I’ve been watching Princess Tutu (finally) lately, and marveling at what a great job Katou Nanae did as Ahiru (and wondering why we haven’t heard more from her in anime than we have). That prompted a Twitter conversation that got me musing on my favorite seiyuu performances of all-time.
Bear in mind, these are favorite performances – I’m not making any objective claims about them being the “best” of all time. For simplicity’s sake I’ve chosen 10 performances, 5 male and 5 female. There were some great honorable mention performances by females playing males – Suzukaze Mayo as Kenshin, Ogata Megumi as Shinji Ikari, Morinaga Rika as Makoto/chan – but the ten that made the final cut happened to be same-gender performances.
I’d love to hear some of your favorites in the comments. As for mine, here they are in no particular order:
Miyano Mamorou as Okabe Rintarou (Steins;Gate) – A great all-around performance by an actor who had a phenomenal 2011, also starring as Taichi in Chihayafuru. His Okarin is funny and slightly mad, but also keenly intelligent and much deeper than he first appears.
Ono Kenshou as Komori Tarou (Ghost Hound) – A vastly underrated performance in a vastly underrated series. Ghost Hound is an actor’s series, and much of it is preoccupied with the mental state of troubled but kind middle-schooler Tarou. Audience buy-in is largely contingent on feeling empathy for Tarou, and Ono-san delivers with an incredibly likable and human performance. I’ve never heard a more authentic portrayal of a boy this age in anime.
Miyu Irino as Kitamura Kou (Cross Game) – Talking of actor’s shows, Cross Game is definitely one. Truthfully, there are several Miyu-Miyu performances that could have made the list – in my view he’s been the best male seiyuu over the last decade – but Kou is his signature role in my view. As great as the writing is with CG, the highest compliment I can pay Miyu-san is this: I can’t imagine Kou being played by anyone else.
Inoue Kazuhiko as Nyanko-sensei (Natsume Yuujinchou) – Inoue-san is another actor whose magnificent career has spanned many legendary performances. Natsume is a show that’s full of great seiyuu moments, but Inoue’s Nyanko-sensei is both the heart of the series and its funniest character. Inoue shows perhaps the greatest range within a single role in anime here – he must convey many sides to this ageless and mysterious ayakashi, and captures them all flawlessly.
Adachi Naoto as Chagum (Seirei no Moribito) – For my money this is the finest child performance in anime history, in the finest TV series in anime history. Moribito is a true classic by any measure, but the entire series is built on the relationship between Chagum and Balsa, and Adachi-kun (13 at the time of production) perfectly captures Chagum’s nobility and loneliness.
Horie Yui as Tsukimiya Ayu (Kanon 2006) – Again, Hochan has delivered so many memorable performances that it seems almost impossible to pick just one – yet, it would be criminal not to. She’s truly at her best (Uguu!) as Ayu – genki, vulnerable, hilarious, irresistible. I love Kanon and it’s definitely an ensemble, but Hochan’s is the performance that gives the show it’s emotional center.
Andou Mabuki as Balsa (Seirei no Moribito) – The other half of Moribito’s unforgettable duo, Andou-san gives for my money the finest dramatic voice actress performance ever. She’s not an anime regular – most of the Moribito cast isn’t – and Andou’s performance contains no familiar anime mannerisms of any kind. The emotional scenes between Andou and Adachi-kun in the second half of the series will stay with me forever.
Gotou Yuuko as Kate (Sketchbook ~full color’S~) – This may seem an odd inclusion – a supporting role in a good, not great show that falls nowhere near my all-time favorites list. But Gotou-san’s performance here is my favorite comedic performance in anime – more laughs per minute of screen time than anybody, and huge laughs at that. Gotou-san has been fighting serious health issues of late – here’s hoping she makes a full recovery and we get to hear many more brilliant comedic performances.
Tomatsu Haruka as Tsukishima Aoba (Cross Game) – The Yang to Miyu Irino’s Cross Game Yin, Tomatsu-san was magnificent as the difficult to love, wounded Aoba. In a series full of great writing and acting, Tomatsu is fully up to the task. Hochan may be my favorite female seiyuu ever, but I’d give the nod to Tomatsu as the best of the last five years – and the one with the greatest range.
Kana Hanazawa as Gokou “Kuroneko” Ruri (Ore no Imouto ga Konanni Kawaii Wake ga Nai) – KanaHana isn’t a chameleon like Tomatsu Haruka, but more of a personality. Her range is limited but when she gets one in her sweet spot she hits it out of the park – and Kuroneko is her finest role for my tastes. KanaHana is funny, sexy, snarky and sympathetic all in perfect balance. This is a very good show rather than a great one, but Oreimo is at its best when Kuroneko is on-screen.