Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Seiyuu Awards 2007 -- voting starts

"Seiyuu Awards" is a new Japanese annual awards show that gave out its first set of awards last spring -- the awards for 2006. General voting for the 2007 awards starts now and runs into January, with the show itself scheduled for Japanese TV next March.

The categories are fairly straightforward:
-- leading man and leading woman (in an anime that started in 2007)
-- supporting man and woman
-- "new" man and woman (debut no more than 5years ago)
-- singer
-- "personality" (appearing on radio, TV, etc.)
And there is a special top award for the seiyuu who has spread word of the seiyuu profession most in various media. That award, along with three other special awards, will be voted on only by industry members, but the main awards are open to public voting. I believe the public voting just creates the short list of nominees, and the final voting is by an industry panel, but I'm not sure.

Paku RomiLast year, the winners were: Fukuyama Jun (Lerouche in Code Geass) and Paku Romi (Nana O. in NANA) in leading roles. Best supporting females were Koshimizu Ami, for Karen in Code Geass, and Gotou Yuuko, for Mikuru in Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu. Best supporting males were Ishida Akira, for Athrun Zala in Gundam Seed Destiny, and Miyata Kouki, for Yoshinaga Kazumi in The Gargoyle of the Yoshinagas. (mouseover photos for captions)

Best new females were Hirano Aya, for Suzumiya Haruhi, and Kano Yui, for Momoko in Sumomo mo Momo mo. Best new males were Kakihara Tetsuya, for Mikoto in Princess Princess, and Morita Masakazu, for Ichigo in Bleach. Top seiyuu/singer was Mizuki Nana, for her CD Justice to Believe. Best personality was Asano Masumi, host of the A&G Super Radio Show ~Anisupa~ (from the broadcaster which is one of the sponsors of these awards...).

Kamiya HiroshiFrom what I've seen in 2007, the male lead I've most appreciated is Kamiya Hiroshi as Zetsubou Sensei. The fact that just over a year ago he was almost dead in a motorcycle accident may have something to do with my preference, but I thought "zetsubou shita!" sensei was a brilliant comic portrayal. There are lots of other possibilities: Seki Tomokazu as Chiaki in Nodame Cantabile, for one. I'd also think of Ono Daisuke with his undramatic but effective portrayal of Kazuya in Kaze no Stigma. And I'd think of Kiuchi Hidenobu (Ren in NANA, Tenma in Monster) as Hei in Darker than Black.

Kuwashima HoukoFor the women, the leading role that bowled me over was Hirano Aya as Konata in Lucky Star. That slurping comic voice gave the whole show a special earthiness. I'd also think of Kuwashima Houko as Claire in Claymore, or as Shuurei in SaiunkokuII. Or Kawasumi Ayako as Nodame in Nodame Cantabile (as well as Sara in Soukou no Strain). There's also Andou Mabuki as Balsa in Seirei no Moribito. Yajima Akiko's 40-year-old voice is bringing such a fresh tone to Mari in Blue Drop. And since OVAs appear to count, I'd also consider Orikasa Fumiko as Miu in Ichigo Mashimaro OVA.

Konishi KatsuyukiMale supporting actor: I'm a bit at sea here. My knowledge and appreciation of male seiyuu is better than it was, but still rudimentary. I came up with Konishi Katsuyuki as Kamina in Tengen-Toppan Gurren-Lagann. He had a big effect in a few episodes. You could also go for Seki Tomokazu as the king in SaiunkokuII -- or with any of several other strong male supporting performances in that show. Or maybe Ikeda Masaru as Huang in Darker than Black. If he reappears in SaiunkokuII, I'd give it to Koyasu Takehito, whose performance as "Rin Senya" in the first series was dominating. I might even give it to him for Zhuge Liang in the bizarre Koutetsu Sangokushi.

Yukino SatsukiFor supporting actress, Yukino Satsuki's Mirei in Hitohira stands out for me. Paku Romi's Teresa in Claymore was also riveting, but she won best lead female last year. I'd also think of Itou Miki for her over-the-top Yumiko in Touka Gettan. And personally, I thought Matsuoka Yuki was great as Setsuna in Kyoushirou to Towa no Sora. There's Kitamura Eri as Makoto in Touka Gettan. And there are any number of top women seiyuu in Nanoha Strikers and in Idolmaster Xenoglossia.

For male newcomer, I am in a quandary. I had to scour the lists for actors who had been in the business five years or less. In the end, I came up with Ono Daisuke's Kazuya in Kaze no Stigma: Ono-san made his debut in 2002. There's also the younger Miyano Mamoru in Gundam00 and in Koutetsu Sangokushi. He should have won last year for Death Note.

Hanazawa KanaFor female newcomer, I have my own unlikely choice: 16-year-old Hayami Saori -- Momoka in Touka Gettan. I thought she was outstanding, both as an actress and as a singer. Or I could go for Hanazawa Kana -- the newcomer who is in the running (with Sasaki Nozomi) for most moe voice in anime -- as Shiika in Mushiuta or Sora in Sketchbook ~Full Colors~, or even for Potemayo. Toyosaki Aki as Amuro in Umishou deserves consideration. And there are numerous top seiyuu who have not yet been in the business more than five years: Inoue Marina (Mina in Getsumen To Heiki Mina and Kanna in Minami-ke); Nonaka Ai (Mikan in Manabi Straight, Kafuka in Zetsubou Sensei, Fuuko in Clannad), and even Nabatame Hitomi (Nobue in Ichigo Mashimaro OVA, Rina in Mushiuta).

