Saturday, April 19, 2008

How Katou Emiri Became a Seiyuu

Katou Emiri was doing design at a Tokyo high school, but was coming to realize that she wasn't as talented as the people around her. Then a classmate suggested she come along to see a seiyuu school: the classmate was Kano Yui (left, with Emirin).

Emirin was asked in an interview if there was any seiyuu she admired as a kid. She said no, that she had no idea of becoming a seiyuu, she just went on the visit to see what being a seiyuu was like, and decided it seemed okay.

Last year, Yui won one of the "best new seiyuu" awards at the Seiyuu Awards, for her comic excesses as Momoko in Sumomo mo Momo mo. This year Emirin did, for her work as Kagami in Lucky Star. What a difference a few years can make.

Yui and Emirin both studied voice work at the Amusement Media Academy. But Yui went on to join the Aoni Pro agency, while Emirin is with 81 Produce. They are both 24, and both did their first anime work in 2004.

Here are some more photos. Left, Emirin (centre) with Fukuhara Kaori (left) and Endou Aya, from Lucky Star. Centre, Kano Yui. Right, Yui and Emirin's high school classmates, at a recent get-together. (Yui couldn't make it because of work.) (click photos to enlarge)

Info from Watch! Seiyuu-san.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Koshimizu Ami's New Friend

Is called Puuchin (click photos to enlarge):

But she still has old friends like Sanpei Yuuko and Yukana (left) and Kadowaki Maii (right):

And Sanpei-san is a very close friend. Not only did she take the pic of Ami holding Puuchin, but here are some more shots of her from recent entries in Ami's blog. They met in middle school and went all the way through seiyuu school together:

Pe seems to like her games. And Amisuke did a Horo puzzle one night, between 3 and 5 am, with a bottle of wine:

At the moment, Pe is in Yes! Precure 5 GoGo! as Cure Dream, and in My-Otome 0~S.ifr~ as Elliot Chandler. Amisuke is in Code Geass as Kallen, and joins Pe in My-Otome 0~S.ifr~, playing Sifr. Just for good measure, here are a couple of pics of Amisuke from Pe's blog. The left-hand pic is from the same fondu dinner with Yukana as the shot above:

Ami said that "Yuka-nyan" is not only a great cook but also very beautiful.

Macross Frontier -- character/seiyuu pics & info

For those of us who have trouble keeping all this stuff in memory, I've made a page showing the main characters in Macross Frontier, with pics of the character and of their VAs, along with info about each VA. Click here or on the picture to go to the full page.

There is basically just a lot of good voice-acting in this show. Nakamura Yuuichi shows that it is no accident he has become such a hot property. And Nakajima Megumi is making the most of her debut role as Lanka, despite the odd bit of newbie flatness. I also thought her insert song in ep3 was excellent.

But Endou Aya as Sheryl is really blowing me away. Once again, it's no accident that she has three starring roles this spring (in this, Neo-Angelique, and My-Otome s.ifr).

Add names like Kamiya Hiroshi (Zetsubou Sensei), Fukuyama Jun (Lerouch), Kuwashima Houko (Shuurei in Saiunkoku), Kobayashi Sanae (Maya in Glass Mask, one of the greatest performances I've ever seen), Konishi Katsuyuki (Kamina in Gurren-Laggan), and Sugita Tomokazu (Kyon), and you've really got a cast that can do the job.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vampire Knight -- character/seiyuu pics and info

Vampire Knight is one of the shows I am enjoying this season. But it is a little hard to keep the various members of the "night class" straight. So I have translated the official site's characters page, adding a pic of each seiyuu.

Click here or on the image to go to the full page:

I don't want to put too much emphasis on this, but it struck me as I looked at the official site that all the main creative staff on this show are women. The director is Sayama Kiyoko. This is her first full series, but she did storyboarding and direction for episodes of Princess Tutu, Saber Marionette J, Blood+, Aria the Natural, etc.

The lead writer is Okada Mari, who did work on Simoun, and was lead writer on true tears, Sketchbook, Kodomo no Jikan, etc. The mangaka is Hino Matsuri.

And the character designer is Nishida Asako, who was character designer/animation director on Fate/Stay Night, Simoun, and Touka Gettan. Check out her home page, especially the gallery and her doll collection.

One more staff note: the sound director is Gouda Houzumi, who also is the VA for the headmaster. It seems Studio Deen likes VAs as sound directors: Tsujitani Kouji was sound director of Simoun and F/SN (he was Tanda in Seirei no Moribito).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

紅 kure-nai -- characters and seiyuus

Kure-nai is my favorite of the new shows, after two episodes. Drama, character, action, comedy, mystery, good animation, good music, and a cute seven-year old rich girl whose bitchiness is mitigated by her intelligence and basic goodness.

