Sunday, April 27, 2008

OMG, Hirano Aya Actually Is a Great Seiyuu -- Nijuu-mensou no Musume ep3

I am never really sure of my opinions, and Aya's ability is no exception. Sometimes I think maybe I'm just imagining things, and she's not really that good. But I'm not imagining how great she is in this show.

At best, I have always put her in the second rank of seiyuus, not up with the likes of Paku Romi, Kuwashima Houko, Kobayashi Sanae, Kawasumi Ayako, and Sawashiro Miyuki. But this show is making me change my mind. This role and Layla in NANA are Aya's best, for me.

She's not the most naturalistic of actresses, and can't just be slotted in to any role successfully. But when the voices around her fit the tone she creates, she can really convey character and emotion. By the way, that is not happening in Zettai Karen Children, where the three main seiyuu continue to operate in two different voice universes, and Aya's take on the role isn't working that well, for me.

The 2channel thread for Nijuumensou no Musume particularly praises a moment late in this episode when Nijuumensou calls on Chiko to confirm a trick he has played, and the drawing of her face changes from innocent to sly and she says to the person they have duped: "You should have checked when you had a chance." (click all images to enlarge)

Posters are praising both the drawing and the voicing of that moment. A couple of people wrote that it gave them goosebumps. Another wrote that he didn't realize Hirano was this good. With the music stopping at that point, the scene is clearly set up to give Aya the whole stage, and she makes good use of it.

The show itself goes from strength to strength. This is another highly entertaining episode. Uchida Yuya's voice is a pleasure to listen to, as well. And the drawing of faces is excellent all round. This image (right) of Nijuumensou particularly captivated me. That's a lot of character and energy in one still image.

Aya may have benefited from the popularity of Suzumiya Haruhi and Lucky Star to gain prominence and awards over the past two years, but this show is going to make up for that advantage, being a show in a less popular genre, played very late at night, on a schedule that varies from week to week.

There are howls on 2channel about the scheduling on FujiTV, which will see the next few episodes varying from 3:55am to 3:05 to 3:35 to 2:15 to 4:05 to 2:25. One poster joked about "dawn anime" for the 4:05 broadcast. Even otaku will have trouble programming their recorders to get this show.

It will only reach a somewhat larger audience in the Tokyo area when it starts being broadcast on BS Fuji satellite at 12:30 Sunday night on May 12. Fortunately, the schedule is more regular on Kansai TV, but still late: 2:29 early Wednesday mornings.

As some posters say, so far this anime seems like a World Masterpiece Theatre show, and should be on at 7:30 Sunday evening. WMT is a long-running family anime series that has done such works as Anne of Green Gables and Les Miserables.

I have read ahead in the manga, and there is plenty of material there for the anime staff to work with, including some that would not be suitable for WMT. Fasten your seat-belts. The anime is not exactly following the manga, so I expect some surprises.

The photos of Aya in this post were both taken in the past 2-3 days. The latter two are at karaoke with her family, and show her mother and father in the background. Aya says that her mother hates karaoke, but she came this time. She adds that when the whole family sings in unison, their voices sound the same.

Her father actually wrote a song on the spur of the moment to sing. He is apparently in the entertainment business himself, as a TV producer. She says that she and he look alike and you would know they were parent and child if you saw them walking together.

Other people don't seem to like Aya's singing as much as her family does: unnamed world has dropped out of the top twenty in Saturday's Oricon listings. I'm having my lack of faith in the common judgment confirmed, as this show remains not that popular (just beginning only its fourth thread on 2channel) and Aya's best music is ignored.


Josh said...

Jeez, I thought I was the only person who was watching this. I'm glad someone else is watching it (and liking it!).

I've hardly heard a peep from "the usual suspects" about this show and I've wondered why.

uragayduck said...

i'm watching this too which is many times better than zettai karen children. the only reason i'm watching that show still is because Aya's in it but that still doesn't change the fact that zettai karen children still sucks big time. stupid hayate no gotoku director is still killing shows for me even after it ended its first season.

anyways, as big of a fan of Aya as i am, i have to admit that unnamed world isn't her best but it's still nice to listen to. neophilia and forget me nots is pretty hard to top in my list so i don't blame her. she's not up there with Mizuki Nana or Chihara Minori in singing, but she's less than half a step away from them.

Kaioshin Sama said...

