Friday, April 27, 2007

Hirano Aya and NANA

Layla in NANA was Hirano Aya's best performance so far. She broke my heart almost every time she spoke.

Layla is a strange, sad creature. The beautiful lead singer of the fabulously popular band Trapnest, but deeply lonely and insecure. We first meet her when she has called in a young male prostitute to her hotel room. As the series progresses, she and he become true lovers, as opposed to client and provider. But dark clouds hang over their relationship: first that she has long been in love with someone else. Second that he is in a band that has a complex rivalry with hers. (click photos to enlarge)

In an early interview, Aya read some of Layla's lines from the manga, to show how she was going to approach the role. She had said elsewhere that she had trouble figuring it out so had decided to just do it straight. But her version of "straight" was a haunting breathy delicacy that goes straight to the heart. And it shocks the interviewers by being so different from her own speaking voice. In the rest of the clip, they talk about how the 18-year-old won the role over 500 others, and show the throat spray, nasal spray and throat lozenges she has in her bag. And Aya says that one of the hardest parts of voice-acting is when you're hungry and your stomach rumbles, but you just have to bear it and grab some snacks. There's a brief bit of Layla speaking in the show, in this clip.

I won't claim Aya's is the most naturalistic acting, but it has the power to generate exactly the right emotions for the part.

The cast and staff of NANA had their wrap-up party recently, and Aya had photos from it on her blog. First, here's a photo of some members of the cast: (l-r) Naoki (Katsu Anri), Ren (Kiuchi Hidenobu), Nana O. (Paku Romi), Layla (Hirano Aya), Misato (Kanai Mika). Photo by Yasu (Kawahara Yoshihisa). Has someone spilled red wine on Ren's shirt?

And here are (l-r) Paku Romi and Aya, and the wrap-up party cake. The Japanese on the cake says "NTV," the network that broadcast the show.

In Aya's caption to the photo of her with Paku Romi, she says: "I love Paku-san! I want her to be my big sister! I want her to be my boyfriend!" Even I am not gullible enough to believe there is anything in this except a great liking for the cool, strong, kind, and talented Romi. Kugimiya Rie once said that she loved going over to her "big sister" Romi's place to be fed her home cooking, have a bath, and sleep over.

In her caption to the cake photo, Aya says that no-one could believe it was over. They were together for a whole year. Even though she only joined the cast partway through, they made her feel like one of them, a real character in the show, and it was a lot of fun. Aya is the youngest main seiyuu in the largely quite experienced cast.

Aya said she hoped there would be a second season, so I guess she has inside information that it is being considered. And why wouldn't it be, considering the great popularity of the franchise and the fabulous ratings the show got over the year.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hirano Aya Interview on NHK

Wednesday night, Hirano Aya 平野綾 was the guest on the new "Anime Giga" interview show on NHK's BS2 satellite channel. For 40 minutes, Aya talked with the two interviewers and did readings. If I didn't like her before, I sure would now. She came across as a rather serious, fairly intelligent, somewhat insecure person with great skills.

And her outfit was remarkable, not least for some of the most absolute "absolute territory" I have ever seen. "Absolute territory" (zettai ryouiki) is the few inches of bare leg between the top of long stockings and the hem of a short skirt. The outfit, a colorful checked suit with a mini-skirt and dark stockings, was by the English doyenne of punk high-fashion, Vivienne Westwood, who appears to be madly popular in Japan. Aya always wears a tubular Vivienne ring. (click photos to enlarge)

One of the most interesting parts of the show was a mock recording session in which you saw Aya doing Haruhi's voice in scenes from Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. The interviewers were impressed by her vocal and emotional range. I was impressed by the professional way she slipped in the heavy breathing when Haruhi was running up and down stairs, and by the facial expressions she seemed to naturally generate to accompany the voice. The interviewer quoted someone saying that Hirano had enough vocal range that even when she screamed, her voice didn't crack.

Aya also read from an illustrated book that was one of those she used as a teenager to practice her vocal skills and reading. The book was Prototype Myth (試作品神話 Shisakuhin Shinwa) by Ootsuka Eiji 大塚英志. She said that she read a lot as a teen, partly to make it easier to read scripts, and learned a lot of kanji.

They showed a clip of her in her first role, as Monkey Momo in Tenshi no Shippo, at 13, and a clip of her as Lumiere in Kiddy Grade. The interviewers were blown away by how adult her voice sounded at that young age. Aya said that it did give her a bit of a complex, since she had that voice, yet was particularly baby-faced.

