Welcome back to our series where we talk about Voice Acting, or Seiyuu, in Japan. Welcome to The Art of Seiyuu!

Every week, we will be featuring all sorts of seiyuu, from the up-and-comers in the industry all the way to the legends who have made their names over the years. Today we’re featuring one of the stalwarts of the industry who always never fails to amaze me with her clear voice that’s just a wonder to hear.

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Introducing: Maaya Sakamoto


Introduction:

Name: Maaya Sakamoto (坂本 真綾)
Birthday: 31st March 1980
Birthplace: Tokyo, Itabashi City
Nicknames: Maaya
Agency: fortunerest

History:

Maaya Sakamoto actually began her career as a child actress joining Gekidan Komadori. Joining a troupe where studying was the main focus, she focused most of her time in the troupe doing CM songs and dubbing.

She got her first big break as the Hitomi Kanzaki, the main character of The Vision of Escaflowne. She also did the opening theme song Yakusoku wa Iranai and began her first radio show titled “Sakamoto Maaya no Naisho Banashi.”

In 2003, she also started her first actress role in the musical edition of Les Miserables performing as Eponine for 6 years straight until 2009.  She also made sporadic appearances as Junichi Okada’s ex-girlfriend in the TV drama Suekko Chonan Ane-Sannin.

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In 2005, she wrote her first essay collection titled Idea..She also began to self-produce her own music from then onwards.

Roles:

First role:

Her first big starring role as we mentioned earlier was Hitomi Kanzaki from The Vision of Escaflowne. While this wasn’t her first role, as she has done many roles as a kid, it was thanks to her role as Hitomi that she had her big break and at the same time, begin her career as a performing artiste.

Current season: 

You can see her in the upcoming anime BEM, where she will be playing “the unidentified Girl”. She will also be voicing Elizabeth in another upcoming anime, To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts. Two Maaya Sakamotos in the upcoming season that you’d be spoilt for choice. She will also reprising her role as Annerose von Grunewald in The Legend of Galactic Heroes ~Die Neue These: The Stellar War later this year.

Famous Roles:

Lunamaria Hawke – Gundam Seed Destiny

Alright, let me get this character out of the way, first and foremost. I am the generation that grew up with Gundam Seed and Gundam Seed Destiny. So it’s natural for me to immediately put a voice to the character when you asked me what I think of when I hear Maaya Sakamoto. She was a great foil for the protagonist Shinn Asuka (who just so happens to be voiced by her husband Kenichi Suzumura) and they’re practically inseparable when it comes to later rendition of their characters in other media. Personally, I really enjoyed using her Gunner Zaku Warrior in Gundam games with that massive gun so she’s pretty special for me. 

Shiki Ryougi – Garden of Sinners

Now if you asked me my favourite character voiced by Maaya however, it has gotta be Shiki Ryougi from Garden of Sinners. A friend of mine invited me to watch the newest Garden of Sinners movie many years back and I instantly fell in love with Maaya’s portrayal of Shiki. The mysterious aura surrounding her character is what really grabs you. She has this ability called Mystic Eyes of Death Perception where she by simply these lines in front of her, it could kill her opponents. She was such an iconic character for me I’d like to see Shiki again. Maybe playing Fate/Grand Order sounds great talking about this.

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Aerith Gainsborough – Final Fantasy VII Series

Now I play a lot of games, so naturally, I had to mention Aerith. Back in my teenage days, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children were my jam and Aerith was one of many central characters in the series. Unlike the cold-hearted Shiki Ryougi, Aerith was the opposite end of that spectrum. She’s warm and full of life. Her interactions with Zack Fair (who, also coincidentally is voiced by her husband Kenichi Suzumura too) in Crisis Core, always looking forward to his next visit.  As for the fate of Aerith in Final Fantasy VII? I believe the story tells itself.

Music

As mentioned earlier, she began her career singing the opening theme song for The Vision of Escaflowne titled Yakusoku wa Iranai. At the same time, it began her career with Yoko Kanno being her main producer until 2013 when she decided to part ways and produce her own music.

CLEAR

One of her more recent tracks was the opening theme song from the popular Cardcaptor Sakura Clear Card Chapter, CLEAR. She also sang Platina for the original Cardcaptor Sakura as well, it is her 5th single. I love how this song succeeds from Platina and follows the same style which brings back memories as I myself watched the series as a child. It’s a great successor to Platina.

Anata wo Tamotsu Mono/Mada Ugoku

Another of her more recent songs, this single in particular is one I have personally purchased. I’m a big fan of Ghost in the Shell, and Maaya actually played Motoko Kusanagi in the recent Ghost in the Shell: ARISE series succeeding Atsuko Tanaka. These songs are the opening theme songs for the TV anime and the film versions of the series. The world-view of these songs are so perfectly in-tune with the elements of the series due to Cornelius’ electric tones and dissonant elements, topped off with Maaya’s vocals giving it a very haunting, GITS song.

Triangler

We can’t end this section off without mentioning Triangular from Macross Frontier. One of the most iconic songs of the series-and it’s not even by the songstresses in the series! While I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the TV series at all but the song is so famous even I understand the impact of the song itself. Did I mention it won the 2008 Animation Kobe award for the best theme song and the best selling single from Maaya? You absolutely have to go listen to it. Listening to it will make you understand how amazing it is.

She has many notable fans in the industry such as Motoo Fujiwara from BUMP OF CHICKEN, Shoko Nakagawa and even seiyuu Minori Suzuki who is well known to have gone to see Maaya’s concert just one day before the audition to become the next Macross star even.

Personal Impression

I really love her clear voice, plain and simple. She is one voice you will cannot get tired of listening. Sure sometimes she is said to lack range because she only has one type of voice. But when you sound so good in one voice, do you really need any other? She has a simply perfect voice that fits someone who’s emotionless like Shiki Ryouki or Motoko Kusanagi. 

There are people like Koichi Yamadera who can basically do anything and everything and sometimes we have the Maaya Sakamoto’s who just have a wonderful speaking voice, she was practically born to be a seiyuu. I’d love to listen to her narrate forever. 

And on top of being able to sound perfect during afureko, she sings even better. No wonder Yoko Kanno picked her and worked with her for so many songs. With such a deadly combination of Yoko Kanno and Maaya Sakamoto, we were blessed with so many timeless songs, I’m ever so thankful. 

I recently heard that she even eleased an essay collection titled Idea.. For someone so eloquent as Maaya, you’d probably assume her essay collection would be a thrill to check out. So much so that I’ve been looking around just to see how it is.


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