In general, I tend to be skeptical of the contribution voice actors or actresses have to a given show. The reason for that is that enough seiyuu in Japan are good enough that even a lot of fairly flavorful takes on a role aren’t that much of a step up from what the next-best actor would be able to do, given the same character and script. Sometimes, though, that’s absolutely not the case, and the voice actor or actress kills a role in a way that’s near impossible to replicate. This is a list of individual seiyuu performances, in fairly rough order, that I think would have been impossible to trade down on.
This is, as much as anything, an attempt to pin down my own tastes a little. I try make lists like sports decide on their halls of fame – get a group of decent names together from memory, put the obvious greats on top, put the obvious bottoms down low, and sort out the tiers. This list was the best kind of fun to make that way.
A lot of what I consider my favorite characters don’t make the list because a) they’re manga only (Endo Kenji, Aizawa Akira), b) the anime performance was lackluster (Yoichi Hiruma, Harunobu Madarame), or c) any one of 2-3 other talents could have done that role when it was written/visually presented as well as it was (Takemoto Yuuta, Hachikuji Mayoi). This list, like most of the other ones under this heading, is purely personal preference. If it weren’t, Miyuki Sawashiro wouldn’t be on there three times. All names are as I remember them, so I apologize in advance for any screwy ordering.
40. Shizuka Itou – Morishima Haruka, Amagami SS
39. Hiromi Hirata – Kikuchi Makoto, The Idolm@ster
38. Michael Rivas – TK, Angel Beats
37. Mamoru Miyano – Matsuoka Rin, Free
36. Mikako Komatsu – Katou Marika, Bodacious Space Pirates
35. KENN – Nanba Hibito, Space Brothers
34. Daisuke Namikawa – Ichijou, Kaiji
33. Ayahi Takagaki – Ferris Eris, Legend of the Legendary Heroes
32. Tomokazu Sugita – Joseph Joestar, JJBA
31. Chihiro Suzuki – Mizuno Kanta, Desert Punk
30. Hagiwara Masato – Tokuchi Toua, One Outs
29. Takehito Koyasu – Dio Brando, JJBA
28. Mamoru Miyano – Okabe Rintarou, Steins Gate
27. Koyama Rikiya – Takamura Mamoru, Hajime no Ippo
26. Jun Fukuyama – Daichi Kakeru, Akikan
25. Sho Hayami – Justy Ueki Tylor, Irresponsible Captain Tylor
24. Ai Kayano – Muginami, Rinne no Lagrange
23. Ayahi Takagaki – Sakai Wakana, Tari Tari
22. Yoko Hikasa – Amakusa Shino, Seitokai Yakuindomo
21. Ayako Yoshitani – Makoto Urabe, Mysterious Girlfriend X
20. Kanae Itou – Kashiwazaki Sena, Ha Ga Nai
19. Yukari Tamura – Yamada, B Gata H Kei
18. Neya Michiko – Iizuka Tatsuki, Hyakko
17. Mamiko Noto – Nogizaka Haruka, Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu
16. Miyuki Sawashiro – Mine Fujiko, Lupin III
15. Koyama Rikiya – Souda Emonzaemon, Katanagatari
14. Hirata Hiroaki – Nanba Mutta, Space Brothers
13. Miyuki Sawashiro – Dalian, Dantalian no Shoka
12. Tomizawa Michie – Kanzaki Sumire, Sakura Taisen
11. Maaya Uchida – Ichinose Hajime, Gatchaman Crowds
10. Asumi Kana – Nyaruko, Nyaruko-san
9. Yukari Tamura – Muromi, Namiuchigiwa no Muromi-san
8. Takehito Koyasu – Touga Kiryuu, Revolutionary Girl Utena
7. Mai Nakahara – Protagonist, Humanity Has Declined
6. Ai Kayano – Shiba Hibino, Kamisama Dolls
5. Hirata Hiroaki – Kaburagi Kotetsu, Tiger and Bunny
4. Miyuki Sawashiro – Kusaribe Hakaze, Blast of Tempest
3. Ayahi Takagaki – Murasame Sumika, Sasameki Koto
2. Takagi Wataru – Masaru Aoki, Hajime no Ippo
1. Tachiki Fumihiko – Narrator, Kaiji
-A lot of these performances show up in upper mid-tier shows, where the show would have felt blandly above average without them. That might be because of the criteria was using; it’s more obvious that a VA is carrying the weight when he or she is surrounded by the 2006-2007 Cleveland Caviliers. For example, Jun Fukuyama wins my heart for playing the most into-it harem protagonist I’ve ever known. Perfect example of a great VA hamming up a subpar role to greatness. See also Yukari Tamura, B Gata H Kei.
-I don’t care what anyone says about Norio Wakamoto, no person has ever hammed a vocal role harder than MMA announcer Fumihiko did in either season of Kaiji. Especially the second one.
-That is absolutely how I would rank Miyuki Sawashiro’s roles in terms of impressive performance. Fujiko was a giant pair of shoes to fill, but Dalian absolutely rocked a pseudo-fujoshi episode on top of a great buddy-ghostbuster routine and Kusaribe Hakaze worked the flustered angle better than any character except the two slotted directly above her. I can’t wait to see Tsuda Naokatsu direct her Jolyne in 5 years.
-There are probably better VAs in America than Rivas who could have handled the TK role, but in Japan? That’s why Rivas makes it in.
-Touga Kiryuu’s character was a lot more complex than Dio’s all-day-every-day assholery, which is why I personally respect the work Takehito Koyasu did on that role more.
-In terms of both pure uniqueness and uniqueness crossed with emotional range, I’ve never heard anything to match the Murasame Sumika voice. Sure, she was backed by one of the best soundtracks of the last decade, but she outshined every other part of a generally excellent show.
-I’ve made the point about the source material being a KMA/SMA dual champion, but that scene in episode 7 of Space Brothers doesn’t happen in quite the same way if KENN does anything less than a great job at finding the heart of Hibito’s frustrations with Mutta.
-Maaya Uchida’s pending, but where she is feels about right for as well as she did after 12 episodes.
-One of my favorite large-scale voice actor-character combos (#12) had a retirement celebration marred by one of the worst OVAs I’ve ever seen. I really hope Kikuchi Makoto gets better treatment whenever Im@s closes its doors.
-#1 and #2 are currently punching the lights out of each other in Hunter x Hunter. Good times.