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!