References to Kanye West's "Power" aside, Kana Hanazawa is dominating the voice talent stable in Japan today.
It's not rare to have the same voice actress fill two anime series' roles in a season - but four? While Winter 2012 might be the greatest showing of Kana Hanazawa, it will likely also be her biggest hurdle in rendering her talent unquestionable, as despite her dedicated following of fans (of which I admit I am a part of, if it wasn't already clear!), she is typically typecast to be a cute, outspoken, and precocious young girl. (I'd call her the anti-Rie Kugimiya in how Kana's typecast isn't clueless) This season will make or break her as a go-to, all-around voice actress in how most of the characters she is voicing are actually outside her typecast. In other words, her true technical proficiency as a voice actress will be tested.
[Anime & respective characters in the above image voiced by Kana Hanazawa (center), from left to right: Inu X Boku Secret Service - Karuta Roromiya, Nisemonogatari - Nadeko Sengoku, Black Rock Shooter - Mato Kuroi & Black Rock Shooter, Bodacious Space Pirates - Chiaki Kurihara.]
I have to admit, as big of a fan of Kana Hanazawa I declare myself to be, I actually didn't recognize her voice for some of her characters this season! This underscores how great of a voice actress she is in how she can fit practically any role. Probably the most pleasant surprise for me thus far was to find out that she voices Chiaki Kurihara (left) in Bodacious Space Pirates. Considering how cold, blunt, and enigmatic Chiaki Kurihara sounds I couldn't believe she was voiced by Kana Hanazawa! She voices Chiaki so convincingly that you would think she was a different voice actress altogether. That fact alone is probably most telling about the technical proficiency Kana Hanazawa has as a voice actress.
By the way, if you haven't watched Bodacious Space Pirates (Mouretsu Uchuu Kaizoku) yet, it is looking to be one of the most promising series for Winter 2012 with solid character development and a steady pace unlike much of the anime we've been seeing as of late. It is even nostalgic of older series in its slow pacing and how each of its episodes thus far opens with serious narration setting up more obscure parts of the backstory just enough to draw interest without giving too much away or being too long-winded to the point of being boring. The series has even kept a classy image of itself by not flaunting fanservice despite its suggestive title.
In sum, Bodacious Space Pirates is admirably old school. It is also looking to be one of the better space opera anime series as of late.
I am definitely looking forward to watching more of it, and the fact that it simulcasts right before Nisemonogatari in Crunchyroll only makes it more certain that I'll be following it this season.
While Nadeko Sengoku isn't my favorite character in the -Monogatari franchise (Senjougahara is), she definitely has my favorite voice! Since much of the second episode of Nisemonogatari features Nadeko and Kana Hanazawa, I was elated as I watched it! Nadeko is really growing up to be an ambitious girl! She made so many moves on our protagonist, I feel like it'd be more appropriate for Nadeko Sengoku to be a character in Bodacious Space Pirates since there is actually a shortage of characters that fits the bill, considering its title! I kid, though.
Does anyone remember Ren'ai Circulation? They play a jazz track during Nadeko's scenes in episode 2 that was a throwback to this song, which was probably my favorite out of the Bakemonogatari themes and also my favorite Kana Hanazawa song. It is disgustingly cute. I still listen to it from time to time!
There are two other series that Kana Hanazawa will lend her voice to. One is kind of out there in terms of how I can't see what kind of audience the series is trying to appeal to; that series is Inu X Boku Secret Service. In Inu X Boku SS, Kana Hanazawa lends her voice to a part-demon, softspoken and frail-looking secret service agent (that is neither of the two protagonists). It was another role I couldn't even recognize Kana Hanazawa in, but nevertheless it was a pleasant surprise. Her voice, however, seems to be the only draw of that series for me.
If I could describe it in terms of other anime, I'd say it looks like it'll be something reminiscent of Black Butler except for the fact that the Ciel-equivalent protagonist is a girl who is insecure about her cold personality and Sebastian's equivalent is a crybaby basically wholly dedicated to her for some reason not yet explained. That's about all I can say about Inu X Boku Secret Service right now. It's a little odd.
