Precure: The Crossroads of Voice Acting

Fifteen years is a long time for an anime to continue running strong, and Precure still stands at the apex of the magical girl genre in terms of prominence and notoriety. In that decade and a half, numerous voice actors have lent their performances to Precure, and it’s made this franchise into one in which seiyuu of all stripes, from anime veterans to relative newbies, intersect. To be involved with Precure can become a defining role, or an affirmation of an illustrious career.

In the original Futari wa Pretty Cure, Cure Black was played by Honna Youko, who at the time had more experience playing small roles in live-action series. While the few voice performances under her belt at the time were big deals—starring roles in Studio Ghibli films Omohide Poroporo and Whisper of the Heart—she wasn’t an anime industry juggernaut. Opposite Honna in the role of Cure White was Yukana, who was coming into her own as a fan-favorite due to roles such as Li Meiling in Cardcaptor Sakura and Teletha Testarossa in Full Metal Panic! Since then, Honna has earned some major roles in anime, notably Sumeragi Li Noriega in Gundam 00, but the bulk of her career is in voice-overs and narrations for television. Yukana, meanwhile, has become an anime industry veteran.

Mizusawa Fumie, voice of Cure Marine

Another voice actress who had a career-defining performance in Precure is Mizusawa Fumie, voice of Cure Marine. Prior to Precure, she was relatively unknown, playing roles mostly in small and relatively obscure anime. Now, she’s beloved by both children and adults for her energetic performance in Precure, and is considered a highlight of every crossover movie she appears in. In contrast, Mizusawa’s counterparts—Nana Mizuki (Cure Blossom), Kuwashima Houko (Cure Sunshine), and Hisakawa Aya (Cure Moonlight—were in 2009 already known for numerous characters in extremely popular series. These include Naruto (Nana as Hyuuga Hinata), Azumanga Daioh (Kuwashima as Kagura), and Sailor Moon (Hisakawa as Sailor Mercury).

The list of veterans goes on. Sawashiro Miyuki (Mine Fujiko in the more recent Lupin III works) became Cure Scarlet. Kugimiya Rie, the tsundere queen, came to Precure as Cure Ace. Tamura Yukari (the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha to Nana Mizuki’s Fate Testarossa) is Cure Amour. Koshimizu Ami, who originally began her career as Nadja Applefield from the 2003 Toei anime Ashita no Nadja, became Cure Melody. In each case, there’s a sense that they’ve “arrived in Precure” at long last.

One unique case is Miyamoto Kanako, who began her Precure career as a theme song vocalist across multiple series. In time, she landed the role of Cure Sword before going back to performing more themes. Other Precure singers have made cameo appearances, but only Miyamoto has made it as a Cure.

Various levels of acting experience existing in a production is hardly unusual, anime or otherwise. However, what Precure has is sheer longevity and the constant reboots to bring in new blood. It’s been around for so long that girls who grew up with Precure are now old enough to audition for it. To that point, according to the original producer of the franchise, Washio Takashi, 2017’s Kira Kira Precure a la Mode was the first time that girls who grew up watching the series became the voices behind the Precures themselves. Precure is in a unique position to push younger talent while also celebrating the efforts of voice acting’s Titans, and it should continue to do so for as long as it’s around.

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Otakon 2017 Interview: Furukawa Toshio & Kakinuma Shino

At Otakon 2017, I sat down with a husband-wife duo who are also two veteran voice actors of the anime industry. Furukawa Toshio is probably best known for playing Piccolo in Dragon Ball Z, while Kakinuma Shino was Naru in Sailor Moon (Molly to dub fans!).

I did not have enough time to ask any Piccolo questions, but if you love giant robots it’ll be worth your while.

Mr. Furukawa, Ms. Kakinuma, thank you for this interview.

My first question is to Mr. Furukawa. You played the role of Kenta in Mirai Robo Daltanias, so you had experiencing working with Nagahama Tadao. What was it like working with him? 

Furukawa: I actually worked with Mr. Nagahama before Daltanias, on The Rose of Versailles. But the time of Daltanias was during the super robot era, with the iconic huge robots in Japanese culture. He brought me in saying, “You know, we have a role for a prince for you. He’s a really good-looking character. Why don’t you come in?” So that’s how I came on the boat.

