Bonus points if you understand the joke.
Disclaimer: This is by no means a “Top 10” list and I don’t intend it to be such.
Seiyuus… they are the life of anime. Seiyuus are the link between 2D and 3D, and without them, anime, well, wouldn’t even exist. Somehow though, as important as they are, seiyuus aren’t exactly popular amongst a majority of fans who can remember the characters but not the people who bring it to life, as if Tobey Maguire was only known as Peter Parker, so this article is meant for me to bring up and expose the people behind the characters, the voices that bring them to life who manage to give them a place in our hearts as otakus and fans alike.
1. Ayako Kawasumi
Quite possibly the top female seiyuu of current times, Ayako possesses an instantly recognizable voice which almost seems to possess a thousand different variations yet still remaining the same at the core. Her talent is such that even with a single voice range, she never seems to be stereotyped in to a single character archetype and has played many roles throughout her career from an android maid to a valiant knight and even princesses. While a show with her in the credits list might not be guaranteed to be the best, but her name itself ensures that her character will surely be one of the memorable ones.
Notable roles: Lafiel Abriel, Crest of the Stars and Banner of the Stars series; Mahoro Ando, Mahoromatic series; Chikane Himemiya, Kannazuki no Miko; Sara Werec, Soukou no Strain; Fuu, Samurai Champloo.
2. Yui Horie
Ahh… Hocchan, as her fans fondly call her, is one of the most famous seiyuus in the industry. First making a bang with her role as Naru Narusegawa in Love Hina (of which the writer is still in love with), she then went on a slump only to reemerge more actively recently with a slew of leading roles including Otoboku, Kanon and Manabi Straight. She is mostly associated with the “active attractive girl” archetype but has done a number of roles outside that archetype. She is also a good singer and has released a number of solo and group albums, that usually include an anime song.
Notable roles: Naru Narusegawa, Love Hina; Kotori Shirakawa, Da C(r)apo; Tohru Honda, Fruits Basket; Yoko, Inukami; Amamiya “Manabi” Manami, Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight; Siesta, Zero no Tsukaima.
3. Noto Mamiko
If there was a seiyuu who would be famous because and only because of her voice, that seiyuu would be Noto Mamiko. Owner of a legendary voice, her voice is enough to send her fanboys in to a moe high (ok, that’s me, but I’m sure the other fanboys do to) and she has been attributed to possesing a “Noto time-space”. She has rather been stereotyped in to certain archetypes but nonetheless she does have real talent at voice-acting and surprisingly she has voiced a number of male roles as well which showcases her vocal range nicely.
Notable roles: Ana Coppola, Ichigo Mashimaro; Tsukamoto Yakumo, School Rumble; Enma Ai, Jigoku Shoujo; Sasaki Yukinari, Girl’s Bravo; Angol Moa, Keroro Gunsou; Shihou Matsuri, sola.
4. Megumi Hayashibara
No seiyuu list would be complete without a mention of Megumi Hayashibara, essentially -the- queen of seiyuus. Her credits list is long and illustrious one and she has been said to have more leading roles than any other seiyuu can have in a life time. In fact, it is quite impossible for one to be an otaku without having at least watched one of her roles once. Recently, she has slowed down due to her marriage and the birth of her first daughter, but she has been slowly making a comeback, slated for a few roles in a few upcoming anime series. Interestingly, she shares the same birthday as Ayako Kawasumi on the 30th of March.
Notable roles: Ayanami Rei, Neon Genesis Evangelion; Faye Valentine; Cowboy Bebop; Saotome Ranma(female), Ranma 1/2.
5. Rie Kugimiya
Another prolific seiyuu in recent times, Kugimin is most famous for her roles as loli-tsundere characters in the past two years starting with Shakugan no Shana to Zero no Tsukaima and most recently Hayate no Gotoku. Her semi high pitched voice makes her easily recognizable but she has quite a vocal range as well.
Notable Roles: Enpatsu Shakugan no Uchita “Shana”, Shakugan no Shana; Louise de La Vallière, Zero no Tsukaima; Nagi Sanzenin, Hayate no Gotoku; Alphonse Elric, Full Metal Alchemist.
6. Aya Hirano
The top rookie seiyuu now, Aya Hirano first debuted a few years back and even held a leading role in Kiddy Grade.
However, her popularity truly exploded after her role as Suzumiya Haruhi and since then she has been in the spotlight continuously. She possesses a truly promising talent for voice acting and her vocal range has been one of her selling points. Definitely a seiyuu to watch out for.
Notable roles: Suzumiya Haruhi, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi; Lumiere, Kiddy Grade; Izumi Konata, Lucky Star; Etoh Mei, Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight.
7. Mai Nakahara
A talented seiyuu, she has voiced a number of leading roles. She is well known for her “youthful and active girl” roles such as in Mai Hime, Onegai Twins and Kaleidostar. Her voice is unarguably one of the top ones of the industry, and she is considered an A-list seiyuu.
Notable roles: Tokiha Mai, Mai Hime; Miyafuji Miina, Onegai Twins; May Wong; Kaleidostar; Ryuugu “Rena” Reina, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni; Nanbu Chitose, Amaenaideyo! series.
8. Itou Shizuka
Her voice absolutely defines “elegance” and she has held a number of notable roles lately, Itou Shizuka is destined for greatness. She holds unique vocal range that can be used for a variety of situations, but her roles in To Heart 2 and Pumpkin Scissors still remain one of her career defining ones. Her number of roles are gradually increasing and this season has seen her in a variety of shows.
Notable Roles: Alice L. Malvin, Pumpkin Scissors; Kousaka Tamaki, To Heart 2; Nogami Shouko, Asatte no Houkou; Nadie, El Cazador de la Bruja; Hinagiku Katsura, Hayate no Gotoku.
9. Yukari Tamura
Possessing a rather nasal voice which makes her instantly recognizable, Yukari Tamura, or affectionally known as Yukarin amongst her fans, is another A-list seiyuu with a long list of credits. She usually gets associated with 2 archetypes, the girlish type, unsurprising due to her voice, and rather surprisingly, the silent, enigmatic type as well.
Notable Roles: Takamachi Nanoha, Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha series; Kawasumi Mai, Kanon series; Furude Rika, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Morino Ichigo, Onegai series; Ranpha Francoise, Galaxy Angel series.
10. Inoue Kikuko
Second only to Megumi Hayashibara in prolificness is the “Onee-sama” of seiyuus, Inoue Kikuko. Over the years, she has totally conquered the “caring, motherly and dignified” character archetype as if her voice was tailor-made for it. Her long list of credits reads like the “Who’s who” of MILF’s but yet, she has had roles outside of that archetype as well. She is respected by many in the industry, attested to the fact her “Eien ni jyunanasai” cult is joined by a few in this list as well.
Notable roles: Belldandy, Aa! Megami-sama series; Kasumi Tendo, Ranma 1/2; Alv, Kiddy Grade (can anyone recognise it’s her?); Kazami Mizuho, Onegai series.
That concludes my article for today, and by no means it’s a complete one. There’s a multitude of other names I wanted to mention as well, but due to my decision to choose ten, I’ve left them out. This article was more focused on the recent top names as well, so some of the rather established ones have been left out as well, and I might cover them in another article, if I feel like doing so :P.
For those who want a male version of this article though… don’t keep your hopes up. I have a few male seiyuus I love of course, but I’m not sure if there’s enough for me to write out an article like this.