Saturday, July 18, 2009

Pandora Hearts -- Characters & Seiyuus (great voices, great show)

Pandora Hearts, which began in April and will continue through September, is a terrific show that has attracted fewer fans than it deserves. It has a fascinating story, some good humor, and especially great voice work. Click here for a table showing pics of the characters and their seiyuus.

Kawasumi Ayako is giving what I think is one of the best of her many great performances, as Alice, a young woman trapped in The Abyss, a weird space out of time, her being merged with that of B. Rabbit, a giant black rabbit who is one of the powerful demigod "Chains" who patrol the Abyss. I suppose her character could be called a tsundere, but it is so much more than that.

Her co-star is Minagawa Junko (Ryoma in Prince of Tennis, Cornelia in Code Geass), who plays a young man, Oz Vessalius, who at his coming-of-age ceremony in a vaguely 18th-century setting, is suddenly plunged into the Abyss, and eventually joins Alice as her "contractor."

Add seiyuu like Ishida Akira, Hanazawa Kana, Fukuyama Jun, Ono Daisuke, and Yamaguchi Kappei, and we really have a symphony of the human voice. Ishida Akira is a playful nobleman who is part of an organization called Pandora, which is investigating The Abyss. Kawasumi, Minagawa, and Ishida all give strong and inventive performances that are worthy of awards.

In addition, we have a great OP and sound track from Kajiura Yuki. To me, it sounds like one of her best, and really helps carry the action, of which there is plenty. The OP is so strong that I often find it running through my mind. There are moments in the OP that almost bring tears to my eyes even now, at episode 16.

The animation, by Xebec, has its plus and minus moments, but overall has a very entertaining look, working with ideas from Alice in Wonderland.

Veteran director Kato Takao did Rockman.exe, Buso Renkin, Over Drive, and To LoveRu. Lead writer Sekijima Mayori did Saber Marionette J, Tsukuyomi Moon Phase, Zegapain, and Skip Beat. He is working from the popular manga by Mochizuki Jun.

Week after week, Pandora Hearts comes up with interesting events, good forward motion, and strong characterization. Give it a try. And if you do, here is a table showing the characters and their seiyuus. Click here or on the image below to go to the full table:


Friday, July 17, 2009

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 -- Who are those great voices?

The first two episodes of Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 have been outstanding. And the perfect voices have been a big part of the deal.

Hanamura Satomi as Mirai has been particularly brilliant. She did the sullen middle-schooler so perfectly in episode one that many people hated her. And her determination to find her brother in episode two is both moving and real.

Hanamura, 25, is best known for playing Anise Azeat in Galaxy Angel Rune and Kanae, the surfing girl in part two of Byousoku 5cm.

But she has also appeared in live-action films and on stage, particularly as a child and a teen, early in her career.

Kobayashi Yumiko's fresh, open portrayal of little brother Yuuki makes it obvious why she is the go-to girl for young boy roles.

I know her best for her brilliant comedy as Puni Puni Poemi. She also played Sarah MacDougall in Love Hina and Kobayashi Excel in Excel Saga. But in latter years, she has been doing boys: Akira in Dennou Coil, Black Star in Soul Eater, and the young Genji in Genji Monogatari Sennenki.

She is 30, has two degrees in Japanese literature, and has been married for three years. She also does a reasonable amount of dubbing of foreign TV and films.

And Kaida Yuuko is a suitably calm Mari, the woman who helps the siblings after the quake.

She is probably best known now as Shimei in Ikkitousen and Amane in Strawberry Panic. But she does a certain amount of stage acting and a lot of dubbing of foreign films and TV. She voices Neera in ER.

Kaida is 29 and is married to a stage actor. Don't confuse her with her somewhat more famous friend (not relative) Kaida Yuki (Abe in Shounen Onmyouji).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hayami Saori in Love Plus "gal-game tamagochi" for DS

Hayami Saori, Minaguchi Yuuko (right), and Tange Sakura star in the highly-anticipated Nintendo DS dating game, Love Plus (Rabupuras ラブプラス) which will come out 3 September.

Minaguchi (Sailor Saturn) and Tange (Sakura in Cardcaptor Sakura) are veterans, aged 42 and 36. Hayamin is 18. As Minaguchi writes: "I'm old enough to be her mother."

