Flavour of the Spring 2014 Season: Matsuoka Yoshitsugu & Hayami Saori

No Game No Life ep 3 - image 15 Kamigami - Yui

With the beginning of every anime season, we the writers of Koekara go kyaa kyaa~ over which of our favourite seiyuus are in which shows and look forward to watching them in interesting, epic, exciting, fun shows, going as far as to call dibs on the shows we want to cover way before its premiere. We look out for newbies (Ishikawa Kaito, Hanae Natsuki) and veterans (Kamiya Hiroshi is perpetually on our minds) alike and nominate one seiyuu who we think deserves to be the Flavour of the Season by virtue of doing his or her job best or deserves more recognition, based on the first 3 episodes of each show we follow. It’s not an easy exercise and sometimes there is no consensus as was what happened last season. It’s also difficult to not just nominate each of our different favourites’. So it is with much pleasure for me to announce that Koekara’s inaugural Flavour of the Season goes to not just one but 2 seiyuus – Matsuoka Yoshitsugu and Hayami Saori.

Who?

He’s the SAO guy. Or if you didn’t watch one of the biggest shows of 2012, he’s the Sakurasou no Pet no Kanojo guy. And if you didn’t watch (or be reduced to tears by) him in one of the best high school romantic comedies in a while (69,070 users gave it a 8.45 out of 10 score on MAL) then maybe you’ll know him as Sylty in Makai Ouji. Point is, he’s in high profile shows and across genres too.

She’s the inspiring girlfriend Miho in Bakuman. But if you didn’t watch all 3 seasons (scoring 8.36, 8.58 and 8.76 on MAL) then you may know her as tsundere Yukinoshita Yukino in Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Otherwise, she’s the one who helped bring you to tears as stoic but shy Chiriko “Tsuruko” Tsurumi in AnoHana (119,024 users can’t be wrong with a score of 8.72 on MAL).

Recent works

 Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 2.04.03 am Magi - TitusBuddy Complex 13 - Image 3 Star Driver Wako

In Winter 2014, Matsuoka in Buddy Complex (Winter 2014) was one of the highlights for me throughout the Sunrise mecha series. It wasn’t as hot-blooded as SAO but he did well to convey the bright disposition of Aoba. I also thought Matsuoka brought so much more to the table as Titus in last season’s Magi: The Kingdom of Magic because the guy just does drama so darn well. Maybe I’m biased towards dramatic roles in general though its no good if a seiyuu doesn’t pull and tug at your heart with just his vocal performance. Matsuoka’s rendition of Titus’ character made the latter half of Magi that much more awesome. But can Matsuoka move beyond being typecast as the shounen male protagonist?

Also in Buddy Complex was Hayami Saori as the main female character Hina and that’s when I really started to take notice of her. Hina started out as a strong female lead and Hayami did well to have that gentle strength quality come through in the first half of the show. Earlier in 2010 though, Hayami played the role of Wako in Star Driver and till today her character song as a Miko priestess still beautifully haunts me. You can tell it’s Hayami but it strangely sounds different from her usual genteel self. And to me that’s Hayami’s signature – gentle but strong.

Spring 2014 ~ No Game No Life, Mangaka San & Assistant San, M3, Mahouka, Kamigami no Asobi

 No Game No Life ep 3 - image 12 MangakaAssistant image 09 Akashi 1

It’s comforting to see Matsuoka take on more roles each season, slowly building up a reputation as a veteran. His nomination started with Kiseki sharing the joy of how she is really really really enjoying No Game No Life, of which Matsuoka plays the male lead character. Though it’s still too early to tell, I’m betting that his take on Sora is bound to increase his popularity yet again and reach new audiences in another iconic role. It’s his second main character collaboration with Kayano Ai and their effective partnership shows through in the comedic timing and range of emotions they have to convey. We are only three episodes in, but he has more than proven that he can do the caring oniichan/desperate hikkikomori-NEET/quick-witted & devious game meister, delivering his lines just oh so flawlessly. 

He’s also the harem-meister in this season’s seinen-targeted comedy full of pantsu shots Mangaka San & Assistant San and boy does he make for a convincing perverted echi-minded character, a role so unlike any of his previous works. Finally, playing the dark, sharp-tongued and broody genius in M3: Sono Kuroki Hagane, as Akashi Saginuma, Matsuoka is continuing to expand with an impressive variation of roles this season, and now has the all-in-one mecha-drama-action show under his belt. He’s got the wounded soul with a good dose of arrogance and bossiness down pat and is a real no-nonsense kind of guy who’s hard to get to know and even harder to be friends with. While we’re only 2 episodes in, Matsuoka’s character is a force to be reckoned with himself and with such an inversely big personality and the sharp, good looks to boot, I wouldn’t be surprised if Akashi steals the show more often than not!

MangakaAssistant image 05 Kamigami no Asobi 03 - Image 08 Mahouka 03 - Image 11

Continuing onto high profile shows this season in Kamigami no Asobi, Mangaka San and Mahouka, we’ve witnessed and concluded that Hayami Saori sounds like an in-between of Noto Mamiko (the ultimate gentlest seiyuu) and Hanazawa Kana. In Kamigami no Asobi, I reckon she’s the least irritating otome game reverse harem female lead among the many before her (even Sawashiro Miyuki couldn’t hold the goosebumps off in Uta-Prince), holding onto her own firmly against the male seiyuu veterans. Coincidentally enough, she’s in this season’s Mangaka San with Matsuoka again where the same gentle strength she deployed in Buddy Complex is used to wonderfully play off against Matsuoka’s Aito Yuuki. Last but certainly not least, she’s the younger sister with a somewhat controversial brocon complex in this season’s highly anticipated Mahouka. Can she carry off a character held to very high regard by the light novel (*cough*male*cough*) fans? I think she certainly can. All while not putting off female viewers at the same time!

seinaka awase no koi CD cover

Drama CD Debut

A Koekara male Flavour of the Season is incomplete without mention of any Drama CD work although bear in mind that not all seiyuus do this genre of work. So we were surprised to find that Matsuoka’s actually done just the one CD back in Feb 2013, giving his first (初受け) role in Senaka Awase no Koi 「背中合わせの恋」to Terashima Takuma. It’s a simple, gentle, sweet story (i.e. nothing too violent or forced as can be the case in this genre) about 2 dancers forming an idol dance unit and falling for each another. It’s based on a novel and when real life’s not too busy we might get around to doing a review for it ^_~

In Conclusion

With 3 very diverse main character roles this season (3 supporting – Mahouka, Nobunaga the Fool, Yowamushi Pedal), Matsuoka’s expanded his range and so deservedly is our Flavour of the Season. He’s only 28 so keep an ear out for him because this guy’s going big and you’ll be glad to have followed his journey there.

Exuding a quiet, gentle strength is Hayami in 3 main character roles this season (one more in Soul Eater Not! which we’re not covering) of which I suspect her moe-imouto take on Shiba Miyuki in Mahouka and constant reprimanding (but very gently of course) as Ashisu Sahoto in Mangaka San is going to cement her a place in many male fans’ hearts. Admittedly, I’m not one to notice female seiyuus because they sound rather similar to one another (I can’t tell apart Kitamura Eri from say, Fujimura Ayumi). So I’m glad to be following Hayami in these high profile shows and truly recognise her individuality in this seiyuu industry. She might become the next Noto Mamiko if she takes on more diverse roles in future so I’d say, keep your ears out for her as well.

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