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Digital transvestite Tom Smith on the girl who’s hearing voices

Girl gamers. It doesn’t matter how far equality has come, as soon as a female enters the online gaming environment, boys come a-flocking with gifts of health, guns and wonderful loot. It’s partly the reason I tend to choose lady characters online, the game suddenly becomes a step easier as digital males lunge to my aid. It’s also something Sword Art Online’s heroine Asuna Yuuki has to deal with, a lot.

Sword Art Online is also the name of the virtual reality MMORPG which the anime series revolves around. In it, players don Nerve Gear, VR equipment that stimulates the user’s senses to correspond with what is happening in-game. When Asuna puts on her Nerve Gear and signs-in she becomes ASUNA, sub-leader of the Knights of the Blood Oath guild, wielder of a super-sharp rapier, receiver of endless invitations and proposals from hopeful boy-kind.

One sneaky Reddit user recently suffered a similar fate when he posed online as the opposite sex, only to give up within two hours. The digital testosterone being flung his way was too much to handle. ASUNA takes it in her stride; she’s a strong female lead, adept at slaying boar, bosses and boys’ hearts.

Her real life counterpart, Japanese voice actress Haruka Tomatsu, isn’t so different either. If she could receive EXP from anime roles, she’d be fast approaching the level up limit. Before taking on the part of Asuna she had accumulated over one hundred titles featuring her vocal talents, spanning anime, videos games and drama CDs. Achievement unlocked.

She’s also had to fight off more than her fair share male admirers. Starting her career in anime at the young age of 16, she soon became one of the prominent new names on the anime scene despite being so young. The vitality of youth, mixed with a diverse amount of character roles – ranging from Gundam 00’s upbeat and loveable Mileina Vashti, to Durarara!!’s suicidal  Rio Kamichika – has cemented her in the hearts of otaku for a variety of reasons.

If that was not enough, Haruka is also a successful recording artist with a string of hit singles to her name, often starring in an anime and then singing its theme song as well. Sword Art Online is no different, the talented seiyuu can be found belting out the series’ ending theme Yume Sekai from episode two to 14.

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When it was released as a single, it managed to peak at number 13 in the weekly Oricon single chart. Not too bad at all, but when she joins forces with fellow heavy weights Minako Kotobuki, Ayahi Takagaki and Aki Toyosaki for the voice actress supergroup Sphere, seiyuu fans don’t stand a chance. Overkill. 99999HP dealt. Hand over all your gil.

Haruka Tomatsu provides the Japanese voice of Asuna in Sword Art Online, as well as the ending theme Yume Sekai used in Part 1 (DVD / Blu-ray) and Part 2 (DVD / Blu-ray), out now from Manga Entertainment.

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