He was a very gentle person, and as a director he never stopped smiling. He was a very kind figure.

I’d also like to ask you about a different, maybe very different, director: Tomino Yoshiyuki. What was it like working with him as Kai Shiden in Mobile Suit Gundam?

Furukawa: Mr. Tomino is on the opposite spectrum, I’d like to say. He is relatively the stricter type. He’d give long lectures when we were young and starting off with First Gundam. He was known as the scary kind of director.

My next question is directed to Ms. Kakinuma. When it comes to anime based on manga, oftentimes anime-original stories are considered to be not as important or significant. But the romance between Naru and Nephrite is considered a fan favorite. What was it like voicing Naru for that story?

Kakinuma: When we were voicing for Sailor Moon, unlike some of the works now where there’s a manga established, we were doing it at the same time that the manga was going on. Some of the people who worked on the anime didn’t even know that romance doesn’t happen in the manga. So when we voiced it, we were doing it as if it were canon.

You’ve both been in the voice acting industry in Japan for a long time. How do you feel it’s changed over the course of your careers?

Furukawa: When I began, “voice actors” not really a thing. We were a subgenre of the bigger category of actors, where there were actors, stage actors, etc., and voice actors were part of the mix. During that time, we were not well recognized. If you look now, though, you have voice actors appearing on TV. I’ve even appeared on TV myself. I’d like to say that we’ve gained a kind of citizenship. We’re now more recognized.

Kakinuma: Recording has changed from when I began until now. For example, when I first started, we were voicing things that were on film, projected. When a part was over, we would have to reel in the film to record again if we needed to. Now, you don’t have that “reeling in the film” time; you can just click and go back to your previous scene. It saves a lot of time.

It’s normal now to see a kind of timeline on the bottom of the screen showing where you are in that span. By going to that, you don’t need a sense of timing anymore. But back then, since there were no timelines whatsoever, we needed a kind of specialized skillset.

Furukawa: TV equipment also changed. For example, nowadays we have multidirectional digital surround sound, which gives you the ability to hear all around you from all sorts of different channels. But back then, we didn’t have any of that, so we expected everyone to hear from the two speakers. Everyone speaking at the same time would be the same as mixing everything together. Now, if you did that, you might not get the same experience, so you need to split the channels in recording. So technology has advanced, but this has gotten us to take additional time in the recording process.

My last question is about Muteki Robo Daiohja, another giant robot series. What was it like working on it compared to Daltanias?

The biggest difference is that, while they’re both in the era of prolific super robots and space and everything, Daiohja is kind of a parody. Although they’re both similar—I got to play a prince in both anime—the biggest difference is that Prince Mito’s name derives from Mito Koumon, the very famous Japanese period drama about a prince taking out all the evils in his era. Daiohja had a lot of these elements. The characters Skad and Karcus came from Suke-san and Kaku-san from Mito Koumon. Everything about it was pretty much a parody of Mito Komon, so that’s the biggest difference I felt.

Thank you again for the interview. I look forward to your continued successes in your careers.

Genshiken Nidaime First Trailer

The new Genshiken has its first trailer, a 30-second clip. It’s just a voiceover with Yoshitake, Yajima, and Hato, as well as a small bit of Ogiue, but there are some things I observed in the trailer.

The main thing I noticed is that the new Ogiue voice, Yamamoto Nozomi, sounds similar to the previous actor Mizuhashi Kaori, though not Mizuhashi’s performance of Ogiue. Mizuhashi is quite varied (Ogiue doesn’t resemble Miyako in Hidamari Sketch), and Yamamoto’s performance sounds a bit closer to some of Mizuhashi’s other roles, such as Rosetta in Kaleidostar or Mami in Madoka Magica. So it’s sort of a match, but sort of not.

The other notable thing, I think, is that they didn’t give Yajima a “fat” voice. A lot of times, heavyset characters in anime have a deeper, rounder voice to emphasize their weight, but Yajima’s voice sounds more normal. It doesn’t quite have the coarseness I was expecting, but it’s still good to see it not fall into that old stereotype.