Finally, there's Black Rock Shooter - the series based on the popular supercell/Hatsune Miku song/PV with a minimally-clad titular protagonist who kicks a lot of butt. The other side of this anime is a slice-of-life universe following Black Rock Shooter's alter ego, Kuroi Mato. In the OAV that aired a while back, I found myself almost lost in how they leave a lot of details to subtext that isn't always clear. Nevertheless, I'll give the series a shot once it starts airing and once I find it.
In this blog, I summarized the Winter 2012 series relative to Kana Hanazawa's roles. I'd say the two to definitely watch are Bodacious Space Pirates and Nisemonogatari.
Overall, I feel an even greater appreciation for Kana Hanazawa this season that I never have before. She is successfully braving four simultaneous roles this season. It is an amazing and unparalleled achievement within Japan's voice talent pool. I'd love to see her win a Seiyu (Japanese distinction for voice actress) Award in the future. She definitely deserves it!
Enjoyed the production quality of Hanasaku Iroha and interested in following a technically competent adaptation of a popular mystery-horror thriller? For Winter 2012, I would certainly suggest Another, the latest anime series by P.A. Works! Having just been simulcast today on Crunchyroll, Another is looking to be one of the most intriguing anime series this season with its stunning visuals, menacing ambiance, and a macabre tale. I would as for to say that it may even be this year's Shiki, and the year has only just begun.
Another is based on a 677-page novel by Japanese mystery author Yukito Ayatsuji published in 2009. The character designs are by Noizi ito, whose charater design portfolio includes popular anime series Suzumiya Haruhi and Shakugan no Shana. The story follows a young junior high school student, Sakakibara Koichi (pictured in the image above, right), who transfers into a class that has been cursed for 26 years since the mysterious death of another, beloved student, Misaki Mei (left). Blissfully ignorant of this fact, strange events unfold around Koichi as he must himself eventually learn of the fate of Misaki Mei and face the curse of his quietly suspicious Class 3.
Summaries aside, the most appreciable aspects behind Another episode 1 is the set-up and execution. Most of the backstory I discussed was covered within the first few minutes of the anime, presented in a ghost story-like telling of Misaki Mei's story between the disembodied voices of two presumed classmates accompanied with ominous, visually stunning images rapidly cut to briefly show the setting and school during the time of Misaki Mei without revealing too much as to the details of her death. As such, more questions surface than answers with regards to Misaki Mei and the mysterious Class 3 to which she belonged. I think this is a perfect way to open the series in how it drew my interest.
This initial sequence sold me on Another in how it effectively communicated points of the story I came in completely clueless about (I never read the novel; I can't read Japanese) while building tension and establishing an ominous atmosphere needed for a horror mystery like Another to be successful.
Then I found out the opening song was by Ali Project. Perfect for this kind of anime series, for those familiar with Ali Project!
After the opening, we're introduced to our protagonist transfer student as he is thrown into his first uncanny encounter with his classmates, who visit him in the hospital after finding out he admitted there for respiratory treatment. The most unsettling aspect behind their sudden visit is that they never actually met before they decided to visit him in the hospital, so their arrival is accompanied by a momentary, awkward silence.
While the first few minutes of the series are devoted to set-up with dialogue and introductions of the main suspects, P.A. Works goes all out on execution with our protagonist's encounter with Misaki Mei. Even though this is their first horror anime production you would think they were experts on the genre with their use of creepy, non-diegetic sounds to signal the heightening tension in the protagonist's encounter and how he has unwittingly become involved with the enigmatic Misaki Mei and mysterious Class 3. There are many breaks in dialog during this encounter and throughout the episode filled with either complete silence or appropriate tension-building non-diegetic sounds. At the latter stages of the episode, the diegetic sounds of distant thunder signaling how even the protagonist was beginning to recognize that something was amiss underscored the mastery of sound production employed and made me wish I had surround sound capabilities to watch this anime with.