Perhaps that helps explain why she puts on a pretty high voice normally now, especially at the beginning of interviews like this one. Her voice dropped an octave after the first few minutes of the interview. When she was introduced, she burst in with a fake super-genki stiffness and a burikko high voice, the way I've seen her do for less serious interview shows. Although she definitely seems like a tense, high-strung person, she settled into something that seemed almost real as she answered the intellectual-seeming male interviewer's questions. The interviewer was Watanabe Takashi, former editor of NewType and producer of the award-winning 2006 feature-length anime Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo.

Being on NHK was clearly a big deal for her. She has been talking about it for weeks on her blog. She has also got a gig as narrator on an NHK educational program about the human body, and she has regaled us with shots of food from the NHK cafeteria, which she said was delicious, and with a shot of a poster advertising this show in one of the elevators in the building.

Aya said that getting the role of Haruhi seemed to awaken a lot of power in her somehow. She said that every role seems to bring something new out of her that she didn't know was there. But a role like Haruhi, so much the main role that the show is named after her, made her feel a lot of pressure. When she was younger, she felt no pressure and just enjoyed the work, but now she feels more responsibility.

No wonder she felt pleased to get this interview. She is in some great company. The show is a feature broadcast that airs every month or so, and its next guest is Kon Satoshi 今敏, the director of Millennium Actress, Paranoia Agent, and Paprika.

She does seem to me like a good fit with the public broadcaster. It disappointed otaku and probably pissed off a few seiyuu when she was rumored to have said that she wouldn't do ero-games, that she had too much self-respect. And she probably disappointed otaku in this show when, in answer to a question sent in by fans about what kind of guy she liked, she said "one who looks good in a suit." But we saw a room full of otaku cheering her as she got on stage at the Kiddy Grade movie premiere a few weeks ago.

The show's web site apparently received a huge number of messages with questions for her. The second question they asked was which foreign country she wanted to visit. Aya said she's had Egyptomania since she was little and would like to see the ancient sites there. I don't think she's above putting on a good front, but she has mentioned this before on her blog, so I think it's true.

I'll add a few recent photos. The first is an animated gif from 2channel of the Galaxy Angel Brigade show a couple of months ago, in which she showed the rocker side that she didn't show on NHK. I think she's more a wannabe rocker than a real one. Avril Lavigne is one of her favorites. But she can sure put on a good show. The other shots are from her blog. (click photos to enlarge, and to run animated gif)

More of the goth photos on Anime Desho Desho and lots more photos of all kinds on Aya's own blog. There's a video on YouTube of the photo session from which the last photo comes, and in which she poses both as angel and as devil.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hitohira 05

The best episode yet. I only get this full, emotional feeling in my chest from the best shows: Simoun, NANA, Bokura ga Ita. If this keeps on, Hitohira may be on its way to joining them at the top of the list.

Great direction, pacing, and use of music, sounds and silence. And fine voice acting, not only from Kawasumi Ayako (Nono) and Kimoto Orie (Mugi), but from everyone. Katsuragi (Narita Ken) was great in this episode. And the unique, somewhat harsh tones of Risaki (Hikami Kyouko, who played Rabi-en-Rose in Di Gi Charat, and Momoko in Wedding Peach) showed their worth.

This is also the "beach episode" with the least fanservice I've ever seen. Not that I object to that, but this episode made such great use of the setting even without it.

All that and one of the subtlest, sweetest anime confessions yet. Summary begins after the first set of pictures.

The Drama Study Group is on its way to a sleepover and practice session at the seaside. Chitose longs to join them, imagining fun in the sun with Katsuragi-sempai. But Drama Club president Sakaki-san is there to drag her away to a hot practice on the school roof.

At the seaside, it's all work and no play. Nono has the troops lined up practicing enunciation. Back home, Mugi's friend Kayo is enjoying her photography and thinking encouraging thoughts toward Mugi. Meanwhile at the beach, Mugi is enjoying working with the group to make a meal of curry. Nono breaks the mood by saying that they will meet for practice after dinner. Mugi thought the seaside would be more fun.

Chitose drags herself through the school halls after practice, and Sakaki upbraids her, saying she can't appear on stage like that. Then Sakaki surprisingly tells Chitose she is to have a major role in their play, as Sakaki's sister, and she should not betray Sakjaki's hopes for her. Chitose brightens up.

