Somali and the Forest Spirit – 06 – Love Never Lies

When Uzoi tells Somali what she’s doing and why, Somali doesn’t take it lying down. She screams so hard she hurts Uzoi’s sensitive ears and runs. While fleeing, Somali falls off a cliff into a pond, and Uzoi jumps in and saves her.

As Somali whimpers, soaked and cold, Uzoi extends one of her harpy wings around her, inverting its previous use as the prelude to an attack. When Golem and Haitora arrive, Somali protects Uzoi from her dad, while Uzoi crumbles into her dad’s arms, lamenting that she just couldn’t do it.

As we gathered last week, Haitora is nothing but glad she couldn’t do it, and we learn why when he delves into his past to explain to Golem why he’s not deserving of Uzoi’s love. For he was once in her position, after he and his wife and daughter were forced to flee their small human settlement when it was raided by “grotesques.”

Trapped in a cave with no food or water for days, a desperate Haitora happens upon an adult harpy—Uzoi’s mother. And because he and his family is starving and there’s no other option, he kills the harpy without a moment’s hesitation, then drags the body back to the cave. “We have to be like them” to survive, he gravely tells the family in his failing voice.

They all tuck into the raw harpy meat, and within a few minutes, both his wife and daughter suffer unspeakably agonizing deaths before his eyes. This is the kind of graphic horror I came to expect of Made in Abyss, and it’s just as unsettlingly naturalistic in its depiction here.

As we’ve learned, Uzoi has great hearing, so she hears Haitora’s confession to Golem and learns her whole life with him was based on lies. Even after Somali lazily forgives her friend for trying to kill her and drain her blood, Uzoi (whose name sounds a lot like usoi, Japanese for “lying”) faces existential despair and emptiness in the wake of Haitora’s words.

She’s so depressed, in fact, that when they come across a dragon twister while traversing the desert, and the winds pick her and Somali up, she takes one last pained look at Haitora and lets go, in that moment preferring death to living a terrible lifelong lie any further.

The moment also confirms to Haitora that Uzoi heard him last night. He wants to rush out to save her, but Golem insists they stay put until the storm subsides, using his fancy eye to calculate where the girls are likely to survive grave injury by landing on the soft sand.

When Golem spots the girls later, they’re being attacked by an aggressively territorial canterbird. He quickly formulates a plan wherein he serves as a decoy to allow Haitora to get the girls to safety, but Haitora quickly adopts his own plan, hoping to give what’s left of his wretched life leading the canterbird away. To his surprise, upon being cornered the canterbird is stopped…by Uzoi.

Unwilling to let him die without talking to her, Uzoi would much rather he stay alive with her, proving true Somali’s earlier words that “love doesn’t lie.” Love isn’t always happy, or clean; even Somali is aware of this if she doesn’t know her father is dying. Sometimes those who love each other wound each other, but the scars can’t be ignored, even if they’re deepened by confronting them.

Hayami Saori puts on a clinic performing this scene, which comes as no surprise if you follow her voice work. When you need a character to deliver dramatic dialogue movingly and convincingly, Saori-chan is someone you can always count on. Even so, she never ceases to amaze me with her remarkable vocal talent.

Haitora, realizing he was only trying to take the easy way out, re-commits to living with Uzoi as long as he humanly can. Not out of obligation to atone for his past sins and lying about them, but for a more important reason: he and Uzoi are family, and they love one another, period.

But even if he’d been persuaded to drink Somali’s blood (something he’d never do after what happened with his family) it likely wouldn’t have worked. Harpies are magical creatures, so it’s likely magic is needed to heal him. If you need magic, you’ll need witches, whom we glimpse in the preview.

Top 20 Female Seiyus of 2013


Last year, in our first Top Female Seiyu list, we ranked fifteen female seiyus. This year things are a bit different: the ladies below are listed alphabetically; we decided not to rank them, as there’d inevitably be a couple messy ties here and there, and we’re not getting into the mathematical nitty-gritty required to create ratings for them.

