Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hirano Aya -- DVDs, Photobook, Sushi

Hirano Aya's blog was uncharacteristically silent for a few days last week. When she came back, she assured her fans that she hadn't gotten sick, but just had been so busy it wasn't possible to post. And that she couldn't say what she had been doing...yet.

Since yesterday, the posts have started to flow again. Aya says she really likes negitoro sushi (right), a roll sushi with tuna and green onion. I myself prefer the tuna without green onion, but this one looks as if it doesn't have much onion, so maybe it's okay.

The goods are starting to appear for her Riot Tour DVD. The DVD will be out February 25, but the photo-book of the tour is ready now and will come out on February 10. Both are being pre-sold through Lawson's convenience stores in Japan, but I believe they will be sold generally when they are released.

She has also finished shooting for her third idol DVD, the third in a "Love" series: Love Letter, Love Story, and now Love something else. It will be released March 18.

Below left is the photobook. Below right is one of the nicer photos of Aya I think I've seen. All photos posted on Aya's blog within the past three days.

She said she was happy eating the bowl of ramen-shop ramen shown below left, at 2 am. She also said that when she is tired, she likes to eat sweet things like the dessert below right: she shouldn't eat too much, but she loves them.

She says she probably shouldn't eat too much of these hamburgers (below left), either, but she hadn't had a burger from her favorite place for a long time, so she buried her nose in this one. Below right is the poster Lawson's is giving away when you buy the photo book.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Koshimizu Ami as Yugao in the Tale of Genji

Yugao I'm enjoying the new Tale of Genji anime by Dezaki Osamu. With my love for the novel, it could have gone either way, but I'm appreciating the beauty of the look, and various new angles on the story.

In episode 3, some of the voice-acting was great. Hirata Eriko did a stunning turn as Lady Aoi. And Tsuru Hiromi continues to be strong as Lady Rokujo. Hirata-san is also good as the beast-healer Soyon in the promising new Production IG fantasy Kemono no Souja Erin.

But the voice I enjoyed most in this episode was Yugao's. Its baroque fragility matched the character perfectly: a classic tragic romantic heroine with a Japanese twist. I eagerly searched the end credits to find out who the seiyuu was. It turned out that I had failed to recognize the voice of one of the seiyuu I like the most: Koshimizu Ami.

Koshimizu AmiHas Ami done this tiny, fragile voice before? I guess there is something of Yuumi in KimiKiss in it, but the character is so unlike other of her recent roles, such as Kallen or Horo. And just about diametrically opposite to her masculine Paraietta in Simoun.

Ami is clearly in the top rank of women seiyuus, for me. With people like Paku Romi, Kobayashi Sanae and Orikasa Fumiko, Kawasumi Ayako, Yukino Satsuki and Yajima Akiko. People with range and acting ability and emotional power.

Ami's three repeats of "sore kara" were darts to the heart, embodying so much of Yugao's feeling: love and playfulness, humility and hopeless hope.

EDIT: I've just checked 2channel, and more than one poster there says they didn't recognize her voice either, so I feel better. The word most often used there is jouzu "skilful," which is high praise from otaku.

I read Ami's blog and follow her fairly closely, and I think she proves to me yet again that the best actors are not always the brightest. She seems like a lovely person, but no rocket scientist.

-- end of post --

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Itsuki Yui and Fairy Empire -- Kurokami ED

One of the Japanese groups I enjoy is Yousei Teikoku 妖精帝國 "Fairy Empire," the two-person unit featuring sometime-seiyuu Itsuki Yui. They call their music a mix of "techno, trance, gothic, heavy rock, and classical."

Yousei Teikoku has done anime music before -- for Innocent Venus, Renkin Sankyuu Magical Pokaan, and a Mai-HiME game -- and is now giving us an enjoyable ED (YouTube audio) and some insert songs for the new anime Kurokami.

The group's persona is based on the idea that humans have forgotten their pure hearts that once believed in fairies, and the group is here to revive the Fairy Empire. During their shows, which they call "ceremonies," subjects of the Fairy Empire (i.e., fans) show their loyalty by rocking to the beat.

The band consists of guitarist, keyboardist, and composer Tachibana Takaha 橘尭葉; and singer/front woman Itsuki Yui 伊月ゆい, who for this purpose calls herself "Fairy Yui" 妖精ゆい. Takaha creates the music, and Yui sings it, with a certain amount of skill but much more passion and style.

As you can see from the pics, their presentation is rock and goth, and Yui makes a convincing fairy -- although perhaps she seems more fallen angel than pure fairy.

