Saturday, April 04, 2009

K-On -- Who Are Those Great Voices?

I thought the first episode of K-On was brilliantly funny. And, of course, deeply moe. And the voices were wonderful. They were hilarious, with some great timing and expressiveness.

Kyoto Animation seems to have the knack of picking out lesser-known voice actresses who can really do the job for them: Hirano Aya, Gotou Yuuko, and Chihara Minori in 2006 in Suzumiya Haruhi; Katou Emiri, Endou Aya, and Fukuhara Kaori in 2007 in Lucky Star.

In K-On, except for Toyosaki Aki (Yui), the three other main voices are relative unknowns. (Click images to enlarge.)

Satou Satomi 佐藤聡美 (Ritsu) is 22, and works for a major agency, Aoni Pro. But she has had few roles before this, notably characters called Yaya in Labyrinth and Wakana in Shugo Chara. Here is her blog.

She has clearly studied Orikasa Fumiko playing Miu in Ichigo Mashimaro. You could say parts of the performance are derivative, but if you're going to imitate anything, OriFumi's great comic performance is a good thing to choose. Satou-san is so far making the outlandish character work. Maybe making the character outlandish is one reason it does work.

Hikasa Youko 日笠陽子 (Mio) is also with a big agency, I"m Enterprise, and is 23. Her only previous role of any note was a character called Minamo in Shetchbook.

She doesn't have as wild a character to do as Ritsu's, but the naturalness and energy in her voice give life to the quiet character. Her is her blog.

Kotobuki Minako 寿美菜子 (Tsumugi), like Toyosaki Aki (and Tomatsu Haruka and Takagaki Ayahi, as well) is with Sony's Music Ray'n agency. She has done a character called Hijiri in Kyouran Kazoku and not much more. It's understandable that she has done so few roles, however, since she is only 17.

I like the little break that comes into her voice when it rises from passive ojousama to sudden enthusiasm. And there's a dry "oh, good" toward the end of the episode that makes you think she has talent. Her blog.

Toyosaki Aki 豊崎愛生 (Yui) is 22 and has already had some good roles: she burst onto the scene as the irrepressible nude swimmer Amuro in Umisho, and has been Su in Shugo Chara, Yoshino in Minami-ke, and Najimi in Akikan.

She and Kotobuki-san, with Tomatsu and Takagaki -- the four have been developed together over several years as seiyuus and singers by Sony's Music Ray'n -- will release their first single as Sphere on April 22, the OP to Hatsukoi Limited.

I think Toyosaki-san is just excellent in episode one. Her sa ("not sure") when asked what the Light Music Club did, was brilliant. Her performance repeatedly gets your attention. Her blog.

I also think some credit must be due to the sound director, Tsuruoka Yota, who was the sound director of Lucky Star and Suzumiya Haruhi, as well as of such other well-voiced shows as Turn A Gundam, Blue Drop, and Rozen Maiden. Especially with the director being an animator doing her first directorial job, I suspect the sound director had a lot to do with how the lines were delivered.

It's amazing that the voice-acting seems to be working out so well, since they selected the seiyuus in part on the basis of what instruments they could play. The ED is played and sung by the four seiyuus. EDIT: I now realize this isn't true. The seiyuus are just learning their instruments. Maybe they will have learned well enough by the end of the series to perform.

EDIT 2: More characters

Nodoka: Fujitou Chika
Yui's friend Nodoka is played by Fujitou Chika, in her debut role. She is from the seiyuu/talent advanced class at the Avex Artist Academy. She has her own blog. Here is her Japanese Wikipedia page. And here is her ANN page (name currently misspelled).

Ui: Yonezawa Madoka 米澤円
Yui's sister is played by Yonezawa Madoka, who is with the big 81 Produce agency, but has had only three roles over the years since 2006 -- until this year, when she is playing this role, Lashara Aasu XXVIII in Isekai, and Kaho in Gokujō!! Mecha Mote Iinchō. Her agency page says she sings, dances, and paints. ja.Wikipedia. ANN. personal blog.

Sawako-sensei: Sanada Asami 真田アサミ
Sanada Asami is the biggest name among al the seiyuu in this show. She plays Sawa-chan. Her debut role of Di Gi Charat was her biggest, but she has also been Jun in Rozen Maiden, Tamaki in Kurenai, and most recently Kanako in Maria Holic. home page. ANN.

