Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hirano Aya On the Subtleties of Playing Chiko in Daughter of Twenty-Faces

Hirano Aya was interviewed on the website about how she was playing Chiko in Daughter of Twenty-Faces (Nijuumensou no Musume). Here is a rough translation.

Question -- You’re playing quite varied characters in 2008. The character you play in
Daughter of Twenty-Faces has a very quiet air about her. She seems to be different from any character you’ve played before.

Hirano Aya – She has a quiet strength. All the time I’m playing her I think how difficult she is to play (laughs). You find something new in her in every episode.

Q -- It seems difficult to play a character whose feelings rise and fall so quietly.

Hirano – The basic line cannot be broken. Her ups and downs can’t go very far, and when they do, they have to be portrayed very quietly. It’s hard to do.

When they were talking to me about my voice, the director and sound director said: “If you just change the nuance slightly, the changed expression will immediately come out in your voice. You have to restrain yourself more than you think.” And in fact, when I see the show on air, there are still places where I haven’t suppressed the emotion enough. But there are also places where I have suppressed it too much.

After that, you have to bring out the flavor of the times in which the show is set. This was a theme of the show from the start. Daughter of Twenty-Faces is set in the Showa Thirties [1956-65]. When recording started, the sound director brought me a book called something like “Japan in the Showa Thirties.” I really absorbed a lot from the book, about the war being over and Japan’s revival coming on. One of the themes of how we’re playing this is the feeling of how people’s rising power is concentrated in the character.

Q -- How do you show “the flavor of the time” in your performance?

Hirano – It’s in small things. For instance when you hear the way people pronounced the “e” sound in eiga (movies), and the intonation, they were slightly different. I was asked to pronounce the endings of words fully and carefully [….] To be honest, I hadn’t been very aware of the differences in eras up to now [….] In this, too, the show has been a good education.

Q -- It seems that this role requires you to stretch your sensitivity in many ways.

Hirano – That’s why I can’t play other roles while I’m doing Chiko. I have to change completely. In Daughter of Twenty-Faces, there are a lot of scenes that are like a foreign film, but that have to be given an anime treatment. I think we feel those subtle points in all that.

Q -- It seems as if you have to do a lot of learning.

Hirano – Yes, indeed. If one reaction is wrong, you know it. I’ve only dubbed one foreign work, and that was total culture shock (laughs). You have to listen carefully to be sure your voice fits the tone. You really have to have a good ear.
[note: I wasn't aware that she had done any dubbing.]

Q -- Ear?

Hirano – Yes. You have to really listen to the people before you, so you have the same tone. You’re in the same space and you have to produce the same atmosphere. I think you have to develop a good ear, to use in your acting.


I think this is Aya's best work so far, and part of the reason is that she is expressing herself in such a restrained and subtle way in it. Thanks to the advice of the sound director and director, it appears. This is more like movie acting than stage acting or normal anime voice-acting.

The sound director of this show is Kikuta Hiromi, one of the few female sound directors in anime. She has done Kamichu, Emma, the Da Capo shows, Kimi ga Nozomu Eien and many other well-known shows, as well as
Daughter of Twenty-Faces.

I'll just add another couple of photos here, from Aya's blog. The well-known artist Murakami Takashi gave her a piece that is like a big sunflower cushion. She calls it "Hanamaru" (a hanamaru is a flower sticker that is given out in elementary school like a gold star).

She says she comes home after work and dives into it, in front of her small TV.


Scarface said...

i think the dubbing is refering to Renaissance an animated movie, i swear to god i read that from your blog too

hashihime said...

@scarface -- I checked Japanese Wikipedia and you're right. They had it listed under "movies" instead of dubbing. It's highly possible that I forgot what I had written myself, lol.

HtoK said...

Thanks for translating this!

Aya's doing a wonderful job as Chiko in Nijuu Mensou and after reading the interview I can see why. Here's to seeing more of her good side! Cheers!

PS. Want...Pillow...So...Awesomely Flower Power.

Anonymous said...

I actually saw part of episode 3 in this anime to hear aya's voice, I believe in this role she does well because she must speak with a calm and almost with no emotions and her nasal sound does not hear much, but in the lines were she needed to have some emotion she sounded nasal and her voice is not high enough for a girl of that age. I will not compare aya hirano with Kanae Kobashy as you did in your reply to my previous comment. I know very well that seiyuu, she has a lot of roles and a unique, pretty voice, she voiced gemini sunrise in sakura taisen V and the protagonist of elfein leid, the way she can change her voice is amazing, and no nasal sound in her voice can be found. In Especial A Yuko Goto sounded different because in that role she must sound like that, (But her normal voice is very cute) I am not an otaku, I have rarely watch anime in this past years but I am very interested in voice acting and voice actors, so I really listen well to seiyuus and their abilities to voice act, Aya is good, especially in this role, but her voice is not pretty, as seiyuus with not pretty voices like aya do not go so far, Like Fuchizaki yuriko, seiyuus with pretty voices and long range of voices do go far, like Yui Horie.

hashihime said...

@anonymous -- Thank you for your interesting post. I admire your perceptiveness, even though I disagree with your opinions.

I think there are two parts to seiyuu work: voice and acting. Aya's voice is not anything special, but I find her acting very effective. Especially in Nijuumensou and in NANA. I also love her comic style in Lucky Star.

I have come to the conclusion that Horie Yui is a professional voice without much depth. I was quite disappointed with her work in Vampire Knight. Aya seems to me to give her good roles more human depth and immediacy.

But I admit that Aya can sound unnatural, somewhat forced. She tends to be quite stylized, but I think she creates styles that are very effective in conveying emotion.

As for whether she will "go far," I think she has gone far already. Many anime otaku hate her voice, but I believe she is one of the two or three best-known seiyuus in Japan today (with Mizuki Nana and Sakamoto Maaya) among people who are not passionate anime viewers.

I think she has a style that communicates better with creators and the general public than with anime otaku, who prefer very professional voices that do not sound distinctive. Aya is not as skilled as many seiyuu, and her voice is quite distinctive.

In my opinion, the most beautiful new voice in anime today belongs to Hayami Saori, a young seiyuu whom you can hear in Sekirei and Wagaya no Oinari-sama. She also has one of the most beautiful singing voices I have ever heard, from a seiyuu or from a professional singer.

In any case, you give me much to think about. Thank you.