Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Seiyuu Yuuki Aoi -- Young Veteran

Yuuki Aoi in February 2010, at an interview with Hobby Channel's Seiyuu Police Voice actress Yuuki Aoi 悠木碧 just turned 18 last Saturday. But she is a show business veteran: she was in her first TV drama at the age of five, and has acted in ten TV shows, three films, and 21 animes. (mouseover images for captions; click to enlarge)

Her seiyuu career began when she was eleven, in 2003, with the role of Sakura in Kino no Tabi. The next year, she had a role in Aishiteruze Baby (as Marika). And then between 2005 and 2007 she played Yumeno Koto in the popular Onegai My Melody.

But it was in 2008 that Ao-chan really gained fame and critical acclaim, for her performance as bold nine-year-old Murasaki in Kurenai. That was also the first role in which she used the name Yuuki Aoi. Up to then, she had been known as Yabusaki Aoi.

In 2009, producers fell in love with her sharp diction and acting range, and she burst out with ten roles. In early 2010, she had major roles in four anime at the same time: as Mina Tepes in Dance in the Vampire Bund; as Ichigo in Yumeiro Pâtissière; as Riko in Anyamaru Tantei Kiruminzuu; and as Noel in Sora no Woto.

That means one imperious vampire queen (Mina); one genki little aspiring pastry-maker (Ichigo); one busy-body girl detective (Riko); and one low-voiced Nagato Yuki clone (Noel). Her range just keeps expanding.

Read further for more info, photos, and video clips.

Current shows
This spring she is playing sweet, selfish, and incompetent part-time office worker Yutori-chan in the two-minute Web animation series of the same name. And she is a security android in the shape of a teenage girl in the new show Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou.

But you can also still hear her as Ichigo in Yumeiro Pâtissière and as Riko in Kiruminzuu, since both those shows are continuing into the spring. She is already slated for a fairly juicy role in the vampire mystery Shiki, which begins in July. And she will also reprise her role as Murasaki in a Kurenai OVA that comes out then.

Ao-chan through the years

Here are some photos of her over the years. First, as a precocious ten-year-old on the TV show Appare Sanma Dai Sensei. There is video from the show later in this post:

Next, as a twelve-year-old actress/seiyuu:

Here are a couple of shots of Aoi at 15-16, when she was playing Murasaki in Kurenai. First, at an interview for Hobby Channel's Seiyuu Police:

Then, at an event with Shintani Ryouko,whom she describes in her blog this week as a "lovely lady":

And here she is last fall and winter, at 17. First with her co-stars from Kiruminzuu; (l-r) Ikebe Kumiko, Anzai Chika, Satou Satomi, Ao-chan, Tamura Mutsumi:

Next with Saitou Chiwa, her co-host on Radio in the Vampire Bund:

And finally from a February 2010 Sora no Woto feature on TV Tokyo's Ani-song Plus:

Her voice
She has a highly skilled voice: strong, flexible, varied, and controlled. Although the natural quality of her voice is not particularly pleasing, she has the ability to do just about anything with it.

As Ichigo in Yumeiro Pâtissière, her voice bounces and jumps as a genki young shoujo's voice should.

I was particularly impressed with her as Mina in Vampire Bund. I didn't think such a young seiyuu was the right choice for the role -- and she did have to stretch at times to be the centuries-old vampire queen commanding her subjects from the body of a young human girl. But when she hit the right notes, she hit them solidly. And in one scene, she gives us a bit of a tour de force, imitating the hero's intonation perfectly.

She shows in episode 11 of Sora no Woto that she can do a blood-curdling scream:

Then in episode 12, she uses her character's soft voice, and her own vocal control, to give us some strong emotion:

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that a Japanese fan had clipped out her sponsors' message at the beginning of Yumeiro and was using it as his alarm-clock sound. Ao-chan's voice is so dynamic that it would work:

She is getting better and better at the ancillary aspects of being a seiyuu, becoming a more vivid radio personality between the Vampire Bund and Yutori-chan radio shows. She is just relaxed enough to be playful, and makes humorous use of her vocal athleticism.

