Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hitohira 09

This may have been the best episode yet. It was beautifully directed, storyboarded, and animated, in my opinion. The music was used very well, and the camera angles and movement were lovely. And so was the emotional story.

The episode director turns out to have been the director of four InuYasha movies, as well as of episodes of Oniisama-e and Samurai Deeper Kyo: Shinohara Toshiya. The storyboard was by Yabuki Tsutomu, director of the current shows Keitai Shoujo and Kono Aozora ni Yakusoku wo. Animation supervisor was Nagaya Yuriko, who has done other episodes of this show, as well as of PetoPeto-san, and did key animation on Bottle Fairy. The animation had a special sharpness this time, it seemed to me, while still not straying from the model.

We pan over Kayo's photos of Mugi, Chitose, Nono, et al., displayed during the school festival. Mirei's voice says: Nono, is this the miracle you have left behind? Great power and great support come together in this time and place. Then we see the audience in the theatre, amazed by Mugi's big voice. Mirei's voice says it changed the whole mood in the theatre.

Mugi's character says she hates the way she is, and invites the fairies to change it. We feel that Mugi herself is saying it, too. The other members of the Drama Club say to Chitose that now they realize what she meant. Mugi seems like another person.

Title: I'll never forget this day!

Mugi's character confesses to Kai's character on stage, and Kai's character surprises her by saying he's always felt the same toward her. And now that she is happy, the fairies disappear: only the unhappy can see them.

Kai's character is called away, and Mugi has a soliloquy. She thanks the fairies. Even though she can't see them, she knows they're there. Kayo, in the audience, is crying over how well Mugi is acting. Mugi says that she's alive, that she enjoys it, that even though there will be hard times ahead, it's okay. It might have been an illusion, a "petal(hitohira: petal, flake) of a dream," but she thanks them anyway. The fairies see many sad people in the world -- in the audience -- and prepare to go and help them. Finally, in the dark, you hear Risaki's voice saying: "Hey, you there...."

They go offstage, and Risaki is happy they got through it. Then the applause begins. Kai says Mugi was great. Katsuragi says it's a big success. Risaki embraces Mugi. Mugi can hardly get her breath. Nono leads them out for a curtain call. Mugi is crying. Kayo and Chitose have tears in their eyes.

Outside, the two drama clubs are collecting balls -- votes -- from the students. Kayo tells Mugi she was moved. Chitose says it was thrilling. Mirei tells Nono she should go to the hospital.

Next, the student council president announces the counting of votes. Amazingly, she is played by Saitou Chiwa, who is great, but doesn't sound like Chiwa at all. Nono and Mirei pull balls from their club's voting boxes one at a time. In the end, Mirei has more. The Drama Study Group must disband.

Kayo is taking pictures of the outside of the Drama Study Group's room while they are inside meeting for the last time. Risaki apologizes to Kai for dragging him in and thanks him for doing it. I think he complains that he'll be back to criticizing (hyou) him again, and she says yes, there will be panthers (hyou) and briefly has on a panther costume.

Katsuragi asks Nono if she's okay, and she says she will go to the hospital on the way home. Katsuragi says he's happy he was there. He recalls the day he found Nono sitting crying over not being able to act, and loaned her his handkerchief. He was also in the Drama Club, and she told him the whole story. It was he who suggested she make her own club. He was surprised when she really did, and when he half-heartedly offered to quit the Drama Club, too, she took it for granted that he would. Risaki admits that she left the Drama Club after a fight with Mirei over whether Nono should be allowed to act: "She should be able to do what she likes with her own body." Kai says that he wasn't interested in anything in particular, and thought acting would be fun.

Mugi says that she has experiences so many different things in the six months since she entered school: laughing, crying, anger, having terrible things said to her, feeling very hurt -- but also such kindness. She really feels badly now. (Outside, the clean-up crew is tearing down her poster.) If she had practiced more diligently from the beginning, maybe.... Risaki tells her that they were always going to have to disband, and anyway she herself is graduating. But at least they went out in a blaze of glory. Nono, haltingly in her broken voice, says she is so glad she brought Mugi into the club, that they couldn't have done it without her. Weeping with gratitude now, Mugi says she is glad she joined the club, too.

Kayo has been outside eavesdropping, and says how good it is that Mugi has made close friends. Leaving, she meets Chitose, and says Mugi seems okay. Happy Chitose bounds down the stairs chanting Katsuragi's name, but stops around the corner when she sees the club sadly taking down their sign.

Nono accepts the sign from Katsuragi, and formally declares the club disbanded, thanking them all for their work. Chitose is secretly weeping. The club members disappear, one by one. Mugi's voiceover says that it was only a "petal of a dream?") and says goodbye to the Drama Study Group.

Preview: Mugi, Kai, and Chitose at a shrine on New Year's Day. They all get the best possible fortune-cards. Mugi says that although it was a happy Christmas party.... "Kayo-chan, why?" Title: "Always together."

I'm afraid blog posts may be late or irregular over the next three weeks. My apologies.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Seirei no Moribito -- Character Map

I myself have some trouble keeping the secondary characters straight in Seirei no Moribito, so I have translated the character map from the official site. SnM is a great show, and I want to understand it as well as I can. Click to enlarge.