Azusa: Taketatsu Ayana 竹達彩奈
Twenty-year-old Taketatsu Ayana plays twintail Azusa, the freshman who joins the club in episode 8. She has made a name for herself as Ako, one of the sisters in the raunchy incest comedy kissxsis. She also played a baby in Marimite 4. Those are her only two previous roles. But I don't think they will be her last. She's with I"m Entertainment, and lists her interests as karaoke, reading, shopping, and tennis. home page. ANN.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Eclipse (Tomatsu-Nakajima-Hayami) to Get Second Single

Eclipse, the supergroup of top young seiyuu singers Tomatsu Haruka, Nakajima Megumi, and Hayami Saori, will release a second single hot on the heels of their recently announced first single. Hayami also has a solo insert song in episode one. (mouseover photos for captions, click to enlarge)

Tomatsu Haruka

The first single, nO limiT, is the OP to the new anime Basquash. That CD will be released on 29 May. The second single, Running On, is an insert song in the same show and will be released three weeks later, on 17 June.

Nakajima Megumi

It appears that Yamada Yu's free was supposed to be the OP but the staff judged it not quite right for the show and the new group was given the gig. I don't know if they were already slated for the ED, or if this second single is a bonus or was planned from the start.

I enjoy the singing of all three members of the new group, but for me Hayami Saori stands out. Not only is her voice just innately beautiful, but she has great musical sense and phrasing and is able to create subtle movements in the music in the manner of great singers like Onitsuka Chihiro. I actually fear that working in a group will mask her voice's strengths.

But these three together should be able to produce a fine OP, if the song is good enough. Tomatsu's voice has force and energy, and Nakajima is both fresh-sounding and accomplished, and was voted the best seiyuu singer of 2008.

Hayami Saori

The CDs will be released under the Pony Canyon label. None of the three seiyuus records solo for Pony Canyon. Tomatsu (19) is with Sony, and Nakajima (19) with Victor Entertainment. The 17-year-old Hayamin does not yet have a solo recording contract.

Like other readers of the Hayamin thread on 2channel, I am thrilled that she will get her own solo insert song. This news just appeared on 2channel. And now i have heard it in the epsiode. It's too far in the background to get a good listen, but it seems to be the biggest song she's done yet, showing yet another side of her musical ability.

2channel thread re group
news item from Japanese site OtaSuke

In other Hayami Saori news ("all Hayamin all the time"), she and Higashi no Eden co-star Kimura Ryouhei will host a Web radio show starting Friday 10 April, the day after the first episode is broadcast. She is an entertaining radio personality and the denizens of her 2channel thread are jubilant.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hayami Saori's Breakthrough Year?

Seiyuu HAYAMI Saori 早見沙織, 17, is graduating from high school this spring and beginning her seiyuu career in earnest.

Up to now, she has been limited to one role at a time. But in the upcoming spring season she will have three roles, including her biggest role yet.

She began her career two years ago, at the age of 15, as Momoka in Touka Gettan. Since then, her other major roles have been Kou in Wagaya no Oinari-sama and Musubi in Sekirei. These were all important roles, but not necessarily the main roles in their respective shows.

This spring, she has her first real starring role, in Higashi no Eden. She is the main protagonist, and the story is told from her point of view.

There is no word yet on a solo recording contract. Hayamin is a competent seiyuu, but I think she is a brilliant singer and should have a great future on that side of the business.

She turns 18 in May. One rumor is that she will be attending prestigious Gakushuin Women's College in Tokyo. This is the school Princess Mako will be attending, and seiyuu Inoue Marina is a graduate. Another rumor is that she is still trying to get into a college.

at a Wagaya no Oinari-sama live eventThe prestigious college would be no surprise, since she attended a prestigious girls' school from kindergarten right up into her last year of high school. That was Shirayuri Gakuen, a Catholic school that could have been the model for the school in Marimite.

She transferred to a co-ed school in Tokyo a few months ago, probably because of her work, but as you can see from the top photo, she retains the straight posture of a proper young lady.

Higashi no Eden
Higashi no Eden ("Eden of the East"), which airs beginning Thursday April 9, is a mystery-romance in which Hayamin stars as a 22-year-old Japanese college graduate who goes on a trip to the US before beginning her working career.

Outside the White House, she encounters a Japanese guy the same age...who is stark naked and has no memory of who he is. His only possessions are (1) a gun and (2) a cellphone that gives him access to a huge bank account. The story covers eleven days during which she "looks after" him.

