Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Takagaki Ayahi -- Tiny and Talented

Takagaki Ayahi is opening the door to stardomTakagaki Ayahi 高垣彩陽 is 4' 11" (150.8cm) of talent and hard work. And over the past two years, she has become one of the better seiyuu actresses around.

She brings alive the laconic young killer Ein in Requiem for the Phantom. She made Nina Antalk the emotional centre of Chrome-Shelled Regios. Before that, she helped create an amazing romantic innocent with Noe in true tears.

And the role that first got my attention was the mature Otome in Da Capo 2 SS. Especially her powerful emotional expressiveness near the end of the series. Ayahi can be a bit melodramatic, but the emotion works. (click photos to enlarge; mouseover for captions)

Her ability is being rewarded with more and more roles. She has nine roles this year, and this fall will star in Sasameki Koto and will have an important role in Sora no Otoshimono.

And don't be surprised if she gets a real recording career. She graduated from a music college in Tokyo, with a major in operatic singing (hear her opera voice in the Da Capo 2 interview, below). Sony made her part of their group Sphere, composed of Tomatsu Haruka, Toyosaki Aki, Kotobuki Minako, and Ayahi. I found some of her earlier work rather stiff, but her character song album as Ein from Phantom is excellent.

Personal data
  • born 25 October 1985; 23 years old.
  • 150.8cm (4'11")
  • from Tokyo
  • agency: Music Ray'n (Sony)
  • blood type A
  • nickname: Ayahi, Ayahii, Ayahime
  • she uses her real surname, not a stage name, because she likes it so much. She says it gives a feeling of fighting (tatakau) and energy (genki-ness, like a kid, a gaki).

at an event announing her participation in some pro wrestling showsbackground
  • comes from a large family
  • attended a girls' school from kindergarten through high school
  • in kindergarten, wanted to be Sailor Moon
  • Lina Inverse's incantations in Slayers made her think that seiyuu could be magicians
  • when she was younger she once wrote that her career goal was to be a seiyuu, but she gradually drifted over to a greater interest in music
  • graduated from music college in March of 2008

becoming a seiyuu
  • her interest in seiyuu work revived after she saw Gundam Seed
  • she qualified at a series of Music Ray'n auditions in 2005-2006
  • she only took the audition due to a friend's encouragement, and barely made the deadline
  • she got her first role a month later, in 2006
  • her first named role was Tsubaki in Ouran HS Host Club (2006)
  • her first starring role was Ruchia in Venus Versus Virus (2007)

Video clips of Ayahi's roles:

  • she has a fairly wide acting range, from little kids to romantic teens to gentle weak girls to elder sister types to proper young ladies to boyish girls to serious young women
  • she uses her voice well, but it is not particularly distinctive
  • major roles: Ruchia (Venus Versus Virus), Jasmine (Deltora Quest), Otome (DC Da Capo 2), Feldt Grace (Gundam00), Noe (true tears), Tsubasa (Kyou no Go no Ni), Nina Antalk (Chrome-Shelled Regios), Ein (Requiem for the Phantom), Aresta Blanket (Charger Girl Juuden-chan), Sumika (Sasameki Koto)
Ruchia in Venus Versus Virus Otome in DaCapo2
Noe in true tears Feldt Grace in Gundam00
Nina Antalk in Koukaku no Regios Ein in Requiem for the Phantom

skill and talent
  • very studious, memorizes a script perfectly
  • carries a notebook and writes down things older cast and staff say
  • makes and organizes notes about each production and each character
  • seiyuu usually check a script by whispering through it; she surprises people by speaking it out at full voice
  • other seiyuu say she really gets into her role, becoming one with it
  • Tomatsu Haruka has praised her vocal range, nimble tongue, and pronunciation and breathing
  • Hisakawa Aya has said, rather cryptically, that Ayahi is just what a seiyuu should be
Interview re Da Capo 2. Watch for her singing a bit of opera around the 6:00 minute mark. The interviewer nearest Ayahi is Sakai Kanako, who starred in REC:

  • staff and seiyuu say she is majime (modest, serious, and polite)
  • she gives coworkers presents and cards, particularly for birthdays and Valentine's Day
  • natural and direct, approaches problems head-on
  • a bit of an airhead at times; Taniyama Kishou says she should be the Tokyo representative in the World Airhead Championships
  • she herself admits it's a bit true, but apologizes to the real airheads
  • friends with Chihara Minori
  • easily moved to tears, often crying at events and on radio, and especially at anime wrap-up parties
  • a terrible cook: there are stories about her not being able to peel a boiled egg, and failing at making pancakes; she says she just needs more practice
  • the pancake story got included as part of Nina's back-story in Regios
  • carries a large bag and surprises people by pulling all sorts of things out of its jumbled interior

