Saturday, March 08, 2008

Hirano Aya Wins Top Seiyuu Award

The 2007 Seiyuu Awards were presented last night, and Hirano Aya walked away with the top female lead award, as well as sharing the award for top song with her compatriots from Lucky Star.

j1m0ne has an excellent report on the ceremony, so I'll just concentrate on Aya, with photos and info from her blog posts after the show.

Here she is with (l-r) Kamiya Hiroshi, who won best supporting actor for Tieria Erde in Gundam00, and whom she says she "loves"; with Kamiya, Saiga Mitsuki (best supporting actress for Kei in Moyashimon), and Miyano Mamoru (best actor for Setsuna F. Seiei in Gundam00); and with Katou Emiri, Fukuhara Kaori, and Endou Aya, who sang the winning song, Motteke! Seerafuku with her. Katou also won one of the two awards for best new female seiyuu. (click on photos to enlarge)

Last year, Aya wore an extravagantly brief creation from Shibuya 109. This year, she wore a kimono of her mother's, to look "mature." She and Mamo-chan (Miyano) seem quite concerned with appearing mature, lol. In her blog, she posted several shots of the kimono, which she described as "gorgeous" and "sunny." She pointed out that the patterns on each side of the back were different, and said how nice the obi was, too. She thanked her mother with a "sankyu" (Japanese version of "thank you").

Just for comparison, here is Hirano Aya with Kano Yui at last year's ceremony, in her Shibuya 109 dress, and in a similar shot from this year, Then there are a shot of her having returned home last night (Saturday night), exhausted; and then with her two awards:

Kano Yui (left) and Hirano Aya, before the ceremony

Aya says in her blog that after an evening wearing unfamiliar clothes, she was so tired her legs were shaking. She said that although the awards came to her, she couldn't do anything alone, and they really belong to the staff and cast that worked with her and the fans who support her, as well. She hopes everyone will get a good rest on Sunday. She also says she will work her hardest to get back to the awards ceremony next year.

These awards have about double the number of organizers and sponsors this year as last. Perhaps more companies want to get in on the publicity. Public voting establishes a long list of nominees, and the final choices are made by a committee of people from the organizers and sponsors. I think most of the choices were at least reasonable, although the sponsoring companies clearly have some influence on the results, as j1m0ne points out.

I myself voted for Aya over Kuwashima Houko (Claymore) and Kawasumi Ayako (Nodame Cantabile), who are fundamentally better seiyuu, because I thought Konata was an inspired comic creation, even more inspired than Nodame. But people who think Aya is praised more than she deserves are all shaking their heads and exchanging knowing smiles. 2channel, as usual, is split.

Motteke! was not the best anime song of the year, but it may have been the most memorable and the most successful. It and all that other music from Lucky Star. As I keep repeating, professional skill does not equal musical interest, at least for me. But Yamamoto Yutaka's OP animation certainly helped the song's popularity.

It looks to me as if this awards show is in for the long haul, with more industry insiders taking part. Perhaps if all the agencies and production companies take part, the awards will be spread further: as j1m0ne points out, shows based on Kadokawa publications did very well, as did performers with ties to Bunka Housou broadcasting. Both of those companies are involved in the production of the Awards.


Kaioshin Sama said...

Letting the public vote just doesn't work in my opinion because they are easily swayed by popularity, memes and fanboyism.

Most of them were decently chosen despite this though, with the possible exception of Aya Hirano who has done almost nothing remarkable besides Konata in Lucky Star, which wasn't even that good in my opinion, just high profile. Too much of the same pitch and a style I like to call "syllable hoping" in which her dialogue came out stilted to the point where you could pick out each and every syllable uttered by Konata. Obviously she has one of the best promotional agencies out there.

I can see why people on 2ch would be shaking there heads with Aya Hirano taking best female voice actor. For doing mostly supporting roles all 2007, but for one, it seems like a Marisa Tomei scenario where someboy read the wrong name. How could she even have been nominated for shows that ended their run almost two years ago anyway?

Oh well at least Rie won, and she looks great in the picture on J1m0ne's blog if I do say so myself. It's a shame she has to share the female side with an obvious joke winner. J1m0ne also points out that Aya Hirano has ties to one of the major sponsors of the event, which makes her winning all the more fishy in both our eyes it seems.