This is the new spring show I am most looking forward to. It is from Production I.G.; features character designs by Umino Chika, the mangaka of Honey & Clover; and is directed by Kamiyama Kenji, the director of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Seirei no Moribito. Here is the trailer:

other roles

Hayamin also has supporting roles in two other spring shows: Basquash!, a science fiction anime produced by the developer of Macross and involving basketball played using mechas; and 07-Ghost, a gothic fantasy adventure.

She will also be doing the OP to Basquash!, singing with Tomatsu Haruka and Nakajima Megumi as a new group called Eclipse.

And she will play a major supporting role in this summer's Sora no Manima ni. That show is directed by Takamatsu Shinji, the director of Gintama and School Rumble. Also in the cast will be Maeno Tomoaki, Itou Kanae, Tomatsu Haruka, Takagi Reiko, Majima Junji, and Koshimizu Ami. Looks like a real money-maker (PV). No doubt she will have other roles this year, as well.

Here are images of the four major roles Hayamin has had in her brief career: top (l-r) Momoka (Touka Gettan), Kou (Wagaya no Oinari-sama); bottom (l-r) Musubi (Sekirei), Saki (Higashi no Eden):

These roles don't cover a wide range of voices, but Hayamin gives each of them individual character.

I"m Enterprise's Secret Weapon
From her first words as Momoka in Touka Gettan in 2007, it was clear that she had voice-acting talent. And from the first strains of her ED for that show, it was even clearer that she had singing talent. She is already my favorite seiyuu/singer. Her voice is sweet and fresh and supple, and she has good technique and musical feeling.

Because of her talent both as a seiyuu and as a singer, Hayamin is known as "I"m Enterprise's secret weapon." I"m Enterprise (the crazy punctuation is theirs) is the seiyuu agency that represents her. I"m and Arts Vision were the agencies involved in scandal a couple of years ago when their chairman was charged with sexually assaulting a young girl who wanted to be a seiyuu. Hayamin was even rumored to have been the girl involved, although that apparently was not the case. Now it is Hayamin whom some people see as the savior of the agency.

She is even entertaining as a radio and TV personality, and has already had her own radio show, young as she is. To get an idea of how well she can handle the usual seiyuu banter, have a look at this Sekirei TV feature, in which the 17-year-old Hayamin appears alongside Inoue Marina (23, left), Hanazawa Kana (19, center right), and Endou Aya (28, right):

a performer

I read a post on 2channel that said Hayamin was in the radio club at her school and made regular noontime broadcasts. Many students liked them, but others tried to get them cancelled. Having heard her on the radio, I think she's a performer, and not averse to hearing the sound of her own voice.

She has wanted to be a seiyuu since she was in fourth grade, and she began voice-acting classes at Nihon Narration when she was in the first year of middle school (seventh grade). Her mother is a part-time jazz singer (see previous blog post), and Hayamin took jazz-singing lessons, as well as piano. She used to sing along to tapes in the car, with her mother making sure she stayed on tune.

Mummy has supported -- even pushed -- her all the way, it appears. Hayamin says her parents have always supported her in doing what she wants, but have also always encouraged her to do things well.

Now all that effort is coming to fruition. The producers of Higashi no Eden have put Hayamin in a show with two male co-stars who are actors as well as seiyuu -- Kimura Ryouhei of Himawari Theatre Group and TV actor Miyauchi Atsushi -- and with fine actress seiyuu Tamagawa Sakiko (Onashia in Simoun, Fujitsubo in the new Genji). They must have confidence that she can hold her own. I look forward to finding out if she can.

- born 29 May 1991 (17 years old)
- from Tokyo
- real name: Matsuo Saori 松尾沙織
- height 163cm (5'4")
- blood type AB (cool but sociable, sometimes standoffish, artistic, unpredictable)

info and pics:
- Hayami Saori Anime News Network page
- Wikipedia page
- Japanese Wikipedia page
- agency page (Japanese)
- interview re Nihon Narration seiyuu school: part one, part two (Japanese)
- interview at Wagaya no Oinari-sama live event (with Yukana and Takahashi Mikako, in Japanese)
- interview re Wagaya no Oinari-sama ED (Japanese)
- radio dot i blog (Japanese)

- Touka Gettan ED "Kono Sekai ga Itsuka wa"
- Wagaya no Oinari-sama ED1 "Kaze ga Nani ka o Iou to Shiteru"
- Sekirei character song "Koi Suru Otome Muteki Desu"
- Sekirei insert song "Kimi wo Omou Toki"

Hayami Saori's roles so far (full list from Japanese Wikipedia and 2channel, major roles bold):

anime series:
- Clannad (student #1)
- Touka Gettan (Kawakabe Momoko)