  • very close to her family, always talking about her mother
  • lives with her mother and younger sister
  • her mother checks everything she writes on her blog
  • her grandmother does her hair
true tears seiyuus: Iguchi Yuka, Takagaki Ayahi, Nazuka Kaori

et cetera
  • she is very concerned with the roles she plays; at a live event, she went on and on mentioning the minor roles that were not included in her Wikipedia entry, and described her feelings about shows she had unnamed roles in.
  • she considers it very important to sing a character song in character: for Regios songs, she had pictures of her character and a script set up in the recording booth.
  • she says she is an otaku for her own shows, getting books, figures, etc.
  • fell in love with the Toyama area, where true tears was set and where the show's PA Works studio is located; other seiyuu call her the "ambassador for sightseeing in Nantou" (a city in the Toyama area)
  • on 2channel, there are almost 12,000 posts in her main threads; but there are also several hundred in anti- threads, criticizing her voice and acting ability, as well as her dark skin and supposed common manner. It's true that her dark skin sometimes makes her look like a tanned Japanese "gang girl." So does the fact that she sometimes seems to use a lot of make-up.
  • she likes to wear her hair piled up high on her head, to make herself seem taller

Sphere (l-r) Tomatsu Haruka, Kotobuki Minako, Takagaki Ayahi, Toyosaki Aki:

  • 2009.2.15, at Music Ray'n Girls Spring Choco Matsuri, formation of Sphere was announced
  • at 23, Ayahi is the group's oldest member: Tomatsu Haruka is 19, Kotobuki Minako 18, and Toyosaki Aki 22.
  • singers Ayahi likes: Honda Minako 本田美奈子, KOKIA. She did Honda's signature tune Amazing Grace at the Music Ray'n Girls Autumn Harvest Festival event, and KOKIA does OP1 and ED2 for Phantom
  • KOKIA wrote the music and lyrics for two Gundam00 character songs Ayahi will release October 21
Sphere's debut event:

Good TV interview with Sphere:

non-anime work
  • dubbing: three roles, including the female lead in the movie 10,000 BC
  • a role in a stage musical
  • ten radio shows, four of which are continuing (Takahashi Daisuke and Takagaki Ayahi's Nightly Hustle, Web Radio Planet Sphere, Phantom Radio, Canaan radio)
  • roles in eight games (none adult), including leading roles in Da Capo 2 Plus Situation, and Dungeons & Dam
  • roles in four radio dramas, including the online voice comic ("vomic") Sugars

on the breakwater at Toyama that was featured in true tearslinks:
official site
Anime News Network
Japanese Wikipedia

video clips

Cast in:
Ouran High School Host Club
(TV) as Female university student (ep 17); Kamigamo Tsubaki
Pocket Monsters: Diamond & Pearl (TV) as Chinatsu (ep 76)
Jigoku Shoujo Futakomori (TV) as Kitazaki (ep 18)

Deltora Quest (TV) as Jasmine
Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight! (TV) as Student (ep 10); Sweets Student (ep 3)
Venus Versus Virus (TV) as Nahashi Ruchia
Toward the Terra (TV) as Altera
Kenko Zenrakei Suieibu Umisho (TV) as Oyamada Asami; Nanjou Karena (ep 8-13)
Baccano! (TV) as Lumiere Sylvie
D.C. II: Da Capo II
(TV) as Asakura Otome
Mokke (TV) as Aida (ep 22)
Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun (TV) as Ninomiya Shungo (young)
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (TV) as Feldt Grace
Rental Magica (TV) as Female Student; Male Student
Ayakashi (TV) as Natsuhara (ep 6)

true tears (TV) as Isurugi Noe
Allison & Lillia (TV) as Meg (ep 23)
D.C.II S.S. ~Da Capo II Second Season~ (TV) as Asakura Otome
Net Ghost PiPoPa (TV) as Yukiya Karin
Wagaya no Oinarisama (TV) as Hashimoto Shunta (ep 22)
S.A. (TV) as Yamamoto Megumi; Takashima household Maid C (ep 12); Yuki-pon (ep 11)
Slayers Revolution (TV) as Girl (ep 13)
Battle Spirits: Shounen Toppa Bashin (TV) as Suiren
Yozakura Quartet (TV) as Tatebayashi Mizuna
Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae (TV) as Moriyama Jun (ep 3)
Macademi Wasshoi! (TV) as Paltia
Kyo no 5 no 2 (TV) as Kawai Tsubasa
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Second Season (TV) as Feldt Grace
Skip Beat! (TV) as Miya