Apologies for the small size and soft type. The original is small, and Photoshop isn't the best for adding clear type. But I find the map useful, and I hope someone else may, too.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hirano Aya -- Lucky Star interview

Here's an interview with Hirano Aya 平野綾 (Konata) from the Lucky Star らき☆すた official site. Posted there on Saturday 19 May. This is the third interview in a weekly series. The first two were with Endou Aya (Miyuki) and Shiraishi Minoru. The banner says: "Lucky Channel Weekly special interview -- Hirano Aya."

Konata fans -- and Hirano Aya fans -- throughout the country, sorry to keep you waiting! It's time for Hirano Aya, who plays our heroine Konata.

Question: What were your feelings when you read the comic?
Hirano: "I hadn't really read 4koma comics, so when I first read it I was surprised. The characters were so individual, and it was full of things that really happen. I really enjoyed it. Before we started, I asked the director what the anime was going to be like, and he said: 'Just like the comic.' So I practised the voice while I read the comic. In 4koma, the stories change abruptly, and the characters' feelings change every time, so it's hard to get the flow of the characters' emotions. And the anime can cut suddenly to a new subject. Practicing with the manga was helpful in learning how to manage that. As for the character's voice, all the director said was: 'more sluggish,' and 'slower.' (laughs) He accepted the voice I came up with by intuition from the comic and the setup. I'm actually a bit like Konata in my leisure time.

Are there ways you are like Konata?
Hirano: "I love manga and can't stop talking about them. That's like Konata, I think. When people ask me what manga I like, they often don't know the ones I mention. Sometimes people have been shocked and said: 'That's so subculture.' But I've hardly played games at all. There are lots of scenes where Konata is playing net games, so you really have to say the terms she uses smoothly, but when I started I was like 'what's a net game?' (laughs) But at the last photo session for Comp H's magazine, they gave me a DS and a PSP to fool around with, and I've gotten into the PSP. Konata reads manga and plays net games all the time, and I read manga and play games, so it feels like there's some similarity. (laughs) Once when I was muttering about what manga I like now, my manager joked: 'You sound just like Konata.' (laughs)"

What do you think of Konata's father?
Hirano: "I love him. (laughs) Konata's relationship with her father is really something. Konata got her interests from her father, so their shared interests make for family harmony. (laughs) I think they will be interacting more from now on, and that will be fun. If he were my father, maybe I would have the same detailed knowledge of anime and games (laughs)."

What's the atmosphere like during recording?
Hirano: "The cast were pretty well all meeting for the first time, but before the recording, we said: 'We have to convey the feeling of classmates who are close friends and are together every day.' So we made a point of spending our breaks together, talking about this and that. Since I'm the youngest, they had to force me to use casual language. Now we're beginning to do more and more ad libs. (laughs) In places where there is no script but the characters are moving, it's like 'can we think of an ad lib for here?' And we're trying harder and harder things."

What were your feelings about the OP?
Hirano: "I loved the high-tension feeling of the OP, but since it's like the lead-off hitter, I was quite nervous. It was the first time I'd done a tune like that. And I wanted to sing in character, but we had only just begun recording. Seeing the broadcast really surprised me. It got you dancing."

You sing various songs as the ED.
Hirano: "Because we sing so many songs, and got so much material all at once, I was really flustered and thought: 'I'll never remember all this.' I couldn't even find the lyrics for some of the older songs. They gave us lyrics when we recorded, but I had practised at home just by listening and making my own notes. I made a lot of mistakes! (laughs) Then I was told: 'Since she's an otaku, Konata would sing the songs with all the same breathing and vibrato as the original. Please do it like that, Hirano-san.' It was really tough. I apologize to people who know anime songs. I hope it was okay. I.... (cries)"

What do think of one of this anime's special characters, Shiraishi Minoru?
Hirano: "I think I feel the same as the other cast members. We envy him for having a character modelled after him. It's really mortifying. (laughs) It would be fun to do characters with your own name. Shiraishi is Konata's classmate, but they don't have much to do with each other. We leave it to Akira to mess with him."

Finally, do you have a message for the viewers?
Hirano: "The cast members enjoy doing this show a lot. We will keep doing our best to communicate that feeling. Konata is a kind of character I've never done before, and I have to study a lot. I would be really happy if it's a show that remains popular. Thank you so much for your support in that. (laughs)"

Nice little interview. As usual, she makes a point of doing background work on her character and practicing what appears to be a fair amount. She is serious about her work, proud and yet insecure. That "cries" at the end of the question about the EDs is pretty amazing. You'd think it was a joke, but I think she may really have been feeling that she didn't do a good job. The fact that she hasn't mentioned Lucky Star much on her blog also makes me think she's insecure about her performance.

I hope she gets to see how much praise people are giving her for both the character and the EDs she's sung. Even some of her doubters on 2channel have good things to say about her performance in this show. And AnimeSuki posts are extremely positive. She shouldn't feel embarrassed about one of the most memorable seiyuu performances ever. I have long liked her work, but I had no idea she could be this good at comedy. I think she has put off going to college for a while and is devoting herself to her profession, in which she is learning now constantly and getting better all the time.

I'm not sure what manga she's thinking of when she says her friends found her taste "subculture." I believe Japanese usage is a little different than Anglo-American usage. Japanese Wikipedia says that the word is often used to refer to otaku culture in manga, anime and games. She has previously said that when she was younger, she preferred shounen manga, and that she was good at arcade shooting games.