Genshiken Nidaime starts July 6th. I still haven’t decided if I’ll episode-blog it or not, especially because that eats up a whole bunch of my post slots (even if it would make for easy content). The other issue of course is that I’ve already done chapter reviews of the source material, and I worry that it’d be quite redundant. That said, maybe I can use it as a way to revisit those previous chapters.

What do you think? Are the chapter reviews already more than enough?

Additional New Voice Actors for Genshiken Nidaime Anime

As people suspected, it looks like the entire cast is being replaced for the new Genshiken anime. In addition to the previous announcement, now we know the following:

Ohno: Yukana (Cure White, Teletha Testarossa), was Kawasumi Ayako (Lafiel, Mahoro)

Madarame: Okitsu Kazuyuki (Jonathan Joestar), was Nobuyuki Hiyama (Guy from Gaogaigar)

Kasukabe: Satou Rina (Misaka “Railgun” Mikoto), was Yukino Satsuki (Kagome from Inuyasha)

Sue: Oozora Naomi, was Gotou Yuuko (Asahina Mikuru)

Angela: Kobayashi Misa, was Kaida Yuki (China from Hetalia)

The two voice actors for the Americans are really new, which has me concerned as both of them require varying amounts of English. This is especially the case for Angela, who often speaks for minutes in English, and her previous voice actress had actually studied abroad in the United States, so she at least had a strong amount of English fluency. Even Sue uses some English in Genshiken Nidaime/Genshiken II, so it’s going to be tricky business if their English isn’t up to snuff.

Although Yukana’s voice is noticeably different from Kawasumi Ayako’s, it similarly has a soft and gentle feel to it which you can hear in her roles such as Cure White, and Satou Rina as Kasukabe fits her forward and no-nonsense personality. In regards to the DESTINY OF BLOOD as Madarame, while Okitsu is nowhere near the screaming veterancy of Nobuyuki Hiyama, I think his role as JoJo #1, especially in the early episodes, shows that he can play a dork of sorts. In these three cases, it’s easy to just imagine the Genshiken characters with the voices of their previous roles, and I’d have to say all of the replacement voices seem like they’ll fit their characters, though they may take some getting used to. Of course, a part of me would still like the old voice actors back, but if this is what they’re going with, then at least for the older characters it works out.

By the way, this is the second time Yukana is a replacement voice actress. The last time was with the Z Gundam movies where she became the new Four Murasame. Genshiken is no Gundam though, so I doubt there’ll be as much backlash.

Genshiken Nidaime Voice Cast…and a NEW OGIUE?!

UPDATE: Small point made below.

genshikennidaime-image

Ever since the announcement of the new Genshiken anime, I’ve speculated about the voice cast. Courtesy of one Anonymous Spore and the official anime website, the new cast for the Genshiken Nidaime (or Genshiken II as I prefer to call it) has been revealed, and the big, big shocker is that Mizuhashi Kaori will no longer be playing Ogiue, that most grand of angry, once-traumatized hair-brushed fujoshi.

My initial reaction has been genuine surprise and confusion, as I thought she fit the role tremendously well, and seemed to be well-established as Ogiue. Her Ogiue felt genuinely conflicted about everything, and it’s my favorite role of hers (biased perhaps). She even participated in the Genchoken radio shows with Madarame’s voice actor Hiyama Nobuyuki, and drew a comic about how she landed the role as Ogiue. Even putting aside my own Ogiue fandom I’ve thought for a long time that Mizuhashi ranks among the best voice actors out there.

ogiue-newvoice

That said, I think it would be a bit unfair to judge Yamamoto Nozomi before I even get to hear her voice the part of my favorite character. She’s pretty new, but she’s also already played roles such as Yukimura in Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, and Tetora in Joshiraku. When I think about Tetora’s voice in particular, it may actually be a bit closer to how I imagined Ogiue’s voice in my mind when I first read the manga. Actually, Gankyou’s voice would have been even closer, but that’s maybe getting too off-topic.