And she is coming up with some interesting things to say. Asked at last weekend's Tokyo Anime Fair what she wanted to grow up to be when she was a kid, she said her mother told her to choose something she liked, so she used to say she wanted to be konnyaku. (Konnyaku is a kind of rubbery jelly used in some Japanese dishes. The comment comes from j1m0ne's report on TAF)

Anime roles
Here is a video compilation of Ao-chan's main anime roles:

And here are images of most of her roles. Mouseover images for captions:

Sakura (Kino no Tabi) Yumeno Koto (Onegai My Melody) Murasaki (Kurenai)
Akira (Shikabane Hime) Iaritikku Shin Goruotto (Polyphonica Crimson S) Budoko (Akikan) Chiriko (Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae ep18)
Maibara (Soro no Manima ni) Ichigo (Yumeiro Pâtissière) Riko (Animal Tantei Kiruminzuu) Mina Tepes (Dance in the Vampire Bund)
Noel (Sora no Oto) young Shinra (Durarara) Yutori-chan Corone (Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou)

There is a full list of her roles at the end of this post.

College and work
Yuuki-san is smart, chatty, and short (145cm, 4ft 9in). She has just graduated from high school, and learned in February that after some hard studying she had been accepted into her first-choice university (she didn't say which one it was). To her, that meant that starting this April (the beginning of the school year in Japan) she would be able to continue her career under less pressure than when she had to be going to high school and cram school and doing all her seiyuu work at the same time.

In recent blog posts she speaks of enjoying playing the PSP game God Eater, and says how much she loves games, anime, and manga. She says she feels blessed to be able to work in a field she loves. She says it means that she could get through her graduation events without crying.

At this point, she just wants to "keep running," doing all she can as a seiyuu, and getting better. She says she feels "out of breath" as one 13-week season ends and another starts but it's an exhilarating feeling, too. In her blog last fall, when the first episode of Yumeiro Pâtissière was airing, she thanked people for their messages of support, but said she thought she could do better, and was doing a bit better in each episode they had pre-recorded. (mouseover photos for captions)

her grandmother is even shorter than she is delighted with her first visit to an esthetician in March 2009
math notes june 09 English notes june 09

A few facts
- height: 145cm (4ft 9in)
- born 1992.03.27 (she just turned 18)
- born in Chiba, near Tokyo; an only child
- stage name Yuuki Aoi 悠木 碧
- former stage name (until 2006) Yabusaki Aoi 八武崎 碧. This may or may not be her real name.
- calls herself "Yuuki," but is called "Ao-chan" by most other people.
- began in show business at the age of 4
- was in TV dramas from the age of 5
- was a live TV show regular in fourth grade, seeming to be a clever and self-possessed little show-off. Her voice was sharp and accurate even then: you can hear her playing with pronunciation in the video clip below.
- she got interested in becoming a seiyuu when she happened to get one role in fifth grade.
- was with Central Children's Theatre until 2006, then with the Breath agency for a year, before joining her current agency, Pro-Fit.
- she is so short that when they were in the studio recording Akikan, she had her own short microphone-stand
- she is well prepared and has her script carefully marked up when she goes into a recording session
- she admires and wants to emulate Sawashiro Miyuki, with whom she has worked often: Onegai My Melody, Kurenai, Sora no Manima ni, Jewelpet, Durarara
- she was a big fan of Sailor Moon, especially of the tall Sailor Jupiter
- she likes the strawberry-patterned headphones she got at the too-cute Japanese shop Swimmer
- she calls herself a bit of a hikikomori, liking to stay at home reading manga and playing games when she isn't working
- she was more interested in arts than science at school, but did learn some computer programming
- she was in the Art Club at school and loves to draw. Here are some of her drawings (mouseover for captions):

Mina Tepes as imagined by Aoi when she was playing her on the drama CD: a 400-year-old in a young girl's body Akira from Shikabane Hime
Budoko at the final Akikan recording session a French doll holding a Japanese doll (school project)

Child TV Personality
Here are some clips of Ao-chan aged about ten, as a fourth-grader, in the TV show Appare Sanma Daisensei:

Around 4:33-4:37 she says: "Suzumasa-sensei, why do men like women with big breasts?" Japanese TV is a bit different.

Interview re Kurenai
Here is the 15-year-old Ao-chan being interviewed by Yamamoto Maria about her role as Murasaki in Kurenai:

She says that her mother took her to auditions for TV commercials when she was little, after she saw her performing for herself in front of a mirror.

Kiruminzuu zoo visit
Here is a publicity video for the anime Animal Detectives Kiruminzoo, showing a visit to Ueno Zoo by Yuuki and her co-stars Satou Satomi, Anzai Chika, Tamura Mutsumi, and Ikebe Kumiko, along with director Kawamura Shouji (who also directed Macross Frontier):

Yuuki is the short one with the striped stockings and flouncy aqua skirt. She often seems to wear striped stockings....