Out of all the visuals employed in this first episode, I have to say the imagery of the dolls were the most prominent. While their significance has not yet been explained, their brief appearances are effective in building the tension and the uncanny atmosphere.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the first episode of Another. Between the aesthetic expertise of P.A. Works, the effective sound design and the potential for the plot to build into a thrilling mystery-horror, I am excited to watch more of Another and would recommend it to everyone.
Having been absent from the Vice for too long, I've decided to return with the Winter 2012 season. You know what that means:
For a good amount of anime viewers, I'd say it's always time for piracy, even outside of Bodacious Space Pirates. Unlike contemporary pirates, however, these Space Pirates are legally sanctioned.
As of 7 January 2012, I've seen the first episodes of light novel adaptation Bodacious Space Pirates, harem visual novel adaptation-sequel Amagami SS+, and 4koma "moeblob" adaptation Kill Me Baby. I've also enjoyed my first simulcast (via Crunchyroll, which I would definitely recommend as a legal outlet for new anime) with Nisemonogatari.
If you called me out for being most
excited about Nadeko Sengoku's makeover in Nisemonogatari, I wouldn't argue against it. What can I
I love characters voiced by Kana Hanazawa. I'll even admit that I still listen to Ren'ai Circulation from time to time, too.
Straight up: if you haven't watched Bakemonogatari and are into intelligent occult-themed thrillers as well as the prominent, minimalist-yet-beautiful production style of SHAFT, I highly recommend you do so now. Its Winter 2012 sequel, Nisemonogatari, is already promising to be an entertaining ride filled with the wit of original light novel author Nisio Isin. I'd go so far to say that Nisemonogatari is the most anticipated Winter 2012 anime - and having just finished its simulcast on Crunchyroll - I can say for certain it will be the Winter 2012 series I will follow most religiously.
Why would I especially recommend that those interested in Nisemonogatari watch Bakemonogatari first, though? Out of sheer confidence in their craft, SHAFT wastes no time for reintroducing any of Bakemonogatari's extensive cast or recapping on the previous season. In the typical first episode style, the viewer is dropped into the story in media res - the first scenes of Nisemonogatari is an endearing, classic exchange between protagonist Koyomi Araragi and Hitagi Senjogahara.
The first episode is dialogue-heavy and doesn't hold back on the series' best aspects. Most of the entire cast is revisited with few exceptions, and each encounter throughout the episode relishes on the most endearing aspects between the series' characters while hinting strongly towards impending events with Araragi's eldest little sister, Karen. (Not to mention the episode title is literally "Karen Bee, Part 1" - despite the fact she actually has no screentime.) While some may understandably see this episode as a slow burn (considering how Bakemonogatari started with Araragi nearly having his tongue stapled!), I loved everything about about it and I'm definitely excited to follow Nisemonogatari. Thanks to Crunchyroll simulcasting, I will be sure to devote Saturday 12:30PM EST solely to this series.
I don't know what possessed the shift between literal translation Miniskirt Space Pirates into Bodacious Space Pirates but I'm sure either form would probably turn away a lot of potential viewers. Either way, Kana Hanazawa will be having a busy season! Beyond voicing Nisemonogatari's Nadeko Sengoku, she will also lend her voice for Bodacious Space Pirates co-heroine Chiaki Kurihara.
Okay so I guess I can see the miniskirt part of the title. And Kana Hanazawa's voice (Voicing Chiaki Kurihara, right) does make this a bodacious title...
Essentially, this series looks like it will be a coming-of-age space opera featuring a semi-competent space-yacht club member and part-time maid café waitress Marika Kato (left) who must succeed her late father as a space pirate captain. I can already tell this series will incorporate gratuitous space battles (budget permitting) and a load of fanservice. Nevertheless, Kana Hanazawa is voicing a protagonist. So I must. Watch. This. Even though this will a hit-or-miss for a good number of people.