As for the rest of the cast, you have Uesaka Sumire  (Dekomori in Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!) as Yoshitake Rika in addition to performing the opening theme, Uchiyama Yumi as Yajima Mirei (Davi in Dokidoki! Precure, Arata in Saki: Episode of Side A), and a combination of Kakuma Ai and Yamamoto Kazutomi handling the female and male voices of Hato Kenjirou, respectively. If you look at their list of works, all of them are pretty new voice actors, so perhaps there was something on the production side that required the use of newer voices. I read that they may be changing the old characters as well? Or maybe there was just a good old-fashioned scheduling conflict, which even happened with the Genshiken 2 anime and Keiko’s voice actor. In the end, it’s all just speculation, unless someone more familiar with the seiyuu scene could inform me otherwise.

Based on the previous roles of the actors for Yoshitake and Yajima, I can imagine them fitting their roles well, especially if they go for more naturalistic and awkward voices. I think Yajima especially will be a challenge.

In addition, voices aside, the art and character designs look probably the nicest they’ve ever been for Genshiken anime. I guess it all remains to be seen (and heard).

miz84-1 miz84-2

UPDATE: I decided to look at Mizuhashi Kaori’s official site, which isn’t really updated anymore, and what’s really curious is the fact that where once the front page image was of Ogiue in an empty cardboard box, now Ogiue has been replaced by a different character. I’m unsure if it’s meant to be Mizuhashi specifically or if it’s meant to be another one of the characters she played, but just the fact that she used to use an Ogiue image on her front page as early as September 2012 may indicate that she was rather close to the character of Ogiue.

Enter Animefan

A couple of days ago I made a post discussing the way in which the purchase of anime-related goods often transcends the purchase of anime itself. I didn’t concentrate much on the act of buying anime, and was planning a follow-up post, but Omo over at Omonomono beat me to the punch. He brings up some good points that I want to touch upon while also elaborating on this whole idea of what it means to “buy anime.”

First, a story.

I once told someone that I pretty much only buy DVDs of things with which I’m already familiar, to which he simply responded, “Why would you buy something you’ve already seen?”

Whereas I saw my ownership of DVDs as a testament of sorts to the shows I felt were good and enjoyable enough for me to have them in my collection, the other person saw DVDs simply as a way to try new things out. In the end, we agreed to disagree.

While this person was not what you’d call a hardcore fan of any kind of media, I think his philosophy applies to a lot of how anime fandom sees anime: Why spend money to see something that isn’t new to you?

Omo hit upon a simple, yet profound idea: the act of purchasing DVDs is “meta.” Anime fans generally love anime because it presents a world to them with a story and characters to whom they can relate or from which they can derive some kind of enjoyment or escapism. They become fans of the anime, but not necessarily fans of the anime as a creative work. If most anime fans find some way of watching their favorite anime for free, and they subscribe to the idea of not paying for shows already viewed, then it is difficult to see why they would purchase a DVD of it, as that would require them seeing their favorite show not necessarily as a window into another world, but as an endeavor born out of the thoughts and efforts of its creators. In other words, on some level, they would have to appreciate their favorite anime as a work of art, which I have to ask, how often does that happen with entertainment in general, let alone anime?

Are anime fans actually less likely to appreciate their favorite shows as works of art? I believe so, and I use anime conventions as an example. When it comes to anime convention guests, the people who get by far the biggest crowds are the voice actors. On the one hand this tells us that a lot of fans can at least see past the character the actor portrays to the individual performer, but on the other hand the voice of a character is directly a part of the show itself. The influence a producer or a director or even a writer has upon a work is less readily noticeable by someone viewing a show, and as such these guests tend to get fewer sheer numbers. Is this any more or less than the audiences who see actors over directors for live-action movies? I don’t think so, but I wanted to show that as far as anime is concerned, this is the kind of thing that happens.

My words bring up another potential conflict: is there something bad about being one of those fans who sees anime purely as a window into another world? My answer is that I do not find anything necessarily wrong with not engaging one’s favorite shows on that “meta” level. Nor is seeing the strings necessarily a good thing; it’s pretty much all subjective in the end. Actually, if you want to see a good example of a fandom which balances the meta with the immersive, then look no further than professional wrestling.

