history, and there are repeated slight parallels with that story. Once again, the cast looks great: Nabatame Hitomi, Asano Masumi, Chihara Minori, Kadowaki Mai, Shindou Kei, Kaida Yuko, Hina Satoshi, Inoue Kikuko. Naba-sama and Masumin are two of the most professional VAs of all. I am thrilled to see them headlining a show together. They do the show's radio program. Show airs 7:30 Mondays, starting 26 Feb.

Okane ga Nai is a boys'-love one-ep OVA that has had its date shifted back from January to Feb 9. Fukuyama Jun is bought by Kosugi Juurota (Morcerf in Gankutsuou). This will work, lol. Released 9 Feb.

Fist of the North Star - The Legend of Toki. Great martial artist Kenshirou continues to try to bring justice to a land in chaos. Released 23 Feb.

Fuyu no Semi -- Winter Cicada -- appears to be Bakumatsu-era boys' love. Two friends are separated by being on opposite sides in the fight to overthrow the Shogunate and establish the new Imperial rule in the 1860s. Stars Miki Shinichirou and Morikawa Toshiyuki. Released 23 Feb.

ToHeart2 OVA. Released 28 Feb. A new director and a stripped-down cast make me think this could be yet another step down for a moe/harem title that wasn't that great to begin with. Released 28 Feb.

Genshiken has a lot going for it. Hopefully this second episode of the OVA will be as good as the first. It shows the lives of otaku in a college club called the "Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture." And has an excellent cast, including Kawasumi Ayako and Seki Tomokazu, the stars of Nodame Cantabile. Released 23 Feb.

Ep 3 of the four-episode OVA Baldr Force Exe - Resolution, will be released on 9 Feb. It's the story of intrigues among a terrorist group, the security forces, and the army, in a world divided into real and virtual realms, rather resembling the Matrix world.

The movie JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood will be released 17 February, covering the first arc of the classic manga, which involves intrigue, adventure, evil, and vampirism in Victorian-era Britain and Europe.

Cast, staff, and date/time details on my Winter 2007 Calendar.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Haruhi and Kyon -- Live Last Night

I thought I was done with Hirano Aya's blog, especially since she didn't update it at all for over 24 hours. Then I found out why: Kadokawa Shoten, the publishers of the Suzumiya Haruhi novels, had their annual private New Year's thank-you party on Wednesday night, and Kyon and Haruhi -- Sugita Tomokazu 杉田智和 and Hirano Aya 平野綾 -- were the star performers.

Below are the two of them together before the event. Aaya described Sugita as her osananajimi -- old childhood friend. Sugita is described in Wikipedia (Japanese) as being a very nice guy: extremely courteous, especially to women, and very good to his many friends. One thing the two of them clearly share: they are both quite slim. Aaya said she was very nervous, and her stomach was in knots, so script, water, juice and pills are scattered over the table. She practiced performing "Hare Hare Yukai" (the SHnY ED), which they did for the event (click photos to enlarge):

Here Aaya is nervously waiting in the wings while Sugita ad libs his way through a presentation. Then here they are with the author of the Suzumiya Haruhi novels, Tanigawa Nagaru (centre), and Itou Noizi, the original character designer and artist for the novels. Right, is Aaya with SHnY director Ishihara Tatsuya -- whom she calls "Tacchan," which may be an indication of his gentle managerial style. Why does Tanigawa look so happy? Perhaps it's because these people are making him rich.

Finally, here is a photo Aaya took of herself after the party, then a shot of her and Sugita and company doing a bit a performance, then a final farewell:

As Aaya kept repeating in the captions to this series of photos, this is like practice for the big live event in March. For details, here is the announcement in Japanese. It is going to be on Sunday 18 March starting at 4pm and going for three hours or so. It is in Saitama, at Omiya Sonic City Great Hall, which seats 2500. Present will be: Hirano Aya, Gotou Yuuko, Chihara Minori, Sugita Tomokazu, Ono Daisuke, Matsuoka Yuki (Tsuruya), Kuwatani Natsuko (Asakura), Aoki Sayaka (Kyon's sister), Shiraishi Minoru (Taniguchi), Shiratori Yuri (Emiri), and Matsumoto Megumi (Kunikida). It will, of course, be recorded for a future DVD, and there will be special goods for sale at the event. That's all I know, except that Aaya says they will have been working on it for three months when it happens.

As I believe I've mentioned, tickets have a face value of under $40, but are already going for over $500 on Yahoo Auctions in Japan.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hirano Aya's January

Hirano Aya 平野綾 has been posting several times a day to her blog through the month of January. With the drastic reduction in her live-event schedule that followed her breakdown last October, this is the way she is communicating with fans. And boy, is she communicating.

