Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hirano Aya in Fist of the North Star OVA

Hirano Aya will play Sara in a new Fist of the North Star OVA called Fist of the North Star: The Legend of Toki (真救世主伝説 北斗の拳 トキ伝 Shin Kyūseishu Densetsu Hokuto no Ken: Toki-den), which is scheduled to go on sale on March 26, 2008.

Aya reports in her blog that she went to the atelier of mangaka Hara Tetsuo 原哲夫 to shoot video for the DVD extras. This was a big deal for her, since Fist of the North Star has been one of her favorite mangas. Lines from the series were apparently a running gag on the set of Suzumiya Haruhi. Sugita Tomokazu is supposed to have given Gotou Yuuko her nickname of "Gotuuza-sama" in imitation of the names in Fist.


At the door to Hara-sensei's workshop was a life-size golden statue of Kenshirou. Aya said that Hara-sensei was very nice and gave her a lot of Fist of the North Star goods.

Aya will have good company in this one-episode OVA. The other main female role, Lin, will be played by Sakamoto Maaya. And the music will be by Kajiura Yuki.

True Tears ep2: Made in China?

I loved the first ep of True Tears, and I liked the second ep at least as much. The outstandingly detailed animation of episode one was hardly diminished in episode two. Imagine my surprise when I read the end credits and found that the names of the entire key-animation staff, as well as the animation supervisor and even the director of the episode all looked Chinese.

Now, I'm not going to go as far as some on 2channel and call this a Chinese anime: the director and writer and much of the other staff are Japanese. And director Nishimura Junji did the storyboard for the episode. But it is promising for consumers, and perhaps threatening for Japanese animators, that both Chinese and Korean animation has risen to the level that outsourcing to either country does not necessarily involve any drop in quality. I should add that most of the names of animators, though in Chinese characters, might also be Korean, as a comment says.

Now we see how P.A. Works plans to keep up the high level of detail they gave us in episode one. The studio has been around for a while, but always assisting the main production studio. This is the first show they have taken on themselves.

They grabbed a good director from Studio Deen, Nishimura Junji, and he brought in a top writer, Okada Mari. They established a high standard in episode one, using Japanese animators. And now they plan to maintain that standard using less expensive Chinese animation staff that they have perhaps developed themselves over years of assisting other companies.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Koshimizu Ami and Friend(s)

Koshimizu Ami 小清水亜美 started this new year right. She got a good fortune during her temple visit on New Year's Day, then she and her friend Sanpei Yuuko 三瓶由布子 went on a trip to Kyoto, and finally she and Sakakibara Yui went to Matsuki Miyu's house for a dinner.

Amisuke's depth of feeling for her old friend Pe (Sanpei Yuuko) shows up in the fact that pretty well all the photos from Kyoto are of her. And when Amisuke talks about others, she always adds something about Pe. I myself think Pe is one of the most attractive seiyuu of all, so I can sympathize with Ami's fascination. (click photos to enlarge)

After the trip, they had a meal with some friends from high school. Amisuke and Pe met in the first year of high school. Ami said that their high school friends were all so cute they looked like models, even though some were already housewives. The left-hand picture below is from their beautiful winter meal.

They also got together with college friends of Pe's to play Mah Jong. They were all cute, too, and with Pe there, Ami joked that it seemed like a harem.

And finally, Ami went for dinner to Matsuki Miyu's place. Sakakibara Yui ("Yui-nyan") was also there. Ami made sure we realized that Pe was invited but had something else she had to do. Dinner was Itarian food: Napa cabbage, onion, green onion and chicken in a tomato-based sauce, with penne. Delicious, says Ami.

The right-hand picture is Yui-nyan's leg, showing all the cat-hair from MiyuMiyu's cats, Bonta and Chii. Yui-nyan is starting to turn into a cat herself, says Ami.

Last New Year's, Ami got a fortune of "misfortune," and that seemed to hold true, she has said. She had terrible stomach trouble that even kept her from sleeping sometimes, and she once said she was losing her high voice range. But she is very optimistic about 2008. Her fascinating performance as Horo the goddess/wolf in Wolf and Spice is a great start. I have hopes this will become a signature performance for her. But she ended 2007 with good performances, too: as Nanaka in late episodes of Myself;Yourself, and as Yoshino in episode 13 of KimiKiss.

Pe and Ami are now both with the big Production Baobab talent agency. Pe was Renton in Eureka7 and is Cure Dream in Precure5. The two will star together for the first time since Eureka7, in the three-episode OVA My-Otome 0~S.ifr~, which begins in late February. (Thanks fr the correction, anonymous.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

true tears -- seiyuu pics & info

Based on one episode, true tears is my favorite show of the new season. Some of the voice-acting is particularly good. I finally get why Takagaki Ayahi has suddenly become so popular. Her voice did little for me as Ruchia in Venus Versus Virus, but she gives Noe real character. And Takahashi Rieko's brief turn as the protagonist's mother was sharp and vivid.

The show also features Nazuka Kaori (Cossette, Eureka) and young Iguchi Yuka, who is gradually getting more and more good roles. The protagonist's friend is played by the handsome and talented Yoshino Hiroyuki, who was Zedd in Kiba.

I've made a page with pics of the main characters and their seiyuus, including background info on the seiyuus.

And here's a cast photo from an interview with them on the official site. Back l-r: Ishii Makoto (Souichirou), Yoshino Hiroyuki (Nobuse); front l-r: Nazuka Kaori (Hiromi), Takagaki Ayahi (Noe), Iguchi Yuka (Ai):

In the interview, Nazuka Kaori says the show has an adult flavor, and is the first show so much to her own taste that she's done in a long time. On her blog, she wrote that the emotions are painful, but there is a lot of subtlety in the acting, and that each episode requires study. She spoke of having to suppress emotions, and of the need to work on breathing. Takagaki Ayahi says she was so impressed with the script during the audition, that it doesn't have a contemporary feeling, but has a nostalgic Japanese atmosphere.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hirano Aya in Hawaii and Other Photos

Hirano Aya made a quick trip to Hawaii last weekend for a photo-shoot. She found it beautiful, but a bit chillier than she expected. Click photos to enlarge.

She enjoyed some bits of American commerce (below): a hamburger as big as her head, and a big Disney store, where she bought pajamas, among other things. "I want to be a kid again." She says that girls' sizes for 8-10-year-olds or 10-12-year-olds seemed to fit her.

Below left is her New Year's picture, with which she wished everyone a happy new year on January 1. And here are a couple of pics from late December: one from a photo-shoot, and one that shows her eating dinner at a restaurant. Is that the "real" Aya?

All these photos are from Aya's blog. There were some great shots in late December.

The eyepatch shot is from 31 December, when she had a sty on her eye -- and was thinking like Garnet (the role she plays in Dragonaut).

She even did a photo-shoot as Alice in Wonderland. She wrote that she once won a costume contest at a Sesame Street theme park dressed as Alice so she feels a connection with her. I believe that was when she was a toddler, living in the US. She laughed that the right-hand picture is "disgusting."

Finally, here are some pics of Aya with her family's dog Chibi-chan ("Midget"), also known as Chibi Taikun ("Lord Midget"). She says it's a seven-year-old male "wiener dog," and she loves it, and it loves its "big sister" Aya. Personally, I find kissing dogs fairly disgusting, but since it's Aya....

Besides the continuing stream of TV appearances and photo shoots, Aya's main work this month is as host of Moegaku 5 (もえがく★5), a daily 15-minute TV show that teaches kids languages. She also voices a character in the animated part of the show.