Tuesday, September 07, 2010

This Fall's Busiest Seiyuus: Hayami Saori, Taketatsu Ayana, Yuuki Aoi

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I've been a big fan of Yuuki Aoi for the past year or so, and of Hayami Saori for 2-3 years. Now it appears that anime producers have become fans, too.

Those two and Taketatsu Ayana are the busiest of all seiyuus this fall. Left to right: Hayami Saori (age 19), Taketatsu Ayana (21), Yuuki Aoi (18).

Each of these three young seiyuus will be in five new TV series this fall. And that doesn't count OVAs: Saorin has roles in three OVAs, Ayachi 2, and Ao-chan one.

Both Hayami and Taketatsu work for I"m Enterprise, one of the two big sister agencies involved in a roles-for-sex scandal a few years ago. One of the seiyuus with four roles also works for I"m Enterprise: Yahagi Sayuri (age 23).

There was talk recently that Ayachi had surpassed Saorin as the young seiyuu I"m Enterprise was promoting most. Now it appears they are promoting them both pretty well. 

Seiyuus with four roles in fall series are Fukuyama Jun, Hanazawa Kana, Okamoto Nobuhiko, Sugita Tomokazu, and Yahagi Sayuri.

Those with three roles are Abe Atsushi, Fujimura Ayumi, Itou Kanae, Koshimizu Ami, Nabatame Hitomi, Sakurai Takahiro, Shimono Hiro, Toyosaki Aki, and Yoshino Hiroyuki.

Yahagi Sayuri, Hanazawa Kana, and Koshimizu Ami are also among my favorite voices. In fact, I like all the voices in those lists.

These numbers struck me as I was working on the database I use to create my seasonal preview posts. The fall post will be up in ten days.

None of this takes into account whether these are starring roles are not, but just for the record, Hayami Saori will star in Star Driver and Sora no Otoshimono Forte. Taketatsu Ayana will star in MM and Ore no Imouto Konna ni Kawaii wake ga Nai. Yuuki Aoi will star in Yumeiro Patissiere Professional, Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls, and Pokemon Best Wishes. Their other roles are largely major supporting roles. Ao-chan is also in the continuing series Shiki.

By the way, I've started calling Hayami Saori "Saorin." She asked people on an interview show to call her that instead of Hayamin, so it seems that of her two nicknames, that may be the one she prefers. Saori is apparently her real name, whereas Hayami isn't her real surname.

Same for calling Taketatsu Ayana "Ayachi," instead of Aya-nyan. Yuuki Aoi calls herself "Yuuki," but seemed pleased to hear fans shouting "Ao-chan" at events.


bmk said...

I'm so used to calling Taketatsu Ayana "Aya-nyan" that I can't possibly call her any other nickname. "Ayachi" just doesn't have that same ring to it, I believe.

Ieremia said...

I don't know if you read To Aru Majutsu no Index vol. 7, which, it seems, will be animated in the upcoming second season of the anime, but let me tell you- the character Ao-chan plays (a loli catholic nun-saying more would be a huge spoiler) would be a great oportunity for her. If JC Staff doesn't waste the material of the original, it would be an amazing role, and, excuse me for being sure of it, Ao-chan will play it very well at least, it could even cloud up her main roles this autumn (excluding maybe Sunako), that's how great a role it is.

skchai said...

On the other extreme, there's a VIPer thread noting that Hirano Aya is has ZERO regular anime roles for the fall season. There's a mirror of the thread here.

Shana-nee said...

@skchai: Aya Hirano still has Nurarihyon no Mago. But if you're talking about new shows, She, Mizuki, and Tamura, don't have a new one this fall.

Looks like Aya-nyan, only want to be called by the K-ON cast or something? =3 Since K-ON DID contribute a lot to her popularity, like it did to the rest of the cast. xD!

I haven't heard any work of Aoi Yuuki yet, I should. =3

Anonymous said...

Hirano Aya is also one of the leads in Fairy Tail, which will be continuing through the Fall too.

hashi said...

@bmk -- I'm not sure I'll be able to keep up either Saorin or Ayachi: Hayamin and Aya-nyan are more individual. I'll probably follow whatever 2channel does.

@Ieremia -- Thanks for the info. She isn't listed in the Index official site's cast list, or Japanese Wikipedia, at least not yet. But that role (I trust ANN's listing) pulls her up to six new shows. As for putting her other roles in the shade, if the voice at the end of the preview episode of Hyakka Ryouran is any indication, that role may be hard to ignore.

@skchai, Shana-nee, anonymous -- Thanks for this discussion. I still think Aaya will not disappear from the seiyuu scene, but one post in that Japanese thread made a reasonable point about her moving away from the otaku audience for a more mainstream one, as it said AKB48 is doing. I don't feel she owes much to the anti- part of the otaku audience, and I think that if anyone can get the mainstream audience which is so much larger, then it is reasonable for them to try.

