Hayami Saori 早見沙織 will co-star in the much-anticipated dating-sim game Love Plus ラブプラス, which comes out this summer. The game's producer has loaded her with praise in terms that I think are wholly accurate.
"She has a deep understanding of the script and is able to communicate subtle feelings. That gives her the ability to be convincing as a real 17-year-old," says Konami producer Uchida Akari 内田明理.
"We auditioned around 50 seiyuu and she clearly stood out, so we asked her to take part.... She's a young seiyuu, but her acting is excellent."
Another staff member said: "She's only 17, but her power of expression is extremely rich. She is highly skilled."
The game, for the Nintendo DS, splits the story into two parts. In the first part, the player develops a relationship with the girl of his choice. In the second half, after she confesses to him, she is his girlfriend and they carry on a relationship. The game can continue indefinitely.
The game includes a huge number of possible lines from all three of the main girls, including a large number of Japanese names so that the girl can address her "boyfriend" by name. It follows a real-time clock, so the girls are likely to make different responses at different times of day. And there are mouse movements for various ways of touching the girl. But this is not an ero-game.
Hayamin is in excellent company. The other two girls are played by high-level veteran seiyuu. One is played by Tange Sakura 丹下桜, a semi-retired seiyuu of 36 who was the voice of Cardcaptor Sakura. The other is 42-year-old Minaguchi Yuuko 皆口 裕子, who has been in over 100 anime and a similar number of games. She was Yawara in Yawara, Fashionable Judo Girl and Videl in Dragonball Z. And she was Souta's mother in Otogijushi Akazukin. Uchida says that they chose seiyuu who could act naturally.
One of the verbal tricks is that the player can choose how the girls address him, by name or not, with or without various levels of honorifics, or even as "goshuujin-sama."
Uchida says Hayamin is not like most younger people, who can't use honorifics naturally. Her politeness gives exactly the right feeling for the character. Her character is called Takane Manaka. Manaka is a sheltered ojou-sama who is good at both academics and athletics, and is a teammate of the game-player's on the tennis club.
Fans posting in Hayamin's thread on 2channel are delighted. One said she can aim at the acting style of Orikasa Fumiko in Ristorante Paradiso or of Takagi Reiko in Corda D'Oro. Another said that Hayamin "exudes good breeding, and gives a feeling of being the real thing."
Hayamin's high-class background, including being a student at a well-known girls' school, is evident in the way she can speak formally, as you can sometimes hear on the Eden of the East radio show. That's part of the reason her co-host, who is seven years older, is now referring to her as "Saori Onee-san" ("elder sister Saori"). Another reason is that she can run a radio show better than he can. Yet another is that she seems to like to take the lead in things.
Konami hopes that this game will be a big hit, continuing the success it had with Tokimeki Memorial. You can get further information from Canned Dogs, where there are also links to various Japanese sites.
The photos of Hayamin here are from a Wagaya no Oinari-sama event with Yukana and Takahashi Mikako, in which the young Hayamin, who is ten years younger than either of them, more than held her own. It turns out that she and Takahashi Mikako share the same birthday: May 29. This year, Saori will turn 18 and Mikako 29.