Kiruminzuu comment
Here are Yuuki and Satou Satomi cosplaying their roles in Kiruminzuu for a publicity video:

Vampire Bund Feature
Here are Yuuki, Saitou Chiwa, and Nakamura Yuuichi, the stars of Dance in the Vampire Bund, introducing the show in a brief TV feature:

Cast photos
Here are some photos of Yuuki with cast members of her various shows: (mouseover for captions; click to enlarge)

Kurenai: with Shintani Ryouko, Sanada Asami, and Kuroda Takaya Yumeiro Pâtissière: with Taketatsu Ayana and Okamoto Nobuhiko
Kiruminzuu: (front) Satou Satomi, Yuuki Aoi, Anzai Chika; (rear) Tamura Mutsumi, Ikebe Kumiko, Tange Sakura, Nojima Kenji Sora no Oto: Yuuki, Kanemoto Hisako, Endou Aya, Kitamura Eri
Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou: (front, l-r) Hikasa Youko, Toyosaki Aki, Kondou Takashi, Yuuki; (rear) Takahashi Chiaki, Itou Shizuka, Yonaga Tsubasa, Hirohashi Ryou

Yuuki Aoi's work:

TV Drama
* Eve (1997)
* Stalker, Sasou Onna (1997)
* Ryakudatsu Ai (1998)
* Seijuu Sentai Gingaman (1998)
* Hyakujuu Sentai Gao Ranger (2001)
* Tenshi no Utagoe (2002)
* Hamidashi Keiji Jounetsu Kei (2002)
* Kamen Rider 555 (2003)
* The Doctor (2003)
* Yue Miru Budou (2005)

TV Variety
* Appare Sanma Dai Sensei

* Madara no Shoujo (2005)
* Mamushi no Kyoudai (2007)
* Jun Kissa Isobe (2008)

TV Anime
* Kino no Tabi (Sakura)

* Aishiteruze Baby (Marika)

* Onegai My Melody (Yumeno Koto)

* Onegai My Melody Kurukuru Shuffle (Yumeno Koto)

* Onegai My Melody Sukkiri ep10 (Yumeno Koto)

* Kurenai (Kuhouin Murasaki)
* Shikabane Hime Aka (Too'oka Akira)

* Akikan (Budoko)
* Jigoku Shoujo ep18 (Hamano Chiriko)
* Shikabane Hime Kuro (Too'oka Akira)
* Jewelpet (Ameri)
* Shinkyoku Soukai Polyphonica Crimson S (Iaritikku Shin Goruotto)
* Sora no Manima ni (Maibara)
* Fight Ippatsu! Juuden-chan ep4 (girl student D)
* Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu Purezza (Hatsue Hikari)
* Animal Tantei Kiruminoo (Mikogami Riko)
* Yumeiro Pâtissière (Amano Ichigo)

* Sora no Woto (Noel Kannagi, Shuko)
* Dance in the Vampire Bund (Mina Tepes)
* Durarara (Kishitani Shinra - young)
* Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou (Korone)
* Shiki (Sunako)
* Kurenai OVA (Murasaki)

* Yutori-chan (Yutori-chan)

* Akikan (Budoko)


* Sora no Oto - Otome no Quintet (Noel)

* Radio in the Vampire Bund - Mina & Yuki's After-School Chairman's Office (with Saitou Chiwa)
* Yutori Channel ~Rajio mo Iratto Shinaide ne~ (with Hanazawa Kana)
* Ichiban Ushiro no Mugendai Radi-ou (with Toyosaki Aki and Hikasa Youko)

Drama CDs
* Kurenai (Murasaki)
* Akikan (Budoko)
* Dance in the Vampire Bund (Mina Tepes)
* Yumeiro Pâtissière Kirakira Music (plays Ichigo in the mini-drama)

TV commercials
* Daikyou (Lion's Mansion)
* Nissan (Nissan Serena Star)
* Ezaki Glico (Glico) (voiceover)

* Studio Hatsu (Yomiuri Shinbun TV interview 2009.12.13)
* Ani-song Plus (TV Tokyo 2010.02-3, announcer, guest)

Anime News Network
Anime News Network (Yabusaki Aoi)
Wikipedia (Japanese)
agency site
official site (Aoi Town)
old blog (Aoi Logic)
Yabusaki Aoi fansite (AOI Dictionary)
Yuuki Aoi on Sawashiro Miyuki
Yuuki Aoi on Vampire Bund

A few more pics from over the past three years:


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this - she is my favorite up-and-coming seiyuu and the insight is appreciated.

abandonedfactory said...