Below is a rundown of everyone we liked and why. There are also five more ladies on the list this year, all of whom appeared in three or fewer shows, but still made strong impressions. Main characters the seiyu voiced are in bold, while our favorite characters the seiyu voiced are starred*.

Akasaki ChinatsuAkasaki Chinatsu

Love Lab (Maki Natsuo*)
OreShura (Harusaki Chiwa)
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (Kinuhata Saiai)
Kotoura-san (Mai)

In the two main roles we caught her in last year, Chinatsu played the restlessly creative comic half of the double act in Kill Me Baby, and a reformed dork in Chu2Koi. This year she plays another manic comic weirdo in Maki Natsuo, and plays it well coming up with ridiculous scheme after another in an effort to understand love better, though like her Chu2Koi character, she initially hides behind a veneer of normalcy/perfection.

Asumi KanaAsumi Kana

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Tsukuyomi Sasami*)
Tamayura: More Aggressive (Hanawa Kaoru)
InuHasa (Harumi Madoka)
Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Kosaka Chihiro)
Suisei no Gargantia (Melty)

We first noticed Kana as voice of the patient, peppy, hardworking Popura in Working!!, but she makes our 2013 list thanks to her role as an unmotivated hikikomori trying to ignore the fact she’s the vessel for Amaterasu. Both Sasami and Chihiro got pretty emotional at times, and Kana was able to connect us with both Sasami and Chihiro as they struggled with their various issues.

Hanazawa KanaHanazawa Kana

Coppelion (Fukasaku Aoi)
Kotoura-san (Mifune, Yuriko)
Nagi no Asukara (Mukaido Manaka)
Oreimo 2 (Gokou Ruri*)
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Yagami Kagami)
Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Shiomiya Shiori/Minerva)
Monogatari Series: Second Season (Sengoku Nadeko)
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (Haruue Erii)

One of our favorite seiyus due to her very earnest, distinctive, almost otherworldly voice, “Hana-Kana”s 2013 was mixed. While she stole, broke, and re-stole our hearts in Oreimo 2, did a decent job with Yuriko-senpai, and really got our attention when Nadeko finally snapped (seriously, that rant was outstanding), her roles as Aoi, Manaka, and Erii often cross the line from charming to cloying/annoying. On the other hand, the uber-shy Shiori worked for us, so go figure.

Hayami SaoriHayami Saori

Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Haqua)
Oregairu (Yukinoshita Yukino)
RDG: Red Data Girl (Suzuhara Izumiko*)
Kimi no Iru Machi (Kanzaki Nanami)
Love Lab (Tanahashi Hiroka)
Monogatari Series: Second Season (Ononoki Yotsugi)
Oreimo 2 (Fujisaki Ayaka)

When we listen to them side-by-side, Saori and Hana-Kana’s voices aren’t that different; Saori’s is a little more down-to-earth, less ethereal and typically a bit deeper. She was busy this year playing strong, matter-of-fact characters like Haqua, Yukino, and Ononoki and Ayaka. But our favorite role of hers this year was her turn as Red Data Girl Izumiko.

Hisaka YokoHikasa Yoko

Aku no Hana (Saeki Nanako*)
Danganronpa (Kirigiri Kyouko)
Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince (Kugimiya Kei)
Hataraku Maou-sama! (Yusa Emi)
Toaru Majutsu no Index: Endymion no Kiseki (Sequenzia Shutaura)
Tamako Market (Kitashirakawa Hinako, Uotani Mari)

Another voice we’ve only recently discovered, Yoko brought a great strength, independence, and assertiveness to some characters (Kirigiri, early Kei, Emi), but was also capable of great grace and delicacy in her role as Kasuga’s angelic muse, Saeki. We’ll definitely be looking for future shows where she contributes her voice.

Horie YuiHorie Yui

Golden Time (Kaga Kouko*)
Kakumeiki Valvrave (Nanami Rion)
Monogatari Series: Second Season (Hanekawa Tsubasa)

Unlike Yoko, we’ve known about Yui for a relatively long time, starting with her goofy, frisky yet surprisingly textured performance as Kushieda in Toradora!, one of our favorite rom-coms. She’s back at it in Golden Time—as of now another of our favorite rom-coms—in another awesome and textured performance as Kaga Kouko. She’s been able to make us not only empathize but relate to a clingy character with stalkerish tendencies.

