Who is the best female seiyuu working today? Some people would say Kawasumi Ayako, others Paku Romi or Orikasa Fumiko, Kuwashima Houko or Sawashiro Miyuki, even Horie Yui or Kugimiya Rie. But I'd like to suggest a new candidate: Koshimizu Ami.
Ami is only 23, but has been working as a seiyuu since she was 16 and played Nadja in Ashita no Nadja. She was Kallen in Code Geass, Tenma in School Rumble, Anemone in Eureka Seven, Tenko in Kamisama Kazoku, Nina Wang in My-Otome, Nodoka in Saki, etc., etc.
She has been in 13 shows this year, with important roles in ten of them. She can do comedy, but she is especially good at conveying intense emotion with her strong voice and high professional skill.
Last year, I thought she should have won the best female seiyuu award for her performance as Horo in Spice & Wolf. Now, in yesterday's episode three of the second series of that show, she gives us a memorable few minutes that I think should go down as a voice-acting classic.
Horo realizes that her homeland has been destroyed, and that her travelling companion Lawrence knew this all along but never told her. She is devastated that all her friends may be dead and her home destroyed, and thinks that Lawrence must have been laughing at her all this while. She feels doubly alone.
Horo speaks softly in pain, then raises her voice in manic laughter, then shouts angrily, before dropping back into sobs, biting off bitter comments. Never once does her voice drop out, no matter how low it goes. Every word is clear. Every emotion is clear, too.
2channel has some praise for this performance, too, both in the Koshimizu Ami thread and in the Spice & Wolf thread.
Ami is a pro. I sometimes talk about seiyuu performances being merely professional, with no deep feeling under the skillful tricks. I can prefer less-trained seiyuus who have what seems to me deeper feeling. But Ami shows what heights can be reached by someone who has both professional skill and acting talent.
I'm enjoying this new season of Spice & Wolf even more than the old one, and not just because there is a tad more fanservice, of the both the fluffy wolf-tail and the human female kinds.
It's just a bonus that Ami is playing opposite her talented friend Fukuyama Jun, as she did in Code Geass. They are good friends. We know from their blogs that she has looked after his cat while he was away.
Some posters on 2channel think they have been going out together for 2-4 years and would even like to get married. Not sure how that would affect their mutual friend Sanpei Yuuko, Ami's close girl friend, whom Ami once "married" for a radio show.