Sawashiro Miyuki is her usual excellent self, but the real surprise is 16-year-old Yuuki Aoi, who is giving us a real seven-year-old and some dramatic power. Relative unknown Kimura Haruka, who has really only done bit parts until now, has impressed me with her portrayal of the rather creepy neighbor Yamie. And Sanada Asami, who was Di Gi Charat to Sawashiro's Petit Charat, is reunited with her here.

To keep the excellent voice-actors straight, I have made a page with pics of each main character and their VA, also giving a bit of info about the VA. Click here or on the image below to go to the full page:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Spring Anime -- 10 More First Looks

So far, Kurenai is the only show that I think might equal my top shows of the past year (true tears, ef, Blue Drop, Hitohira, Lucky Star), but this is a very broad season, with many good shows, several of which could develop into something great. I covered 24 shows in a previous post. Here are ten more that have debuted since then.

Nijuu-mensou no Musume -- Hirano Aya is at her best, acting and singing the ED in this promising retro anime telling the story of a girl who willingly joins a famous thief, in order to get away from the hell she is enduring with her step-parents. Full review.

Real Drive -- Strong Production IG animation and a complex and interesting Shirow Masamune (Ghost in the Shell) plot make this a promising show. Directed by Furuhashi Kazuhiro (Chevalier D'Eon). The cast includes Fujiwara Keiji and Kawasumi Ayako. The character design features strikingly large-hipped women, and we see the same man at 25 and at 80. The look has great clarity and the plot doesn't.

Toshokan Sensou -- More wonderful animation from Production IG in a promising story of a girl joining the para-military organization that defends freedom of publication from an opposing pro-censorship organization. The strong outlines used in some of the character design are fascinating. Echoes of Planetes in the relationship between the leads. Inoue Marina (Yoko in Gurren-Laggan) shows why she got 20 roles last year.

Net Ghost Pipopa -- Kimura Shinichirou (Karin, Mahoraba) directs this surprisingly entertaining kids' show about a boy who fears the Internet and three "Net ghosts" who become his companions. Fine cast includes Satou Rina (Negi Springfield), Shiraishi Ryouko (Hayate), Arai Satomi (Kozue in Mahoraba), and Yahagi Sayuri (Karin). oHagi (Yahagi's nickname) is one of my favorites, and shows her stuff in ep1. What a voice.

Golgo 13 -- Could have been made in 1985. Static animation well used to tell the story of a sniper hired to shoot a hijacker. Brutality, blood, and expressionless super-male faces -- but I enjoyed it.

Junjo Romantika -- Want yaoi? You got it. The dominant male forces the brother of the man he loves to accept being mastur*ated. And that's in the first five minutes. Later, they both regret the brother's becoming engaged. Yes, there is a story in there somewhere. Directed by Kon Chiaki (Higurashi), with a great cast including Sakurai Takahiro, Canna Nobutoshi, Itou Kentarou, Kishio Daisuke, and others.

Kyouran Kazoku Nikki -- Madly funny story of a guy who is dragooned into being the "dad" of a "family" made up of dangerous alien descendants who need to be socialized to humans in order to stop them destroying the world. Top cast includes Fujimura Ayumi, Kondou Takayuki, Hirohashi Ryou, Tomatsu Haruka, Hanazawa Kana, Satou Rina. Fujimura-san shows why she is becoming a favorite of directors. Hanazawa-san has one of the two or three most moe voices in anime (she and Sasaki Nozomi are at the top of my list).

Kaiba -- Wonderful, surreal animation from Yuasa Masaaki and Madhouse. Here's a selection of words from posts on AnimeSuki: existentialist, Dali-esque, theatre of the absurd, stream of consciousness. The words all attracted me, but I ended up bored when I actually watched the show. Too much for me, but if your taste is good enough, you may be as thrilled as some other people are.

Uchi no San Shimai -- Slipping in under the radar is this animated version of a popular blog on child-rearing, showing the amusing parental travails of a family with three girls under about eight. I'll need a sub to really understand the dialogue, and I can't even find a Chinese sub yet. Simple animation, but cute and interesting. Daddy is played by Tsujitani Kouji, who was sound director of Simoun and Fate/Stay Night.

