Friday, April 04, 2008

Hirano Aya Tokyo Mini-Live -- Report

Hirano Aya performed a "mini-live" in Tokyo on March 15. Reports (Animate, axive) say that the crowd was enthusiastic and Aya was at her best.

One report commented on the "rough" sound of the excellent four-piece band, not like a seiyuu band at all, and said that the beginning of a "Hirano sound" was starting to come clear. The report said that you could hear her musicality coming through, both in the hard and in the soft vocals. In her blog, Aya has been extremely enthusiastic about this band. (click photos to enlarge)

This was the second in a two-concert series. Aya had performed the same show in Osaka a couple of weeks earlier. The show was a commemoration of her three fall singles, and was only open to those who had bought all three. They came from all over Japan -- Hokkaido to Kagoshima -- to pack the little 1300-seat hall at Shibuya O-East.

There were a number of women in the audience, both in the front row and in special booths set up at the back, outside the sea of roaring testosterone. Aya said she has been getting more fan-letters from women and was very happy about that.

the band

In the talk portion of the show, Aya commented that she had been tempted to refuse the seiyuu awards she received, since she didn't feel she deserved them, but realized that they were honoring all the people who worked to create Lucky Star. She said she is still just developing as an artist and promised to do her best to get better.

Aya is a believer in fortune-telling and said that a palmist had told her last year would be a hard one, but this year and the next ten years would be excellent. She talked about her roles in Zettai Karen Children (which starts this Sunday morning) and in Chiko, Heiress of the Phantom Thief (Nijuu Mensou no Musume), which starts the following Saturday. She said that in Chiko, people would hear an Aya they had never heard before, and that she wanted people to be surprised it was her when they saw the credits.

She also mentioned her next single, unnamed world, the ED to Chiko, which comes out 23 April. She will have a new idol DVD coming out on the 25th, too.

As for anime, besides the two series starting soon, the one-episode OVAs Lupin 3: Black and Red and Fist of the North Star: The Legend of Toki are already out. And it has now been announced that she has a role in Amuri of Star Ocean, a three-ep OVA starting 23 May.

Set list:
03. MonStAR
04. Love Song
05. forget me nots…
01. Medley(Breakthrough~Ichiban Hoshi~Bouken Desho Desho?~Ashita no prism~Kazeyomi Ribon~Yorokobi no Uta)
02. MonStAR

And finally, here are assorted shots from Aya's blog over the past few weeks: 1. practicing drums in the studio. I'm not sure we'll hear her play them, but she was spending time learning; 2. waiting backstage on a cold day, with a handwarmer pack against her stomach; 3. cherry blossoms at a shrine; 4. forgot to shoot herself in this week's Midtown TV Princess Aya costume.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

New Shows Starting Over the Next Week, Listed Day by Day

Allison & Lilliatoday (Thursday 3 April) -- Kyou kara Mao 3, Allison & Lillia, xxxHOLIC: Tsugi, Macross Frontier (first ep preview already broadcast), To Love-ru, Kure-nai.

tomorrow (Friday 4 April) -- The Tower of Druaga: Aegis of Uruk, Itazura na Kiss, Amatsuki, Kirarin Revolution 3.

Saturday 5 April -- Kanokon, DC2SS, Kamen no Maid Guy, Blassreiter, Blue Dragon 2.

Sunday 6 April -- Net Ghost Pipopa, Onegai My Melody Kirara, Zettai Karen Children, Code Geass R2, Wagaya no O-Inari-sama, Nabari no Ou, SA - Special A (preview already aired), Neo-Angelique: Abyss, Mnemosyne no Musumetachi ep3.

Monday 7 April -- Soul Eater, Vampire Knight, Monochrome Factor.

Tuesday 8 April -- Uchi no San Shimai, Real Drive, Crystal Blaze, Himitsu: Top Secret.

And after that:

Thursday 10 April -- Library War, Junjou Romanchika, Kaiba.

Friday 11 April -- Golgo13.

Saturday 12 April -- Kyouran Kazoku Nikki, Chiko Heiress of the Phantom Thief.

Already started: Chi's Sweet Home, Ikuze! Gen-san, Sugar Bunnies, Gag Manga Biyori 3, Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's, Fist of the North Star OVA, Lupin 3 Green vs. Red OVA, ToHeart2 AD OVA 1/3, Bus Gamer, Kimi ga Nozomu Eien OVA ep2/4, Strait Jacket OVA ep3/3.

For more detail check either my own schedule, or Mahou's.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Yukana -- Great Voice, Strong Pheromones

Yukana is both an outstanding seiyuu and a controversial personality. Her voice has great range, from Cure White in Precure Max Heart to Dominura in Simoun, and from Mashiro in Mai-Otome to C.C. in Code Geass. Recently, she seems to be centring on roles that are like her: strong, sexy, and mature.

