Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sawashiro Miyuki On Stage

Sawashiro Miyuki 沢城みゆき has joined the Theatre Gekidango (Theatre劇団子) comedy troupe. The group performs live and creates video comedy sketches that are shown on TV.

Miyukichi (her nickname) performed in their Harukanaru Yama de Yahoho 遥かなる山でヤッホッホ (I think that means something like "Off to the Distant Mountains, Yohoho!") last November.

The show was also broadcast on Sky Perfect satellite TV for several days in January.

"Gekidango" is a play on words, involving gekidan ("theatre group") and dango (a kind of sweet dumpling). Viewers of Clannad will be familiar with the dango, which is featured in the ED.

The group's irreverent comedy style reminds me a bit of Saturday Night Live, Second City, or even Monte Python. One of the group's members, 31-year-old Takahashi Kazumi, says her rebellious period hasn't ended yet -- and never will. I think that's the group's style. You can see a sample of their work (without Miyukichi) on YouTube. That sample doesn't require much Japanese. Other samples require more.

One of the group's recent podcasts is a welcome party for Miyukichi and another new member, Shiraishi Yuuka.

Miyukichi is one of the top actors among current seiyuu. She got her first role as Petit Charat at 13 in the public audition for Di Gi Charat. You can see a video of those auditions on YouTube (1, 2, 3, 4-- Miyukichi appears in parts 1 and 4, Sanada Asami and Asano Masumi in parts 1 and 3).

At 22, she has already played in over 75 anime series, including such roles as big sister Iina in Kokoro Toshokan (when she was 16), Mint Blancmange in Galaxy Angel, Shinku in Rozen Maiden, Ibara-hime in Otogizushi Akazukin, Aruruu in Utawarerumono, Claire in Red Garden, Reika in Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun, and Hagino in Blue Drop. Not to mention large numbers of OVAs, movies, dubbing, drama CDs and music CDs.

There is an excellent video compendium of her roles on YouTube.

She is known as a quiet and serious person, who is always studying something, from swimming to story-telling to cooking. She is a university student as well as a working seiyuu and now stage performer.

She is also known as someone who does not hesitate to correct other people, even people who are older than she is. I think there may be a lot of herself in Shinku.

The pictures here come from her page on a Theater Gekidango fansite. Fans have commented about this last picture (right) that it shows Miyukichi's tongue is extremely long. All the better to create the amazing range of voices you can hear in the video compendium of her roles.

In Blue Drop, the 22-year-old Miyukichi plays the many-years-old Hagino, while 40-year-old Yajima Akiko plays her inamorata, the 16-year-old Mari.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Yajima Akiko -- 150+ Seiyuu Roles

Yajima Akiko's 矢島晶子 voice as Shinnosuke in Crayon Shin-chan is the most recognized voice in all Japanese anime. Everyone knows Shinnosuke's rough comic bleating.

But Yajima-san also has one of the least recognizable voices. She does roles from young women and boys through adult women even to animals.

I didn't know her until her role as 16-year-old Mari in Blue Drop last fall, but I immediately fell in love with the rich youthful energy of that 40-year-old voice. And she gives 11-year-old Miyako in Ghost Hound a haunting darkness.

She has played over 150 anime roles, as well as almost 50 game roles, and has dubbed over 75 movies.

She debuted in 1989 as Eriko in Legendary Idol Eriko. But she punched her meal ticket in 1992, when she got the starring role in Crayon Shin-chan . The show has been on the air ever since, and there have been many "KureShin" movies, OVAs and CDs. The TV series has had over 600 episodes, and has been in the top five rated anime on TV more or less continuously for 15 years.

To get an idea of just how weird Shin-chan's voice is, here is a little clip from YouTube of an interview with Yajima-san, including samples showing how she has changed the voice over the years.



Yajima was born on 4 May 1967 in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, on Japan's northwest coast. She went to Shukutoku Junior College in Tokyo, and is a qualified child-care worker. She was appearing on stage when seiyuu/manager Tatekabe Kazuya saw her and invited her to join the Production Baobab agency. She has been with them ever since.

She and the agency have done well together: in addition to over 110 roles in TV anime, she has done 23 OVAs, 22 animated features, 48 games, 23 drama CDs, 22 other CDs, and has dubbed ten TV shows and 76 movies. Now that is a professional voice actress.

On 2channel, the Japanese forum site, her thread includes posts nominating her best roles in many categories: bad little boy, moe weeper, tsuntsun ojou-sama, princess, onee-san, good boy, cheerful boy, suffering girl, monster, etc. She has a bit of range.

MariAccording to Japanese Wikipedia, Akiko is married, and her husband chaffs her about her unusual voice as Shin-chan. To get an idea of how different a voice she can make, here is a clip of her as Mari in Blue Drop. And check out the voice samples on her agency page (the Windows Media and Real links).

