Yajima Akiko's 矢島晶子 voice as Shinnosuke in Crayon Shin-chan is the most recognized voice in all Japanese anime. Everyone knows Shinnosuke's rough comic bleating.
But Yajima-san also has one of the least recognizable voices. She does roles from young women and boys through adult women even to animals.
I didn't know her until her role as 16-year-old Mari in Blue Drop last fall, but I immediately fell in love with the rich youthful energy of that 40-year-old voice. And she gives 11-year-old Miyako in Ghost Hound a haunting darkness.
She has played over 150 anime roles, as well as almost 50 game roles, and has dubbed over 75 movies.
She debuted in 1989 as Eriko in Legendary Idol Eriko. But she punched her meal ticket in 1992, when she got the starring role in Crayon Shin-chan . The show has been on the air ever since, and there have been many "KureShin" movies, OVAs and CDs. The TV series has had over 600 episodes, and has been in the top five rated anime on TV more or less continuously for 15 years.
To get an idea of just how weird Shin-chan's voice is, here is a little clip from YouTube of an interview with Yajima-san, including samples showing how she has changed the voice over the years.
Yajima was born on 4 May 1967 in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, on Japan's northwest coast. She went to Shukutoku Junior College in Tokyo, and is a qualified child-care worker. She was appearing on stage when seiyuu/manager Tatekabe Kazuya saw her and invited her to join the Production Baobab agency. She has been with them ever since.
She and the agency have done well together: in addition to over 110 roles in TV anime, she has done 23 OVAs, 22 animated features, 48 games, 23 drama CDs, 22 other CDs, and has dubbed ten TV shows and 76 movies. Now that is a professional voice actress.
On 2channel, the Japanese forum site, her thread includes posts nominating her best roles in many categories: bad little boy, moe weeper, tsuntsun ojou-sama, princess, onee-san, good boy, cheerful boy, suffering girl, monster, etc. She has a bit of range.
According to Japanese Wikipedia, Akiko is married, and her husband chaffs her about her unusual voice as Shin-chan. To get an idea of how different a voice she can make, here is a clip of her as Mari in Blue Drop. And check out the voice samples on her agency page (the Windows Media and Real links).
She herself appears to be a rather laid-back person. She is said to like staring blankly out the window, or drinking beer. Wikipedia mentions that she finds her stomach rumbles during recording sessions, so loudly that they sometimes have to stop recording.
She has tried to keep out of the public eye, in order not to mess with Crayon Shin-shan's image. But recently she has begun to appear more, in the clip posted first above, for example.
Here is a list of some of her major and recent anime roles: Eriko (Legendary Idol Eriko, 1989), Nohara Shinnosuke (Crayon Shin-chan, 1992, etc.), Relena Darlian (Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, 1995), Chinami (Seraphim Call, 1999), Kuu (Haibane Renmei, 2002), Asumi (Futatsu no Spica, 2003), Mipple (Futari wa Precure, 2004), Haydee (Gankutsuou, 2004), Ayumi (Glass Mask, 2005), Riku, Diva (Blood+, 2005), Pino (Ergo Proxy, 2006), Kyoko (Dennou Coil, 2007), Mari (Blue Drop, 2007), Miyako (Ghost Hound, 2007), Chie, Rin Itoshiki, Majiru Itoshiki (Zoku Zetsubou Sensei, 2008).
Kuu in Haibane Renmei left a lasting impression on me, even though I didn't know at the time who the VA was. And Ayumi in Glass Mask was absolutely outstanding. She and Kobayashi Sanae were rival actresses who each put on unbelievable shows of sheer acting. Apparently she herself had long coveted the role of Maya, the main star, which went to Kobayashi-san. But she made up for losing that role with her performance as Ayumi.
It turns out that her real name is Ogasawara Akiko. Perhaps she should have had a certain role in Marimite: Sachiko's name in that show is Ogasawara Sachiko.
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