She stars this season as the female aspect of a fox god in Wagaya no Oinari-sama. In an interview about the part, she says she plays Kuu very god-like when she is in the shrine, but more active and inquisitive in the house. The show has its heartwarming parts and its slapstick parts, she says, but in the end gives you a warm feeling, like being in a hot bath.

2channel keeps talking of "pillow business" (i.e., using sex to get roles). There is no proof of this. Her talent should make it unnecessary, and at least one of the accusations has been shown to have no basis. But one look at her photos and you realize why people might make such accusations: the pheromones seem to leap right through the screen at you. (click photos to enlarge)

I first became aware of her as Dominura, the masculine older pilot/priestess in Simoun, who was involved in the upper reaches of the political world, and fell in love with a younger girl.

The role she is best known for recently is the mysterious and sexy C.C. in Code Geass. Before that, she starred in Mai-Otome as Mashiro.

And her most famous role is probably Tessa Testarossa in Full Metal Panic. But she has become very popular with directors: she had eleven roles last year, and has had five already this year, including being type-cast as a succubus in Tower of Druaga: Aegis of Uruk, which debuts this Friday.

Here are some of her roles: Moldiver (Ozora Mirai), Azuki-chan (Azuki-chan), Wedding Peach (Angel Lily), Melty Lancer (Sylvia Nimrod), Cardcaptor Sakura (Li Meilin), Full Metal Panic (Tessa), Futari wa Precure Max Heart (Cure White), Black Cat (Rinslet Walker), My-Otome (Mashiro), Simoun (Dominura), Code Geass (C.C.), Soukou no Strain (Lotti), Mononoke (Kayo), Wagaya no Oinarisama (Kuugen Tenko). You can see a full list on her Anime News Network page. She has also done over 60 games and over 30 drama CDs, according to Japanese Wikipedia.

She began her anime career at 18, in her last year of high school, starring in Moldiver in 1993. As a girl, she had apparently been weak and sickly, but there seems to be no evidence of that now. She comes from Chiba, and when she finished high school there, she started studying law at prestigious Keio University in Tokyo -- but dropped out to be a seiyuu. She often seems to have a "cat that swallowed the canary" look, and gives off an air of knowingness.

In the later 1990s, she began a singing career that has tailed off in recent years, although she continues to do some live performances, such as one coming up on 22 April in Shibuya (Tokyo). She has even written lyrics for other singers.

She and Ikezawa Haruna (Mao Oneechan in KimiKiss) are friends, and have had a radio show together called "Canary Lunar Market" (yukana-haruna market). You can find the current broadcast -- which may be the final broadcast -- from this page. Click the red button under their pictures.

But controversy has swirled around her for years. She is apparently not the easiest person to get along with, and in 2000, she was accused of having ruined one sound director's marriage. Some people say that in fact the sound director in question was a bachelor, so who knows what actually happened. She took some months off to go and do English study in the US, then returned and changed her stage name from Nogami Yukana to just Yukana.

Then in 2004 she was chosen to play Four Murasame in a new Zeta Gundam movie, and the older seiyuu who had played the role in the '80s (Shimazu Saeko) went ballistic, covering her home page with closely-argued tirades against the sound director who had chosen Yukana.

The rumor arose that Yukana had got the role because of a relationship with the sound director. 2channel Gundam fans sided with the previous seiyuu and although their ire was against the sound director, Yukana was tarnished. It turned out that many of the seiyuu in that show were new, and the director just wanted new actors, but maybe was loathe to tell the old ones this directly. Yukana left the public eye for a while. Japanese Wikipedia now talks about the whole situation here.

In 2007, she was slated to play Yumiko in Touka Gettan, but withdrew at the last minute in favor of Itou Miki, who had played the role in the hentai foreunner of the show, Moonlight Lady. Her agency, Sigma Seven, said they had double-booked her and apologized, but one wonders if she was trying to avoid another controversy.

Yuka-nyan is friends with numerous seiyuus, including Koshimizu Ami, who plays alongside her in Code Geass. The picture above right is of them having tea together last spring.

Not that she needs them, but she did attend "pheromone dinners" with other seiyuu (Koshimizu Ami, Shimizu Ai, et al.) where a group of women friends got together to eat a meal including lots of meat. At right is a pic of her (left) and Shimizu Ai taking pictures with their cell-phones at another tea party.

Stats: born 1975.01.06, 33 years old, height 160cm (5'3").

Anime News Network
Wikipedia Japan
music home page (Japanese)
agency profile page (with voice samples)
current 2channel thread (Japanese)
Yukana's blog (Japanese) new

Sunday, March 30, 2008

spring anime calendar w/staff-cast highlights

Here's this season's calendar showing when each show is on TV in Japan through the week, and giving highlights of staff and cast. The calendar includes both new shows and shows continuing from previous seasons. Click here or on the image to go to the calendar.

Shows tend to be broadcast at different times in different parts of Japan. These times are for the first broadcast of the week anywhere in the country.

There is also a good calendar at, using a different format that you may find useful.

And take a look at my complete preview of all the new shows, with a pic for each and more details of staff and cast.