BONES is the kind of studio that manages to bring out the best in all of it's shows elements (They are a spinoff of Sunrise after all) ranging from animation, music to voice acting, so if she's coming across as especially good in this I can chalk that up to BONES ability to direct it's Seiyuu cast very well. Aya Hirano is a Seiyuu that is in need of good direction to curb some of her more weaknesses such as a tendency to overact and lose the context of a scene in her delivery.

Hopefully she comes out of this experience a bit wiser and will carry what she's learned to her future roles.

It also saddens me that the only reason people are watching this show is that Aya Hirano is in it and that the intriguing storyline can't speak for itself a little more. Blame it on the fact that BONES other series Soul Eater is by far the more promoted of their two shows this season (They shot Skull Man in the foot two I think by having the higher profile Darker Than Black put up next to it)

I will also never understand people that watch a series for a person in the voice cast over other draws. Considering one person I saw seemed genuinely surprised when he watched Nijuu, a show in a genre he doesn't normally like, for Aya Hirano only and obviously didn't like it, I wonder where some people are getting their criteria for enjoyment from these days.

hashihime said...

Thanks for all the good responses, people.

@Kaioshin -- I think it's perfectly legitimate for someone to watch an episode or two of a show simply because of the seiyuus in it. I used to say that to watch the rest if you don't like the show didn't make much sense to me, but I find myself enjoying listening to the various voice-actors in ZC, and gradually coming to enjoy aspects of the show. But I gave up on Hayate fairly quickly, too, despite the fine voice actors, so that may happen here. Just not my style.

Personally, I suspect that part of Aya's problem in Zettai Children is the way the director is asking her to play the role. I am more inclined to think that she needs to be freed up rather than directed closely. The times when she seems to you to be overacting may well be the times when I think she is conveying emotion best. In any case, I like her most in more serious roles.

By the way, thanks for the compendium of Kugimiya Rie clips on your blog. They really helped me hear her better. It didn't raise her anywhere near this league, for me, but tastes are allowed to differ.

@uragayduck -- Okay, I'll go back and start playing Neophilia and forget me nots again. They are certainly close to this, for me. I have just been enjoying this song a lot. And I actually prefer the B-side, in which she lets loose and riffs away, as in the Uma Kamen song from Sumomomo. From one angle, it can seem amateurish, but if you accept the style, it's art.

In singing skill, I think Aya is more than a step behind Nana and Minorin, but I usually lose focus about ten bars into their songs. It's probably because of the genre, but I'm not sure. In any case, musicality and skill are two different things, and for me Aya is now doing more with a song than they do.

Kaioshin Sama said...

@Hashihime: That's all good. I'll just go on feeling that Aya Hirano is still light years off from where Rie Kugimiya is. To me Aya Hirano is nowhere near the league of her or a significant number of other seiyuu.

To me the order of importance in elements of anime goes, plotting/story/character, direction, visual, music (for setting tone and atmosphere) and finally seiyuu cast. All are important elements, but each overides the other in level of importance for me in choosing an anime right down the chain. Having all five usually means I've struck gold, but having the last 4 in spades won't sell a show for me if the first one isn't up to at least par standards.

So I could never understand how someone could feel a certain seiyuu being in the cast roster could override any shortcomings in the other department.

Take Dragonaut for example, it had the entire Haruhi cast in it, which is like THE be all end all to many anime fans, even if I felt that only 2 and a half of the cast members present in the show had any sort of significant talent, and that still couldn't save the show for even the most die hard of Haruhi cast member fanboys when it failed to pony up in the other 4 departments I look at.

So really, I think it's a risky way of going into shows. I mean of course if you have all the time in the world and are sitting on the fence then it's a good a reason as any to give something a try. There is never a good excuse in life for not giving something a chance, based on whatever criteria it is that leads to it.

I just can't comprehend the idea of using seiyuu cast members as a primary method in picking shows when someone knows for a fact that they are not the slightest bit interested in the show itself. If one desires the sound of their favourite seiyuu's voice so much then why not watch an interview with them or something or listen to a montage. It will bring them far more to the point of what they are looking for, and they won't have to concern themselves with sitting through an anime they don't give a hoot about.

hashihime said...

@Kaioshin -- Nice reply. Your order of elements is good. I myself would put the cast ahead of both the music and the visual, but I know I'm weird. In my previews and schedule I emphasize the director and the lead writer. I do find that combination means something, even though they are usually working with a manga or novel source, which is at least as important. True Tears is a case where the director/writer combo was bang on for a good show (Nishimura Junji and Okada Mari).