At the beach, Nono is putting her club through its paces. She has them hold their breath under water, to improve their lung capacity. Katsuragi says this is hard after eating curry. Risaki says it's no fun. Nono tells them not to complain, and to do it again. Risaki asks why Nono isn't doing it, and suggests it's because she's scared of the water. Nono immediately plunges in and swims strongly into the distance. Katsuragi tells Kai and Mugi: never get her mad.

Back in town, as evening falls, Kayo is looking through her photos, especially enjoying one of Mugi. And Chitose is thinking of the seaside, but has been reading through her script.

After dinner at the seaside, Nono asks the club if they liked the script she wrote, which is called "Hitohira." They all liked it. It is about a high school girl who is so depressed by her troubles that she even tries to commit suicide. But three fairies appear to her. She tries to drive them away, but they enable her to revive a love she had given up on. On the day she achieves her happiness, they disappear. She says to them: Thank you. If not for you, I would never.... Mugi is moved by the story, and imagines how well Nono will play the lead.

Then Nono tells her that she, Mugi, will be playing the lead, that she wrote the part for her, and that the other characters were written to suit the other members of the club: she and Risaki and Katsuragi are the fairies, and Kai is the lover. Katsuragi thinks: Nono has very few lines. Is she worried about her condition?

Mugi says she can't do it. Nono says not to give up before she begins. Mugi seeks the support of the others. Risaki says that although she agrees she doesn't have enough experience, if Nono has made the part for her, she should be able to play it. Kai says that when the fairies are flying all around her, the character is just like Mugi. Risaki says all she has to do is memorize the script. Nono says that it wouldn't matter which part she played, it would be the same. Mugi thinks: But I don't want to be an actor.

They are reading through the script, and Mugi's line is to the effect that she can't do something. She says it quietly and haltingly, but Risaki says how well she said it, just as if it were real. Nono says she should just speak louder.

Katsuragi asks Nono to step outside. K: It's nice and cool out here. N: I know what you're going to say, so make it brief. K: I was going to ask you for a date. N: We don't have time to kid around. K: This is too much for Mugi. She'll break under the pressure. N: She can do it. I've decided. K: Okay, I'll help. But don't push her too hard. N: I won't.

They continue to practice. There is a bottle of cold mugi-cha (barley tea) on the table. Risaki goes through her lines mechanically and Nono gets angry and tells her to do it again with some feeling. Risaki says it's late and they should rest. Mugi says not until midnight.

Nono tells Mugi to read her lines again, in a louder voice. Nono: Don't make me say it again. I chose this out-of-the-way place for your sake, so you wouldn't be embarrassed. Mugi thinks: She's so harsh. What am I doing here? Katsuragi encourages her and says she has a great voice. Mugi: But what if I can't get it out when I'm on stage? Nono: That's why we're practicing. Maybe I'm being harsh, but try harder.

Mugi: I can try and try, but if I can't do it I can't do it. She says Nono can do anything and can't understand Mugi's feelings. "Can do anything?" says Nono. You don't know anything about me if you can say something like that. Mugi: I understand you. You are strong enough to start a club. You can write a script. When people who can do anything tell me to try harder....

Nono stands up angrily and throws her script on the floor: If you think like that you'll never be able to do anything. Okay, just quit drama. You can go home and be Asai Mugi, who can't do anything. Mugi accepts and thanks her formally for everything up to then and runs out. Risaki sends Kai after her.

Risaki says to Nono: What are you doing sending her out there in the dark? She'll get lost. Nono: She chose to go herself. It's her own weakness that's to blame. Risaki punches her to the floor. Katsuragi tells Risaki she gets angry too easily. Nono, from the floor, trips Risaki down and then they start fighting.

Out on the beach, Mugi is running, falls and hurts herself, cries, throws her script into the surf.

In the cabin, Risaki asks Nono what she thinks she's doing. Nono says that Mugi has to play that role. Risaki says: For whose sake? You're putting your own wishes on her and causing her a lot of trouble. This gives Nono pause. Risaki knocks her out, but as Nono is falling, her leg flies up and knocks Risaki out. Double knockout, says Katsuragi.

