Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Suzumiya Haruhi Live Event a Big Hit

Some people described it as the best anime live event they had ever attended. It was the long-awaited Suzumiya Haruhi no Gekisou 涼宮ハルヒの激奏 show last Sunday, featuring the entire main cast of Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, and especially the SOS-dan: Hirano Aya (Haruhi), Gotou Yuuko (Mikuru), Chihara Minori (Yuki), Sugita Tomokazu (Kyon) and Ono Daisuke (Itsuki).

The first hour and a half was a series of skits and talk, and the final two hours was a full-blown concert, with 17 songs by various members of the cast, including five solos by Hirano Aya, two each by Gotou Yuuko and Chihara Minori, Hirano and Chihara playing guitar, and the ED song and dance performed by the three women and by the full SOS-dan.

Above (l-r): Aya practicing guitar with "ENOZ," her back-up band on God Knows and Lost My Music, late at night after a voice-recording session; she says it was hard, but she wanted to do it. Rehearsal and costume-fitting the week before the event, showing Gotou Yuuko à la meido, Hirano Aya in aqua, Chihara Minori in violet, Sugita Tomokazu in shorts, and Ono Daisuke (?) in jeans. Aya during final rehearsal, the morning of the performance. (click photos to enlarge)

Pictures or videos of the event itself have still not shown up in cyberspace. The audience was asked not to shoot the performances, and they apparently didn't. But audio files are floating around the Net, and various performers' blogs have included photos shot before and/or after the event. Aaya, Gotouza-sama and Minorin have all posted about the show.

Sugita Tomokazu, Shiraishi Minoru (Taniguchi, but cosplaying Haruhi) and Ono Daisuke. Sugita in another costume, for one of the skits in the first part of the show, which made references to various anime. Chihara Minori and Gotou Yuuko looking at the stage lighting before the show.

Gotouza-sama's post-show blog entry was vivid and literate, as usual. She said that she was still in a daze, that the warmth the audience expressed toward the performers made her so happy. She loved the feeling of opening the show with "Mikuru Densetsu" to such an enthusiastic reception. The huge applause when the three SOS-dan women were elevated up from the basement to the stage to perform "Hare Hare Yukai" just shook the building, she wrote. And the great roar at the end of the encore made her weak in the knees. Standing with the four other members of the SOS-dan, bathed in the warm feelings of the audience, she just wanted to stay there forever.

Aoki Sayaka (Kyon's imouto) with Gotou Yuuko. Two shots of Chihara Minori, Hirano Aya, and Gotou Yuuko, at the end of the show, after doing four numbers straight, including their show-stopping performances of "Hare Hare Yukai." At the end of the show, with everyone gathered on stage, Aya was nowhere to be found. Matsuoka Yuki (Tsuruya-san) went and found her weeping uncontrollably, with excitement and relief, after the end of her last number. There is an amazing recording around of her weeping. The scene was comparable to the video of her last spring, weeping at the great reception she got in a much smaller live event. As I said then, Hirano Aya has something of the emotional intensity and fragility of a Judy Garland. She seems to put everything she has into her performances.

Aya in the rocker outfit she wore to do "God Knows" and "Lost My Music." "The outfits just get cooler and cooler," she wrote in her blog; note the writing on her hand, perhaps lyrics or script. Aya with Matsuoka Yuki (Tsuruya-san). Aya holding the pick she was given by Yamaguchi Kappei on the set of Eyeshield 21 on Monday, to replace the one she broke during her performance. She said that in the morning rehearsal she broke the nail on her left index finger (note the bandage) and cut the base of the nail on her right index finger. Then in the performance itself, she broke her pick and a strap on her outfit.

One of the things most commented on in Japanese forums was the fact that the audience saw a lot of panty during Aya's dancing, with her short skirts and frantic movements. First white and then aqua, said a poster on 2channel. This was not accidental, I'm sure, but part of Aya's stated goal of becoming sexier this year, now that she is 19.

