There’s Something “Different” About These Voice Actors…

Back when the Soul Eater anime began airing, one of the big topics going around was Maka Albarn’s voice actor. Maka was Omigawa Chiaki’s first role in anime and it showed. Some called her voice work terrible or amateurish, I referred to it as a very natural-sounding voice. For those who haven’t heard it, when Maka speaks it sounds more like a young, soft-spoken narrator than it does a character in a show. However you judge it though, no one can deny that Maka’s voice was different from the usual.

At some point I decided to listen to the Soul Eater Web Radio Show (Maka Side), half curious, half wanting to practice listening comprehension for the JLPT2, and I was surprised to find out that Chiaki’s Maka voice is quite different from her everyday speaking voice. This meant that as natural and realistic-sounding as Maka’s voice is, it’s not just Chiaki speaking normally. I was impressed, but then I thought about how I wasn’t the best judge of Japanese voice acting, and a lot of the Maka voice’s detractors were Japanese people posting on 2ch and what-not. I’ve made progress over the years, but to really tell who’s good and who’s bad, I can’t do so with complete confidence still.

It was a few weeks after that when Anime World Order posted its review of Bubblegum Crisis. I had seen the show long ago, back when I barely knew anything about anime and my older brother knew guys in his high school who were willing to copy tapes for him, but it had been so long I barely remembered anything. I decided to re-watch the original Bubblegum Crisis, all of it, knowing that there was some bias for BGC among the AWO crew and not wanting to be too influenced by it.

Throughout the OVA series one voice really stood out among the rest: that of main character and most prominent Knight Saber Priss Asagiri. There was something about the way she intoned words, it almost reminded me of Jack King from Shin Getter Robo vs Neo Getter Robo. It sounded, felt different from the other voices which were all clearly talented but sort of blended together in the area known as “good,” like how Henri Cartier-Bresson may be one of the most talented photographers ever but his photographs were all good in the same exact way. It could be awkward at times, but Priss’s voice would always jump out. Then I looked up her voice actor, Oomori Kinuko and listened to the AWO episode (Part A) and found out that it was her one and only voice role, Kinuko being primarily a singer. “Oh,” I thought. And then I remembered Maka.

Maka and Priss’s voices are similar in many ways. Both are very noticeable when placed among their fellow cast members, and both have this style that really takes over a scene, for better or worse. When they talk, you notice. As such, both have this strange voiceover feel to them, where it sounds like they’re speaking directly to the audience rather than to other characters in their shows. Is this merely a product of lack of experience in voice acting? Did anime fans in 80s Japan have a field day with Kinuko’s voice work the way they do with Chiaki’s now? If more seiyuu sounded like Priss or Maka, would their lack of experience and/or talent stand out even more?