Kai finds Mugi and picks up her script. K: Let's go back. M: I can't. There's no place there for me. It's like Nono said. I can't do anything. I just get led into things. That's not so easy to change. Kai: I'm here. Mugi: It doesn't have anything to do with you. K: I can't let you go home alone. And anyway, don't say it has nothing to do with me. (That's the confession.)

Mugi: What am I doing here? Kai: Look up (at the stars). You can't see that from the city. Maybe that's why you're here.

Kai and Mugi return, Kai holding Mugi's hand. Katsuragi is waiting. He thanks Kai and welcomes Mugi back. Mugi apologizes for causing them worry. Katsuragi apologizes for not being able to support her better. Then he notices their hands and things: Ah, youth.

Back in the room, they are shocked to see the two women laid out. Kai: What's going on? Katsuragi: In early times, women were tough. Then they set to work tidying up around the fallen bodies. They turn out the lights. Nono awakens enough to hear Mugi's voice. She thinks of what Risaki said: For whose sake? Then goes back to sleep.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Touka Gettan -- English wiki

Thinking we can probably take what we learn from the Japanese wiki and improve on it, I have made an English wiki for Touka Gettan.

This alpha version includes the following pages translated from the Japanese wiki:
  • Characters
  • Episode 3
  • Episode 4
The characters page is particularly fruitful, with lots of facts and speculations that help make things clearer. Not absolutely clear, of course, but clearer.

The episode 4 page is almost like a summary of the episode, and could be used to help follow a raw.

This is just a test. I can't guarantee I will update the episode summaries past episode 5. We'll see how it works and whether people find it useful. In any case, it's an open wiki for fans to work on and improve.

I just thought this might be a place to collate the facts we glean and the things we discuss on AnimeSuki, and help us keep things straight. Touka Gettan is nothing if not complicated and mysterious.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Touka Gettan 03 -- Japanese wiki

There is a Japanese wiki for Touka Gettan which collates information about the show, including a run-through of each episode, as well as details about the characters, links to other sites, etc. I thought I'd translate the wiki for episode 3. It may not be as useful as I thought -- and it is definitely more work than I expected -- so I may not do others. But here it is.

Up to episode 3, this show just gets better and better. Unique and fascinating. Episode 4 aired a few hours ago.

→inference, question, etc.
+++ hashihime

――two days before the concert ――

SCENE1 night Yumiko’s room
Yumiko is sleeping. Nene arranges her covers.

SCENE2 night Kamiazuma house
Touka sitting in his room.
"The memories in the sword really looked and felt like my own experiences."
→Is he denying that he is Isamihiko?

Memory 1
Touka with the Sword, and a strange expression on his face.

Subtitle "Sword"

SCENE2 continued Night Kamiazuma house, under the eaves facing a pond
Touka worried.
”What should I do?”
The three sisters fly around Touka as butterflies, teasing him.

Memory 2 (fragments, apparently in reverse time order)
6.Girl with twin ponytails in a field

→because of the sound when the scene changes, this probably follows all the other memory scenes
5.White sleeve with an unpainted girl doll on the red sword
→birth of the present Touka?
→did the girl with the ponytails put it there?
4.Girl with twin ponytails in front of a burning building. In her hand is the blossoming sword.
3.Girl with twin ponytails and sword pushes Haruhiko down (?)
2.Twintail girl goes close to Haruhiko and says: “If I get the sword, Haruhiko, I’m going to cut you first.”
1.Twintail girl with Yumiko:
”I want the sword. Where is it?”

SCENE 3 night Yumiko’s room
Yumiko, sitting up quickly: “Touka-chan was different in my dream. He was a little girl. Little…

→ different in age? In gender?
”It’s okay, Yumiko-sama.”
→Are Yumiko and Yuriko combined? (Up to now, Nene has called her Yumiko.)

→is Juna possessing her, or gone?
→does the real Yumiko realize Touka is a boy?

Memory 3(also in reverse order?)
7.Kikyou at a ceremony to purify the sword (older than in 6?)

6.Kikyou at the ceremony to purify the sword (same place as 5?)
→ is she the sword’s keeper?
5.Beginning of the sword purification
→ for sealing up the sword?
4.Juna shoots out some kind of blue energy. Sei (Momoka) protects with pink energy.
Juna is defeated and Fuu cries out “Onee-sama!”
→is Juna also strangely bewitched with the sword?