Hayami SaoriFor singer, Mizuki Nana won last year. I'm not familiar enough with all the CDs that have come out featuring seiyuus under their own or their characters' names, but of those that I do know, my own personal favorite by a long shot is Hayami Saori's ED for Touka Gettan. On that song, her voice is as skillful and beautiful as any of the non-seiyuu pro singers who do OPEDs. Second is all of the fascinating stuff that Hirano Aya has produced this year, from Motteke! Sailor Fuku and the karaoke EDs for Lucky Star through her three singles in a row this fall. She may not be as technically good a singer as Hayami Saori or Chihara Minori, but everything she does has something special about it.

Takahashi MikakoFor top personality, there are numerous seiyuu with radio shows or who act as hosts on TV. Asano Masumi won last year, so perhaps it's time for another seiyuu with a long-running radio show: Takahashi Mikako. Or perhaps Yamamoto Maria or Nogawa Sakura for their TV work.

In fact, the most active seiyuu personality this year has been Hirano Aya, appearing on radio and TV, in live shows, in her popular blog, and in numerous magazines. I personally would make her the top personality of the year. But I actually think she could be in line for the special top award to a seiyuu who does the most to publicize the seiyuu profession. She brought admiration for a seiyuu's verbal skills to mainstream TV shows.

Hirano AyaJust for the heck of it, I tried voting -- and the site said it accepted my vote. So maybe overseas voting is possible. I'm not sure it should be, but anyway the list of categories and criteria is here, and the voting page is here.

The awards event is sponsored by the Tokyo Anime Centre, Kadokawa publishers, Shogakukan publishers, Bunka Housou broadcasting and others. General voting is open from 20 October to 15 January, and the awards ceremony will be on Saturday 8 March.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hirano Aya Gets TV Gig

Hirano Aya will be the host of a daily 15-minute after-school "edutainment" TV show, starting in January. (click photos to enlarge)

The show is called "Moeducation 5" もえがく★5 (Moegaku 5). It will run five days a week, starting 14 January on the BS Fuji satellite TV channel.

The show is based on a learning software called Moegaku. Moegaku is an anime-based learning software, and there will also be an animated part of each show, for which Aya will do one of the voices. The animated part features a girl learning languages from foreign otaku in Akihabara.

On each day of the week, Aya will learn a different language: English on Mondays, Korean on Tuesdays, Spanish on Wednesdays, Chinese on Thursdays, and French on Fridays.

Her teachers on the live show will be schoolkids from the various countries. There will also be a troupe of professional rope-skippers that she will perform with. This last touch sounds bizarre, but is actually pedagogically fairly sound, combining physical movement with learning. And it taps into another of Aya's abilities: dance.

Aya spent a year in America when she was two, but says she has forgotten everything she learned then. She says she will work particularly hard at French, which she finds very hard to pronounce. As a seiyuu, she'd better do a good job, she says. Taping has already begun, and Aya says the kids are very strict as teachers. On the show, the kids will call Aya "Aaya-oneesan."

Mainichi has some photos of the press conference announcing the show.

In other Aya news, her third single in three months, MonStAR, is out today. You can see the PV on Neko Mimi Mode, or in downloadable quality on stage6.divx.com.The song is very catchy, and she does a good job. I'm less enthusiastic about the PV. But humor is one of her fortes, and there is some in this PV, as there was in Love Gun but not in Neophilia. I myself like Neophilia best of the three singles, though.

And live events have been announced for March 1 in Namba (Osaka) and March 15 in Shibuya (Tokyo). Only people who have bought all three singles can apply for admission. Details here.

Aya's campaign to combine voice work with becoming a general celebrity continues apace. Her photobook H - Stairway to 20, which came out during the summer, is already fourth-highest selling idol photobook of 2007, after Leah Dizon, Asao Miwa, and Kouda Kumi.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Aya-sama's Demands?

Is Hirano Aya a harsh taskmistress whose demands often have her manager in tears? Has she run through three managers in a year? That is what anonymous sources quoted in a Japanese blog claim.

They also say that she has taken control of her own career, that she almost left her present agency last summer, but they finally were able to win her back, by making who knows what concessions.

There is some support for this idea in the fact that there was nothing at all about her on her agency's website for a while last summer. And she certainly changed managers at least once this year. She said happily in her blog that she got a female manager for the first time.

"Inside sources" are so handy when someone wants to make up a story from nothing, however. Perhaps these are the same inside sources that claimed she is going with older rocker Taniyama Kishou. Months have passed since that claim with no more evidence turning up.

But one thing definitely makes sense to me: they say she has been personally controlling the idol activities she has been involved with over the past few months. Everything has to come to her for her approval. This is how I read her character and her blog.

And I think they're right when they say she is taking her singing very seriously and working hard at it. From my point of view, she is trying to break out of the underpaid and exploited world of voice-acting and into the potentially much more lucrative realm of idols, singers, and TV personalities. Seems reasonable.

But she is still doing interesting voice work. She has her radio program. She has had voiceover work on TV. She is doing voices (or maybe just narration) for a live-action movie about a girl and her cats, Honjitsu no Neko Jijou. She is playing an older villain in Dragonaut.

One of the "insiders" said that she had her manager in tears as she shouted at them that they were not getting her the kinds of roles she wanted. She wanted more idol events and fewer anime. This seems possible. She is clearly an emotional person, and I expect she could could be demanding, too. She is fairly demanding of herself, it appears. In fact, she sometimes seems more American than Yamato Nadeshiko, not ashamed of showing her ambition at all.

I was just listening to Neophilia again and thinking what a great job she does of it -- with seiyuu-style turns of voice, sometimes almost speaking rather than singing. But perhaps the kind of music she can do well isn't the kind of music that Japanese fans want. Or even what she wants. We'll see.

The photos are from her blog today and yesterday. They show her with Suna, one of the cats who appear in Honjitsu no Neko Jijou, and then with a copy of her new single, MonStAR, which comes out on Tuesday.