Aya and the show's staff are starting to get it, I think. I found episode three the most entertaining of all. Despite its very simple premise, it gave Aya a chance to react naturally and be the entire centre of the show.
The simple premise? She went to a zoo (Fuji Safari Park) and had her picture taken with a list of 42 animals there, in alphabetical order. Some, like a lion cub, she could hold in her arms. Others, like the adult lion, had to be photographed with her safely inside either a viewing tunnel or a van.
But she mugged her way through all 42 stops, making a highly entertaining 57 minutes of pure personality-power. And the lion cub giving her a lick was clearly her favorite moment:
I also liked it when she was getting tired and bored about halfway through the day, and became subtly petulant. Some posters on 2channel wanted a more complex premise, but this kind of thing works for me, and I suspect for most people who would even consider watching a show like this.
And early in the show, especially, I think we even got to hear her natural voice, as she interacted with the staff.
Also last week, on Saturday, Aya played a dog in the Miyazaki-esque NHK eco-anime Kawa no Hikari ("River-Light"). This 75-minute anime special is the story of three mice who make a journey into the city, which is encroaching on their homes by the river. The dog befriends and helps them a couple of times.
The mice are played by Orikasa Fumiko, Kaneda Tomoko, and Yamadera Kouichi (Spike Spiegel), with Tanaka Atsuko (Kusanagi Motoko in GITS) as a cat who eats only fish, and Ohtsuka Akio (Black Jack) as a surprisingly benevolent old rat. Some posters on 2channel felt Aya's performance was the only one that didn't work. And it is definitely in a different style from the restrained and conventional performances of the others. But she really gives the feeling of a happy, exuberant young dog. As usual, Aya doesn't give us the norm, but tries for something beyond it.
Nice animation and backgrounds, and good characters and voices, but a fairly limp story line and pacing for anyone who isn't under ten years old. The novel on which it is based recently ended a two-year newspaper serialization.
Here are some more screencaps from Hirano Aya-only TV episode three. First, Aya as a sheep:
Sometimes, the lovely Aya by herself is all it takes:
Not sure a kick to the groin is Aya's style of fighting, but it appears to be that kangaroo's:
Feeding the hippos:
It was a good thing there was strong glass between her and the leopard she had been teasing:
The strength of the lion amazed her when she poked a bit of food through to it on a stick:
But the lion cub was her baby, especially after she had fed it a whole bottle of milk:
After playing with the cub for a while, she suddenly realized where she was and said, "Oh, cameraman, I forgot," and started to pose.
Feeding the giraffe at head-height:
And her best imitation was of the hyena's smile: