Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ten Favorite Voice Actresses

Ten favorite female seiyuu? I have too many favorites, but here are ten whose presence alone will make me eager to watch a series. They are not necessarily the best seiyuus, although most of them are among the best. Nor are they the most famous seiyuus, although some of them are that. There are even a couple of newcomers here whom no-one else would rank this high; but I just love the sound of their voices. In fact, what draws me to a seiyuu can be either just pure sound or acting. Or both, as with the first two names:

1. Kuwashima Houko -- Her voice is so flexible and expressive, and communicates something I can only call "goodness." As a comparative newcomer to anime, I discovered her as Shuurei in Saiunkoku Monogatari. Most people know her as Rose Tomas in Fullmetal Alchemist, but she was also Kagura in Azumanga Daioh and is amazing as Claire in the current Claymore, playing opposite the next name on the list...

2. Paku Romi -- She blew me away as rocker Nana in NANA. Just watch it. True acting power. Is this the same person who was Loran Cehak in Turn A Gundam? It is certainly the same person who is Teresa in Claymore. And she is most famous for her role as Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist. The fact that her ancestry is Korean -- although her family has lived in Japan for a couple of generations -- just makes the package more interesting.
3. Kawasumi Ayako -- There is nothing she can't do. Her most recent role, as Nono in Hitohira, shows how finely she can pitch her performances. But the role that made me fall in love with her was Lafiel in Crest of Stars. Or was it Kurau in Kurau Phantom Memory. Or was it Aoi in Ai yori Aoshi? Or was it...? Lol.

4. Hirano Aya -- She wasn't anything special until Haruhi in Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu, and she would never have made this list until her amazing, deeply emotional performance as Layla in NANA. Even now, I am putting her here as much from anticipation as past performance. But her work as Sanae in Sumo mo Momo mo and Mei in Manabi Straight, and her totally unexpected comic excess in Lucky Star, confirm her great ability. And she is only 19. She is not a smooth pro, but she brings something special to each role. And the fact that you can follow events in her life daily in her blog makes her even more interesting.

5. Yahagi Sayuri -- Her liquid, mobile voice was a revelation as soon as I heard it in her debut as Karin in Karin, when she was 19. She then went through a kind of seiyuu internship, playing Gretel in Otogijushi Akazukin, alongside the likes of Tamura Yukari, Sawashiro Miyuki, and Kugimiya Rie, learning the finer points of her trade and moderating her uniquenes. Then she was given a chance to let herself go again and showed just how moe she could go, as Kuu in Kyoushirou to Towa no Sora. And now she has settled in as one of the voices that show up again and again in secondary roles: as a classmate in sola, as the ten-year-old genius engineer in Gigantic Formula. She has the skill to become the next Kawasumi Ayako.

6. Koshimizu Ami -- Tenko in Kamisama Kazoku made me sit up and take notice. And she makes the minor role of Sae in sola so strong that some people hate her, lol. She won a best supporting voice award last year for Karen in Code Geass. Her range is marvellous. Amisuke and Hirano Aya are the next big things. Not coincidentally, they both have great photo blogs.

7. Orikasa Fumiko -- From the moving role of Chise in Saikano to the hilarious one of Miu in Ichigo Mashimaro. Add Rukia in Bleach and Shirley in Code Geass? 'Nuff said.

8. Sasaki Nozomi -- She has only had two roles, but I love her unique voice so much I yearn to hear it again. She debuted as Nana-chan in Bokura ga Ita, and her voice there may have been the most moe I have ever heard. It is even more exciting that she was an office worker in her early twenties who got her break by attending a seiyuu workshop in Kobe and just wowing the director of BgI, who was conducting the workshop. Now she has quit her day job and thrown herself into the maelstrom of seiyuu life. She was almost completely untrained when she made her debut, but she had been an amateur actress and was able to project emotion. Now I eagerly await her appearance as Patty Martin in Lucky Star.

9. Yukana -- I first heard her as the forceful Dominura whom Noto Mamiko gradually softened in Simoun, but a lot of people discovered her as Mashiro in Mai Otome or as the mysterious alien C.C. in Code Geass. She has the most sensual voice of any seiyuu I know, and people say she gives off a lot of pheromones in real life, as well.

10. Takahashi Rieko -- She has done so few roles that it is a little crazy to put here here. In fact, you could say she has done the same role twice: it was called Neviril in Simoun, and Deanna Soriel in Turn A Gundam. But I simply adore the combination of grandeur and humanity she can convey. She is more a stage actress than a seiyuu, but it is so good to have her grace us with her presence from time to time.