Like some other seiyuu blogs, hers is mainly a photo blog, featuring cell-phone snapshots. Also like other seiyuu blogs, there are shots of food when nothing else is available. But unlike some other blogs, there are many shots of herself. This could be a problem. They are far from the sort of publicity shots that a professional photographer would produce. The wide-angle keitai (cell phone) lens produces some weird effects.

And yet, as a form of publicity, this seems to be working. The thread about her on the Japanese board 2channel is roaring along at about a thousand posts a week. The passionate anime fans who post to that board have become passionate Aaya fans, it appears. The word kawaii (cute) appears over and over again. Fortunately for Aaya, even the weirdest photos -- like those of her looking like a drowned rat while she was getting her hair dyed -- still make her look, as they say on 2channel , "godly cute."

On New Year's Day, there were pics of her in a kimono, and on the 2nd a shot of a calligraphy scroll by her great-grandfather ("A fine air of sunny spring fills the room.")

Later in the week, she went to a temple, the Sensou-ji in Asakusa in Tokyo. She said what a wonderful atmosphere it had and lamented that the main hall was closed for repairs. She got a fortune that said she would only reach a great height by dint of hard effort. One poster on 2channel lamented that he was there that day, but not at the right time. Another said he thought he saw her, but wasn't sure until he saw the photos on her blog:

She went to karaoke on Sunday the 7th and was impressed by how much anime music they had. She sang the theme from Evangelion, and said that in junior high her nickname was Ayanami Rei. With the first broadcast of Manabi Straight, she showed a pic of her character, Mei, and said that tsundere were hard to play, and that it was especially hard to find the right degree of tsun for Mei. (I wondered at first, but after four episodes I think she has succeeded.)

She dyed her hair brown in November, and went back on January 10th to dye it a little redder. Incautiously, she posted a set of pictures showing it being dyed, wrapped in a towel "steaming" set, and then finished. She was able to be cute and amusing even in the guise of a drowned rat. Her finished hairstyle is made to hide her high forehead, which was fully on display during the process:

She had to spend a whole Sunday doing recording for a game, all alone in the studio. It was lonely and tiring. The little heart is a cue lamp:

Monday the 15th was recording for Eyeshield 21, in which she plays Mamori. She was back working with Nakagawa Shouko (Suzuna) and Irino Miyu (Sena). Yamaguchi Kappei (Raimon) is behind Irino's shoulder. Afterwards, she had a cat-like moment. She described herself as "Dora-neko" (Doraemon the cat). A poster on 2channel called her "Hirano Ayu," after someone else who likes taiyaki, Ayu in Kanon:

One Saturday, she practiced playing "God Knows" from Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu at home on the guitar. She said she had the ability to memorize things she liked quite quickly. There is going to be a big Suzumiya Haruhi live event and concert in March, with all the main seiyuus. Both she and Chihara Minori actually do play guitar, so perhaps they will do God Knows in concert together. Tickets for the concert are sold out. They have a face value of 4500 Yen (US$37) but are now going on Yahoo auctions for 66000 Yen ($540). Off to a recording session. And the proud possessor of a new passport:

She said she likes to play with the editing function on her cell-phone camera, and worked with a picture of her own eye. She did publicity shots for Death Note on the 24th and then recording on the 25th. Middle: "Is my belly getting big?" Right: she said it was great to be back with Saitou Kimiko (Remu), and that they left Light (Miyano Mamoru) out of it:

For some reason, she mused, she was wearing clothes that were like something Misa would wear (below left). Then on the 26th, after a recording session for Sumomo mo Momo mo, in which she plays Sanae, she ate with Miyazaki Ui (Iroha, left) and Kano Yui (Momoko). "After Ui left, we were like a couple of idiots:"

She caught her ring and gave herself a blood blister (below left). Last Saturday she had a photo session for Voice Newtype magazine. It involved getting on a horse for the first time. She wrote that she loved the horses, and envied one its long eyelashes:

And then on Monday there was a recording session for Manabi Straight. The seiyuus posed for each other's blogs in poses from the anime. Standing, l-r: Horie Yui (Manabi), Inoue Marina (Mutsuki), Aaya (Mei), Fujita Saki (Momoha). Hands, clockwise from front: Aaya, Yui, Saki, Marina. And after the recording was over and Aaya got home, she cleaned the bath, toilet and kitchen in succession (right):

So those are selections from the month in Hirano Aya's blog. It gives some idea of how busy a seiyuu's life can be. Aaya did over 60 live appearances last year, more than any other seiyuu. But she burned out and had to take November off. So this year, she has not done one live appearance yet. And there was no mention in her blog of the college courses she is supposed to be taking.

There are other blogs that are mainly photos, like Koshimizu Ami's or Kano Yui's, but none I know of is as prolific as Aaya's is right now. And there are blogs that contain more prose, like those of Gotou Yuuko and Asano Masumi, who actually write well. Those are harder for me to cover, but I'll try to get to one or two of those in the future.