→does she hate Sei for bewitching her brother?
3.Juna before the sword. She looks strange.
2.Isamihiko kills a lot of people with the sword
→although the torches are the same as 1, the dead are not soldiers. A different scene?
Fuu, Sei, and Juna are afraid. The sword is glittering. Fuu and Sei call out “Isamihiko-sama!” and Juna “Elder brother!”
→Isamihiko disappears?
1.Isamihiko offers the sword to a masked man in a military encampment. Sei is next to the masked man. Juna and Fuu have secret expressions. The masked man pulls Sei closer to him. Isamihiko grabs the sword and brandishes it, scaring the soldiers around him
the sword gives off light that cracks the mask

SCENE4 night Touka
“Please save Isamihiko!”

”What a joke. That’s just too much.”
→he is indeed denying that he is Isamihiko
Touka crawls into Makoto’s bed
→a mistake because he is so tired?

SCENE5 night 10pm Momoka’s room・Makoto’s room
Momoka puts a dictionary on her cup-ramen.

called by Makjoto’s cries, Momoka beats up Touka

SCENE6 night 10pm Haruhiko’s room
Haruhiko sitting on his bed.

SCENE7 night Yumiko’s room
Touka and Yumiko playing around together


――day before the song festival――

SCENE8 morning entrance to Kamiazuma house?
Conversation about invisible stars between Touka in ordinary clothes and Haruhiko in school uniform

Makoto on her way to school

SCENE9 noon
Momoka and Makoto eating lunch

Momoka: “What if we were to part?”
Makoto: “No, no, no.”

SCENE10 evening Kamiazuma house
Touka alone in his room

→Touka didn’t go to school that day?

Yuurika imprisoned by a spirit barrier

SCENE12 evening
The Ninoimiya sisters enjoying tea

”This year’s song festival will be different.”
”But we will be the same.”
→their disappearance was not their idea?

SCENE10 continued
“Please save Isamihiko.”
“Does that mean it’s time?”

Kikyou appears before Touka
“Man’s consciousness, the power of the spirit, man’s powers of concentration – how many huydreds of years can they be maintained? Do you know?”

”To maintain it for so long, how much will the human heart weaken? Do you know?”
→What about Kikyou herself?

SCENE12 evening roof
Kikyou appears before Makoto

”Tomorrow’s song festival is supposed to be the last.”
”You should release the full power of the dragon within you. I will support you.”
++she did, standing there flaming along with Makoto in the hall in ep1

SCENE13 evening path home
Momoka is in distress.
Sei’s image and Momoka’s.
“It cannot go on
→what can’t?

SCENE12 continued
As Makoto practices, the dragon glows, and Yuurika’s barrier opens.

Yuurika realizes the barrier is down and escapes

SCENE15 evening
Ninomiya sisters looking at cherry trees

Shouko drives a green sports car (license plate MAKO).
When she takes her glasses off, her attitude changes:

”About the 20% reduction in the student council estimates for the coming year…”
→Shouko is on the student council?
Yuurika passes by
”What?” “My goodness!”
”Isn’t that the beautiful monster you captured?”
→it was the Ninomiya sisters who imprisoned Yuurika

SCENE16 night
Touka is still sitting there

He remembers his conversation with Kikyou
“I will soon take a long sleep. I want to sleep.”

SCENE17 night 
Yumiko’s room Nene peeling garlic

→for protection against Juna?
She calls Yumiko Yumiko
→because Juna isn’t there?

SCENE18 night
Fuu (green) and Juna (blue) radiating light.

Fuu is in front of a torii (not the dance pavilion)

SCENE16 continued
Touka decides

SCENE19 night bath
Makoto thinks of Momoka

”I’m sorry, Momo-sempai. But it is what you want. ”
→How does she know what Momoka wants? Did Kikyou tell her?

SCENE20 night outdoor passageway
Touka and Momoka pass. Yuurika is watching.
“If I pretend I’m just kidding, can I hug you?”
→what is the barrier between them?

”I couldn’t come to Kinomiya, but if we meet again, I’m going to kiss you.”
→last scene of ep1
Yuurika shows herself
”What are you doing here?”
”It’s because I hate you.”
→does this have anything do do with Yuurika’s imprisonment?
Yuurika attacks Momoka, who responds with a blast of energy
→the same energy with which Sei responded to Juna’s attack?
The butterfly sisters (Ninomiya) appear
”I’ll get Nene to make me some ramen.”
→the garlic ramen from episode 2