Ise MariyaIse Mariya

Aku no Hana (Nakamura Sawa*)
Oreimo 2 (Akagi Sena)

We cannot overstate how much ass Mariya kicked in Aku no Hana as Kasuga’s unbalanced molester/tormentor/anti-muse. Her work in that show was a revelation; so much so that chills ran down our spines when we heard her voice in Oreimo 2, even though we’d heard her as Sena before we ever heard her as Sawa. A lasting impression, to be sure.

Kanemoto HisakoKanemoto Hisako

Kotoura-San (Kotoura Haruka*)
OreShura (Akishino Himeka)
Suisei no Gargantia (Amy)
Strike the Blood (Minamiya Natsuki)

Our first encounter with Hisako was when she voiced Squid Girl, a game but lightweight comedy series that accentuated her very high-pitched, cutesy voice. Last year as Yui in Kokoro Connect and this year with Kotoura-san, she got some dramatic meat to chew on, and she doesn’t disappoint. Kotoura-san hinged entirely on whether you cared about Kotoura, and we definitely did right from the start.

Kato EmiriKato Emiri

Log Horizon (Akatsuki)
Monogatari Series: Second Season (Hachikuji Mayoi*)

We know Emiri best as the voice of that catlike-thing in Puella Magi Madoka Magicka, and give credit where credit is due: she made that little guy thoroughly despicable with its calmly-delivered, cruelly matter-of-fact monologues. We include her on this list not because she’s a main character in a series we dropped (in which she was fine), but for her moving performance at the end of Onimonogatari arc, a fitting sendoff for the Snail Girl.

Kayano AiKayano Ai

Golden Time (Hayashida Nana/Linda*)
Nagi no Asukara (Hiradaira Chisaki)
OreShura (Fuyuumi Ai)
Servant x Service (Yamagami Lucy (…))
Stella Jogakuin Kotou-ka C3-bu (Hatsuse Karila)
Tamayura: More Aggressive (Mitani Kanae)
Kakumeiki Valvrave (Sakurai Aina, Pino)
Suisei no Gargantia (Saaya)
Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta (V Lila F)

While down from her thirteen roles last year, nine is nothing to sniff at, and Ai-chan retains her position as busiest seiyu in the business, at least among the shows we’ve watched. She also leads the field with no fewer than six leading roles. She tends to stick with the same voice for most of them, but uses a very different, much tougher tomboy voice for Karila in C3-bu, and kicks up the frazzle with Lucy, our second favorite role of hers this year. Our favorite role of hers by far this year has been Linda from Golden Time, who as a result of indecision, horrible timing and circumstance, finds her self in one of the most unenviable yet engrossing love triangles in recent animemory.

Koshimizu AmiKoshimizu Ami

Kill la Kill (Matoi Ryuuko*)
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Maou)
Oregairu (Kawasaki Saki)
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (Mugino Shizuri)

Perhaps it’s because we first noticed her voice as Holo in Spice & Wolf, but Ami has a knack for channeling a comforting confidence and wisdom beyond her years—as if she’s done this before in a previous life—which she also achieves when voicing the sage badass Maou. Her other three characters listed above are also confident badasses. Ami’s killing it as Ryuuko in Kill la Kill, though in that case Ryuuko is in the dark about a great many things, and she longs to know the truth.

Nakamichi MihokoNakamichi Mihoko

Chihayafuru 2 (Wakamiya Shinobu*)

To date, the eccentric karuta goddess-queen Shinobu is the one and only role Nakamichi-san is listed as voicing, and it was a good one. A great blend of aloofness, cockiness, and, later on, vulnerability. The Yin to Chihaya’s Yang; the water to her fire.