Hirano Aya with Noizi Itou, the illustrator of the novels, and original character designer for Suzumiya Haruhi and for Shakugan no Shana. The two of them with Tanigawa Nagaru, the author of the Suzumiya Haruhi novels. Aya with Yamamoto Hiroshi, overall director of the series, creator of the "Hare Hare Yukai" ED, and director of Aya's new anime Lucky Star, which starts April 8.

The cover of the DVD of the show, release date for which is not yet set. The entire cast.

One of the balls signed by the cast at the end of the show and thrown out into the crowd. This one is signed: "Nagato Yuki - Minorin." A sign in the concert venue reading: "Don't use this toilet!"

One of the many bouquets of flowers sent to the cast and put on display in the lobby. Two of the many cosplayers -- including an entire troupe of bunny girls from Kyushu -- who came to the show.

Set list for the concert that formed the second half of the event. Comments from the wiki:

1. Koi no Mikuru Densetsu -- Asahina Mikuru (Gotou Yuuko)
2. Bouken Desho Desho? -- Suzumiya Haruhi (Hirano Aya)
3. Kazeyomi Ribbon -- Suzumiya Haruhi (Hirano Aya)
4. Yuki, Muon, Madobe ni te -- Nagato Yuki (Chihara Minori, singing and playing guitar)
5. SELECT? -- Nagato Yuki (Chihara Minori)
6. Parallel Days -- Suzumiya Haruhi (Hirano Aya)
7. Mitsukete Happy Life -- Asahina Mikuru (Gotou Yuuko)
8. Seishun Ii Ja Nai Ka? -- Tsuruya-san (Matsuoka Yuki)
9. COOL EDITION -- Asakura Ryouko (Kuwatani Natsuko)
10. God Knows -- Suzumiya Haruhi (Hirano Aya) singing and playing guitar.
-- Hirano introduces back-up band ENOZ, who played on Sound Around CD.
11. Lost My Music -- Suzumiya Haruhi (Hirano Aya) singing and playing guitar.
12. Maggare↓Spectacle -- Koizumi Itsuki + Kyon (Ono Daisuke + Sugita Tomokazu).
-- They dance with dancers, and there is comic repartee between Kyon and Haruhi.
13. Kentai Life Returns -- Kyon, with Haruhi (Sugita Tomokazu, with Hirano Aya)
-- Kyon ends piece with a devilish laugh.
-- Comic repartee among Sugita, Ono, and Shiraishi Minoru (Taniguchi) dressed as Haruhi.
14. Saikyou Pare Parade -- Haruhi, Yuki, and Mikuru (Hirano Aya, Chihara Minori, Gotou Yuuko)
15. Welcome Unknown -- Haruhi, Yuki, and Mikuru (Hirano Aya, Chihara Minori, Gotou Yuuko)
16. Hare Hare Yukai -- Haruhi, Yuki, and Mikuru (Hirano Aya, Chihara Minori, Gotou Yuuko).
-- Full dance version. Brings the house down.
17. Encore: Hare Hare Yukai, TV length -- Haruhi, Yuki, and Mikuru (Hirano Aya, Chihara Minori, Gotou Yuuko).
-- Hirano solo, with entire SOS-Dan dancing with ED on screen.
-- Matsuoka Yuki introduces all but Hirano, then hands it over to Sugita Tomokazu while she goes to look for Hirano.
-- Everyone says thank you and good-bye, then Hirano shows up, weeping, and is helped along by Sugita and Gotou, as she says a heartfelt thanks through her tears.
-- The cast members sign balls and throw them out into the audience.
-- Hirano makes the announcements ("Please be careful as you go, and don't leave anything behind," etc.) as people are leaving. Applause.

