Thursday, September 27, 2007

Oricon -- More Lucky Star and a Hirano Aya Video

Four more Lucky Star character song CDs went on sale this week, and on their first day all four were in the top twenty: Chihara Minori (Minami) at #9, Hasegawa Shizuka (Yutaka) at #11, Shimizu Kaori (Hiyori) #14, Sasaki Nozomi (Patty) #16. That makes ten character song CDs from this one show, and at least nine of them have been in the top 20.

In addition, there is a link on the Oricon home page to a video message from Hirano Aya, speaking in something close to her "real" or more serious voice. I wonder if her producers paid for it? It doesn't give any indication of that. Great publicity for her with her single coming out in two weeks. She is asked what she likes about being a seiyuu and she talks about having the chance to play so many different types of people. The black shirt she's wearing has English words like "punk" and "sexpot" on it.

Oricon is the main Japanese company tracking sales of music, DVDs, etc. It has a status a bit like Billboard in the US.

As for Aya's new "photo essay" book, 1/19 Bpm, it is #2 on Yahoo's idol photobook charts, and #2 among both men and women. The top five idol photobooks bought by men and bought by women are completely different -- except for Aya's. A good sign that her fanbase might be broadening.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hirano Aya's New Single -- Preview On Line

Lantis has created a special site for the three Hirano Aya singles that are coming out this fall: three singles in three months. The first, Love Gun, will be out 10 October. Part of the promotional video (PV) is now on that site, and there is a brief TV commercial on YouTube.

It looks and sounds good to me. Another step forward. She apparently wrote the lyrics herself. She plays guitar in the PV, but I would be surprised if we are actually hearing any of her playing.

The second single, Neophilia (good title) will be out 7 November. The site blurb says it emphasizes "cool and elegance," and is "blue and black," visually strong, and shows a new image of Aya. The third single will be out 5 December, and will have a happier, more pop-rock sound.

She has clearly been working hard on her singing and on the PV. She has reduced her VA work this fall to make a final push toward becoming the pop idol she started working toward as a young teenager. As far as I know, she only has four comparatively minor VA jobs this fall: she will be a non-starring voice in Dragonaut; will continue doing voiceover on the educational TV show Kaitai Shin Show; and she has starring roles in the PSP game Suzumiya Haruhi's Promise, and in the Wii RPG Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon - the Maze Where Time is Forgotten. There is a promotional video for this last under "Movie" on the game's official site.

There are some good photos (left) of the event at the Tokyo Game Show for Suzumiya Haruhi's Promise. She was there along with Sugita Tomokazu and Shiraishi Minoru.

There is an interesting, if rather negative, piece on the Livedoor news called "The Melancholy of the Seiyuu." It quoted an "informed person" as saying that Aya really never wanted to be a seiyuu, and that although she has been busy this year with recording shows and doing events, she gives the impression that she sometimes wonders what she's doing there. In fact, there are "whispers" about her mental condition, and some people think she may not even play Haruhi in the second season of Suzumiya Haruhi.

The so-called "informed person" pointed out that her agency, Spacecraft Entertainment, is not basically a seiyuu agency, but mainly represents actresses, idols, and singers. But he said that her success so far has been due to her major seiyuu roles, and it is far from certain that she can gain anything like the same success as a singer and idol. The piece also mentioned her recent stay in hospital for her appendix.

I think the piece makes some reasonable points, despite the fact that it has an anti-Aya tone and assembles the more rational points made by anti-Aya posters on 2channel -- even putting "appendix" in quotation marks, to continue the canard that it was a different medical problem. A group of passionate haters of Aya continues to bombard 2channel with posts, mainly but not entirely rather childish ones.

In my opinion, the fact is that making a decent living as a seiyuu is pretty difficult, and Aya would rather be a singer, idol, and personality, which would bring a much more worthwhile income and higher status, to say nothing of being what she always wanted to do, anyway. It is hard for anime fans to realize just how low on the entertainment totem pole seiyuus are in Japan.

As one indication of that low status, Aya reports in her blog today about going to a recording session with her manager on the subway. Try to imagine a top idol on the subway.... The post is headed "I am not a dojikko, but..." She says that recently she has been falling over for no reason, even on flat ground, and that she actually fell right over on the train, landing on her bottom on a high-school student's briefcase, to the amusement of other passengers. At right is the photo from that piece.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fall Anime Weekly Calendar

Once again this season, I've made a calendar-style schedule of the week's anime. It shows days and times of a week's first broadcast of each show on Japanese TV this fall, and gives highlights of staff and cast, along with links to the official site and the Anime News Network page for each show.

I use the calendar a lot myself, to check which day shows are on, and to link easily to more info about a show. The calendar shows all the shows currently in their first broadcast run, including shows that started in previous seasons. Titles are color-coded to indicate which season they began in.

I have already posted previews of all the new shows, giving fuller info about staff, cast and story. Some times and dates have changed in the past week, so check the calendar I'm posting today for up-to-date schedule info.

Mahou has a nice calendar, too, organized in a different way.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hirano Aya -- Over 100,000 Posts on 2channel

The Japanese message board 2channel is very active, and has threads following most active seiyuu. But very few seiyuu have over 100,000 posts about them. Hirano Aya recently reached that level, joining such major stars as Tamura Yukari, Horie Yui, Mizuki Nana, and Sakamoto Maaya.

Each completed thread on 2channel contains 1000 posts. Among active threads, Tamura Yukari appears to be tops, with 354 completed threads, followed by Horie Yui (271), Mizuki Nana (182), Shiina Hekiru (178), Ochiai Yurika (116), Sakamoto Maaya (102), Aya (101) and Asano Masumi (100). Aya's number was back in the 20's earlier this year, and has zoomed up quickly, probably not just because of her roles but also because of her activities as a gravure idol, personality, and singer.

The number of posts doesn't indicate general popularity, but just how interesting a seiyuu is to the otaku who do the majority of the posting on 2channel. Hirano Aya is a highly controversial figure among otaku, many of whom post quite negative (and sometimes rather salacious) things about her. These negative posts have helped rush the total much higher in the past few months. Horie Yui experienced a similar rush when people were connecting her with the Arts Vision scandal in June. Most of the most posted-about seiyuu are also idols and/or singers.

Ochiai Yurika is not popular so much for her work as for her problems: she posts on her blog about the great difficulties she has in life, and her maltreatment in the industry. This has made her a very popular symbol of the oppression of seiyuu. To some otaku, Aya receives unfairly good treatment.

Asano Masumi's popularity stems not just from her work as a seiyuu, but from her long-running radio show. She was given an award as most popular seiyuu personality of 2006.

Top seiyuu whom one might expect to be in the front rank but who are not as much posted about on 2channel include Noto Mamiko (83 threads), Tanaka Rie (69), Kawasumi Ayako (40), Ueda Kana (42), Momoi Haruko (55), and Koshimizu Ami (28).

Here is a link to the 2channel board for individual seiyuus. The photo of Aya is from her blog, and was taken over the past weekend.