She herself appears to be a rather laid-back person. She is said to like staring blankly out the window, or drinking beer. Wikipedia mentions that she finds her stomach rumbles during recording sessions, so loudly that they sometimes have to stop recording.

ShinnosukeShe has tried to keep out of the public eye, in order not to mess with Crayon Shin-shan's image. But recently she has begun to appear more, in the clip posted first above, for example.

Here is a list of some of her major and recent anime roles: Eriko (Legendary Idol Eriko, 1989), Nohara Shinnosuke (Crayon Shin-chan, 1992, etc.), Relena Darlian (Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, 1995), Chinami (Seraphim Call, 1999), Kuu (Haibane Renmei, 2002), Asumi (Futatsu no Spica, 2003), Mipple (Futari wa Precure, 2004), Haydee (Gankutsuou, 2004), Ayumi (Glass Mask, 2005), Riku, Diva (Blood+, 2005), Pino (Ergo Proxy, 2006), Kyoko (Dennou Coil, 2007), Mari (Blue Drop, 2007), Miyako (Ghost Hound, 2007), Chie, Rin Itoshiki, Majiru Itoshiki (Zoku Zetsubou Sensei, 2008).

Kuu in Haibane Renmei left a lasting impression on me, even though I didn't know at the time who the VA was. And Ayumi in Glass Mask was absolutely outstanding. She and Kobayashi Sanae were rival actresses who each put on unbelievable shows of sheer acting. Apparently she herself had long coveted the role of Maya, the main star, which went to Kobayashi-san. But she made up for losing that role with her performance as Ayumi.

It turns out that her real name is Ogasawara Akiko. Perhaps she should have had a certain role in Marimite: Sachiko's name in that show is Ogasawara Sachiko.

For more information:
Anime News Network
Wikipedia
Official Site
Japanese Wikipedia

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Yamakan Returns? With Gonzo?

Watch! Seiyuu-san reports rumors that Yamamoto Yutaka 山本寛, the ill-fated first director of Lucky Star, is back in the game, directing Opoona - The Animation for Gonzo.

"Yamakan" is the visual and comic genius (my opinion) who created the Suzumiya Haruhi ED and the Lucky Star OP, as well as doing the Mikuru's Adventure and ENOZ concert episodes of Suzumiya Haruhi.

KyoAni yanked him as director of Lucky Star after four episodes, for reasons that still aren't fully clear. People have variously speculated that it may have had to do with unusual comic timing, poor budget control, or offending executives or sponsors.

The photo shows him with Hirano Aya a year ago, before Lucky Star aired.

Opoona is a future fantasy role-playing game for the Wii that was released in Japan in November and sank without a trace. According to Wikipedia: "Opoona, a descendant of the brave Cosmo Guards, after being separated from his family during a visit to the planet Landroll finds himself injured in a hospital and unable to remember how he wound up there. It is your job as Opoona to earn a license to travel to other colonies and find out what exactly happened to his brother and sister."

The rumors are based on posts on 2channel, in the Sawashiro Miyuki and Saitou Chiwa threads. Both posts say that the director will be Yamakan and the writer will be Kuroda Yousuke, the lead writer on such shows as Gundam00, Ookiku Furikabutte, Honey & Clover, Best Student Council, Madlax, Kokoro Toshokan, etc., etc. But the posts give different possible casts.

In the Sawashiro Miyuki thread, it says that the cast will include: Kugimiya Rie, Sawashiro Miyuki, Noto Mamiko, Nakata Jouji, Inoue Kikuko, Hirano Aya, Namikawa Daisuke, Kuwashima Houko, and Wakamoto Norio.

In the Saitou Chiwa thread, it mentions Saitou Chiwa, Yamaguchi Kappei, Toyoguchi Megumi, Wakamoto Norio, Inoue Marina, Kadowaki Mai, Miyano Mamoru, and Tomatsu Haruka.

There is no suggestion of when the show would come out, if these are more than rumors.

According to Japanese Wikipedia, NewType reports that Yamakan has started his own company, called Ordet, in Osaka. On MoonPhase, he is listed as director of the OP for an anime called Kemeko DX, which is slated to come out sometime this year, animated by Hal Filmmaker.

EDIT: Thanks to "Nai" for the comment (1) correcting Yamakan's given name from Hiroshi (another name written with the same kanji) to Yutaka; and (2) mentioning that he and Ordet worked on the animation of the second OP of Shakugan no Shana 2 (which I haven't been watching...until now).

I'll add here that "Yamakan," his nickname, can refer to Yamamoto as a director (a kantoku) or come from another pronunciation of that same kanji 寛: "kan."