Dragonaut is a great example for you, since it was a train wreck from the get-go. Voices definitely cannot overcome a plot/character mess. But voices can take something good and make it better. That's what I found with a show like True Tears and am finding with Nijuumensou.

I recognize the excellence of seiyuu like KugiRie, Horie Yui, Ueda Kana, etc. They can do the appropriate voices very consistently and professionally, and Hocchan can supply certain kinds of emotion. But in serious drama, the seiyuu I mentioned (Aaya, Paku, Kuwashima, Sawashiro, et al.) all have the ability to convey emotion to a much higher level, as I perceive it. I think of Aaya's ability in this regard as a positive virtue, as opposed to the negative virtue of sounding believable and fitting the type. But beauty is in the ear of the beholder, I keep telling myself.

uragayduck said...

well people are different in their direction for what will attract them to the show. me, i'll admit that seiyuu cast is one that is important but it's obviously not the most reliable method of all with you guys mentioning dragonaut as the best example. i've considered the directors and animation studios after researching who's in the cast (before the show actually starts airing) so i'm not solely basing it on seiyuu alone. but like i said, there are people who'll do the whole "oooh (insert seiyuu name) is in here. i'm definitely going to stick to this". not very smart indeed but whatever floats their nice boat.

and to hopefully give kaioshin sama some feedback on someone who sticks to a show because of the seiyuu even if the show sucks (i.e. me), that's what fans do i guess. to hear your favorite seiyuu (or see a favorite star) in a show no matter how crappy it is is the dedication of a fan. i'm sure they've seen every interview they've been in already, but what then after that? in the anime series, you've got 13 to 26 weeks of hearing them while in interviews it's just a one shot thing until, or even if, they come back (like Aya with HEY!x3). there's also the radio shows, but that's for the really hardcore fans which i'm not. shooting down people because they stick to a crappy show even with their favorite seiyuu is a slap on a face to their fan pride, but fortunately i'm an open minded Aya fan hence me mentioning that unnamed world wasn't her best (please don't hurt me hashihime). yes, being a dedicated fan is a terrible thing yet times.

don't get the wrong idea, i love all of Aya's songs. i'm happy that she's touched on various styles like the swing version of rule de my chisujo (love it to death). it's great that she hasn't just lingered in one category just to appease to certain fans *coughkonatacharactersinglecough*. no really, how can a crappy song like konata's place seventh while neophilia and unnamed world placed below the top 10?

i don't know, but for some reason Mizuki Nana's songs just leave a huge impact on me. Astrogation just blew me away because it wasn't anime/game related at all, and it was totally unexpected. i'll admit i haven't heard ALL of her many songs, but the ones i have heard did not disappoint just like Aya. if i were to choose to go to a concert between Aya and Nana based on music though, it'd have to be Nana hands down (please come to AX08 Nana!).

Kaioshin Sama said...


Hmmmm...when you look at it from that perspective I can sort of understand where people might be coming from. It's always interesting when you get something that was once outside your ability to comprehend.

Showing one's dedication to something and staying loyal to it through thick and thin is something I respect very much in a person even if I don't happen to share the same views as that person.

hashihime said...

@uragayduck -- Several people whose taste I respect love Mizuki Nana, so I keep listening to try to understand. Perhaps someday I'll get it. Perhaps the fact that I can't understand the lyrics as they are sung is part of it. I need to have them written out, usually.

As for watching a show for the seiyuus, I can definitely watch 2-3 episodes, but my loyalty even to Aya wasn't great enough for me to pick through all the Dragonaut eps to find her parts. However, if she had spoken more often....

I do find, however, that the sound of some seiyuus' voices can be so pleasant or interesting to me that I can get a lot of pleasure just from that, whatever the show is like. At the moment I am watching Wagaya no Oinari-sama largely for the sound of Hayami Saori's and Yukana's voices. It's like going to a concert.

sneezl said...

Aya has had a couple of awkward moments in this show, but when she's been on, she's been awesome.

Thanks for championing this show. It was completely off my radar coming into this season, but I picked it up on your recommendation and haven't regretted it one bit. It tops my Spring list along with Kurenai (which I suspected would be good).

hashihime said...

@sneezl -- I think Aya has "awkward moments" in everything she does, but the golden parts make them pale into insignificance. She just doesn't have the professional schooling that allows many seiyuu to reliably produce the expected, natural, unobtrusive voice. But she has the talent to produce the unexpected and to convey emotion. An unexpected voice like Konata, or emotion like Layla, Chiko, or a couple of scenes of Haruhi.

Anonymous said...

I love the song, tbh