For an anime that places itself in a very action-oriented genre, the first episode was a slow burn of backstory, with the rapid buildup of tension into the beginning of formal action with a sudden gunfight saved for the last few minutes leading into cliffhanger. Some might quickly dismiss this series but I'll try to keep an eye on it, if only for Kana Hanazawa.
Few may remember summer 2010's harem visual novel adaptation Amagami SS. Those that do will probably remember the general distaste towards the conclusion of Rihoko's arc, which essentially threw away the best possible ending for her (Rihoko being the only heroine in the anime without the best possible ending) in favor of sending demeaning subliminal messages to Japanese viewers that "chubby girls only get friend zoned." While I was kidding about the subliminal messaging part, I do think it was backwards for the adaptation to not allow Rihoko to get the best ending when every other heroine, a stalker and even the protagonist's little sister get the most socially-acceptable amount of love possible.
My jab at the Rihoko arc aside, Amagami SS+ picks up where each arc from the previous season left off. So the makers actually have a chance to fix their malicious social commentary in favor of a better Rihoko ending. This is also an indicator for those new to Amagami to either continue on to the next part of this article if they aren't interested or start watching Amagami SS if you like harem visual novel anime adaptations. While it is competent it is certainly not among the best.
Nevertheless, I personally loved Amagami SS for the perverted antics of our protagonist and how he acted on them shamelessly, leading to some genuinely entertaining moments.
Where in the anime's first season each heroine had 4 episodes, Amagami SS+ will devote 2 episodes to each heroine. It looks like we've got a different order of arcs this time around, too, since the first episode was the beginning of Ayatsuji Tsukasa's arc. For those familiar with Ayatsuji, some may be surprised that she seriously hooked up with our typical perv protagonist Jun'ichi Tachibana. The amount of high school drama in this arc - having to do with an Ayatsuji rival who wants to win Student Council President from her even if it takes exploiting Jun'ichi's ineptitude to resist the allure of young women - seems like a unique way to start us off and I'm drawn to watch it all unfold. Fans of the previous iteration will likely also enjoy this new season.
Between the outrageous reading of this anime's title and the hilariously ridiculous opening, I just had to include the above video. I don't know what it is about how the melodramatic Japanese-accented English (I mean just listen to how "Baby, please kill me" is read off in the first few seconds of that video!) is so entertaining for me, but I think the video as a whole is telling on what Kill Me Baby is all about: moeblob shenanigans. Honestly, as tired as the genre is, I find this series endearing.
Also, for those interested - despite the character designs that suggest so - Rie Kugimiya isn't voicing any of the featured protagonists of this series. She will, however, be voicing someone to be introduced later in the series airing.
Considering how one of the protagonists is an overly cautious assassin (Sonya, pictured above), another is a shady ninja and the third is a normal happy-go-lucky moeblob girl, this may attract those into slapstick and those who aren't tired of 4koma adaptations. By the way, I refer to moeblobs lovingly (which may be considered derogatory to some fans of the genre for some reason) since I'd say the genre is still a guilty pleasure for me. Especially after Nichijou, which ended up being a sleeper hit for me.
If it continues to entertain me, I'll definitely keep Kill Me Baby as my guilty pleasure for this season. While the comedy isn't top-notch, I'm a sucker for slapstick and even anti-humor to an extent, so I was thoroughly entertained.
We're barely in the thick of the Winter 2012 season and I feel like I've already seen a little bit of everything. My universal recommendation would be Nisemonogatari with a prerequisite of Bakemonogatari, while the other series I'd only recommend to those especially interested in the respective genres aforementioned. Otherwise, they'll be hit-or-miss and your mileage may vary. I'll look out for more Winter 2012 anime series.
Actually, Zero no Tsukaima Final airs tomorrow. Expect something on that!
For Spring 2011, we have two times the prolific Japanese voice actress, Rie Kugimiya’s tsundere typecasting! One of her roles is more of the standard fare while the other is seemingly a lot less conventional while a lot more… awkward.