Nazuka KaoriNazuka Kaori

Amnesia (Heroine)
Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Ayukawa Tenri/Diana)
Nagi no Asukara (Sakishima Akari*)
OreShura (Kiryuu Saeko)

The only main role we saw the veteran Kaori (voice of Eureka) in was as the unnamed heroine in a show that never really wowed us, but that wasn’t her fault. Having not seen the Tenri-han OVA, we were pleasantly surprised to hear her voicing Diana in Megami-hen, and have greatly enjoyed her semi-main role of Akari, for which her calm, smooth, gentle, motherly voice is most appropriate

Numakura ManamiNumakura Manami

Love Lab (Kurahashi Riko*)
Arpeggio of Blue Steel (Takao)
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Edogawa Jou)

Another new voice, for us, Manami stood out in all three of her roles this year. Jou was appropriately haughty foil-turned-friend of Sasami’s, Riko was a worthy straight man for Chinatsu’s Maki, and Takao was one of the most consistently human of the cel-shaded AI battleship girls.

Sakamoto MaayaSakamoto Maaya

Monogatari Series: Second Season (Oshino Shinobu*)

Maaya’s another veteran  seiyu who has distinguished herself with only one role we watched this year: that of the centuries-old vampire stuck in a child’s body, who didn’t even speak in Bakemonogatari. We’re not experts on dialects, but lilting manner of speech sounds old-fashioned yet regal, a perfect fit considering Shinobu’s age. Her soliloquy in Onimonogatari, paired with the gorgeous visuals, was a highlight of the season.

Sawashiro MiyukiSawashiro Miyuki

Stella Jogakuin Kotou-ka C3-bu (Kashima Sonora)
Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta (Isone Kotoha)
Danganronpa (Fukawa Touko*)
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Onna Kishi)
Monogatari Series: Second Season (Kanbaru Suruga)

Like Hana-Kawa and Ai-chan, Miyuki’s warm, slightly mischievous voice seems to show up in pretty much every other series we watch, for which we’re thankful. She rarely changes up her style—Sonora, Kotoha, Suruga, and Kishi sound pretty much the same—but that’s never bothered us. If we had to choose a favorite among her 2013 roles, it would probably be her turn as Fukawa Touko, since she actually has two voices: one the extremely shy, nervous, and paranoid Touko, and her gloriously-insane (and irreverent) Genocider Syo alter-ego.

Seto AsamiSeto Asami

Chihayafuru 2 (Ayase Chihaya*)
Kakumeiki Valvrave (Sashinami Shouko)
Stella Jogakuin Kotou-ka C3-bu (Haruna Rin)
Strike the Blood (Aiba Asagi)
Toaru Majutsu no Index: Endymion no Kiseki (Marie Spearhead)

Asami broke onto the scene with Chihayafuru, and in the sequel she proves just as good at playing the lovely, passionate, tomboyish, romantically-dense, fiercely-competitive narcoleptic we’ve come to know and love. She changes gears in C3-bu with the far sterner, fun-hating Haruna Rin (though that character eventually softens a bit), while the increasingly enormous weight of responsibility that rests on young Madame Prime Minister Sashinami’s slender shoulders comes through loud and clear in her voice.

Suzaki AyaSuzaki Aya

Kill la Kill (Mankanshoku Mako*)
Tamako Market (Kitashirakawa Tamako)
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (Takisubo Rikou)

We’d assumed by her short resume that Suzaki was quite young, but she’s actually older than Hana-Kawa. No matter: her youthful, energetic voice brings both Tamako and Mako to vibrant life, as those long-surnamed characters practically leap out of the screen thanks to her enthusiastic performances. When Mako turns aloof and evil for an episode, Suzaki makes the necessary adjustments to her voice, elevating Mako from mere comic relief to dimensional anti-heroine. Her emotional support later on is crucial to Ryuuko’s success.

Tomatsu HarukaTomatsu Haruka

Naruse Ibara (Coppelion)
Kakumeiki Valvrave (Rukino Saki)
Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Lune)
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Maid Ane)
Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (Wannai Kinuho)
Samurai Flamenco (Maya Mari*)
Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta (Kishi Touka)
Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke (Sannomiya Shiho)

While it may look like Haruka-chan had a light 2013 with only two main roles (one of which in a series we dropped), those bolded roles can be deceptive (as they are for many Monogatari characters). Maya Mari is a starring role in everything but name, despite what King Torture might think, while even Maoyu’s Maid Ane has one episode in which she is the main character, and Haruka delivers one of her more moving monologues. Meanwhile, Haruka continues to bring a nice edge to idol-turned-holy spirit pilot Rukino Saki, who has unfortunately not gotten a load of screen time in the second season.