- Shigofumi (lover #5)
- Ghost Hound (pupil A)
- Sekirei (Musubi)
- Monochrome Factor (student #5, student #21)
- Wagaya no Oinari-sama (Kou)

(l-r) Hayami Saori, Yukana, Takahashi Mikako

- 07-Ghost (Razetto, Burupya)
- Basquash (Violet)
- Higashi no Eden (Morimi Saki)
- Sora no Manima ni (Saya)

- Koharu Biyori (Midou Sumire)

- SD Gundam Ggeneration Spirits (Neri Orson)
- Joteiru (Makino Yayoi, Kano Matsuha)
- ♂Motto!! Renai Shugi♀ Boreas (Kinohara Chiho)

- Ranshima Monogatari Leyland Story (Fei)

Hayamin in the radio studioRadio
- Sekirei Radio (2008.05.16 - 2008.12.26)
- Radio dot i - Hayami Saori's Positive After-school Club "Sweets" (2008.10.03 - 2008.12.26)

Radio Drama
- Vomic "Fly High" (Tachibana Meru)

Music CDs
- Sekirei OP, ED
- Sekirei Sound Stage 01 "Koi Suru Otome wa Muteki Desu"
- Sekirei Radio Theme "Tamanai Kiss or Die" (CD in Sekirei DVD 1 Premium edition)
- Sekirei insert song "Kimi wo Omou Toki" (CD in Sekirei DVD 1 Premium edition)
- Touka Gettan OP
- Touka Gettan ED "Kono Sekai ga Itsuka wa"
- Touka Gettan Drama CD "Love Draft Wakiwaki Bugiugi"
- Touka Gettan Music Collection "Saigo no Ai no Tame ni"
- Wagaya no Oinari-sama ED
- Wagaya no Oinarisama song collection "Shiawase no Kotodama"

Drama CDs
- Sekirei Sound Stage (Musubi)
- Soul Kureidoru Drama CD Koutei Majutsushi Youdo no Karei Naru Dai Bouken (member of the Water-dwellers' guard
- DearGirl〜Stories〜Hibiki (Sayaka)
- Touka Gettan (Kawakabe Momoka)
- Wagamama Sentai Bloom Heart (Kazema Sakura - Pink Cherry)

- Meitantei Monku 5 (#5)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sasaki Nozomi in Jewelpet and in Lucky Star Budokan Live Event

One of my favorite voices is Sasaki Nozomi's amazing moe lisp. Her two biggest roles have been Nana-chan in Bokura ga Ita and Patty Martin in Lucky Star.

She's not an expert seiyuu, and doesn't get much work, but now she has landed a role in the 52-week kids' show Jewelpet. Reminds me of her role as a sort of leprechaun in Earl and Fairy.

And not only does she join Hirano Aya in the show, but the wonderful -- and extremely expert -- Sawashiro Miyuki will be there, too.

The photo at right shows (l-r) Sasaki Nozomi (Sapphire), Sawashiro Miyuki (Aoi), Saitou Ayaka (Ruby), Kamei Eri (Rinko), and Akina (Minami).

In addition to Hirano Aya, whose character is actually called Garnet, apparently, Miyano Mamoru will also be in the show.

Information from Sasaki Nozomi's blog, Anime News Network, and the anime's official site. See my previous post on this show.

At left below is a photo of Nozomi-chan alone with Ruby, the star Jewelpet. At right, she is holding her own character, Sapphire.

This is not the only big news in Nozomi-chan's blog. She and the cast of Lucky Star have just presented a live event in the huge Budokan in Tokyo. Below we see her enjoying the feeling of being alone on stage in the huge arena. And in a group shot during rehearsal for the show: (front, l-r) Shimizu Kaori, Katou Emiri, Hasegawa Shizuka; (rear, l-r) Sasaki Nozomi, Fukuhara Kaori, Aizawa Mai, Mizuhara Kaoru, Konno Hiromi (I'm not sure of the order of those last three), and Shiraishi Minoru in the rear.

Hirano Aya and Chihara Minori were also in the show, but they apparently had a different rehearsal schedule. In her blog, Nozomi shows a photo of her hand with words written on it, and says that was the kind of cheat-sheet she and Aya used for Sugita Tomokazu's "ad-libs," which he gave them just before the show. Below right is the poster, from Aya's blog, featuring Konata (Hirano Aya), Kagami (Katou Emiri), Tsukasa (Fukuhara Kaori), Yutaka (Hasegawa Shizuka) and Minami (Minorin). Miyuki (Endou Aya) did not take part.