Himitsu - Top Secret -- A secret technology allows police to read the minds of murder victims and find the killer. With Seki Tomokazu, Namikawa Daisuke, and Nonaka Ai. This would be a show to watch, if there weren't so many other good shows already.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nijuu-mensou no Musume -- Another Spring Favorite

Nijuu-mensou no Musume 二十面相の娘 -- also known as Chiko, Heiress of the Phantom Thief -- debuted Saturday, starring Hirano Aya. I liked Nijuu-mensou enough that it is now one of my five early-season favorites: Kurenai, Macross Frontier, Vampire Knight, Allison & Lillia, and Nijuu-mensou no Musume. There's still nothing in the class of True Tears, Blue Drop, or ef, for me, but time will tell. Kurenai is the show I like most so far. (click images to enlarge)

Nijuu-mensou has a retro feel. Director Tomizawa Nobuo directed a Lupin III movie, and it shows. But from the first episode, the story seems to me to have some depth. It is full of powerful myths: Robin Hood; Superman; Sherlock Holmes; Cinderella; the myth of the exiled princess; the myth of being in constant mortal danger; the myth of being so unhappy that you long to be anywhere but where you are...and then are rescued by your hero, in the sudden fulfilment of a fantasy. Since I think myths are the heart of anime's appeal, these strong myths are a big plus for me.

The backgrounds and animation are good, if nothing special. Animation is by Telecom, with help from Bones. The show is slated for 22 episodes and is based on a manga that ran to eight volumes between 2002 and 2007. The adaptation is by Tsuchiya Rikei, who also did Major and KimiKiss (as well as Kirarin Revolution).

Director Tomizawa did Futakoi 1 and Kanban Musume, and the sharp direction of the latter is very much in evidence here. The story is told very economically, completing three adventures and setting up the main characters in the first episode. Largely thanks to Hirano Aya's great emoting, we really get a feel of the main character, in moments of great travail.

I'm a fan of Aya's, but even I found her other starring role this spring, Kaoru in Zettai Karen Children, a bit over the top, especially in episode one. In Nijuu-mensou, she returns to the emotion that I think is her greatest strength. I first took notice of her as Layla in NANA, where she almost made me weep every time she spoke. And then I noticed hints of this power in Suzumiya Haruhi, Manabi Straight, and even Sumomomo Momomo. She is not the most naturalistic actress, and some people can't get past what they see as overacting. But for me, she has an ability to communicate real emotion that few other seiyuu can approach.

I particularly liked both the OP, by 369, and the ED, by Aya. From my point of view, Aya's singing is getting better and better. She gives the song energy and rhythm, conveys emotion, has good phrasing, and hits all the notes dead on, unlike many seiyuu/singers, including Aya herself in the past. The OP and ED are both on YouTube.

Now, I appear to be the only blogger with much enthusiasm for this show, or for the ED, so your mileage may vary, but I was involved and entertained throughout.


The Thief With Twenty Faces robs the rich of their treasures. He warns them ahead of time, but still manages to succeed in every heist. He has promised to steal a rich man's golden casket, so the man fills his house with police. The Thief succeeds by infiltrating the guards and then having his zeppelin rip the top off the house, allowing him to escape -- and incidentally revealing an illegal treasure the man has hidden in his attic.

Chizuko is a young girl who is fascinated with the Thief. She lives in a grand house. But she seems to be refusing to eat: she dumps her tea on the table and leaves her cakes untouched. Her parents appear to be baffled by her behavior.

Back in her room, we see that Chizuko is clearly depressed and upset. She wants to be anywhere but where she is. At the next meal, her father grabs her violently and tries to force her to eat, but fails. After every meal, however, the butler comes in to give her something to eat, and she eats it.

We finally learn that these are not Chizuko's real parents, but her father's brother and his wife. Her parents have died somehow. Her aunt and uncle and the butler come into her room to give her some soup, but she refuses even that, after tasting one spoonful. Finally, the butler drops his disguise and reveals himself as the Thief. He tells the aunt and uncle that the food they are offering is good only for pigs, so they should eat it themselves. He produces a bottle of aconite poison and says it is the aunt's "secret spice." The aunt (and uncle?) have been trying to poison Chizuko so that they can inherit her father's company and wealth.

The Thief asks Chizuko if she wants to go with him. She says she does, and runs to him, desperately. Hirano Aya's wild little gulp as she races for him is a magic moment. But once in his car, they have to outrace the police, which they do with the help of a couple of accomplices who join them in the car after blocking the police. One of the accomplices gives Chizuko the nickname Chiko. Then they are chased by a man/youkai called the Tiger, but at the last minute, as they are on a train track with a train bearing down on them, the Thief's zeppelin arives and they climb up a rope ladder to safety, as the train apparently demolishes the Tiger. The Thief observes to Chiko that the world looks small from up in the sky, and they are now off to another country.

We have a good set-up, and now it seems that Chiko will develop into a star member of the Thief's gang. Whether the show fulfils its promise or not will depend on how well they develop the characters, especially Chiko, and how well the capers retain their freshness. The show could look like just a kids' detective show, or it could develop more of the psychological depth I saw glimmers of in episode one.

By the way, I'm not planning to blog this show. I just wanted to express my feelings about the first episode.