There are so many great voice actresses who could be ranked higher than some of the names on my list, but who just don't entrance me like the ten above, at least on this particular day: Toyoguchi Megumi (Honoka in The Third, for example), Tanaka Rie (who was triumphant as Hiro in Hataraki Man), Chiba Saeko (Dokuro-chan, Chika in Ichigo Mashimaro), Nabatame Hitomi (Nobue-oneesan in Ichigo Mashimaro, for example), Kawakami Tomoko (Utena in Revolutionary Girl Utena, Misuzu in AIR), Itou Shizuka (Shouko in Asatte no Houkou, Rei in Maria-sama ga Miteru), Tamura Yukari (I don't get Nanoha, but I loved her as Tomari in Kashimashi), Kobayashi Sanae (Maya in Glass Mask, Eleanor Campbell in Emma), Sawashiro Miyuki (Shinku in Rozen Maiden), Yukino Satsuki (Ai in Planetes), Sakamoto Maaya (Haruhi in Ouran HS Host Club).

Here are some more favorites of mine, but whom I can't rank with those top talents in the industry: Saitou Chiwa (Hazuki in Tsukuyomi Moon Phase), Asano Masumi (Manatsu in Uta~Kata), Noto Mamiko (how about Matsuri in sola?), Takahashi Mikako (Ayu in Honey & Clover), Gotou Yuuko (Nanami in Lamune), Nazuka Kaori (Yun in Simoun), Makino Yui (Misaki in Welcome the the NHK), Mitsuhashi Kanako (Miki in Zettai Shounen). Itou Miki (Sachiko in Maria-sama ga Miteru), Matsuki Miyu (Yoshinoya-sensei in Hidamari Sketch), Matsuoka Yuki (Setsuna in Kyoushirou to Towa no Sora).

Horie Yui is extremely professional and has a lovely voice, but she has never really reached me. As someone who doesn't get tsundere, perhaps I judge Kugimiya Rie unfairly, but her voice just doesn't move me, either.

Thanks to Kurogane and Riuva for giving me the idea to do this post, and to Kaioshin for starting a similar thread on AnimeSuki.

Hitohira 11

Mugi has to come to terms with Kayo's leaving, but she just can't. She has been so dependent on Kayo for the four years she has known her. At the same time, Chitose is deciding when to confess to Katsuragi. And the seniors -- Nono, Mirei, Risaki, and Katsuragi -- are preparing for exams and for graduation. Haw will all these threads come together?

Mugi is looking at the photo of her and Kayo together and says: "I love Kayo's smiling face." Mugi is at her locker when Kayo arrives and says good morning. Mugi can hardly face her. The teacher tells the class that Kayo is going overseas to study photography.

Title: "I love your smiling face."

Mirei, Katsuragi and Risaki try to get Nono to help get Mugi out of her funk, but Nono says: Can't Kai do it? She says that if she were to do it, it would just be discharging a responsibility.

When Kayo, Kai and Chitose ask Mugi to have lunch with them, as usual, Mugi flees. Kayo apologizes to Kai, who says it's not her fault, and even Mugi knows that. Chitose catchs up to Mugi and says she can't get away. Kayo will soon be gone, and she has to go back to being friendly with her. But Mugi is embarrassed that she hasn't been able to wish Kayo well. Chitose says she has decided that when Katsuragi has finished his exams, she will go and confess to him. She says she's very nervous about it,but that she would regret it a lot more if she never did it. Mugi says she just can;t go to Kayo. Chitose thinks: Kayo is really something, to have been able to stay friends with someone like this for four years.

Kayo is looking through her photos of Mugi. Chitose comes in on Kai when he is drawing a picture of an improvised bomb. She says: It's true what they say, that artists are all idiots! She tells him she has something she wants his help with.

Elsewhere, Mugi is walking down the hall toward the room she uses to hide from things. She sees the door is open and goes in to find Mirei with the dressed manikin there.Mugi asks if the costume is hers, and why it is in that room. Mirei says that she will go now, and adds that you can't cry someone whose leaving back again, it only prevents you from seeing them as they go.