Touyama NaoTouyama Nao

Hataraku Maou-sama! (Sasaki Chiho)
Oregairu (Yuigahama Yui*)
Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke (Yuugiri)
Arpeggio of Blue Steel (Hozumi Shizuka)
Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince (Yamada Peko)
Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen (Nakagawa Kanon/Apollo)
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Maid Imouto)
OreShura (Natsukawa Mana)
Tamayura: More Aggressive (Tomo)

Last but not least we have Nao-chan, who appeared in an impressive nine shows we watched this year, many of them as small, nauseatingly cute characters she paired with a high-pitched voice that can border on shrill and syrupy. The roles that did interest us were the two at the top of the list: Sasaki Chiho and Yuigahama Yui. They may both be cute high schoolers, but both are in the process of maturing into adults in control of their lives and feelings. As such, Nao tones down the sugar for their voices – a welcome adjustment.

RABUJOI’s Top 15 Female Seiyus of 2012

Japan’s anime industry produces more than 60% of the animated series in the world, so with all those series being produced, you’re bound to hear the same seiyu in multiple places. It could be said that a good seiyu is one you don’t notice – that is, you’re focused on the character and not the person voicing him or her. But it’s inevitable that you’ll hear someone enough that you’ll recognize them instantly upon watching a new series.

It’s really no different than live-action actors. You know who they are, but there’s a contract in place between performer and viewer that puts aside the reality for the duration of the performance. We’ve been watching anime for many years, and in that time, we’ve taken a liking to a number of seiyus’ voices, and in some cases have given series a try purely because they voice a character. For whatever reason, we’ve also always paid far more attention to the female voices than the male ones.

Hundreds of seiyus contributed to the 48 series we watched last year. The time for end-of-year lists has passed, but we thought we’d go ahead and list our 15 favorites from 2012 anyway. Note that the list only includes female seiyus who voiced at least one main/leading role in a series RABUJOI reviewed in 2012 (including dropped series). We love Chiwa Saito and Hirano Aya, for instance, but we only heard them in bit roles last year. Main characters are in bold. Our favorite characters are starred*.

15. Omigawa Chiaki

Eureka Seven AO (Elena Peoples*/Miller Joe)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Magnolia)
Moretsu Pirates (Endou Mami, Flora Chapie)

We first heard Omigawa as Maka in Soul Eater, and like that manic series, her voice is…an acquired taste. It’s a bit on the shrill side, even when she isn’t worked up, but she did a really good job toning it down with Minko in Hanasaku Iroha. She merged Maka’s energy and Minko’s angst in her turn as Elena Peoples, who can be upbeat and dorky one minute and seriously scary the next. She was a nice fit for Elena.

14. Yuka Iguchi

Girls und Panzer (Reizei Mako)
Nisemonogatari (Araragi Tsukihi*)
KoiChoco (Ougibashi Kana)
Medaka Box (Mochibaru Sasae)
Sankarea (Furuya Mero)
Sket Dance (Usami Hani)

We know Yuka well from the Index franchise, and all the roles she played in 2012 are the same kind of small, cute moe characters at which she excels. While her performances as Mako and Mero were intentionally low-energy affairs, Tsukihi was a more balanced, nuanced role, requiring her to verbally spar with the great Kamiya Hiroshi.

13. Taketatsu Ayana

Sword Art Online (Kirigaya Suguha*)
Guilty Crown (Tsugumi)
Hyouka (Kimura)
Sket Dance (Obaanyan)

Prior to this year we knew Taketatsu primarily as Kirino in Oreimo, in which her role as a tsundere imouto was eventually overshadowed in our books by Kuroneko (more on her further down). With her role in SAO, we’re now comfortable labeling her the “little sister seiyu”, though that may not be entirely fair. It’s not a mark against her; her voice, capable of harsh anger, biting drama, indecision and cutesiness, is well-suited for sibling roles.

