Ishida Akira’s Amazing Voice Work in Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

yakumo-old

One of the best anime of 2016, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, has returned for the Winter 2017, and with it some of the finest voice acting in recent anime history. Given that rakugo performers are themselves supposed to be able to take on many roles while telling a story, it requires the seiyuu playing these characters to have a great deal of convincing range. Nowhere is this more evident than in the voice of Ishida Akira, who plays Yuurakutei Yakumo the Eighth.

Ishida Akira has been a major player in anime since the 1990s, with roles such as Xelloss from Slayers and Athrun Zala from Gundam SEED to his name. However, what made me realize the sheer skill Ishida possesses is an audio clip of him performing seven different people, male and female, of all ages. From a young girl to an elderly grandpa, he can do it all. So, when he first appeared in Rakugo Shinjuu as Yakumo, I expected great things—an expectation that was fulfilled in spades. There’s a clear distinction in season 1 between Yakumo’s younger self in the past, and his elderly demeanor in the present.

To my surprise, season 2 turns out to show off Ishida’s chops even better. In this sequel, Yakumo is even older, and Ishida actually goes as far as to modify his performance to further show the passing of time. Often, I find that voice actors will have an “elderly voice,” but will not necessarily make the distinction between someone in his 60s versus someone in his 70s, for example. Ishida, however, does just that. His voice in season 1 had the weight of many years in it, but by season 2 it’s slower, deeper, and just a bit less coherent, as if that weight has finally started dragging his body down.

What’s even more impressive is when he performs privately for Yotarou (a.k.a. the new Sukeroku). Here, despite the strain it puts on him, Yakumo gives an extremely lively rakugo show. Pay attention to Ishida’s acting here, as he’s not just changing his voice to play younger characters as you would expect from any other professional voice actor. Instead, Ishida purposely plays a man in the twilight of his life imitating younger people as he performs. His enunciation is much clearer when he’s “on-stage,” but nevertheless has that characteristic elderly drawl. When he finishes and appears completely exhausted, and his voice reverts to “normal.”

Ishida’s performance is just one aspect of why Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is amazing, but it gives the series as a whole such a powerful presence. It’s great to see the guy in a role where he can really show the full extent of his talent.

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New Mewtwo Voice Actor for Super Smash Bros.

Upon hearing Mewtwo in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U for the first time, I was convinced that they had brought back the original actor, Ichimura Masachika, from the film Mewtwo Strikes Back. However, it actually turns out to be someone doing an excellent imitation (with the help of a voice filter), and whose acting chops are impressive in their own right. While the new actor Fujiwara Keiji might not have the cred of being an established theater actor like Ichimura is (he’s most famous for playing the titular character in the original Japanese Phantom of the Opera), you might know him for some of the following roles:

Ladd Russo in Baccano!

Nohara Hiroshi in Crayon Shin-chan

Kuzuhara Kinnosuke (Biker Cop) in Durarara!!

Holland Novak in Eureka Seven

Maes Hughes in Full Metal Alchemist (both original and Brotherhood)

Ali-al Saachez in Mobile Suit Gundam 00

Hannes in Attack on Titan

Jake Martinez in Tiger & Bunny

I actually had my suspicions because Mewtwo makes certain sounds in the new Smash Bros. that I don’t recall from Super Smash Bros. Melee, but I chalked it up to my own faulty memory. It’s also a lot more difficult to hear because only the Japanese version has voiced victory quotes. It was the same in Melee, except you could change the language settings there to Japanese, which is how I and a lot of other people learned that Mewtwo had victory quotes in the first place.

Here are videos of the old and new voices for you to compare:

Old (ignore the skins; they’re from a mod)

New

And for fun, here’s a video of Ichimura Masachika as the Phantom of the Opera:

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Otakon 2012 Interview with Nonaka Ai

Introduction: This is my interview with Japanese voice actor Nonaka Ai, who was a guest at Otakon 2012. Nonaka is known for roles such as Kafuka in Sayonora Zetsubou Sensei and Fuuko in Clannad.

Nonaka: [in English] Pleased to meet you. My name is Ai Nonaka.

OM: You played a character in Saki: Episode of Side A. What did you think of the role, and have you played any mahjong yourself?

Nonaka: [in English] I never played mahjong.

OM: Personally speaking, I know you best as Fuura Kafuka from Sayonora Zetsubou Sensei, but you also play Ichijou in Pani Poni Dash, and those are both interesting, quirky, and even bizarre characters. How is it playing those roles, and how is it working with SHAFT in general?

Nonaka: So, I may act very strange roles, and though they are all quirky and weird, they all have a policy in the way that they act so I want to respect the policy that the character has and do the character to the best of my extent.

OM: Another quirky character is Ibuki Fuuko from Clannad, who you first played in a game and returned to a few years later. Returning to that role, what lessons had you learned in those years between playing the same role again?

Nonaka: I didn’t feel that much of a time lag when the game came out and when I started recording for the anime, so there wasn’t really that time in between.

So the first season of the anime had the same story as the game, but then the second season of the anime was illustrating a world where Fuuko was already gone and the child was already born. So, it was a very strange sort of experience for me, especially in the anime.

OM: I think that when it comes to voice acting, it seems that there are two traits that are sought after. One is having a unique, distinguishable voice, a voice that people can recognize, and the other is having versatility, the ability to play many different roles and change your voice. Which one do you think you’re stronger at, and how important do you think each individual one is in terms of being a voice actor?

Nonaka: I personally think I’m one with a unique voice, and the real strength of having a unique is having people remember you by that really unique voice, so I think I’m really benefitting from that unique voice. Although I have a unique voice, because I can’t change my voice too much I can’t do things like two roles in one anime.

