Voice actress Aya Hirano holds concerts, hosts a radio show and appears in books of pinups like a pop idol. The 20-year-old is turning out to be a top star of Japan’s anime world with a legion of adoring fans.

Hirano’s big break came in 2006 when she was cast as the voice of Haruhi Suzumiya, the title character of sci-fi anime series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu). Hirano’s voice is itself mild and soft. At work, however, she performs a wide range of voice variations, including the dignified voice of an adult woman and a child’s wheedling voice.

“When I was little, I was a big fan of Garasu no Kamen (The Glass Mask),” says Hirano, referring to a popular manga series by Suzue Miuchi that features a brilliant young actress.

“I often played all of the characters, including (protagonist) Maya Kitajima, (her rival) Ayumi Himekawa, (acting instructor) Tsukikage-sensei and (Maya’s boyfriend) Sakurakoji-kun. I guess it was good training for me.”

When she was 14, she made her professional anime debut in Otogi Story: Tenshi no Shippo as the voice of Momo the Guardian Angel Monkey. When she was cast for Kiddy Grade at 15, her co-stars said her voice was “the hottest among them,” Hirano recalls.

“I remembered my mother usually changed her tone of voice whenever she answered the phone. So I tried to copy her, and found I could speak in an adult’s voice,” she says.

This year, Hirano enjoyed another success, landing the role of Konata Izumi in the anime Lucky Star (Rakisuta) based on a manga by Kagami Yoshimizu which features four high school girls.

Her great success as Haruhi led to big changes in her job.

Hare Hare Yukai, the ending theme song of Haruhi, which is performed by Hirano and the voice actresses of the other two lead characters, entered Oricon’s weekly hits chart in fifth place. (The Oricon lists are Japan’s best-known music charts.)

In NHK’s info variety programme Kaitai Shin Show, which started in April, Hirano is in charge of the narration.

She made a foray into the radio world with her Radio Animelo Mix show, which began airing in Japan in October.

Despite gaining recognition as a multi-faceted artiste, Hirano says she will continue to concentrate on what made her famous in the first place.

“I’ll continue to focus on my activities as a voice actor, but I want people to see various sides of me through my songs, photo collections, and DVDs,” says Hirano.

Source: The Daily Yomiuri / Asia News Network, The Star Online eCentral


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