Whether you call them voice actors and actresses, or go for seiyu – the Japanese term for the job – there’s one thing we can all agree on; the role tends to be a lot more demanding in Japan than it is in the west, especially so in the world of anime. Take hit music series K-On!for example. When it rocked out on television sets across Japan (and on UK DVD players last year), the show’s voice actresses inadvertently became huge pop stars in the process, literately overnight. Their position as the show’s cast demanded that they also sang the franchise’s theme songs (you can read about it here), and those songs became popular – really popular – and rocketed the seiyu to the top of Japan’s official Oricon charts with the songs that followed.
Manga Entertainment’s latest harem series Sekirei also puts the vocal chords of its seiyu to the test. Its first outing featured several of its talents singing its opening and closing themes. And while the songs didn’t land the voices powering them into the same dizzying levels of pop success as those behind Yui et al., they did manage to get into the top 20 of Japan’s official Oricon charts.
Sekirei: Pure Engagement, the second series of the anime, continues in the same way as its predecessor. Opening theme ‘Hakuyoku no Seiyaku – Pure Engagement’, and closer ‘Onnaji Kimochi’ has the popular voice actresses Saori Hayami (the voice of Musubi), Marina Inoue (Tsukiumi), Kana Hanazawa (Kusano) and Aya Endo (Matsu) back on form, providing the vocals. The combination of their existing fanbases combined with the success of the anime saw the CD single peak at 13 in the charts.
Pinning success on the vocal talents alone would be dismissing the hard work of the composers and arrangers behind the themes. In the case of Sekirei a production company called MONACA was drafted in to supply the music. The outfit was established in 2004 with the aim of filling the entertainment industry (particularly that of video game and anime themes) with deliciously good content. Its name is a pun on that idea; Monaca, if written in kanji, can be read as ‘in the middle of’ but can also refer to a yummy bean-filled Japanese treat popular with kids and adults alike.
Company president, Keiichi Okabe had originally worked heavily with Namco back in the days of the early Tekken and Ace Combat iterations. His connection with the video game giant would continue after forming MONACA, with his team providing music for the likes of Tekken 6, Beautiful Katamari and Ridge Racer 3D. Their involvement in Sekirei was also far from their only dabbling in anime, they were also responsible for the background music of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, and themes in High School of the Dead and Lucky Star amongst nearly 100 other titles. So next time you find yourself humming along to a video game or anime song, spare a thought for the composers behind the melodies too, the chances are they’ve penned a number of your favourites without you even realising it.
BUSTING BACK INTO ACTION! A clandestine organization known as the MBI has issued an edict that threatens to end the lives of Minato and his luscious companions once and for all! The cutthroat organization's Sekirei Plan will force all busty brawlers and their masters to engage in a flesh-baring fight to the finish. Only one amazing pair will be left standing when this curvaceous cavalcade of carnage has come to a conclusion. Does Minato have what it takes to survive the bombastic barrage of breast-jiggling blows coming his way?
Matt Kamen takes a look back at the history of Yu-Gi-oh. Are you ready to duel?
Would you believe Yu-Gi-Oh has been around for almost 15 years? Kazuki Takahashi’s original manga first appeared in the pages of Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump anthology way back in 1996, and having gone through several different iterations since, is still running today. Its original hero was Yugi Mutou, a young boy possessing an ancient artifact known as the Millennium Puzzle. Early chapters saw a darker personality possessing Yugi, inflicting punishments on wrong-doers in the form of various cruelly ironic games. This idea was soon dropped, and the far better known Duel Monsters card game soon dominated the series, with Yugi and friends battling holographic creatures for over-the-top odds. Though the original concept received an anime adaptation courtesy of Toei, most western viewers are familiar with the later 224-episode presentation of Duel Monsters, which ended in 2004.
It’s notable that, despite what you might think looking at the franchise now, Yu-Gi-Oh! was not conceived as a card game tie-in, any more than Totoro was made to sell soft toys (though both benefitted hugely from the spin-offs). When it began, the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga was rather different from the anime which most people know.
Helen McCarthy reviews Mami Sunada’s Ghibli documentary
Show, don't tell: the mantra of every writer and film-maker, and a particular challenge in documentary film. Every work has its own agenda, hidden or not: for director-writer-cinematographer-editor Mami Sunada, the challenge was immense. And she rises to it with unobtrusive magnificence.
Necromancy, ten years of NEO, and the carrot of continuations on our 27th podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by the fragrant Gemma Cox of NEO magazine, the pungent Andrew Partridge from Anime Ltd, and the newly doctored Jonathan Clements to discuss Scotland Loves Anime, the Boom Boom Satellite Distraction Device, and rogue robot tanks.
Ever since her debut, the heroine of Masamune Shirow's manga-turned-global-franchise Ghost In The Shell has been a high-end product. She's a cyborg combat specialist modified to look like a cross between a top fashion model and a porn star, in a world where most of the women we see are as objectified as in our own reality.
Evangelion's director on Gerry Anderson, fandom and his latest project
This is not the Anno you may have read about, the one portrayed as an awkward, gangly, neurotic geek. Maybe Anno was like that once, but the cream-suited director we meet is sleek and authoritative, composed and confident, quite at ease talking to foreign hacks like us. He doesn’t adjust his glasses intimidatingly, but it still feels like the onetime Shinji has quietly metamorphed into his father Gendo.
Remembering the anime master who shunned the limelight
Toshio Hirata, who died on 25th August, might be reasonably said to have avoided publicity. Over the course of his career, he did gather a number of credits for directing, as well as storyboards, key animation and lowlier tasks, but he often obscured his own achievements by using the pseudonym Sumiko Chiba. In some cases, such as for his work on Azuki-chan, he simply asked not to be credited at all, claiming that his contribution was not really worthy of recognition.