Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hirano Aya -- "adult-sized" purchase of Dragonball manga

On her blog yesterday, Hirano Aya posted a picture of her "adult-sized purchase" of what is probably over $250 worth of manga, mainly Dragonball. (click photo to enlarge)

That's at least 37 volumes of Dragonball and a total of 60 books. She says the people in the store were laughing, and the paper receipt was long. The cashier had to check through the books twice. But got the total right.

Aya dubs the voice of Bulma in the Japanese version of the Dragonball: Evolution live-action movie. Maybe she can save some money by writing off the cost of the manga as a business expense on her income taxes.

"Adult purchase" 大人買い is apparently a term used to refer to large purchases, especially of collections of things like manga. I guess Aya is getting an "adult" income to pay for this stuff.

In other Aya news, I am excited to see that she will play Shinobu, a significant upcoming character in Shinbou Akiyuki's current hit, Bakemonogatari. Shinbou has gotten excellent work from Saitou Chiwa in that show. And Katou Emiri has also done well. I look forward to hearing what Aya can come up with. Shinobu is apparently a loli vampire.

Final figures show that Aya's latest single, the OP for the new Suzumiya Haruhi series, came in at #3 on the charts for its first week. In her blog, Aya expresses her delight, but says: "But it really wasn't because of me." Her parents came to visit her at her apartment and brought a congratulatory dessert.

A week or so ago, she did a live concert for fan club members in Tokyo. Images on her blog.

No Aya post would be complete without a couple of pics. Here are some from various photo-shoots this year: (click photos to enlarge)

Endou Aya (Miyuki in Lucky Star) x Hirano Aya (Konata) x Katou Emiri (Kagami) x Fukuhara Kaori (Tsukasa):

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Senjougahara Fascination -- Saitou Chiwa in Bakemonogatari

In Bakemonogatari, seiyuu Saitou Chiwa 斎藤千和 is helping to create a character that could become one of the most memorable in anime: Senjougahara Hitagi.

Senjougahara has been verbally sparring with the male protagonist from the start. She is beautiful, tough and strange. And Chiwa (her given name and her nickname) is giving us a sharp, subtle characterization.

In episode 5, the sparring culminates with her bold declaration (in English): "I love you."

She demands that he give an answer to her confession of love. "I hope it becomes popular," he says. "What?" "Senjougahara fascination," he replies. And she smiles.

The Japanese is: 戦場ヶ原、蕩れ. Two episodes before, she had given a long explanation of the word tore 蕩れ, "fascination," saying it was a higher level of moe, and that she expected it to become a popular word in the next generation.

Senjougahara also told the protagonist that she wondered whether she had just fallen for him because he was the only one available, and that he could think that, if he wished. Direct, truthful, forward, and weird.

Saitou Chiwa
Chiwa was probably the first seiyuu whose name I knew. In the fall of 2004, when I was just beginning to watch anime, she starred in Tsukuyomi MoonPhase as the moe vampire Hazuki.

The first major role in her career was Kokoro in Kokoro Library. She went on to play Lavie Head in Last Exile. And then after MoonPhase, she was Becky in PaniPoni Dash and Aika in all the ARIA shows. Recently, she was Kemeko in Kemeko Deluxe.

MoonPhase and PaniPoni were both directed by Shinbou Akiyuki, the director of Bakemonogatari.

But since Becky, I have felt something was missing. She appeared to be trying to abandon her highly identifiable moe voice and become a seiyuu like all the rest, less identifiable and with wider range. I regretted this for years -- but now, with Senjougahara, she has realized her ambition and burst through the top. This is one of the best seiyuu performances of the year.

Some of Chiwa's roles:
(mouseover photos for captions)
Kokoro (Kokoro Library) Hazuki (Tsukuyomi MoonPhase) Becky (PaniPoni Dash)
Aika (ARIA) Francesca Lucchini (Strike Witches) Kemeko (Kemeko DX)

Here, from YouTube, is a digest of Saitou Chiwa's major roles:

Senjougahara is bold and violent. Early in the series, we see her confronting the protagonist by thrusting a boxcutter and a stapler into his mouth, threatening him with bloody violence if he does not leave her alone.

But the protagonist -- played by last year's top male seiyuu, Kamiya Hiroshi -- refuses to abandon her, and saves her from a situation that had poisoned her life for years. She is grateful, yet resents the fact that she is obliged to him. Finally, in episode five, she realizes that he didn't especially save her, that he would have saved anyone, and it makes her feel less obliged.

But it also makes her love him more: "You have had the misfortune to have caught the eye of a crazy love-starved virgin who would fall utterly for the first person to show her even the slightest kindness," she declares.

The role is juicy, and Chiwa squeezes it to the last drop. She is bold and airy and strange, most aloof when she is saying the most intimate things.

The script is based on novels by inventive prose-stylist and comic novelist NisiOisiN. The anime is directed by the idiosyncratic Shinbou Akiyuki, he of the seizure-inducing patterned backgrounds and walls of text. I personally love the look of Shinbou's work, but have felt his comedy was shallow and strained. Not here. This show has both surface brilliance and human depth.

Early Chiwa
Saitou Chiwa was born 12 March 1983. She first heard about seiyuus as a child, when her mother bought a seiyuu magazine by mistake, thinking it was a fashion magazine.

In high school, little Chiwa (today she's 155cm/5'1") joined the basketball club, but had to leave the club because she couldn't get a foul shot to the basket. She concentrated on academics and scored in the top ten nationwide on mock exams in Japanese and in English.

While she was going to college, she also went to the famous Nihon Narration seiyuu school. Soon she joined top seiyuu agency I"m Enterprise.

In 2002, she was in the group Mix Juice, with three other I"m Enterprise seiyuus of her same class-year: Morinaga Rika, Ueda Kana, and Nakahara Mai. They had a year of intense live and recorded activity, then disbanded.

She herself had hits with the Tsukuyomi Moonphase OP Neko Mimi Mode and the Kemeko Deluxe ED. She did the first OP for Bakemonogatari, and having heard her before, I was amazed at how well she sang:

She is good friends with Hirohashi Ryou, who played alongside her in ARIA and in Keroro Sougun. She is also friends with several I"m Enterprise seiyuus: Ueda Kana, Takahashi Mikako, Kuwatani Natsuko, Nakahara Mai, Kugimiya Rie, and Tamura Yukari. And with others: Noto Mamiko, Hazuki Erina, Hirota Shion. She has also played in many shows with Sawashiro Miyuki, beginning with Kokoro Toshokan. And she is good friends with ARIA mangaka Amano Kozue. (mouseover photos for captions, click to enlarge)

with Mitsuhashi Kanako
with Kuwatani Natsuko

On an overseas student trip to Europe, when a friend's bag was being stolen, she ran right after the thief and gave him a flying kick that ended up allowing him to be caught.

She once coughed up blood and had to pull back a bit on the amount of work she was doing.

She's terrible at drawing. When she did a stick-figure drawing of a scene from an anime, Tamura Yukari said it looked like a traffic accident.

She says she likes men with a bit of "romantic gray" in their hair, and often mentions Harrison Ford.

With guest Satou Rina on her TV show, M-serve Style:

Career highlights (full list of roles here and here):
(2001) Kokoro Library (TV) as Kokoro
(2003) Wandaba Style (TV) as Akimo Ayame
(2003) Last Exile (TV) as Lavie Head
(2003) R.O.D -The TV- as Anita King
(2004) Maria Watches Over Us (TV) as Yamaguchi Mami
(2004) Keroro Gunso (TV) as Hinata Natsumi
(2004) Samurai 7 (TV) as Mikumari Komachi
(2004) Girls Bravo (TV) as Kojima Kirie
(2004) DearS (TV) as Izumi Neneko
(2004) Desert Punk (TV) as Kosuna
(2004) MoonPhase (TV) as Hazuki/Luna
(2005) Zettai Shonen (TV) as Miyama Miku
(2005) Kamichu! (TV) as Tama
(2005) Pani Poni Dash! (TV) as Rebecca "Becky" Miyamoto
(2005) PetoPeto-san (TV) as Oohashi Chie
(2005) Aria the Animation (TV) as Aika S. Granzchesta
(2005) Ginban Kaleidoscope (TV) as Sakurano Yohko
(2006) Magical Witch Punie-chan (OAV) as Paya-Tan (cute); Torari
(2006) Strawberry Panic! (TV) as Tsukidate Chiyo
(2006) Yoshinaga-san'chi no Gargoyle (TV) as Yoshinaga Futaba
(2006) Kirarin Revolution (TV) as Kirisawa Aoi
(2006) Nishi no Yoki Majo - Astraea Testament (TV) as Adel Roland
(2006) Bleach the Movie: Memories of Nobody as Senna
(2007) Baccano! (TV) as Carol
(2007) Mokke (TV) as Kazama
(2007) Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (TV) as Louise Halevy
(2008) Allison & Lillia (TV) as Merielle
(2008) Kanokon (TV) as Asahina Akane
(2008) Soul Eater (TV) as Kim Diehl
(2008) Strike Witches (TV) as Francesca Lucchini
(2008) Mahō Sensei Negima! ~Shiroki Tsubasa Ala Alba~ (OAV) as Anya
(2008) Rosario + Vampire Capu2 (TV) as Shuzan Kokoa
(2008) Linebarrels of Iron (TV) as Rachel Calvin
(2008) Kemeko Deluxe! (TV) as Kemeko
(2009) Bakemonogatari (TV) as Senjougahara Hitagi
(2009) Sasameki Koto (TV) as Taema Miyako

Finally, a special treat for those of you who have made it this far: a brief episode of the Voice Crew show from a few years ago, when Chiwa and Kuwatani hosted it, with Ueda Kana as their guest. Chiwa is at her loopiest, laughing wildly and continuously eating throughout the show:

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Spring Anime -- 2channel vs. TV Ratings vs. AnimeSuki

Saki It was interesting to see the differences in popularity for summer shows among 2channel, TV ratings, and AnimeSuki. So I thought I'd look at spring shows. Particularly the ones that are still on.

Fuller lists of figures are below, but Suzumiya Haruhi is the biggest topic of conversation on AnimeSuki, with around 5000 posts for this second season, not counting the 5000 posts of speculation before it started.

Unfortunately, I don't know the Japanese figures: on 2channel, I can't tell how many of the incredible number of over a million posts on Haruhi are from previous years, but clearly it is a very popular show there, too. I don't have access to TV ratings for the show, but the original series three years ago had fairly poor ratings. Hayate no Gotoku and Fullmetal Alchemist also have many posts on 2channel, but I don't know how many of those are from previous years.

Among shows we can clearly know the numbers for, we see drastic differences among the 2channel otaku, the general TV audience, and foreign anime-lovers.

The most popular of the continuing spring shows for which we have 2channel figures is the soft-yuri mah-jong anime, Saki, with almost 200,000 posts. Valkyria Chronicles comes next with only 46,000 posts. Then we see Dragonball Kai and Requiem for the Phantom, with 41,000 each, and Shin Mazinger Z with 35,000.

In TV ratings, the top continuing spring shows are Inazuma Eleven (4.5% of the audience), Mainichi Kaasan (3.9%), Souten Kouro (3.7%), and Uchi no San Shimai (2.6%). Saki is way down at 1.8% of the audience.

On AnimeSuki, Suzumiya Haruhi, with about 5000 posts, and Valkyria Chronicles, with about 3500, are at the top, followed by Saki and Fullmetal Alchemist.

Souten KouroSouten Kouro, a show I like, is high in the TV ratings, but upper-middle of the pack on 2channel, and so low as to be almost out of sight on AnimeSuki.

Requiem for the Phantom has lower-middle TV ratings and 2channel popularity, but is more popular on AnimeSuki.

Pandora Hearts, a third favorite of mine, is even lower in the two Japanese ratings, but fairly high overseas.

In any case, sometimes the two Japanese sources have similar preferences, and sometimes Japanese and foreign otaku are sumilar, with the Japanese general TV audience different.

Here are the figures, partial as they are. Make of them what you will.

2channel (000s)
Suzumiya Haruhi 1416
Saki 197
Hayate no Gotoku 165
Fullmetal Alchemist 58
Valkyria Chronicles 46
Dragonball Kai 41
Requiem for the Phantom 41
Shin Mazinger 35
Inazuma Eleven 26
Basquash 23
Souten Kouro 19
Guin Saga 17
Shangri La 17
Tayutama 15
Tears to Tiara 12
Pandora Hearts 11
Cooking Idol Ai Mai Mine 9
Cross Game 9
Isekai no Seikishi 7
Jewelpet 7
Before Green Gables 6
Beyblade 4
Uchi no San Shimai 3
Mainichi Kaa-san 2
Charady na Joke 1
Hanasakeru Shounen 1
TV Ratings %
Inazuma Eleven 4.5%
Mainichi Kaasan 3.9%
Souten Kouro 3.7%
Uchi no San Shimai 2.6%
Beyblade 2.1%
Hayate 2.1%
Fullmetal Alchemist 2.0%
Phantom 2.0%
Shin Mazinger Z 2.0%
Cross Game 1.9%
Saki 1.8%
Jewelpet 1.3%
Pandora Hearts 0.9%
Basquash 0.6%

AnimeSuki posts
Suzumiya Haruhi ~5000
Valkyria ~3050
Saki 1833
Fullmetal Alchemist ~1200
Pandora Hearts 1103
Basquash 1001
Phantom 911
Dragonball Kai 861
Shangri-la 685
Cross Game 643
Mazinger 618
Guin Saga 508
Natsu no Arashi 491
Tayutama 390
Hanasakeru Shounen 167
Souten Kouro 61
Jewelpet 35

-- 2channel figures as of 1 August.
-- TV ratings for the week of 20 July, from Video Research, via 2channel. Many shows not listed.
-- AnimeSuki figures as of 1 August.
-- TV ratings: top ten for each week can be found on Video Research's own site. Deeper numbers are posted in a 2channel thread called ○今週のテレビアニメ視聴率, a new one of which is started each week in the following forum: アニメサロン@2ch掲示板