I chose Aya Endo for best newcomer. That's right I felt she was much better than Emiri Katou and it even seems reflected in that out of all the Lucky Star girls that Aya Endo has been getting the most major roles lately, even more than Aya Hirano. Seriously, I have seen not but one person in the English speaking community who believes Hirano actually deserved this award. If we just pretend that never happened then things turn out better.

Anyway, of course Katou wins because Kagami was the more popular character compared to Endo's Miyuki. That seems to have a lot to do with it. People seem to associate Aya Hirano with Haruhi, and since they believe Haruhi is awesome, then so must be Aya Hirano.

As for Motekke winning best song, it's purely for the meme I think. That song is barely listenable.

I think what truly matters in the end is the work people see. Aya Hirano and Emiri Katou haven't been seeing much work lately, which seems to indicate that they are failing lots of tryouts where they weren't already considered ahead of time. When they do seem to land roles it's lately been bit characters. The last major role Aya Hirano has had since Lucky Star is in Moegaku*5, which isn't exactly stellar material. Also, one doesn't have to look to hard to see how and why Aya Hirano was chosen to play Konata. It was more or less handed to her for the Haruhi connection as was evidenced in the goings in the latter half of the series, where they would constantly play up the fact that Aya Hirano was indeed Haruhi's VA and doing Konata as well.

Then there are people like Kugimiya who almost seem to land roles left and right. It's like every anime and gaming studio wants a piece of her to the point where I wonder how she can even stand after all the work she's doing. It seems more like she should have been the one who had the fainting spell and not Hirano. Anyway, obviously she is very desired amongst the anime industry. Moreso than Aya Hirano at least.

Also note that no less than 5 of the winners were in Gundam 00 (Miyano, Kamiya, Kugimiya, Furuya and Endo) a series with enough influence where basically anyone could have been chosen for the parts, and Aya Hirano was the only major winner who was not. Hmmmmmm, why would they want the other 5 and not her I wonder?

Sorry to rag on her so much Hashihime, but she just didn't do enough this year to make me feel that her image and not her effort was what got her the award.

hashihime said...

@Kaioshin -- Feel free to rag on Hirano. You're in a lot of company. I think you all must be deaf, but that's just me.

I'm glad Kugimiya won, since I think Nagi is her best role of the type, better than Louise or Shana. Or at least I like the character better.

But I think you're missing the fact that these awards are for specific work this year, not for a body of work. It doesn't matter how many roles a person has, all that matters is one particular role. In Kugimiya's case, that was Nagi. In Hirano's case, it was Konata.

That Kugimiya may have other roles is fine, but Hirano was concentrating on trying to become a TV-radio personality and performer this year, so she didn't take many roles. She will star in two shows in April. Your scenario of failing auditions is based on insufficient information.

Second, if you think Konata is like any other role Hirano has done, or like any role anyone else has done, please let me know, because I sure don't. To me, that extremely unusual voice grounded the whole show. Of course you could recognize every syllable she spoke. That was part of the point.

I just don't think people in this "community" are actually hearing Hirano. They are comparing her with some spurious standard of normal voice-acting, which is not what she has to give. She is more special than that, in her ability to create voices and convey emotion.

One thing nobody in this "community" except me ever mentions is the little edge of melancholy behind everything Hirano does, even Konata. It gives a kind of depth that I don't hear elsewhere.

She is not a naturalistic actress, like Kuwashima or Paku or Sawashiro, to name three of the best. And she is not a standard pro like a Hocchan or a Yukarin or a Kugimiya or many others whose work I like, but who don't do much that is special for me.

I'm almost certain you and most others have never listened to Hirano as Layla in NANA, which is the role I admired her in the most, challenging as it was for her to play a lonely rock star who buys sex from teenage boys. Her role in Sumomomomo was a trifle, but it added emotional depth to a show that otherwise had none.

It's all very nice for "everyone" in the "community" to agree on their likes and dislikes, but this is usually a sign that everyone is wrong.

I'm far from denying that Hirano is being promoted these days, but she got into that position because of her work and her looks and her flexibility. She may work in Kadokawa-related KyoAni shows, but she is managed by an agency that has either no or few other seiyuu, and mainly does actresses and performers, so they would have zero influence in the anime world.