Kayo looks at the poster of Mugi and thinks she has begun her own path, and it was such a stimulus for her (Kai). She thinks back to when they were starting middle school, and she broke through with the shy Mugi to become her friend. Mugi remembers how much she loved Kayo's smiling face. At that time, Kayo told Mugi that she was moved by photos she saw in magazines and wheedled a camera from her father. It would be so great to take photos like that, she thinks. Mugi says Kayo will definitely be able to, and that Kayo's dream is her dream. Mugi remembers Kayo laughing as she snuck a photo of Mugi, and thinks how much she loves her smile. Mugi wonders why she can't support Kai so well now.

In the classroom, Kai tells Mugi he has a book of photos from kayo for her, and that Chitose wants her to meet her in the theatre. Mugi goes there and starts leafing through the photos, thinking that Kayo must be angry with her, and realizing that she has not been thinking of Kayo, only herself. Then Chitose calls her up to where she is practicing on stage.

Chitose says Mugi should say goodbye to Kayo from there. Mugi refuses and tries to run away, but Chitose catches her and says she hates her like this, that she should think back to how she was when she was on stage at the festival, that she became a different person under the lights. Mugi says she know she has to, but her feelings still just won't let her. Chitose keeps trying, but Kayo suddenly appears and asks her to please stop forcing Mugi.

Offstage, Chitose is crying. Kai says she's a good person. Chitose says she alray loves someone else, it's no good praising her. Kai apologizes to Mugi for not telling her about the possibility earlier, and just springing it on her. Mugi says it's not her fault, it was her being so involved with acting that gave her no chance. She loves Kayo's photos and wanted to be her friend always, but was just thinking of herself and has been terrible to Kayo.

Kayo says it's all right, that she understood. But Mugi says it isn't all right, that she's being comfroted and rescued again by Kayo and she has to get herself together and do it on her own. She tells Kayo go and do her best, and Kayo thanks her. Kai doesn't think they have accomplished anything, and leaves so as not to ge in the way. Chitose is weeping over a great final scene. Kayo points out that she and Mugi are sitting where Mugi did something that she couldn't do. She says she will send her lots of photos, and askes her to have more self-confidence. Mugi is happy to see Kayo smiling face again.

Time has passed. Kayo has gone. The seniors' exams are over. "Now it's my turn," says Chitose. Nono, Risaki, and Katsuragi are in the hallway together. Risaki says Katsuragi is relaxed because he passed. He agrees, saying his ability has been recognized. Mugi comes up and formally thanks Nono, saying she has understood what she meant by the image of the "petal." She leaves, and Risaki says she guesses Nono's bitter medicine worked.

Mugi goes to the room with the manikin in it and finds Mirei trying to get in, but the door is locked. Mugi says she'd like to see Mirei wearing it, but Mirei says it is Nono's, the costume she should have worn if her voice hadn't gone. Back home in bed, Mugi thinks of Mirei and how she feels about the costume and Nono. She debates telling Nono about the costume that Mirei had altered to fit Nono. Then she realizes that he feeling may be.... And looks at the date of the graduation ceremony on the wall.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Seiyuu Agency "Casting Couch" Scandal

The big news in the Japanese voice-acting industry these days is a huge scandal involving one of the most important men in the industry, Matsuda Sakumi, who has been arrested on a charge of "lewd behavior toward a minor" in regard to a 16-year-old aspiring seiyuu.

Matsuda is the head of two of the biggest seiyuu agencies, Arts Vision and I"m Enterprise and of the most famous seiyuu training school, Nihon Narration. The charges concern incidents during the final acceptance interview in April of a 16-year-old girl who had passed an audition last December.

The arrest has led to a wave of fury from fans, who say it damages the reputations of other seiyuu and demand something be done about "sexual harassment, power harassment, and 'pillow business'" in the industry.

All three companies' websites have been shut down, with messages apologizing to fans and saying that Mr. Matsuda's resignation has been accepted. The messages make a point of saying the incident does not concern any other seiyuu. The messages name new managing directors and say they will work to "raise all employees' consciousness about following laws and regulations."

The rosters of Arts Vision and I"m Enterprise read like a who's who of voice acting. Arts Vision: Asano Masumi, Horie Yui, Fujita Saki, Kuwatani Natsuko, Mizuhashi Kaori, et al. I"m Enterprise: Ueda Kana, Tamura Yukari, Saitou Chiwa, Takahashi Mikako, Nakahara Mai, Yamamoto Maria, Yahagi Sayuri, Honda Youko, Morinaga Rika, Kugimiya Rie, et al.

There is a wiki in Japanese, collecting information about the situation. There is an article in English on Anime News Network. The situation is also being discussed in English on AnimeSuki.