In pro wrestling, there traditionally have been two terms used to describe people who enjoy it: marks and smarts. Marks are people who believe wrestling is 100% real, that the Hulk Hogan in the ring is actually who he’s supposed to be. They see pro wrestling as a venue for good to defeat evil, or at least for bad-good to defeat namby-pamby-evil. Smarts on the other hand are fans who know that wrestling is all staged. They know that there are writers and scripts and politics behind the facade of Nothern Light Suplexes and Shining Wizards, and having a keen understanding of the backstage actions is where they derive their enjoyment.

But those are the two extremes, and in this age where the cat is completely out of the bag about wrestling being “sports entertainment,” there arises a new category of fan: the “smart mark,” otherwise known as the “smark.” Like smarts, they seek the truth of what goes on with the wrestlers as actors, but are also eager to suspend their disbelief just long enough for them to cheer for the good guys and boo the bad guys.

So who is the “better” fan? Is it the mark for his genuine immersion, or is it the smart who appreciates the performance?  Or is it the smark who tries to combine both worlds, arguably at the expense of either side?

And how do you get all of them to buy your stuff to keep you afloat?

Anime Staff and Cast: Shame is Not in Their Vocabulary

It was at New York Anime Festival 2009 where someone asked why the creator of Gundam Tomino Yoshiyuki would keep going back to the franchise after swearing it off every single time. Tomino’s response was simple.

“I had to pay the rent.”

And with that, Tomino exposed us to the REAL Anime Reality, as opposed to the one that exists on the fan level.

I’ve occasionally seen people ask about whether or not voice actors get embarrassed playing some raunchy roles or ones they might find objectionable. Similarly, people have wondered whether or not animators ever take issue with, say, making porn about middle schoolers. I bet you though that 9 times out of 10 the answer is “Sometimes, but money is money.” Sure, Inoue Kikuko forbids anyone from mentioning her “early” work, and many voice actors change their names when performing for erotic games (and then oddly enough decide to use their real names for when that erotic game gets a non-erotic anime adaptation), but I’m sure that if they had to go back they’d do it all over again.

Let’s look at one of the hit shows of this past year: Queen’s Blade. Now who in the world would agree to work on a show like this? Well you might be surprised. I’ll give you that quite a few of the staff worked on racy material before. Director Yoshimoto Kinji was the character designer on La Blue Girl and directed Legend of Lemnear. Key animator Umetsu Yasuomi is probably known best for his role as director and character designer in both Kite and Mezzo Forte. Fellow key animator Urushihara Satoshi is known for his erotic illustrations, as well as works such as Another Lady Innocent and Plastic Little. To no one’s surprise I’m sure, the character designer Rin Shin also has plenty of experience with 18+ works (Words Worth, La Blue Girl, Classmates).

But then you get to someone like the art director, Higashi Jun’ichi, and you see what he’s done.

“Art director on Cowboy Bebop?”

“Art director on THEY WERE 11?!

That’s a whole lot of classiness to be injecting into this Boobs and Blades fanservice vehicle. Then you look back at the other staff. Yoshimoto Kinji may have quite a few “unsafe” titles under his belt, but he’s also worked on Riding Bean and Roujin Z (and also Genshiken 2 of all things). Umetsu is a legendary animator, key animating both openings and the ending to Zeta Gundam and lending his hand even today. Urushihara had his hand in Five Star Stories and Akira.

The voice cast is the same way. Queen’s Blade has one of the finest modern female voice casts ever assembled, with names such as Kawasumi Ayako (Lafiel in Crest of the Stars), Mizuhashi Kaori (Ogiue in Genshiken), Tanaka Rie (Lacus Clyne in Gundam SEED), Hirano Aya (Haruhi in Suzumiya Haruhi), and Kugimiya Rie (Alphonse Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist) all playing their own respective cleavage-shot-prone characters.

Keep in mind that I’m not saying that the people working on a show like Queen’s Blade don’t have integrity. They have plenty of it, seeing as how when you get past the, shall we say “awkward” premise, you have a show that’s well-animated and well-acted. After all, not just anybody could properly animate a slime girl’s acid-filled breasts bursting violently. But shame? Shame is a luxury.

In conclusion, I leave you with the words of one of the finest philosophers of the modern age.

“Get Money, Get Paid.”