OM: Do you have any favorite actors to work with, or actors you’d like to work with?

Nonaka: Although she’s not a voice actor, Kuze Seika. She used to be part of the Takaraza Kagekidan [Revue].

[in English] Do you know?

OM: I know.

Nonaka: Aahh!!

OM: Putting aside voice questions, what are your hobbies and what do you do when you’re not working?

Nonaka: [in English] I like… run!

So, I’m going to run at the Kobe Marathon after i get back.

OM: How long is it?

Nonaka: Since it’s a full marathon, it will be the full 42.195 kilometers.

OM: Is this your first marathon?

Nonaka: It’s my first full marathon. I’ve done other marathons in the past.

OM: Are you doing any sort of training or diet preparation for the marathon?

Nonaka: [in English] I run three a week.

OM: Three times a week?

Nonaka: [in English] Three TIMES! a week.

OM: Do you change your food? Because I know for instance that a lot of marathon runners will eat a lot of pasta or grains.

Nonaka: Keeping slim is my diet. Lighter is better.

OM: Do you have any favorite foods?

Nonaka: [in English] My favorite food is osushi!

OM: What’s your favorite sushi?

Nonaka: Egg, fatty tuna, and nattou-maki.

OM: Wow!

Nonaka: Have you eaten nattou before?

OM: I actually like nattou a lot.

Nonaka: [in Japanese] REALLY?!

OM: I lived in Japan briefly. Nattou-maki is something I can’t get anywhere else so I miss it a lot.

Nonaka: Ehh?! Wasn’t it a bit odorous?

OM: I realized that I like fermented foods, like nattou and stinky tofu.

Nonaka: [laughs]

OM: One last question. Going back to the role of Kafuka in Zetsubou Sensei, is there anything you really keep in mind while playing the role?

Nonaka: I try to make it positive. A bit off, and maybe crazy-sounding, but positive to that extent.

OM: Thank you very much!

Nonaka: [in English] You’re welcome!

Mizuhashi Kaori is Constantly Amazing

More often than not, whenever voice actress Mizuhashi Kaori appears in an anime I am amazed by her talent. Not only is she a very good actress capable of playing a variety of roles and personalities, but despite her being the seiyuu of Ogiue Chika it often takes me quite a while to realize that it’s Mizuhashi behind the role.


Ogiue Chika (Genshiken), Miyako (Hidamari Sketch), Rosetta Passel (Kaleido Star), Shimada Minami (Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu)

It’s usually when her voice deepens just slightly that I’m able to recognize her. Then when I go back and listen to the character again, I’m astonished that I wasn’t able to catch on. Mizuhashi’s like the best of both worlds when it comes to voice acting; her voice has distinct features to be sure, but she also has a capacity for variation between roles.

In short, she’s a pleasant surprise whenever she appears.

Now I don’t have the vocabulary or familiarity with voice acting to actually explain to you what I think makes her a good voice actor, so I recommend you check out any of her roles, or listen to her voice acting sample on her official profile.

Welcome Back, Tange Sakura

Kinomoto Sakura, the heroine of Cardcaptor Sakura, is one of the most beloved anime characters of all time. Full of energy, enthusiasm, and a drive to find happiness for everyone with mixed an innocent girlishness, Sakura became what is essentially the lofty goal of most moe characters. She tugs at the heartstrings in a convincing manner, gets you rooting for her as she goes out to face the next challenge, and is both believable and fantastic. A good portion of this power and majesty (at least in the anime!) lies in her voice actor, Tange Sakura.

Tange Sakura to certain otaku such as myself is one of the finest voice actors ever, due mainly to the convincing humanity she puts into her roles. But then a  few years back Sakura retired from the world of voice acting, right around time anime really started to take off around the world, leaving a small semi-generation of anime fans unfamiliar with her abilities. But now she’s back, and I have to say few things are as momentous in anime voice acting as the return of Tange Sakura. I don’t know why she left, or why she’s decided to come back, but it is welcome news.

So far she’s played a character in the video game Love Plus, with her first anime role since her retirement being the vampire Hatori Kanon in Anyamaru Tantei Kirumins (which if I were to try to translate into English would be something like “Animeow Detective Mascots”). It’s definitely Sakura all right, though she doesn’t get very many lines. She’s also working with a mix of relatively new voice actors, and some people she’s worked with before, namely Tanaka Hideyuki (Sakura’s dad in CCS). I wonder if anyone out there is watching this show just for her, and not say, because it’s directed by Kawamori Shouji (Various Macross seres, Escaflowne, Aquarion).

I would not be surprised if that were the case, and wouldn’t really mind anyone watching this show in particular for the voice actor(s).

Neo Humans and Steel Cyborgs

Tatsunoko Pro’s latest adaptation of Shinzo Ningen Casshern, Casshern Sins, has Furuya Tohru playing the titular character. Furuya is not the original actor form the 70s despite his long history in anime, but luckily,he has experience playing the role of a man turned into a cyborg to fight an evil force: Koutetsu Jeeg.

The similarities don’t end there! Each show poses a vital question during its opening.

Casshern: “If Casshern won’t do it, who will?”

Jeeg: “If I stop (BAN BABAN) , then who will do it? (BAN BABAN)”

Clearly this role was made for the man.

Just like “fat guy in Paprika.”

The Ogiues who never were

Mizuhashi Kaori landed the role of Ogiue and for that we are all grateful.

Landing the role, however, means that she had to have beaten out other voice actors.

So I have to wonder, who else tried out for the part of Ogiue? Who could have been the voice of Fujoshi Omega?

Sadly this mystery will probably never be solved.