Man, some people work so hard! I guess I must be a slacker.

Kai said...

I wonder who's shorter her or Kanae Ito, judging from the various videos Kanae seems pretty short.

hashi said...

@Kai -- According to Japanese Wikipedia, Itou Kanae is one full centimeter shorter!

hashi said...

@Kai -- New info from her official agency site: her height there is given as 145cm (4ft 9in), which makes her two cm shorter than Itou-san. People who have seen her say on 2channel that that seems right.

SeijiSensei said...

Thanks so much for this, Kaoru Chujo. You know I've been a fan of Yuuki's since Kurenai. I find it amusing that no one in Japan thinks twice about conducting a television interview with a fifteen-year-old girl in a bar! I didn't watch much of the interview since I don't speak Japanese, but it did appear that Yamamoto-san likes to hear herself talk.

Did you make the video montage? If so, that was terrific!

hashi said...

@SeijiSensei -- Thanks. Glad to be of service. But I can't take credit for the roles montage: found on YouTube. You can find them on YouTube and/or NicoNico Douga for many seiyuu. Good work by someone, for sure.

meh said...

For some reason, I can't understand why people like her so much... Sure, she's not bad to look at (but in your banner, I really don't that pic of hers in your banner), but I don't quite like her voice.

I don't remember much of what she voiced (which makes her un-memorable(?)) but I did remember her Mio in Kaminomi and I remember thinking that it was so awkward, my ears hurt. The same goes for Tohru and Victorique. Madoka annoys me too, and it's not just because of her personality.

No, this is not a hate post, and I usually don't pay attention to seiyuu I don't like, but this is just one seiyuu that really really bothers me. Just wanted to let that out so I can stop fuming about her. :)

Good day. *bow*

hashi said...

@meh -- No problem. I can tell you're being honest and that's great. Personally, I actually don't think she's all that pretty, just cute. But I get a good feeling looking at her. She seems real to me: not a fake performer, but a real person.

As for her voice, it may surprise you to know that I'm not all that fond of her in MadoMagi, either. Or in Pokemon BW. But just about everywhere else, lol.

It was Ichigo in Yumeiro Patissiere that made me her fan. And I think she has been terrific as Korone in Dai Maou and very good as Tohru and as Yutori-chan, as well as excellent as Victorica and as Mina in Vampire Bund.

I'm not sure what kind of seiyuu voice you like, but she is not someone who makes a character sound natural or the way one expects it to sound. She always gives it something special, and maybe a bit extreme.

And she can convey strong emotion. I think she embodies a character rather than simulating it. This kind of simulation is what some people mistakenly call "acting," and is what many of the most "professional" seiyuus seem to me to do. Whereas she uses her strong voice to express a character she has internalized.

In addition, she has an intensity in the physical sound of her voice that others can't match. Now, that intensity may not always be pleasant, but it really can hit home. And she has great control of tone and timbre.

Anyway, that's how it seems to me.

meh said...

I prefer cute over pretty, but the only time I found her cute was in her profile pic in MAL. XD

I don't watch Best Wishes, so I wouldn't know about that, but as for Ichigo, I couldn't remember her voice there at all. I guess it doesn't help that I dropped the series at ep 4. (Which is a real shame because I bought the first 3 vols of the DVD's and ended up selling it to a friend who loves bishounens at half-price. The failure of my life. *sigh*)

Shame that I haven't watched Maou and Bund and I don't know who Yutori-chan is. XD I can't make a good argument. I guess I just don't see her as "special."

When Gosick first came out and everyone was saying her voice was so "moe~" and such, I just kinda jumped on the bandwagon but now, it really doesn't appeal to me. Really just a matter of personal taste, I guess.

Now I wouldn't know about professional work or how good she is at timbre and etc, and all I really want is a voice that makes me smile when I hear it. Like I said, personal taste. But well, defending your own taste like this is kinda fun, right? XD

hashi said...

@meh -- Yes. Fun. I smile, you don't. Interesting to try to figure out why. Thank you for posting.

Yutori-chan is the name of a strange little web animation Ao-chan starred in early last year. There were about twenty two-minute episodes. Yutori-chan was a young part-time worker in the office of a toy factory. Hanazawa Kana was a slightly older part-time worker whom Yutori-chan kept crossing up in various ways. Some episodes were pretty funny.