Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ga-Rei, voice actors, Ranma, Identity

The Identity update: I'm very close to the end of this chapter. The question now is where I'll end it and what effects that has on chapter four. For some time, I've suspected that 04 is a weak chapter, and even though I've outlined it, I still left some gaps that I wanted to fill in. Hence, I'm struggling with ending 03, as they're still very intertwined.

But let's talk about Ga-rei. There are lots of potentially dumb reasons to try a new series. Trying one because you've been listening to music from one of the voice actors--and then, by extension, trying the manga before the anime--might be one of them. In this case, Minori Chihara's work on Haruhi led me to Ga-Rei, a story about teenage exorcists working for the Japanese government. The manga is, from what I read, "pretty standard shounen fare." I don't know what that means, exactly. Is it stellar? Well, no. Is the third arc poorer than the first two? I might agree with that. It's not bad, though. The anime? I need to watch that to make an informed decision, but it sounds (sounds) like something I will like better. And yes, it's backwards that I tried the manga first.

I've taken an interest in Japanese voice actors, as you might notice. I could call them seiyuu as seems to be the convention to distinguish them from English voice actors, but I find that distinction somewhat...misleading. Yeah, I generally prefer subbed anime over dubs, but I like to think what both Japanese and English voice actors do is the same thing. A fair number of Japanese VAs do dubbing work for foreign media, too, after all, and while it's unlikely you'd get English VAs rising to the levels of idol-dom as their Japanese counterparts, what they do, I think, is still fundamentally the same job.

Anyway, interest in voice actors, if only to see some of the varied and diverse roles they've taken. I've mentioned Megumi Hayashibara before, I think, and how in my writing for Identity I still hear Ranma's voice (girl voice) with Hayashibara's rendition of him. I do that with all the characters, and yes, I imagine them in manga/anime style; for Ranma, I try to imagine them in a sort of colorized version of the manga. Illustrations like that at the end of volume 26, the Ryugenzawa arc, help me with this. In the case of Ranma, I prefer the manga because overall the art is a lot crisper and usually not as overtly angular. The first season of Ranma is most similar to this, but there are subtle differences with the faces and eyes. Takahashi's late Ranma art, however, is fairly consistent (the early art has to find its footing and is a bit round and immature-looking; that is, the characters look young), and I'm very partial to it.

And I imagine even female Ranma's hair as black. But, that's also just preference, and you'll notice in Identity, I don't talk about Ranma's hair color (or his eye color, for that matter) at any time.

But where was I? Oh yes, voice acting. I like looking into actors and their other roles, their histories, the connections between people. This comic from Hayashibara shows one aspect of voice acting as a close-knit community in Japan (the strip depicts a party Hayashibara hosts, with guests including Kotono Mitsuishi---that's Usagi Tsukino, Sailor Moon; Misato Katsuragi, Neon Genesis Evangelion---and Megumi Ogata--I know her work as Yukito Tsukishiro/Yue in Cardcaptor Sakura and Shinji Ikari, also from Evangelion). In other words, these actors meet with each other on all different projects, and you, as a simple audience member, can hear voices from disparate shows collide. It's pretty cool.

But then, it's also cool when you can't recognize that voice at all. Some folks are like that. Hayashibara is almost unrecognizable as Rei Ayanami in NGE. I seldom hear the similarities in Ogata's performances between Shinji and Yukito. Conversely, Kikuko Inoue (Kasumi for Ranma fans) is dead on center for the "Yamato Nadeshiko" trope and exactly the same voice as she plays Chitose Hibiya in Chobits. And today I just found out she's Misaki's mother in Angelic Layer, and I'm pretty sure if I go watch that it won't suprise me (I watched both of these before Ranma). Noriko Hidaka (Akane) I find difficult to hear Akane in, although I find her voice has a certain unmistakable quality to it that is the same regardless (I know her also from Rockman.EXE as the Oozono twins, Mariko and Yuriko).

Sometimes, it's just that one voice. Junko Iwao pulls off a voice that is both light and elegant for Tomoyo Daidouji in CCS, yet Hikari Horaki in Evangelion sounds nothing like that. Sometimes it isn't: Minori Chihara makes Yuki Nagato and Minami Iwasaki sound very similar, but Kagura Tsuchimiya (Ga-rei) is a wholly different story (although when she quiets down, I do hear similarities). Aya Hirano can make Haruhi Suzumiya (...can't you guess?) and Konata Izumi (Lucky Star) run together, especially in Haruhi-chan, but overall they're very separate voices, distinguished as much by where she places her voice in her head to delivery, something I haven't addressed at all.

Overall, I find these things very fascinating, and maybe you do too. If you're a fan of the Ranma anime or just interested in the voice acting process, this video is a clip of all the Ranma voice actors going into the studio to produce part of the "Tunnel of Lost Love" OVA and afterward, short interviews with

Kappei Yamaguchi (Ranma)(L of Death Note, Inuyasha from...well...)

Megumi Hayashibara (Ranma)(Rei Ayanami from NGE, Lina Inverse from Slayers)

Noriko Hidaka (Akane)(Minami Asakura from Touch, Near from Death Note, Kikyo from Inuyasha)

Minami Takayama (Nabiki) (Detective Conan from, well...yes, I know that's not his name)

Kikuko Inoue (Kasumi) (I don't even know where to start)

And that's just the first video (again, that's this link, Ranma Special DoCo Interview, Part 1). Parts two and three have more interviews with the rest of the cast, including Shampoo and Ukyo (the latter, Hiromi Tsuru, is Bulma from Dragon Ball, but I wouldn't know).

In addition, this blog has a series on notable seiyuu, and while it's not comprehensive, it's a nice journey through anime history, past and present.

Anyway, now back to act 6, chapter 3...


Anonymous said...

Nabiki has the same voice as Conan? I didn't know this...

By the way, Conan's adult form, Shin'ichi Kudo, has the same voice as male Ranma. And Agasa, again from Conan, has Genma's voice. And Ai Haibara, again from Detective Conan, is voiced by Megumi Hayashibara (Female Ranma). And probably a lot more that I don't know by heart.

Muphrid said...

It really drives home to me that there is no part too big or small in the industry. And that voice actors get around. I mean, goodness, I was looking at Anime News Network's encyclopedia the other day, and most of the listings there have around 50 or 60 credits to their name.

And then you get to Yamaguchi or Hayashibara, who have nearly 300 credits, each. I mean, goodness. And what floors me about that for Hayashibara is that I can't even figure out most of what she's been doing over the last 10 years. But that's probably just me not looking at things the right way.