I'm not going to deny that Motteke won for the meme, but I also don't think there was much competition. Almost all the OP/EDs I liked this year were not by seiyuu, except for the Touka Gettan ED by Hayami Saori, who just blew my mind with her sensitive musicality. Musical tastes differ, but Motteke was a good novelty piece with somewhat salacious lyrics, and more interesting than a lot of banal but professional songs that other people probably think should have won.

Shippoyasha said...

I think Kuwashima should've won since she easily is one of the most versatile and involving voice actresses.

I don't mind too much that fans get to vote, but it does go against the idea of it being judged by actual voice talent professionals too.

Kaioshin Sama said...

Actually reading more of J1m0ne's take on the Kadokawa factor I think it won because they wanted it too rather than the meme. I don't think the panel was interested in memes so much as business now that I really got a chance to read his articles. I basically have written off this whole Seiyuu awards thing as little more than cleverly disguised marketing at this point. All of J1m0ne's claims draw a pretty clear thread between the winners and I think he did a remarkable job of exposing the event for what it is.

Still I think we should continue to talk about the Seiyuu on their own merits like you do. I just don't really care for any of Aya Hirano's voices that she's "created". Take her Garnet in Dragonaut. The whole voice sounds far to forced and unnatural as if she is putting all her effort into showing that she can drop a low register (I may add that as a 23 year old male I can also play voices as a parlor trick with friends , doing impressions ranging from higher pitched voices to the deepest of baritone. For this reason that ability doesn't wow me as much as it does for others. It took practice though, lots of it ever since I was very young) and the rest of the role comes across as rather wooden as opposed to expressive. Her Konata to me also sounds kind of forced in the syllable hopping I described. I do like it on some levels, but it can become grating in some episodes where she has to many lines and the limitations of that form of expression start to become more obvious and less quaint.

Overall though I am more interested in hearing solid acting rather than the ability to create voices as I do that as a regular hobby on my own.

By the way, I think I might have read here that one of the shows Aya Hirano auditioned for the director already had her in mind. That gives me the impression that the moment she walked in the door she had the job.

Also I'm pretty sure Rie does Radio too so that doesn't really give Aya an edge. Nonetheless hopefully she has good luck with future radio shows.

hashihime said...

@shippoyasha and Kaioshin -- I just wanted to mention that the awards were not directly fan votes. The fans (including some foreigners, lol) voted to create a rather large pool of nominees, but the industry panel did the actual selection.

@Kaioshin -- As it happens, I agree about Garnet, which I found rather forced myself. But I watched only a few eps of that train wreck Dragonaut, so I probably missed a lot of her performance.

@shippoyasha -- I've called Kuwashima my favorite voice actress, for Shuurei in Saiunkoku, in particular. But she created Shuurei a couple or three years ago, and Clare in Claymore didn't do as much for me as Konata did, this year. The kinds of people I really like are her and Paku Romi and Sawashiro Miyuki and Kobayashi Sanae and even Takahashi Rieko: real dramatic actresses. This year, I would have given the supporting actress award to Yukino Satsuki for her role in Hitohira, opposite Kawasumi Ayako, who can do both drama and moe. I think Hirano could someday reach their level, if she gets training and more dramatic roles, rather than moving off into more lucrative realms like TV hosting.

W-General said...


I didn't vote (ashamed to say so), but good to know that the she is well supported. News of hordes/legions of Antis on 2ch are greatly exaggerated.

W-General said...

Actually now that I think about it, the fact that Motteke won the best song award did made me roll my eyes a bit o_O

RIPstan said...

Aya-sama! Great report you have there too. =D

Mei said...

I guess the OP for Kiddy Grade 2 wasn't a big enough hit to score Minorin best singer, huh... Saitou really needs to promote her to do more OP/ED songs, especially with all the anime she's been in lately. Dragonaut was such a missed opportunity... I guess it was since Lantis wasn't involved.

Hirano Aya... she's alright. They really want her to be the next Horie Yui, don't they.

basic.syntax said...

The kimono pattern is awesome; she wears it well, and did not distract from the look by wearing the outrageous fingernails. In the group shot, she stands out as the "most colorful" personality present!

Two wins for Gundam 00 actors? Yeah, that's spreading the recognition around. (Not.)

Kaioshin Sama said...

