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Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Voices that Give Anime Life:

My Modern Human Accomplishment post said a lot in praise of the storyline creators and the music composers for various anime, but I only gave credit to voice actors if they also happened to be singers of great talent. That doesn't seem very fair, because without these voice actors, none of these anime series would have been great. It is impossible to watch anime dubbed, because voice acting outside of Japan is terrible, and Japanese stories lose all of their emotional weight and meaning when not told in Japanese. A character is defined by her voice actor, it's the most important part of any anime, because it's the only human part. The voice, in anime, has to convey everything the art can't, which is a lot when everyone in anime looks so alike and their expressions aren't as detailed, by necessity, as live actors from the real world.

We learn about a character by what they say, but we probably learn even more by how they say it. The voice actor is tasked with this crucial role, and only some are able to memorably capture the listener. While most voices, even Japanese voices, merely say their lines, others become and define their characters, such that anything said is so memorable and so distinctive that it never fades away.

Such an example is "Urusai Urusai Urusai!" from Shakugan no Shana. Telling someone to shut up three times because you don't want to hear what he or she is saying doesn't seem like the greatest line of dialogue ever written -- but because of the voice actor saying it, and the distinctive way she says it, it sounds like Shakespeare, actually, it's way more memorable than a line from Shakespeare, and more fondly remembered too.

Who is Shana's voice actor, the one who gives us such a great line?

Rie Kugimiya. Only the same girl who voices the roles of a few other beloved anime heroines: Yuuhi Katagiri, the gray haired love interest and fiancee of Jun'ichi in Akaneiro ni Somaru Saka, which I have rated at #61 best anime ever. She's also the voice actor for Kurosaki Karin, Kurosaki Ichigo's little sister from Bleach, #72. She's also Happy the flying cat from Fairy Tail, #13. Alphonse Eric, Edward Elric's little brother, from Full Metal Alchemist. Rose, the main heroine of Dragon Crisis. Nagi Sanzenin, the main heroine of Hayate the Combat Butler, which is #31. Komori from Major, #39. Yuki Kataoka, the taco loving vanguard of Kiyosumi's Mahjong club in Saki, #37. Agnese Sanctis, an enemy turned ally nun in Index, #14. Kamyu, the dark angel in Utawarerumono, #46. Louise, the heroine of Zero no Louise. Mizore Shirayuki, the yuki-onna from Rosario + Vampire. And perhaps most memorably, Taiga from Toradora!, the leading lady in this romance for the ages, which sits at #24. These are just series I've seen, she has roles in tons of other series too. She's slated to be the star of Aria the Scarlet Ammo, a series I have high hopes for, simply because its her voice debuting this spring anime season.

When a voice is such a crucial part of so many anime masterpieces, how much credit does her acting deserve? Is she a pillar of Human Accomplishment, nevermind who wrote the story or who drew it, because she lent the girls she played so much of their charm, something no one else but Rie Kugimiya could do? I think so. And she's not alone. There are other voice actors in Japan just as important and illustrious, just as vital to why the great anime series are great:

Aya Hirano, the voice of: Minato Nagase, Jun'ichi's sister in Akaneiro ni Somaru Saka, #61. Misa Amane, the heroine of Death Note. Haruhi Suzumiya, the main heroine of -- Haruhi Suzumiya, #9, Lucy Heartfilia, the main heroine of Fairy Tail, #13. Lumiere from Kiddy Grade. Ume Kurumizawa, the heroine's rival in Kimi ni Todoke, #47. Konata Izumi, the leading heroine of Lucky Star, and many others.

Nana Mizuki, the voice of: Iga Oboro, the main heroine of Basilisk, #34. Fate Testarossa, the 'other' heroine and rival of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, #4. Hinata Hyuuga, Naruto's love interest from #7, Naruto. Moka Akashiya, the leading heroine of Rosario + Vampire. Collet Brunel, the leading heroine of Tales of Symphonia, and many others.

Yukari Tamara, the voice of: Michiru from Air, #40. Mei Sunohara from Clannad, #1. Sakura Yoshino, probably the most important heroine in the Da Capo series, #18. Ranpha Franbois, the coolest girl in Galaxy Angel, #36. Rika Furude, the little girl with magic powers in Higurashi, #5. Togame, the leading heroine of Katanagatari, #15. Mai Kawasumi, one of the heroines in Kanon, #11. Takamachi Nanoha, the leading heroine of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, #4. Tenten from Naruto, #7, and many other roles.

Mai Nakahara, the voice of: Nagisa Furukawa, the leading heroine of Clannad, #1. Rena Ryugu, the leading heroine of Higurashi, #5. Yuzuha from Utawarerumono, #46. Teana Lanster, one of the leading heroines of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha (StrikerS), #4. Nanami Yasuri, the hero's sister and ultimate rival in Katanagatari, #15. Juvia Luxor from Fairy Tail, #13, and many others.

Mayumi Tanaka, the voice of: Monkey D. Luffy, the leading hero of One Piece, #2. Krillin, Goku's best friend, from Dragonball, #8, and many others.

Jun Fukuyama, the voice of: Lelouch, the leading hero of Code Geass, #3. Kraft Lawrence, the leading hero of Spice and Wolf, #73. Sota Takanashi, the leading hero of Working!!, #23, and many others.

Showtaro Morikubo, the voice of: Goro, the leading hero of Major, #39. Shikamaru from Naruto, #7, and many others.

Yuuichi Nakamura, the voice of: Okazaki Tomoya, the leading hero of Clannad, #1. Kyosuke Kosaka, the leading hero of Oreimo, #42. Gray Fullbuster, one of the male leads of Fairy Tail, #13. Alto Saotome, the leading hero of Macross Frontier. Ryu Sanada, one of the leading men from Kimi ni Todoke, #47, and many others.

It's obvious that a series gets closer and closer to perfection the more of these voice actors that work together on a single series -- Nanoha, Clannad, Naruto, Fairy Tail and Higurashi all have the benefits of hosting multiple of these voice actors. That much star power in one place is like a supernova. Without them, these series couldn't have been the masterpieces they were. Therefore, I'd like to include all 9 of them in the annals of Modern Human Accomplishment as well. May they voice many more characters before their well deserved retirement into the anime hall of fame.

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