12. Kotobuki Minako

Natsuiro Kiseki (Aizawa Natsumi*)
Guilty Crown (Kusama Kanon)
Hyouka (Henmi)
Medaka Box (Nabeshima Nekomi)
Sket Dance (Akina)
Sukitte Ii na yo (Kitagawa Megumi)
Tari Tari (Mizuno Youko)

Kotobuki’s is an interesting voice capable of evoking an air of defiant earnestness and determination with underlying notes of vulnerability, which matches perfectly with Natsumi, who is strong and athletic but also emotionally uncertain. Ditto Megu-tan, who for all her glamour and popularity, is a self-loathing misanthrope nevertheless desperate to be wanted and needed.

11. Takagaki Ayahi

Natsuiro Kiseki (Mizukoshi Saki*)
Tari Tari (Sakai Wakana)
Chihayafuru (Young Mashima Taichi)
Sket Dance (Nanba Kyouko)
Sword Art Online (Shinozaki Rika/Lisbeth)

It’s fitting that Saki and Natsumi are best friends who start the series with a falling-out, because Takagaki, like Kotobuki, has hints of fragile definance in her voice. We first heard Takagaki in Umi Monogatari as the very hard, cold, skeptical Kanon who eventually softened in her dealings with Marin. Saki, Wakana, and Rika are all characters that are perfectly pleasant on the surface, but whom you don’t really want to piss off.

10. Uchida Maaya

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (Takanashi Rikka*)
Sankarea (Sanka Rea)
K (Hyuuga Chiho)
Kokoro Connect (Mihashi Chinatsu)
Moretsu Pirates (Yunomoto Izumi)

Uchida impressed us with both of her main roles, which both happened to be emotionally wounded individuals living outside conventional society; one by choice (Rikka), one against her will (Rea). Uchida channels the pure, innocent Rea’s deep pain from a lifetime of abuse an humiliation by her overbearing, borderline father. Rikka wasn’t the victim of abuse, but she was deceived by her parents, and she found solace in Eighth-Grade Syndrome.

9. Kayano Ai

Aquarion Evol (Suzushiro Mikono)
Guilty Crown (Yuzuriha Inori, Ouma Mana)
Hyouka (Ibara Mayaka)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Millia)
Medaka Box (Kikaijima Mogana)
Rinne no Lagrange (Muginami)
Sukitte Ii na yo. (Tachibana Mei*)
Chihayafuru (Ooe Kanade)
KoiChoco (Shigemori Mao)
Moretsu Pirates (Hoshimiya Ai)
Natsuiro Kiseki (Okiyama Chiharu)
Sket Dance (Saotome Roman)
Tari Tari (Matsumoto Fumiko, Kurata Tomoka)

Kayano was the busiest of our Top 15 this year, providing talent for more than a quarter of the series we watched, plus a few we didn’t, including seven main roles. The majority of them are right in her wheelhouse: her delicate, gentle, willowy voice is ideal for characters who – at least initially – lack confidence and a sense of self worth.

You can say that about Mikono, Mayaka, Millia, Mei, Kanade, and Ai. That’s not to say she’s one note, only that she has a speciality and is good at it. Inori is a more opaque, ethereal character, while with Saotome Roman she just has fun poking at shojo tropes. But our favorite character she voiced would have to be Tachibana Mei.

8. Tomatsu Haruka

Natsuiro Kiseki (Hanaki Yuka)
Sword Art Online (Yuuki Asuna*)
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (Mizutani Shizuku)
Accel World (Wakamiya Megumi)
Binbougami ga! (Rindou Ranmaru)
Kokoro Connect (Nishino Nana)
Moretsu Pirates (Gruier Serenity)
Sket Dance (Kanou Arisa)

With Tomatsu, versatility is the name of the game. You can’t get much different than the peppy ball of energy that is Hanaki Yuka and Mizutani “Dry Ice” Shizuku, yet she nailed both. In between those extremes was Asuna, one of the best heroines of the year despite turning into a simple damsel-in-distress in the second half of SAO. She voiced the super-girly Princess Serenity and the super-manly Rindou Ranmaru – another pair of opposites.