Fans of Toradora may feel some nostalgia in Rie Kugimiya’s male counterpart for Hidan no Aria being voiced by Junji Majima. For those unfamiliar, the two have previously voiced a romantic comedy pair – Taiga and Ryuji – in Toradora.
Others may be taken aback in the fact that Aria, Rie Kugimiya’s character, is practically a copy-and-pasted Shana from another J.C. Staff series (the studio responsible for Hidan no Aria), Shakugan no Shana, except armed with M1911s akimbo in addition to swords.
In fact, I deduce that the entire plot will be Shakugan no Shana except with a backstory and setting derived from a militarized Tokyo High School by the name of Butei, which educates students in being crime-fighting bounty hunters. As one would expect of a Shana-inspired heroine, Aria is dutiful and deadly. While her male counterpart, Kinji, is actually a competent warrior himself as opposed to his Shakugan no Shana parallel who was practically useless at the start of the series, Kinji wants to quit Butei and does’t even want to involve himself in fighting anymore. It’s obvious, however, that it won’t be going as planned.
I do appreciate the spin of giving Shakugan no Shana-inspired characters guns, however. That may even include the male lead’s other presumed love interest. I anticipate a very belligerent love triangle. If the love triangle devolves into a gunfight, this will be getting a lot more interesting!
While I would have much preferred a third full season of Shakugan no Shana, the similarities posed by Hidan no Aria are somewhat refreshing. Fans of J.C. Staff adaptations such as Shakugan no Shana may be able to appreciate Hidan no Aria, especially if they love guns.
Lotte no Omocha (also going by Astarotte no Omocha, literally meaning “Astarotte’s Toy”) features the titular 10-year-old succubus, voiced by Rie Kugimiya, attempting to find the first member of her life-sustaining male harem. As in “life-sustaining,” it is explained that the males feed succubi “sauzfryma” …
If you’re familiar with a certain substance males are only capable of producing out of their unique reproductive system, then you know what is implied by “sauzfryma.” Yep… considering how innocent-looking everything appears, that premise makes it very awkward.
Most people aren’t even giving this show a look considering the implied lolicon of the premise. Knowing how poorly most premise summaries explain the actual substance of a show during the preseason previews, however, I dared giving this one a watch to see if it was as bad as it sounded.
For a premise so raunchy, Astarotte no Omocha tries hard to retain Rie Kugimiya’s typical tsundere innocence. Her character for this series is male-hating, short-tempered, and not so mature (although she is only 10 years old, to be fair.) The closest series I can make an analogy with is Hayate the Combat Butler, looking past the raunchy-seeming premise. Lotte’s nature is similar to Nagi, although she’s probably not going to exhibit otaku tendencies in this series. The male protagonist also seems to resemble Hayate. Heck, the voice actress even voiced mecha-Hayate, Eight.
If this series brings us the romantic chemistry of Nagi and Hayate while not becoming as explicitly raunchy as its premise sounds, I may continue to keep my eye on this series.
Ideally, I anticipate this being surprisingly entertaining to the likes of B Gata H Kei, which also appeared to have a raunchy premise but still delivered a great amount of comedy while somehow avoiding gratuitous, tasteless indecency. Despite all the suggestions of lolicon in anticipation to this series, I’m hoping Astarotte no Omocha manages to be a lighthearted romantic comedy.
Nevertheless, I’m holding my breath. The first episode was very slowly paced and not very funny, as they spent much of the exposition fleshing out the Norse-based universe of the series. I'll have to watch a little more in order to determine whether or not I'll keep an eye on this.
In conclusion, while Hidan no Aria may be appealing enough to fans of other J.C. Staff adaptations such as Shakugan no Shana, Astarotte no Omocha has yet to prove its potential for a romantic comedy. I'll stand by my claim from the first image caption: your mileage may vary! Diehard RIe Kugimiya fans, however, may be pleased to find her cast as protagonists in both.