Thursday, August 23, 2007

Makino Yui -- Seiyuu, Singer, Pianist

Makino Yui 牧野由依 does the piano accompaniment in a preview clip for the fall anime Sketchbook ~full color'S~, in which she plays one of the main characters. She will also sing the ED.

You can see the preview clip on the show's homepage. Click the little white banner near the top middle of the page, with the red stripe on the left of it.

Yui says in her blog that she was just asked in an impromptu way to do the preview accompaniment, and she chose to use a tune from Brahms. She said she tried to give it a nostalgic quality like hearing music filtering out of the practice rooms after school. She is currently a fourth-year piano student at a Tokyo-area music university.

Makino-san started playing piano at the age of three, and did piano accompaniment to films while still a child. She also appeared in two films, several commercials, and a TV drama, according to Japanese Wikipedia.

She has had five different radio shows, and as a singer has put out four singles and an album. She sang the OPs for both ARIA series. She turned 21 in January of this year.

There are a number of Makino Yui PVs on YouTube here and here, as well as clips from a recent series of appearances in China, and there is an interview with her about her musical work for ARIA here.

Her seiyuu debut was as Sakura in Tsubasa Chronicle in 2005. She was nominated for best young seiyuu of 2006 for her outstanding portrayal of Misaki in Welcome to the NHK.

She is doing a nice job with the character Lapis in recent episodes of Kaze no Stigma. Her seiyuu voice has a unique quality I love: a kind of fresh directness and intimacy, and somehow almost a boyishness.

On her home page, she says her favorite musical artists are film composer Ennio Morricone and French classical pianist Pascal Rogé. Here are her pages on ANN and Wikipedia, and here is her homepage.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Birth of a Star, or Maybe Two, in Touka Gettan 21

A new seiyuu star was born in episode 21 of Touka Gettan. And maybe a star seiyuu became a star writer, too.

Episode 21 was written by Noto Mamiko, the third of three seiyuu who have written episodes for the show. The others were Shimizu Ai (#18) and Yamamoto Maria (#11 and #13).

Hayami SaoriAnd Noto-kawaii wrote great lines for 16-year-old Hayami Saori, who stars as Momoka in the show. This is the first episode that Momoka really carries, and young Hayami is amazing. Her voice is colorful and modulated and she gives delicate shades of meaning to the lines. I've been impressed with her work before, but this was really outstanding.

The idea of having seiyuu write episodes seems like a gimmick, but it has worked out quite well. Yamamoto Maria's episodes were workmanlike. Shimizu Ai did a fine comic beach episode. And Noto Mamiko has given us a key episode in the development of the show, the episode in which Momoka realizes she loves Touka.

Now, the seiyuu was not exactly on her own doing the writing. The storyboard was by Mochizuki Tomomi, the lead writer, and no doubt he was able to massage the script as he wished in making the final storyboard.

Noto MamikoBut I would not be at all surprised to see the name Noto Mamiko, or even Shimizu Ai or Yamamoto Maria, popping up as a writer for other shows. Moon Phase Notes is full of praise for the work of Noto and Mochizuki in this episode. One thing I think Noto did extremely well was create lines that were easy for the seiyuu to say and that had poetry and music in them that she could bring out. But we already knew from her radio show that Noto was someone with intelligence and style.

Hayami Saori is destined to be a star, in my opinion. But her singing is so good, especially in the ED (YouTube), that I'm not sure if she will be a seiyuu star or a singing star. Maybe both.

For details of the episode, check out Subculture Anime Blog.

There is an interview with Touka (Ise Mariya) and Momoka (Hayami Saori) on YouTube. The interviewer is Yamamoto Maria, lol. There is a printed interview with those two and Makoto (Kitamura Eri) here, with pictures. Both interviews are in Japanese.

And I have to say that I think anyone who isn't watching Touka Gettan is missing something special. The show has had its ups and downs, but the animation is superb, the music outstanding, the voice-acting excellent, and the plot intriguing. There is some delightful romance and a lot of top-notch fanservice. And despite the comedy, this is definitely a serious show.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hirano Aya -- Recent Images

HiranoAya 平野綾 posted this great photo on her blog over the weekend. I can't resist posting it for others to see.

She took it with her own cell-phone camera after spending the better part of a day getting her hair dyed and styled. She said how much she enjoyed sitting there talking with the stylists and working out what color to use. It ended up being a mix of a number of colors, with a little pink included.

Photos like this, taken at arm's length with her cell-phone, seem to me to show Aya more real than the pro shots where she is posing for the photographer and the staff. In these informal shots, she appears to be more herself.

And that self has been going through a lot recently. The big success of Lucky Star and the Suzumiya Haruhi live event DVD are good things, but they also increase the pressure on her to make the most of her current popularity. And meanwhile she has just spent a week in hospital getting her appendix out, with the otaku "community" outside raging about a supposed relationship with rocker/seiyuu Taniyama Kishou.

In any case, for me, these personal photos show the most attractive Aya: natural, vulnerable, serious, often comic. Here are two more photos from that day, taken by the stylist. Aya was getting her hair done for jacket photos and the PV (music video) of her new single, which will come out in the fall. I've added a photo that a horrified post on 2channel said made her look 35. Lol.