@Shana-nee -- I said Yuuki Aoi is the next great "voice," because what she mainly has is a uniquely capable physical instrument. As a recent post in her 2channel thread said, she can shout and her voice never breaks. She is amazingly inventive with that instrument, going up and down, fast and slow, and creating many humorous turns of voice. But she can also act. The instrument is at its best in the otherwise uninteresting Kiruminzoo. Her classic young-girl voice is in the enjoyable (to me) young-shoujo show Yumeiro Patissiere. I loved the unusual voice she used in Vampire Bund, to sound like a vicious queen in a young girl's body, and I liked her acting there. And I think many people were turned on to her talent as the sweetly foul-mouthed Korone, in Ichiban Ushiro no Dai Maou (maybe episodes 2-4 or so?). And her brief appearances as Sunako in Shiki (eps 3, 4, 6, 7) are always riveting, not just for the voice, but for the subtlety and intensity of the meaning, especially in ep7.

Matteas said...

I'm looking forward to hearing them in more and more roles. Particularly Aya-nyan (She just is Aya-nyan. The "nyan" there is irreplaceable ^^) and Ao-chan. But I was quite sad to learn that Hiyocchi has no role this fall T_T

hashi said...

@Matteas -- Yes, I was surprised and disappointed not to see Hikasa Youko's name for more new shows, She only did two new shows this season, but she starred in both and is making a big impression in both (Seitokai Yakuindomo and Occult Academy, for anyone who doesn't know).

banger said...

so no hikasa yoko at all next season? whats the point in even watching anime then....

i am a fan of hayami saori and taketatsu ayana, although i dislike most of the shows that the latter is in except for k-on.

i did not like yuuki aoi at first...her voice seemed kind of weak to me in many of the roles i heard. but i am starting to warm up to her voice since she is in so many shows and i am getting more used to it. still i can't say i would put her on my favorites list...just my preference though of course.

Westlo said...

Fellow Hikasa Youko fans... while it seems she hasn't got any roles for any announced characters for this upcoming season she is going to voice the lead female in the first tv series by 8-Bit. 8-Bit are ex-Satelite members who were formed to create the two Macross Frontier movies, similar to Sunrise and Bones.

IS has a very nice cast list imo


skchai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
skchai said...

@shana-nee, anon - Thanks, you're right should have qualified and said Ayaa has no new regular roles. I was going by Hashihime's original post, which was about new roles - if you count continuing series, the Yuuki Aoi for instance also has Kiruminzoo, Yumeiro Patisserie, and probably some I'm forgetting. . .

Getting back to topic of the post, in general I really don't like this phenomenon - I'm not talking about three seiyuu involved, of course, who deserve to be successful. I mean how the hot seiyuu of the moment will play several major roles simultaneously while others who are just slightly less popular are lucky to get one or two, and the rest, even those were stars of just a few years ago, vie mostly for the supporting and minor roles.

Besides some abstract question of fairness, there are more concrete issues. One how well even the most skilled seiyuu can handle the workload without decline in performance, not to mention total exhaustion. In addition, even though Japanese seiyuu are treated as celebrities, at least relative to their counterparts anywhere else in the world, their work conditions generally still seem a lot more more like factory piecework than Hollywood stardom. Voice pay apparently is still largely determined by the a seniority-based scale and amount of labor involved - literally measured primarily by word counts. And popularity is still reflected much more in the number of major roles someone is offered rather than how much they are paid for those roles. So if someone is in high demand, given the often ephemeral nature of popularity, it makes some sense for them to grab as many roles as they can, even if they're aware of the downside. Popularity doesn't give them the leverage to cut down to focus on giving a great performance for a particular role; paradoxically, it's usually the opposite.

Having a singing career is another work burden, but it is also a way out of this harsh cycle, since successful seiyuu/singers can pull in much higher incomes than successful "seiyuu-only", particularly from their live performances, though again it depends in part on whether they are singing in character or as themselves. For the most successful seiyuu singers, the resulting financial security also gives them the luxury of picking and choosing what voice acting roles they want to play. That may be why one reason why virtually every seiyuu who can hold a tune (and many who can't) seem to put a lot of effort into their building a career as a professional seiyuu-singer.

Live-action acting is another issue altogether. The barrier between the two industries is so solid, - different production companies, different sponsors, and almost no overlap in production staff, that a person usually has to decide on one or or the other. Once a decision is switch from voice to live-action, it seems very hard to reverse, since it means burning a lot of bridges that can't be rebuilt, as allegedly happened to Konishi Hiroko several years ago. On the other hand, live-action acting is still a level of celebrity above being a seiyuu (or at least a much wider fan base, though seiyuu fans are often more fanatic), so when a star actor like Oguri Shun agrees to appear in an anime series, he is greeted with open arms, at least by the financial backers.

