May 27, 2007

Kaneda Tomoko

I'm not one to become fanatical about unimportant things, but I'm on the edge these days of raging fanboyism for Japanese seiyuu Kaneda Tomoko. I am rewatching Hanaukyo Maid Team La Verite so that I can listen to her performance as Grace, having recently heard her as Bel-bel in Petite Princess Yucie. She's probably most famous for doing the voice of Chiyo-chan in Azumanga Daioh and I would say that if someone else had been cast in that role I think the series would not have been as popular as it turned out to be. Irrespective of the other virtues (or faults) of that series, her performance is the standout. I cannot imagine Chiyo-chan with any other voice.

Kaneda's voice is amazing and unique, of course. She's a character actress, because her voice just isn't appropriate for many kinds of roles. (Can you imagine her doing the voice of Yomi? Eek!) But there are a lot of roles she is suited for and in those roles there just isn't anyone better. That's why she's been so busy.

There was a YouTube posted recently somewhere, which I didn't keep the link to, which showed a dubbing session for one complex scene from Azumanga Daioh. The Japanese do those scenes with all the seiyuu together, each having their own mike, and in this case it was the five main characters all at once. (I think it was one of the "hiccup" scenes.) That puts a premium on the seiyuu not screwing up and requiring retakes. If you've got five of them and each of them has a 30% screw-up rate on a long scene, you're going to do a lot of takes, since on average you're only going to get one good take out of seven.

Japanese women tend to the small, of course, but one of the startling things about that video was just how tiny she was compared to all the others. I swear, it looked like she was a head shorter. Tanaka Rie ain't all that tall, at 5'4", but she towered over Kaneda.

There are seiyuu who have put in performances I really like who don't get a lot of work. It occurs to me that the reason is that they need a lot of retakes. Word of that will get around in the industry, I suspect.

Kaneda Tomoko clearly doesn't have that problem. I don't think they'd cut her that kind of slack even with her unique and marvelous voice.

But another reason she gets a lot of work is that she is genuinely talented and has a very broad range. Though the voice is recognizably the same as Bel-bel and Chiyo-chan, one reason I like her performance as Grace is because Grace is so much different of a character, and gives Kaneda an opportunity to stretch as an actress. Smug satisfaction, frustration, fear, anger; Grace is a complex character and the performance must have been a challenging one. Kaneda was brilliant in the role, and in fact she's been brilliant in everything I've ever heard her in.

There's one scene in Petite Princess Yucie where Bel-bel (a pixie) gets netted by Glenda (a demon princess) and as the net swings Kaneda does a kind of vocal riff that was perfect. The guys in the control room must have been in stitches listening to her.

She reminds me of Gene Hackman, as strange as that sounds. When I look at a description of a movie and see that Gene Hackman is in the cast, I know that the film won't be a total loss. He is supremely versatile, and can play any kind of part. And no matter how bad it might be in other ways, Hackman will bring out the best in whatever part he's given, and he'll always be worth watching.

Kaneda Tomoko strikes me that way: any anime she's in can't be all bad. At least I'll get the pleasure of hearing her voice again, and whatever part she plays will be outstanding. In fact, it's enough to make me wonder about series I otherwise haven't heard anything about.

Maybe I should pick up Magikano when ADV finally gets around to releasing it. I see panchira in the teaser art, and Kaneda Tomoko is in the cast. How can I go wrong?

UPDATE: I just checked my own "Future Series" list and see that I had already included Magikano in it, with the notation "ecchi fluff". It's sounding better and better. I wonder when ADV will get around to releasing it?

Also, ANN's trivia says:

This is the second consecutive 2006 anime in which voice actress Nogawa Sakura (as Ayumi Mamiya) plays a hateful and psychotic black-magic-using-girl who is attacked by a tentacle monster in a swimming pool. Mai Otome is the first, in which she plays Shiho Huit.

Yikes! Meanwhile, this is the character Kaneda does the voice for. That's no surprise; because of her voice she is typecast doing little girls and cute animals. It's our good fortune that there are so many such parts so that we can enjoy her work.

UPDATE: The Magikano license was just announced. The first DVD is scheduled for December.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in People at 05:25 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
Post contains 866 words, total size 6 kb.

1 I initially liked her voice for Chiyo quite a bit, and as you say, her characterization and acting were excellent (Azumanga was particularly blessed in that regard).  But by the end of the series, the frequency and overtones of her voice...or possibly the recording/sound processing...really started to grate.  I finally had to dial in a high frequency cut of about 1.5dB/octave.  The reason I suspect it may be a recording issue is that her voice didn't bother me in HMTlv or PPY.
I didn't know about Magikano, but it looks like fun.  I like the character designs.

Posted by: Toren at May 28, 2007 11:08 AM (IkPlj)


There's a live segment done with her and one other seiyuu included as an omake with the last of the recent Tenchi Muyo DVDs, and based on that I would say that her performance as Grace (in HMTLV) is pretty much her normal speaking voice. For Chiyo and Belbel she seems to have been working to make her voice even higher and more kid-like, but Grace is a different kind of character.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 28, 2007 12:07 PM (+rSRq)

3 If Air Master had continued, would you have tried that? She played a child joshikouseiRenge Inui. (ANN claims that the series is actually a parody.)

On the other licenses announced with Magikano: the lead of Welcome to the NHK may be a hikikomori, but he does save the girl. Pumpkin Scissors is probably the best name since Bubblegum Crisis. Explanation for it here.

Posted by: Jim Burdo at June 04, 2007 11:38 PM (qk+He)

If Air Master had continued, would you have tried that? She played a child joshikouseiRenge Inui.
Except that Renge is friggin' annoying.
(ANN claims that the series is actually a parody.)
Yeah, that's ANN for you.

Air Master does contain elements that parody genre conventions, either characters like Renge or plot elements, but the series as a whole is not a parody.  Well, at least what I've seen, which is only the first half.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at June 05, 2007 07:02 AM (PiXy!)

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