After recording a Love Plus CD drama together, Minaguchi praised Hayamin in her blog today: "All three of us are playing high-school girls, but Saori-chan is actually currently in high-school. It's the first time I've worked with her, and she's fabulous! She's a naturally outstanding actress, very together, with a light feeling, and sounds so cute.... I just love her!"

The game is highly interactive. The player chooses a character to aim at and she gradually becomes his girl friend. The girls can interact with the player, using his name, talking about common subjects, and even reacting to various ways he might touch her. The game has been called a "gal-game tamagochi."

There will be a live event for the show when it comes out in the fall. Here is the TV promo. Hayamin's character introduces herself first:



An audio clip of the theme song is now available, sung by the three leads. And there are audio/video clips of each character on the official site's general info page (order: Hayami, Tange, then Minaguchi).

And here are some pics of Hayamin's character, Takabe Manaka:



Hayamin has just finished starring in Eden of the East, is currently a main sub-character in Sora no Manimani, plays minor characters in Basquash and 07Ghost. She will star in Sora no Otoshimono in the fall, as a wish-granting angel who (once again, as in Sekirei) falls from the sky. Hayamin gets another role as a non-human, lol, like Momoka in Touka Gettan, Kou in Wagaya no Oinari-sama, and Musubi in Sekirei. Then she plays Saki again, in the two Eden of the East films, which will come out in November and January.

Hayamin actually finished high school in the spring, but has apparently decided to pursue her career rather than go on to college just yet. 2channel thinks her marks weren't good enough. She can definitely be a bit of a dumb blonde on her radio shows, but seems fairly with it to me.

In Sora no Manimani, we hear her natural ojou-sama voice in anime for the first time. There are differing views on it on 2channel: that it sounds a bit unnatural, and that it shows she has learned to act. To me, the voice is as incredibly beautiful as Hayamin's voice often is, but does seem a little artificial. Perhaps that is intentional, since she's playing a responsible senpai, especially in episode 3.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hirano Aya-only TV ep4 -- mangaka's assistant

Another exquisitely amusing hour with Aya. She does some work as an assistant to Zettai Karen Children mangaka Shiina Takashi 椎名高志. And she actually seemed to do a decent job.

Here, from Aya's blog, is a pic of the mangaka with Aya and his staff, including his wife, who is his main assistant:


Aya is holding some of the work she did, which in this case was to add texture ("screen tone") to the character's hair. She also drew radial emphasis lines in the frame, as well as doing screen tone and some inking-in of lines in another frame.

Screen-caps from the show: What are we doing in this residential area? I'm going to be a mangaka's assistant? Can I do that?



The mangaka greets her at the door:


In the cramped studio with the mangaka and four assistants. It is deadline day, and Aya is afraid she will just slow them down:

Filling in black hair:



It took a while to get the radial emphasis lines right:


But after an hour's practice, she did it:


Applying screen tone to Shiho's hat (in her hands). Screen tone comes on an adhesive plastic sheet that you apply to the page and cut out around the place you want to fill in:


This is hardly drawing, but Aya seems to have a steady hand, and was able to do a sufficiently good job with both pen and knife that, as far as we know, her little bit of work will be included in the next volume of the manga.

During the show, she announced that the epsiodes of Hirano Aya-only TV will be collected on DVD, and asked Shiina-sensei to do the cover. He agreed. (No doubt it was a set-up and he had agreed before.)

In other news from Aya's blog, she is now hard at work rehearsing for various live events this summer. With her excellent band:


With Ono Daisuke (left) and Sugita Tomokazu(right):


Wearing her own snazzy sandals:


Taking off her sandals because they hurt her feet:


Watching herself in the mirror as she rehearses:


And still practicing drums, for a later live event. She says she had forgotten how much better the real drums sound than her electronic practice set:


Earlier in the summer, she got a crocheted cap made by Aoki Sayaka (r), who plays Kyon's little sister in Suzumiya Haruhi:


She went to the seaside for a photo-shoot. She's getting used to the sea, and is no longer afraid of the fish:


She stayed in a hotel where she was happy to be able to eat good food anytime she wanted it, and wore a yukata for the first time this summer: