Friday, January 01, 2010

Hanazawa Kana -- More Than Just Moe

Hanazawa Kana 花澤香菜 has the moe-est voice in anime.

As Shiika in Mushiuta, Sora in Sketchbook (2007), and Sora again in the underrated Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto - Natsu no Sora (2008), Kana-chan took vocal moe to a new level. (click photos to enlarge)

But already in 2007 we could hear that there was more to her, in her strangely communicative grunts as the main character in Potemayo. In 2008 she did the quite un-moe Zange in Kannagi, although with uneven results. And in the spring of 2009, she shifted her moe voice to create the fey but powerful ojousama Sharon Rainsworth in Pandora Hearts.

Then in the fall of 2009, as Suou in Darker than Black 2, she broke out as a real actress. She is entirely believable as the conflicted Suou, tossed about in a sea of events she does not understand, but gradually adapts to.

And although the voice is still that of a young girl, she produces a range of sound, from whispers to screams, that shows more and more technical mastery.

Kana-chan broke into voice-acting at 17, in 2006, as the popular character Kaminagi Ryouko in Zegapain. But she had been in show business since at least 2001, when she was a 12-year-old child actress. She was a regular cast member in the TV drama Gakko no Sensei that year. And she had a minor seiyuu role in Last Exile in 2003.

Here are images of a few of her important anime roles: (mouseover for captions)

Kaminagi Ryoko (Zegapain) Anmoto Shiika (Mushi-Uta) Potemayo (Potemayo) Sora (Sketchbook) Sora (Natsu no Sora) Ku-chan (Sekirei) Mikan (To Love-Ru) Zange (Kannagi) Sharon Rainsworth (Pandora Hearts) Nadeko (Bakemonogatari) Kobato (Kobato) Suou (Darker Than Black 2)

After her performance in Zegapain, the highly respected seiyuu agency Osawa Office took her on. Osawa represents such major seiyuu as Kawasumi Ayako and Noto Mamiko. As seiyuu Minagawa Junko said: "Isn't Osawa amazing to have recognized her?" And I agree. Her acting in Zegapain is adequate at best, but she had that voice, and Osawa realized even then that she might have the ability to make the most of it. There is something about her voice that gives presence to her characters.

Here is a video showing clips of her roles up to Natsu no Sora, in the summer of 2008:

Kana-chan (the name she likes to be called by) is rather shy, and comes across in her many radio shows and guest appearances as somewhat out of it, and not too bright. In fact, she is intelligent and capable, just a bit dreamy. She has been a university student since 2007, working and studying at the same time, and will graduate in 2011. And she has hosted her own radio show for over a year. The show is called: Can Hanazawa Kana Do It Alone?

Between her drama work when she was 12 and Zegapain when she was 17, Kana-chan didn't get much work, but kept searching for her place in show business. A post on 2channel describes her as having been an "underground idol," and there are photos to prove it:

Kana-chan doesn't have a great singing voice, and that may be one reason her idol career never took off. But she did do a great job with the partly-spoken OP4 of Bakemonogatari, "Ren-ai Circulation":

The adult Kana-chan (now 20) is no raving beauty, but she is quite attractive in an old-fashioned sort of way, as well as seeming to be a genuinely nice person:

Here are a very recent and the oldest photo here. One of Kana-chan fron an interview this fall about Kobato. One showing her when she was twelve, and just about to begin her entertainment career:

Here's a ridiculously cute video interview she did for Voicha magazine in late 2007:

Here's another video, from about the same time, with her co-stars in Sketchbook, Nakase Asuka (centre) and Makino Yui. The beginning is Kana-chan at her loopy best:

Here's a clip she did with her friend Tomatsu Haruka, talking about strange food combinations that Nagi ate in Kannagi, in which Kana played Zange to Tomatsu's Nagi. Tomatsu puts Italian-style salad dressing on her rice, while Kana-chan puts Bulldog sauce (like HP sauce) on hers. The bubbly Tomatsu thinks the Italian dressing makes the rice taste great, like "Italian cuisine." Kana-chan tries it and says drily: "It's okay."

And here they are doing a brief recording session, reversing their roles in Kannagi so that Kana-chan plays Nagi and Tomatsu plays Zange:

Here is a very recent clip of Kana-chan talking about her role as the heroine Sofia in the Wii game Tales of Graces, which was released 10 December 2009:

Finally, here is a brief clip from the 2006 TV drama Uramiya Honpo, showing the 17-year-old Kana as a girl in hospital first greeting a friend who has come to visit, and then actually dying on screen:


-- born 25 February 1989
-- from Tokyo
-- 158cm tall (5'2")
-- likes: taking baths
-- abilities: mimicry, magic, storytelling
-- favorite food: dried taro
-- likes: men who have dark hair and look good in a suit and glasses
-- likes: Tomatsu Haruka, Kawasumi Ayako, Tsuji Ayumi
-- likes: "picopico pop" electronic music like Perfume, Nakata Yasutaka, MOSAIC.WAV. Asian Kung-fu Generation.

-- the mangaka of Potemayo was a big supporter of hers at auditions for the anime's cast, saying her version of Potemayo's sounds was just right for the character
-- in the early years of elementary school, she and her friends used to "see fairies" and play by kicking and punching them
-- she tends to daydream and lose focus, and her coworkers rag her about it. Toriumi Kousuke (Gil in Pandora Hearts) called her "Kana on a cliff," referring to the Miyazaki film Ponyo On a Cliff.
-- she has one sibling, a brother four years younger, and she shows him her animes
-- she has been a regular on twelve radio shows, two of which are still on

Staff in:
(2007) Sketchbook ~full color'S~ (TV) : Theme Song Performance (ED2)
(2008) Kyouran Kazoku Nikki (TV) : Theme Song Performance (ED)
(2008) Sekirei (TV) : Theme Song Performance
(2009) Bakemonogatari (TV) : Theme Song Performance (OP4)

Cast in:
(2003) Last Exile (TV) as Holy Madosein
(2006) Magical Witch Punie-chan (OVA) as Tanaka Potaru
(2006) Zegapain (TV) as Kaminagi Ryoko
(2007) Getsumen To Heiki Mina (TV) as Hazemi Nakoru/Minazuki Mina
(2007) Mushi-Uta (TV) as Anmoto Shiika
(2007) Higurashi no Naku Koroni Kai (TV) as Tomomi (eps 14.15)
(2007) Potemayo (TV) as Potemayo
(2007) Sketchbook ~full color'S~ (TV) as Kajiwara Sora
(2008) Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino- (TV) as Angelica
(2008) Shina Dark - Kuroki Tsuki no Ō to Sōheki no Tsuki no Himegimi (OAV) as Mapul
(2008) To Love-Ru (TV) as Yuuki Mikan
(2008) Blassreiter (TV) as Elea
(2008) Kyouran Kazoku Nikki (TV) as Midarezaki Yuuka
(2008) Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora (TV) as Suzuki Sora
(2008) Sekirei (TV) as Kusano
(2008) Strike Witches (TV) as Suwa Amaki (ep 12)
(2008) Kemeko Deluxe! (TV) as Riko At Androids
(2008) Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens (TV) as Suzushiro Hakua; Zange
(2008) Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino- (OAV) as Angelica
(2009) (The) Tower of Druaga: the Sword of Uruk (TV) as Henaro
(2009) Asu no Yoichi! (TV) as Ikaruga Kagome
(2009) Basquash! (TV) as Coco JD
(2009) Pandora Hearts (TV) as Sharon Rainsworth
(2009) To Love-Ru (OAV) as Yuuki Mikan
(2009) Bakemonogatari (TV) as Sengoku Nadeko
(2009) Sora no Manimani (TV) as An Yukie
(2009) Cencoroll (movie) as Yuki
(2009) Kobato. (TV) as Hanato Kobato
(2009) Darker Than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini (TV) as Suou Pavlichenko
(2010) Seikon no Qwaser (TV) as Mitarai Fumika
(2010) Durarara!! (TV) as Sonohara Anri
(2010) Bungaku Shoujo (movie) as Amano Touko

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live radio show video from TAF last summer
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idol photos

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Favorite Shows of 2009

BakemonogatariTo me, this has been an excellent year for anime. Here is a list of the shows I enjoyed most. I'm not saying these are the "best" shows of the year (whatever that means), just very good shows that are my favorites:

Bakemonogatari -- Director Shinbou Akiyuki has said he doesn't feel he added much to this, that it all came from the novels by NisiOisiN. I disagree. The look and pacing of the show add a lot. And Saitou Chiwa is beyond excellent as Senjougahara. But I do appreciate NisiOisiN's humor a lot more than the humor in other Shinbou shows.

Darker than Black 2 -- The first series was entertaining, but this one is emotionally deep. Hanazawa Kana gives her best performance ever, and raises herself a level in the seiyuu ranks, for me.

Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~ -- Sharp, dark, moving. Great pace. Great seiyuu performances from Takagaki Ayahi and Sawashiro Miyuki, who is even able to foreshadow her character's development with subtle shadings of her voice.

Seitokai no Ichizon -- This instantly becomes one of my two favorite comedy animes of all time, along with Ichigo Mashimaro. No surprise that both are by the same director, Satou Takuya, whose brand of humane absurdity is just what I like. A Japanese moe version of Monty Python. Hanada Jukki proves he can write. And the almost all-unknown cast is fantastic.

Aoi Hana -- Delicate feelings delicately portrayed in front of delicate watercolor backgrounds. May be even better than Marimite. Actress/model Takabe Ai gives a strong, natural performance as the lead.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 -- Like no other anime I've seen. Realistic, to a point, and emotionally moving when it goes beyond that point. Hanamura Satomi does an excellent job as peevish thirteen-year-old Mirai.

Pandora Hearts -- Monsters turn me off, but they didn't in this show. Interesting world, good pacing, vivid characters, outstanding music by Kajiura Yuki.

White Album -- Very unusual story-telling, always leaving us in the dark about the characters' true histories, feelings and motivations, but creating deep and mysterious resonances. It helps that I don't mind soap opera.

Denpateki na Kanojo -- Came out of nowhere to give us two of the best anime episodes of the year. And Hirohashi Ryou as Ame gave one of the most memorable seiyuu performances.

Eden of the East -- Did not entirely live up to early promise, but was still a fascinating experience every week.

Marimite 4 -- This fourth Marimite series has not got a lot of love from anyone but me, but I thought it equaled the first two series, which were such landmarks of shoujo-ai. Yumi's development here was perfect.

Genji Sennenki -- It helps that I think The Tale of Genji is one of the world's greatest novels. No eleven-episode anime could ever do it justice, but this came close, with its artistic look and pacing, and its powerful but allusive way of telling the stories it included.

Hanasakeru Seishounen -- I had no intention of liking this show so much, but Endou Aya just captivated me with her portrayal of the compassionate, bold, innocent protagonist Kajika. And after the mid-point, this apparently simple reverse harem turned into a shoujo improvement on Code Geass, with adventure and royal intrigue.

Yurumates -- Almost no-one saw this one-episode comedy OVA, but I thought it was hilarious, the best recent rooming-house comedy.

Suzumiya Haruhi 2 -- The first new episode made me feel that the real Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu was back. But they frittered it away with Endless Eight, which should have lasted only two or three episodes. DVD sales, however, have Kadokawa laughing all the way to the bank.

Winter Sonata is just getting going, although it already has me emotionally involved. Aoi Bungaku is good literature, but I'm not sure it's good anime. I have to see more of it than three episodes to really judge. Kanamemo was fun, but doesn't quite make my list. Toradora, Eve no Jikan, and Kara no Kyoukai were on last year's list.

I know some people will find it strange that Cross Game isn't here, but I just don't enjoy its main characters and their development as much as other people seem to. Maybe it's all just too shounen for me. There are some nice moments, but the show seems glacially slow to me at every level. I don't even find the humor funny. But I have watched 26 episodes, anyway, lol, hoping to see what others praise so highly.