Maria-sama ga Miteru 4th Season (TV) as Miyuki
Zoku Natsume Yūjin-Chou (TV) as Sui (ep. 2)
Chrome Shelled Regios (TV) as Nina Antalk
Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ (TV) as Ein
Charger Girl Ju-den Chan (TV) as Aresta Blanket
CANAAN (TV) as Nene
Zan Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei (TV) as Oora Kanako
Sora no Manima ni (TV) as Minami Sayuri
Sora no Otoshimono (TV) as Satsukitane Mikako
Sasameki Koto (TV) as Murasame Sumika
Kyou no 5 no 2 Takarabako (OVA)as Kawai Tsubasa

2010 Hanamaru Kindergarten (TV) as Hiiragi

Ayahi guesting on Kawasumi Ayako's radio showStaff in:
  • S.A (TV) : Theme Song Performance (OP/ED2)
  • Battle Spirits: Shōnen Toppa Bashin (TV) : Theme Song Performance (ED2)

  • Chrome Shelled Regios (TV) : Theme Song Performance (ED)
  • Hatsukoi Limited (TV) : Theme Song Performance (OP - Sphere)
  • Charger Girl Juuden Chan (TV) : Theme Song Performance (OP)
  • Sora no Manima ni (TV) : Theme Song Performance (OP – Sphere)
(lists from Anime News Network)

Music CDs
  • Venus Versus Virus Character Vocal Album
  • DC Da Capo 2 Character Songs v.6
  • true tears Image Album "Tears...For Truth"
  • true tears Character Image Song CD "Another World" (DVD6 extra)
  • S.A. Character mini-Album
  • S.A. ED2
  • Kyou no Go no Ni BGM Collection Sound Festival
  • Chrome Shelled Regios: character songs 1 and 2
  • "Yasashii Uso" (from Chrome-Shelled Regios)
  • Dungeons & Dam Audio Collection
  • "dear-dear Dream" (Battle Spirits Shounen Toppa Bashin)
  • Requiem for the Phantom character maxi single "Inspired by Ein"
  • Canaan Insert Song "China Kibun de High Tension"
  • Gundam00 Voice Actor Single "Inori" and "Justice"
  • Fight Ippatsu Juuden-chan ED "TeCh=NoloGy"
  • Ragnarok Online 7th anniversary song (Sphere) -- "Kaze wo Atsumete" and "Brave My Heart"
(list from Neowing and 2channel)

upcoming events
  • Lantis Matsuri (27 Sept) - Sphere
  • Tokyo Asia Music Market (23 Oct)
  • Ragnarok Online World Championshiup 2009 (1 Nov) - Sphere
  • Sphere Colorful Concert (10 Jan 2010)
(list from 2channel)

Ayahi sings (streaming audio) the Regios ED Yasashii Uso, as back-up singer to Chrome Shelled (studio musicians).


Serakah said...

Holy crap my jaw dropped when she sang opera in that interview. Hiding that voice in that tiny frame...awesome.

Had no idea she did so many roles, especially Ein in Phantom. Do you see her winning a seiyuu award in the future?

Selim said...

Awesome post mr hashi! Great read, I also took notice of her after Noe, and I'm seeing she has a big range of voices too, the work she does in Fight Ippatsu Juuden chan is very different :o (she does a good tsundere :p)

Yoruko said...

Hmm, I wasn't particularly impressed by Ein since I've only seen like...what? The first two episodes of Phantom. I'm more of a fantasy fan and assassins generally don't interest me - but it's interesting to see that Takagaki has really good voice range. Who knows, I might watch Phantom again once I finish the load of anime on my current list...

I wonder if she's going to be the next Kawasumi Ayako. I fondly remember Kawasumi for not having a particularly distinct voice (although now I can recognize it due to the amount of roles I've heard) but having amazing acting range. Although, I don't recall Kawasumi being particularly good at singing ^^;;

That opera moment really surprised me as well - I knew it was in her resume, but I didn't expect it anyways...her singing in Sphere didn't really grab me.

hashi said...

@Serekah -- I'd probably give her one of the "new seiyuu" awards this year.

@Yoruko -- As I mentioned, her singing style seemed rather stiff to me, as if she couldn't escape from opera, until the Ein character album. Her version of the (excellent) Regios ED "Yasashii Uso" is pretty good, too: at least, you can hear that when she lets go, she can sing full volume on tune. She sounds to me like a pro back-up singer there at some points.

Jubbz said...

She looks like someone i'd hit it with.

Jen said...

I think she's really under-rated, though largely due to the fact no one capitalises on her talent. She's got the amazing range for acting, but hardly gets any deserving roles. Her singing is great, yet she gets jammed into the generic pop that Sphere does. If the composer would just add one line to let her show her stuff, Sphere would have something beyond 'popular seiyuu group' to sell itself on too. And seriously, people not happy with her dark skin? Most retarded reason ever...