The same is true of the the amorphous world of "talents", those performers whose main jobs are to appear on TV in variety, talk, and game shows and various combinations of such unknown in the Western world, as well as the occasional TV acting role. This is the road Ayaa is taking, and one reason it is such a big topic of controversy is the perception that it will be difficult for her to turn back, especially if she fails to find success as a talent (she'll likel be an object of ridicule) or simply decides somewhere down the line she really liked being a seiyuu after all (depends on her how faithful her "lifeline" is).

Kanon said...

It's been revealed today that Hanazawa Kana will also be in the World God Only Knows, so that makes five roles for her as well. People are actually starting to get pissed off about the fact she's in pretty much everything nowadays. Not me, as I adore her voice, but I can understand the feeling.

skchai said...

@Kanon, Ironically, I would suspect the competing seiyuu would be more understanding than the audience towards Hanazawa, et al. taking all the big roles. They might be envious, of course, and genuinely pissed off at the bandwagon-jumping producers, directors and/or sound directors. But they also know the nature of the business, the perils of saying "no" to a major role, and the limited decision power even popular seiyuu may have vis-a-vis their management companies.

Winner-takes-all been the case for a while in the seiyuu business. But one thing that's changed has been the increasing tendency for voice range and versatility to be irrelevant or even a drawback. Of the four seiyuu that're being discussed, only Yuuki has shown any ability to convincingly generate a wide range of "voice personalities".

There's a widely expressed opinion that every single Hanazawa role has the same voice, and someone posted a Niconico MAD trying to prove this a while ago. Likewise, there was an infomaous omake on one of the Kannagi R2 DVDs where Tomatsu and Hanazawa switch roles for a few scenes from the series. Basically, Tomatsu transitions easily into a completely different Zange voice, while Hanazawa's Nagi sounds almost indistinguishable from her Zange.

Of course, it could be a fox and hedgehog thing. Even if her range is limited, few would contest that few if anyone can generate quiet, sweet dulcet, tones to the level of moe-inducing perfection the way that Hanazawa can. And since so many main roles nowadays call for such a voice, why look elsewhere . . . or so goes the logic.

But while it might not be fair given their relatively short careers, compare their overall skill levels (Yuuki aside again) to the role-dominating seiyuu of the 80s and 90s, such as Koyama, Hidaka, Hayashibara. Mitsuishi, etc., who were all known for their ability to produce a huge range of voices matching whatever personality they asked to create.

I think it's right to cast the squinty gaze on the industry, rather than the seiyuu who respond to its demands. This is not another version of the "moe-is-killing-anime" argument, but rather the idea that conservatism has set in, due in part to the dicey economic climate, and one result of this is the reduction of the range of major roles to a small set of archetypes designed to reliably pull in some segment of the audience. It's easy to name what those archetypes are, as well the type of voice associated with each. And the quiet, sweet type of moe voice may be the single most popular.

So voice "specialization" rather than versatility is increasingly valued in a climate of minimize "character risk". One side effect is that allows younger seiyuu to rise to the top faster, since they do not need to master more than a single type of voice in order to be in high demand.

hashi said...

Great discussion. Thanks, everyone.

I've never demanded that a seiyuu have much range. It's more important to me that she/he have an interesting or enjoyable voice in the range they do cover. HanaKana is a prime example: I usually love her voice. I do think she has a bit of range: in Darker than Black 2 and Yutori-chan, for example. But I prefer it that she stay as close as possible to the ultimate moe of Shiika in Mushi-uta, anyway.

Yuuki Aoi is the complete opposite. She has a range of voices that she seems to add to all the time. But her basic voice is not actually that pleasant. She's the kind of seiyuu I generally don't appreciate. But she is so capable and vivid that I just can't help admiring her.

She can also act. Some people realized that in Kurenai, although I was just lukewarm then. But Yumeiro Patissiere, Vampire Bund, Yutori-chan, Dai-maou, and now Shiki have all just blown me away.

I'm hoping that the high wall between screen and anime can break down a bit. I've always wanted to see what Hirano Aya could do in a drama. And this fall, Taketatsu Ayana will appear in a movie: "How to Have Fun Writing a Light Novel." Having seen pics of her in the costume a while ago, I suspect the filming was done last year, so perhaps she is already solidly on the seiyuu side of the wall.

I have thought that directors would prefer to find a seiyuu with good range that they can learn how to work with and keep using in various kinds of roles.

I suspect that is what happened in the past. But now perhaps the sellability of seiyuus makes it more commercially necessary to keep changing. I can't say I mind, from a consumer's point of view, since I like the work of many new seiyuus. Without the churn, would seiyuus like Hikasa Youko have gotten a chance to rise?

Producers might also want to change because as I understand it, older seiyuus make more per episode than younger, and per episode is how anime seiyuus are paid (as opposed to game seiyuus, who get paid per word).

However, there are still people like Yahagi Sayuri, Koshimizu Ami, etc.: young seiyuus who are building a solid range of roles they can play.

All this having been said, I am still worried that for a young seiyuu to suddenly have to work several anime and games at the same time could degrade both their performance and their health.