Saturday, March 08, 2008

Hirano Aya Wins Top Seiyuu Award

The 2007 Seiyuu Awards were presented last night, and Hirano Aya walked away with the top female lead award, as well as sharing the award for top song with her compatriots from Lucky Star.

j1m0ne has an excellent report on the ceremony, so I'll just concentrate on Aya, with photos and info from her blog posts after the show.

Here she is with (l-r) Kamiya Hiroshi, who won best supporting actor for Tieria Erde in Gundam00, and whom she says she "loves"; with Kamiya, Saiga Mitsuki (best supporting actress for Kei in Moyashimon), and Miyano Mamoru (best actor for Setsuna F. Seiei in Gundam00); and with Katou Emiri, Fukuhara Kaori, and Endou Aya, who sang the winning song, Motteke! Seerafuku with her. Katou also won one of the two awards for best new female seiyuu. (click on photos to enlarge)

Last year, Aya wore an extravagantly brief creation from Shibuya 109. This year, she wore a kimono of her mother's, to look "mature." She and Mamo-chan (Miyano) seem quite concerned with appearing mature, lol. In her blog, she posted several shots of the kimono, which she described as "gorgeous" and "sunny." She pointed out that the patterns on each side of the back were different, and said how nice the obi was, too. She thanked her mother with a "sankyu" (Japanese version of "thank you").

Just for comparison, here is Hirano Aya with Kano Yui at last year's ceremony, in her Shibuya 109 dress, and in a similar shot from this year, Then there are a shot of her having returned home last night (Saturday night), exhausted; and then with her two awards:

Kano Yui (left) and Hirano Aya, before the ceremony

Aya says in her blog that after an evening wearing unfamiliar clothes, she was so tired her legs were shaking. She said that although the awards came to her, she couldn't do anything alone, and they really belong to the staff and cast that worked with her and the fans who support her, as well. She hopes everyone will get a good rest on Sunday. She also says she will work her hardest to get back to the awards ceremony next year.

These awards have about double the number of organizers and sponsors this year as last. Perhaps more companies want to get in on the publicity. Public voting establishes a long list of nominees, and the final choices are made by a committee of people from the organizers and sponsors. I think most of the choices were at least reasonable, although the sponsoring companies clearly have some influence on the results, as j1m0ne points out.

I myself voted for Aya over Kuwashima Houko (Claymore) and Kawasumi Ayako (Nodame Cantabile), who are fundamentally better seiyuu, because I thought Konata was an inspired comic creation, even more inspired than Nodame. But people who think Aya is praised more than she deserves are all shaking their heads and exchanging knowing smiles. 2channel, as usual, is split.

Motteke! was not the best anime song of the year, but it may have been the most memorable and the most successful. It and all that other music from Lucky Star. As I keep repeating, professional skill does not equal musical interest, at least for me. But Yamamoto Yutaka's OP animation certainly helped the song's popularity.

It looks to me as if this awards show is in for the long haul, with more industry insiders taking part. Perhaps if all the agencies and production companies take part, the awards will be spread further: as j1m0ne points out, shows based on Kadokawa publications did very well, as did performers with ties to Bunka Housou broadcasting. Both of those companies are involved in the production of the Awards.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Why People Hate Hirano Aya

There is a large body of Japanese otaku who actively dislike Hirano Aya. She and Mizuki Nana seem to have the highest negative to positive thread ratio on 2channel.

I usually put it down to two things: first, that otaku have a limited and conventional idea of how seiyuu should sound; and second that they demand that their seiyuus not be "disloyal" and seek popularity from groups other than otaku.

But Watch! Seiyuu-san recently posted an interesting list of reasons from a poster on 2channel for why he hates Aya:

・her face is appearing too often
・no bathing-suit photos
・poor singer, which can be seen in live events when she has trouble breathing
・even though she's a poor singer, she released three singles in three months
・weird song arrangements
・her voice is screechingly high and hurts your ears
・her voice shifts over the episodes when she is playing a single character
・her voice and acting are the same no matter who she plays
・despite her poor acting, she is praised to the skies
・in interviews, she just says what people want to hear (about hair color, about precognition)
・puts on a false voice (then drifts back to a lower one later in the interview)
・hearing her talk about herself is painful
・上から目線で話す(>>6)(「好き」と言われて→「写真撮りますか?」)[I don't understand this line, but I think it begins by saying that she talks as if she's superior to other people]
・fake posts in her blog
・disgustingly over-made-up
・I hate the way she opens her eyes wide for photos in her blog and elsewhere
・her duck-lipped expressions (see photo above)
・her fans are annoying
・I hate KyoAni
・I hate Haruhi and Lucky Star
・The media go on and on about how great she is: appearance, acting, singing, etc.

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to hear from the "anti-" side. Lots of otaku just can't figure out why she's so popular.

I think there's some truth in the idea that she just isn't as professional a singer or actor as many others. She never did really go to seiyuu school. I think she does better than the standard professionals, but she doesn't have their specific skills. In the interviews I've heard, there is definitely a lot of performance, but I like it when her voice drops and she gets more real. And I really like her blog, which seems no more contrived than anyone else's to me, and does convey something of a real person.

And I do think that, although she feels quite a bit of insecurity, she really is a bit of an ojou-sama, and feels superior to a lot of hardscrabble seiyuu. She has had photos taken in bathing suits, but never particularly revealing ones. And I think she is happy to get jobs with NHK and other high-class organizations.

I was well aware that some photos were not posted in her blog on the days they were shot, even before people started applying Exif Reader and saying that she lied about where she was on Christmas Eve. I don't think she lied. She just didn't say that the meal she was posting about happened a couple of days previously. So what? And duck lips can be cute, lol.

In any case, on his blog, Shiina Takashi, the mangaka of Zettai Karen Children, for which the anime will start in April, says that although he only asked for a "popular young seiyuu," it was really Aya he was thinking of, and whom they ended up getting to play Kaoru. He says that her voice has "an unforgettable enchantment."

He thinks the character has to be played as a tomboy with a feminine voice, a mischievous princess in whom you can hear a future charismatic queen of the demons. And he says the director and the sponsors are pleased, too. Personally, I think this kind of subtle calculation of how a character should feel is right up Aya's alley.