7. Shizuka Itou

Amagami SS+ (Morishima Haruka)
Jormungand (Koko Hekmatyar*)
Kokoro Connect (Fujishima Maiko)
Moretsu Pirates (Misa Grandwood, Talvikki Launo)

Our first encounter with Shizuka is as Tachibana’s first conquest in the anime adaptation of the Amagami SS dating sim, in which her clear, crisp, almost aristocratic voice goes well with the character’s beauty and popularity. But there’s also a maturity to her voice, best exhibited with Misa, who is the ship’s doctor and voice of reason, and also a mentor of sorts for Marika.

She commands the respect of the crew despite her odd outfit. And then there’s Koko, the young arms dealer who seeks to force cumpulsory world peace. There’s breeding, money, and a certain arrogance in her voice, but also a keen intellect and copious confidence.

6. Yoshitani Ayako

Nazo no Kanojo X (Urabe Mikoto*)

The saliva-obsessed mysterious girlfriend was 20-year-old Yoshitani’s first and to date only role, and we’re going to pilfer the sentiments from a commenter on MAL: we fell in love the second we heard her voice. It’s not your usual anime girl voice; it’s very natural, warm, sensual, and subtle. This one role was more than enough to earn her a spot on this list, and we can’t wait to hear her in something else, though it will be hard to top her performance as Urabe.

5. Chinatsu Akasaki

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! (Nibutani Shinka*)
Kill Me Baby (Oribe Yasuna)
Kokoro Connect (Nakayama Mariko)
Moretsu Pirates (Harada Maki)
Tari Tari (Hirohata Nanae)

We didn’t notice Chinatsu until we watched Kill Me Baby, in which she portrays Yasuna, the comic half of the double act comprised of her and Sonya, the high school student who assassinates in her free time. As the funnier, sillier, and more unorthodox partner, Chinatsu exhibits a unique blend of manic energy, restlessness, and melodrama, when appropriate.

With Shinka she’s given a more dimensional character, one with a dorky past she’s not proud of that still leaks out. She’s a reformed weirdo, like Yuuta in a club otherwise full of raging weirdos.

4. Kitamura Eri

Nisemonogatari (Araragi Karen*)
One Off (Maezono Rie)
Black Rock Shooter (Izuriha Kagari)
Girls und Panzer (Darjeeling, Tsuchiya)
Kyousogiga (Yase Douji)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Tatiana Wisla)
Sket Dance (Quecchon)

It was a relatively quiet year for Kitamura, who at least in our viewing experiences specializes in portraying haughty/smug/arrogant characters like Toradora’s Kawashima Ami, though she can also do kiddie stuff like Rie. Her Tatiana in Ginyoku no Fam is a smaller, more role and is more polished, lacking the sizable chip on her shoulder in the first series.

Most of what we heard of her this year was in Nisemonogatari as the older of Koyomi’s little sisters; the one who almost lets things go a bit too far between them during a very intimate toothbrushing session.

3. Toyosaki Aki

Accel World (Kurashima Chiyuri)
Kokoro Connect (Nagase Iori*)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Fam Fan Fan)
Medaka Box (Kurokami Medaka)
Natsuiro Kiseki (Tamaki Rinko)
Hyouka (Zenna Rie)

Like Iguchi Rika, our first exposure to Toyosaki was in Railgun, in which she portrayed the delicate but diligent, flower-crowned Uiharu. While she was pleasant enough, she was pretty much outshone by the more prominent Misaka and Shirai. In Last Exile she has top billing and a whole big steampunk world to explore as the valiant, fearless, adorable sky pirate Fam. It’s the role she was born to play, and while she gets a little preachy and idealistic towards the end, that’s the writers’ fault, not Toyosaki’s.

We were most impressed by her powerful performance as Nagase Iori, still fresh in our minds as the last four episodes were mostly about her totally losing her shit. Her descent into darkness and eventual redemption comprise some of the best character work of the year in our books, and showed that Toyosaki has the chops to do heavier stuff when called upon.