Here is a PV of Yousei Teikoku doing Wahrheit ("Truth" in German), a song that shows their various styles. Listen through at least a minute and a half to get the full flavor of their softer and harder sides:

The Kurokami ED was written by Takaha, with lyrics by Yui. And they are decent lyrics, the world of Kurokami with a Yousei Teikoku spin:
Dawn comes unnoticed, thawing my frozen body,
And memories return, bringing me back from an early death:
The sound of insects crying, of birds' wings beating in flight,
And a soundless white wasteland fills with bright colors.

Yousei Teikoku "descended to the human world" in 1997 and was active for 2-3 years, then dropped out of sight until 2004, since when it has produced a string of singles and albums: five anime singles and three of their own, as well as four albums: Stigma, Gothic Lolita Propaganda, metanoia and, just this month, Iro no Nai Sekai. Full discography here.

Yui is a good friend of a number of seiyuus, including Koshimizu Ami and Kadowaki Maii. The three of them call themselves the "three sisters," and have gone on trips together. She is also friendly with Morinaga Rika and Ueda Kana.

Kadowaki Mai, Itsuki Yui, and Koshimizu Ami (l-r) Maita leaning on Yuin during a Three Sisters trip to a hot spring hotel

Yuin (Itsuki Yui's nickname) was Moe in DC Da Capo, Kira in both Futakoi anime, Miya in Mai-HiME and My-Otome, Ruka in Venus Versus Virus, Mio in Kanokon, and Paula in Kuroshitsuji. For most of her career, she was with the I"m Enterprise agency, but last year she switched to Holy Peak.

There are rumors on 2channel that in the past Yui was involved in "pillow business" to get roles, but with her adequate skills and few roles, that seems unlikely. The fact that she always looks so drowsily sexy -- like she just got out of bed and is headed back there as soon as possible -- may have something to do with the perception.

is one of the few seiyuu whose age I cannot find anywhere. Speculation on 2channel ranges from early twenties to mid-thirties.

She has an active photo blog, as well as a separate blog shared by the "three sisters."

There are also rumors that she is getting married, but I can find no confirmation and no details -- except that she said last April in her blog that she would like a black wedding dress (right).

She has a sad, dark side that you can't help seeing in her eyes. One blog post said: "Late one night, I found myself smiling. But there was really nothing at all to make me smile. Maybe I was just tired."

Yuin does web design for her own website, and is known as among the most technically able of seiyuus: she has three computers at home, one of which she built herself.

Yousei Teikoku Homepage
Yui's homepage
Yui's blog
Three Sisters blog
Yui's agency
Itsuki Yui on Anime News Network
Itsuki Yui on Wikipedia
Itsuki Yui on Japanese Wikipedia
Yousei Teikoku on Wikipedia
Yousei Teikoku on Japanese Wikipedia
Yousei Teikoku on YouTube

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Takagaki Ayahi Masterful in Chrome-Shelled Regios

I knew Ayahime (Takagaki Ayahi 高垣彩陽) was good, but her masterful performance as Niina in eps 2-3 of Chrome-Shelled Regios just blows me away.

Triumph, pain, aggression, weakness, craftiness, strength, crying -- she sells them all, with a strong and mobile voice for which nothing seems a stretch.

I thought she was excellent as Noe in true tears, last year at this time. She also did a great job in the couple of episodes of DC Da Capo II where Otome was featured. But perhaps now she is going to come into her own as a star.

She's 23, and is represented by Music Ray'N, which also represents Tomatsu Haruka (Nagi in Kannagi) and Toyosaki Aki (Amuro in Umisho). Not a bad group of up-and-coming voices.

In person, she is apparently natural, active, unaffected, and fun. Taniyama Kishou, who plays Sharned (the sniper) in Regios, says she is a natural-born airhead, and should represent Tokyo in the airhead championships.

Playing in a game center one day, her cries of joy or pain were so loud that the proprietor had to ask her to tone it down.

Not only does her voice have some variety, but what I love is the fact that she can give it an edge of emotion that really works, at least for me.

She was in three shows in 2006, her debut year. Directors must have been convinced, since she got 12 roles in 2007 and 14 in 2008,including Feldt Grace in Gundam00. She is in two shows this spring season: Regios and Maria-sama ga Miteru, where she plays a character called Miyuki.

Here is a compendium of her roles, from YouTube:

She has a very active blog. Here is her agency home page, where she says she likes singing, opera, musicals, music appreciation, and collecting cute things.

She spent her entire school career, from elementary through high school, at a Marimite-like girls' school campus. Then she studied vocal music in college. It appears that she's a fairly intelligent airhead.

Just checking 2channel, it seems that some people there have reacted to this role as I have. One post says Regios is Ayahime's one-woman show.

EDIT: Here is the interview from YouTube that divine mentions in a comment: