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.