For a while now, I have thought that I don’t get enough into the bones of my appreciation for the various elements of anime. In my reviews, I try to cover every single facet of a show, but even as my word count rises, it’s not like I’m saying THAT much about the elements. Sure, I’ve told you that X and X gave excellent performances, but I haven’t told you what made those performances so great or what moments sold me on them, etc. So I’m going to try breaking things down a little more, starting with a 2-episode OVA I watched today called Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel. (I highly recommend it!) This OVA had a lot of great elements, from directing to music to animation and voice acting, so I’ll be posting about each element separately.
The two lead characters in Twin Angel are played by voice actresses with whom I’ve had a rocky history. The biggest lead, Haruka Minazuki, is played by Yukari Tamura. I’ve seen and liked Tamura in Higurashi as Furude Rika, in S-Cry-Ed as Kaname Yuta, and in Nanoha A’s as Takamachi Nanoha (and I’ve seen other shows with her where I can’t remember her voice) but I really didn’t like her in the first season of Nanoha nor, from what I can recall, in Moetan as Ink Nijihara or in Kanon as Mai Kawasumi.
The problem I have with Tamura is that her cute-girl voice can be too shrill and grating. The way she talks tends to be like a loop of intonation, almost like she’s talking in caps with every other couple of syllables (‘TAKAmachi NANOha DEsu”) and it hurts my brain. I also have troubles with her more serious voice (seen with Mai and with Rika’s inner monologue) because it just seems really forced to me, like she’s putting too much effort into being dramatic.
Meanwhile, Mamiko Noto, who plays Haruka’s counterpart, Aoi Kannazuki, is an even rockier path for me. She’s actually played some of my favorite roles among the ones I liked her in such as Rimone in Simoun, Shimako Youto in Maria-sama ga Miteru, Rin Asougi in Mnemosyne, and Ana Coppola in Ichigo Mashimaro (among, once again, roles I can’t remember well.) However, I outright could not stand her as Kotomi Ichinose in Clannad and her voice alone caused me to drop Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu for her performance as the title role and Kimi ni Todoke for her performance as Sawako Kuronuwa.
The thing about Noto is that she has a signature voice that she is typecast for, which is a very soft, quiet, and shy voice. This can be really effective in good roles, but in some of her performances it sounds like she’s being deprived of air (Haruka sounded like she was choking on something) and when her quiet voice is used in excess (Kimi ni Todoke) it can become very grating.
But remember, while I have my complaints, both of these actresses have also played some of my favorite roles, because they also have their strengths. Noto sounds great when her shyness is a little more subdued or the character is more confident and she can display some truly impressive emotion (as she even does as Kotomi in Clannad). Tamura, meanwhile, just generally sounds better when she isn’t pushing the cutesy factor too much and is showing any kind of intense emotion, wherein she excels. These elements of their voices are what we get on full display in Twin Angel, which has them both in possibly my favorite roles from either of them.
Tamura, playing Haruka, gets to have all the conviction and energy that she’s great with. Haruka is a magical girl much like Nanoha (both being in mahou shoujo anime that are obviously targeted at an otaku audience) in that she is a do-gooder to the core and has a pure never-say-die attitude. However, she’s a good deal older than Nanoha, so while she sounds cute, she also doesn’t have to sound so much like a little kid, which is where I think Tamura was given the chance to cut out what I consider the problematic elements off her acting. Instead, she’s got a ton of fire, and it can really explode as she calls out her ultimate attacks (“ANJERU HARIKAAANE!”)
But she also gets some chances to show her excellent emotional range. At the end of the first episode, Haruka’s spirit is crushed by the Baron of the Fourth Dimension, and she pretty much breaks down altogether in a bit of a pathetic heap. Tamura rules these scenes and even pulls off the difficult task of convincing-but-not-annoying crying. She gets a touching aside to Noto’s best scene as well and then comes in such full force for the finale that it knocks my socks off. Truly, she’s mastered the voice of courageous power.
Meanwhile, Noto, as Aoi, is also playing her usual role as the reserved and less-confident teammate, however she is a lot more subdued (as in, not choking) than usual and the excellent dialog gives her chances to really shine. The important difference in this character from usual is that her characters are almost always loners at the beginning of the story, which is why they are so shy. Aoi, though, has her partner Haruka, and I think that her character isn’t supposed to really be shy so much as more reserved and less confident than her partner. Were it not for that companionship even from the beginning of the OVA, I don’t think Aoi could have sounded so happy in her reservedness.
Aoi ends up being a truly impressive character as she shows her real bravery when even Haruka could not. There is a scene where Aoi is in a hospital bed with Haruka at her side and is explaining how she was able to find a new and great confidence. Noto’s performance in this scene was so spectacular and the dialog so moving that I felt my hairs standing up as I watched. And then, at the finale, Noto matches Tamura’s power blow-for-blow as she howls out her own special attacks (“ANJERU ARROW!”) Altogether, in spite of the performances that I dislike from her, roles like this keep me able to call Mamiko Noto on of my favorite seiyuu.
Tamura and Noto weren’t the only noteworthy actors in this OVA, though, albeit they were the most notable. The amazing Nobuyuki Hiyama (Guy Shishio in GaoGaiGar, Harunobu Madarame in Genshiken, Link in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Viral in Gurren Lagann) is there playing an obvious parody of Tuxedo Mask named Mysty Night. He doesn’t get a whole lot to say, but he provides one of his manly, inspirational speeches to a desperate Haruka in one scene that gives the feeling of ‘yup, that’s Hiyama for ya!’ He’s a badass, and he does an excellent job of sounding suave here.
There’s also the Baron of the Fourth Dimension, who was a superb villain largely due to his awesome voice by Shinji Ogawa (Genya in Giant Robo, Alfred Pennyorth in Batman Gotham Knight) I haven’t really heard anything from him, but from the names, he seems to get typecast as old crazy professors and butlers, which he definitely puts through in his role as the Baron with a decidedly evil twist. I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell the Baron’s motivations were for being such an evil dude, but he was so unstoppably cool that I didn’t really mind not knowing.
Anywho, wow, that’s a lot of words. Sometime else I’ll tell you all about more great facets from this excellent OVA!