@W-General: Again the fact that you think this is a matter of pros versus antis shows that your just interested in seeing Aya Hirano win and not that backroom industry posturing went into it. I happen to take this topic VERY seriously so as not to get mixed up in fanboy/anti-fan mudslingling. Like Hashihime I have a great passion for the art of theatre and acting, so I want to see that art promoted in a way that is about the core of the matter and not glamourization and industry posturing. In short, this should be a matter of what they did for the art, not how much support they have and in that case the majority of fans I've talked to about this so far have felt that Hirano did not do enough and that Kugimiya, or Kawasumi deserve the nod.

Do you have any thoughts on the other "winners" and what made them "Fair" by the way or just Aya Hirano?

@Hashihime: I know how the process worked because I voted for the nominees (lol). I won't bother making the same gesture next year as my picks are too non-Kadokawa/Dwango to ever really have a chance of "winning". Yes, I continue to be extremely bitter with this whole procession. It's like a reverse American Idol style system only it's even worse because at least that show (which I loathe I might add) has judges who are brutally honest and know the music industry rather than insiders.

One comment on J1mOne's blog about Hiroshi Kamiya looking like he wished he was dead caught my eye. I imagine he really didn't want to be their because he felt embarassed by the phoniness of it all.

One other thing I'd like to add is that I am greatly pleased to see that the majority have called bull on these awards, or at least raised the spectre of tampering. We all love Miyano and Hirano on some level (yes I'm not an anti-Hirano, I'm anti-idolization of Hirano, same with Miyano), but we don't think they deserve the "win" over other contenders.

One thing seems consistent across the board where I have gone. People have said that Aya Hirano winning is a travesty, that idols were chosen over just straight seiyuu (probably to appeal to fanboys and to enhance their image since idols bring great publicity for industry concerns), and people have said that many of the roles chosen were not the winners best roles even if they deserve some recognition.

The fact that Kugimiya Rie as Nagi had to be reduced to a supporting role (I assume as a deterent so people didn't freak the heck out at the entirety of the results and so she could at least "win" something, which of course backfired horribly) was just the nail in the coffin for these "awards" as far as I and many others are concerned.

W-General said...

I look at it from how the award itself is given out, and from what I see, it's for "a seiyuu's performance on a particular role," not "the seiyuu's overall contribution or performance over the course of the entire year."

And I happen to truly believe that Hirano's performance as Konata does indeed this award. Her dopey/sleepy/moe voice was a big part in the success of Konata as a character. I think it was a very unique and excellent job done by Hirano.

Overall, Kawasumi probably has more experience and is a more talented seiyuu than Hirano, but just comparing the performance of their roles (Hirano-Konata vs. Kawasumi-Nodame) they have been nominated in, they are on-par.

I admit that I do not know enough about the character of Nodame or Kawasumi's performance and I will not downplay her excellence in the role (I've 'heard' Kawasumi since ages ago, like the Seikai series).

All I am saying that Hirano is just as equally qualified in winning the award as other nominees and does not deserve all the bashing and she did not 'steal' the honor from other seiyuu.

If there's an award that says explicitly, "Best voice actress of the year" and Hirano won it, I'd be happy, but I'd also be somewhat suspicious at the selection process because she did not have as many roles as the other seiyuu. Perhaps that's what you are complaining about, but just remember this is not an award on overall performance during the year, but on a particular given role.

Just some thoughts on this in that inexplicably, I think the awards will always be given to higher-profile roles and I can only but imagine next year what sort of shows will be nominated (Macross F, new Haruhi, Geass R2)

This reminds me of a common saying in college...Don't hate the playa, hate the game. Hirano does not deserve the blame or negative fire at all.

W-General said...

Now that I think about it, the fact that these awards might have a certain bias seems to have some truth to it.

I admit that I was getting a bit too defensive because I was sick of all the 2ch anti's trying to defame anything related to Hirano Aya.

Regardless of the apparent objectivity of awards (Kadokawa or not), I guess I just wanted to make a point that Hirano's performance cannot be downplayed. e.g. "Aya did nothing to deserve this. [Enter seiyuu name] should have won it!" - totally untrue.

Hopefully other companies will see the "advantage" (or the leveling of the playfield thereof) in participating in this award. When everyone in the industry is on-board the award, then hopefully it will become more objective. Rather than just a Kadokawa award.

Shippoyasha said...

I can agree with the honorable mention in Hitohira, hashihime. I always thought that show had an almost unreasonably good voice acting.