2. Sawashiro Miyuki

Black Rock Shooter (Takanashi Yomi/Dead Master)
Kokoro Connect (Inaba Himeko*)
Zetsuen no Tempest (Kusaribe Hakaze)
Btooom! (Kira Kousuke)
K (Awashima Seri)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Liliana)
Natsuiro Kiseki (Aizawa Suzuka)
Nisemonogatari (Kanbaru Suruga)
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (Yoshida Yuuzan)

Every time we hear Sawashiro’s unmistakable voice, our ears perk up; we can’t help it. We’re not exactly sure why we like it so much; it’s a difficult thing to put into words. Is there an untranslatable Japanese term for “vulnerable strength?” Or “warm force?” Granted these aren’t traits unique to Sawashiro (many other seiyus on this list possess it), but there’s just something about her. Even if it defies easy description, Sawashiro’s golden pipes are always welcome. We could watch a Kokoro Connect spinoff focusing on Inaba Himeko all day.

1. Hanazawa Kana

Aquarion Evol (Zessica Wong)
Binbougami ga! (Sakura Ichiko)
Black Rock Shooter (Kuroi Mato)
Moretsu Pirates (Kurihara Chiaki)
From the New World (Akizuki Maria)
Zetsuan no Tempest (Fuwa Aika*)
Guilty Crown (Shinomiya Ayase)
Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam (Alvis E. Hamilton)
Nisemonogatari (Sengoku Nadeko)
Sket Dance (Agata Saaya)
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (Ooshima Chizuru)

Really? We need to say why? She’s Hanazawa Kana. She’s the shit, THE END. She wields the voice of an angel sent from heaven (Ooshima, Sengoku), a demon from hell (Sakura), and everything in between: tsunderes, pirates, bitches, little sisters, shy introverts, loud exhibitionists, conflicted souls. She makes subpar characters better just by voicing them and makes good characters great.

Sket Dance 16

What a weird episode…for Sket Dance, anyway. What starts out as just another slapstick fest where the hilarious voice-acting really carries the day, turns into a more conventional school romance drama by the end. Bossun feels left out when Himeko and Switch join bands for the upcoming school rock fesitval (the origins of which are steeped in rich historical bunk).

However, once he picks up a guitar (later a bass), he turns out to have a knack for it, even though something as basic as tuning initially escapes him. Frustrated with the conditions in the club room, he “escapes” to the school’s music room, where Sugisaki Ayano bumps into him. She’s a very cute, earnest, friendly violin prodigy who helps him practice. The two establish an immediate rapport, and find it very easy to open up and discuss things with one other.

When their session wraps up with the promise of another one tomorrow, Bossun returns to the club room to find a very uncharacteristically serious Himeko on the phone with Yabasawa (we don’t quite learn what she’s on about). So what’s going on here? What’s with the sudden shift to playing the show straight? I don’t know, but it was deftly handled. Bossun is funny when he’s trying to be, but showed good range this week.

Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance 8

Sket-dan deals with Momoka in the first half and a new client, a teacher, in the second. After their puppet show, Momoka has been scouted, so she comes to the Sket-dan for advice on how to prepare for her seiyu audition. Switch, the club’s resident anime expert, sets up a TV and plays numerous genre-bending anime with bizarre yet strangely believable premises that don’t appeal at all to their original intended audience. Himeko and Bossun are totally lost, but Momoka is committed to doing a good job. After her initial go at the mic, her producer comes in and gropes her, unleashing the punk Momoka within, and an evil aura that has the other producers swooning. So mission accomplished!

The second half gets a bit too hyper at times, but that unrelenting energy is what makes Sket Dance so fun, and I love made-up sports like Quidditch or, in this case, “Genesis”. Its rule may sound fuzzy, arbitrary, and ridiculous, but how is that different from say, cricket, with its esoteric structure and vocabulary? I myself know the rules to most sports, but like probably many others, Cricket will probably always remain a mystery to me. Such is Genesis; although for what it’s worth, the game looks quite fun and challenging: flippers on, morning stars in hand, and a volleyball to volley. Now I want to give it a try! Rating: 3