Performers: Hirano Aya (Suzumiya Haruhi), Gotou Yuuko (Asahina Mikuru), Chihara Minori (Nagato Yuki), Sugita Tomokazu (Kyon), Ono Daisuke (Koizimi Itsuki), Matsuoka Yuki (Tsuruya-san), Kuwatani Natsuko (Asakura Ryouko), Shiratori Yuri (Kimidori Emiri), Aoki Sayaka (Kyon's sister), Shiraishi Minoru (Taniguchi), Matsumoto Megumi (Kunikida).

The concert was held Sunday 18 March in the Great Hall at Omiya Sonic City. Doors opened at 3 pm, the show was scheduled to start at 4 pm but was a few minutes late, there was a 30-minute intermission and the show ended just after 8 pm. Info for this post came from posts on 2channel, Japanese blogs, eggplant's great post on AnimeSuki, performers' blogs, and the Japanese Wiki for the show. There was talk during the show of wanting to do another one, and there are rumors of a possible future show in the Kansai (Kyoto-Osaka) region.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More Controversy for Yukana

the foxy YukanaYukana has had to leave the cast of the upcoming anime Touka Gettan, apparently because her schedule had been double booked. Yukana is a controversial figure, having been accused of various misdeeds and having left more than one agency, so unfortunately this just adds to her reputation for being a dangerous person to cast. (mouseover photos for captions)

Her agency, Sigma Seven, made a statement taking full responsibility for their "ineptitude" and apologizing profusely. They only discovered the problem after episode one had been recorded, the statement said, and only made the move after full discussion with "all concerned."

The excellent Itou Miki (Sachiko in Maria-sama ga Miteru, Fuji-nee in Fate/Stay Night, Asa in Shuffle!) will take over her role of Yumiko, the hero (heroine?) Touka's beautiful young mother, a role which is billed third, after the two stars. Itou-san is not represented by Sigma Seven.

This coming season, Yukana is just finishing a major role as C.C. in Code Geass, and has new minor roles in Nanoha StrikerS, Toward the Terra, and Idolmaster Xenoglossia. It appears the conflict must just have to do with when recording sessions are scheduled, or may concern something coming up in the summer. Touka Gettan appears to be a 13-episode series, but perhaps it's longer and would affect work during the summer. Comments on 2channel suggest that the story is such that it may not be necessary to re-record episode one. The whole affair does seem odd, especially considering that Sigma Seven is a top agency, and could be presumed to be quite professional.

Controversy has swirled around Yukana for years. She is apparently not the easiest person to get along with, and has quit a couple of agencies when she thought they were not doing what she wanted. In 2000, she was accused of having ruined one sound director's marriage. From her photos one can see how this might happen. As a comment on 2channel put it, she has a strong erotic aura. Some people say that in fact the sound director in question was a bachelor, so who knows what actually happened. She took six months off to go and do English study in the US, then returned and changed her stage name from Nogami Yukana to just Yukana.

Yukana having tea and pudding with Koshimizu Ami, from Ami's blog March 18Then in 2004 she was chosen to play Four Murasame in the new Zeta Gundam movie, and the older seiyuu who had played the role in the '80s (Shimazu Saeko) went ballistic, covering her home page with closely-argued tirades against the sound director who had chosen Yukana.

The rumor was that Yukana had got the role because of a physical relationship with the sound director. Gundam fans sided with the previous seiyuu and although their ire was against the sound director, Yukana was tarnished. The "anti-" Yukana thread on 2channel still has the subheading "pillow work" which is a Japanese expression similar to "casting couch." (Most top seiyuus have "anti-" threads on 2channel.) There's a link in Yukana's entry in the Hashihime Seiyuu Gallery to a Japanese site about the controversy.

But Yukana remains in my opinion one of the outstanding female seiyuus. Her voice has rare intensity and flexibility, and she can fill it with seductive power. Directors appear to agree, since she keeps getting excellent roles. She was Mashiro in Mai-Otome, Tessa in Full Metal Panic, Dominura in Simoun, Lottie in Soukou no Strain, and is C.C. in Code Geass. Personally, I will watch some of any show she is in.