Since I had so much fun compiling last week’s listicle about Suwabe Junichi roles, I thought I’d have a second bash at it with another of my favourite seiyuu: Hirakawa Daisuke.
Unlike a lot of seiyuu whom I got to know and like over the span of several performances, Hirakawa is an actor I latched on to the first time I heard him. He’s a regular in drama CDs as well as anime, and also does Japanese dubs of western films – you might have heard him dubbing for Loki in some of the ‘Thor Ragnarok’ clips that became a bit of a meme some months ago.
Once again, these are in no particular order because I am incapable of choosing a favourite anything.
1. Rei Ryuugazaki, ‘Free!’
‘Free!’ was my first experience of sports anime, a genre I’d never really been interested in before. Fandom was going nuts over some ‘gay swimming anime’ and I’d seen it mentioned in a couple of articles with positive reviews. Obviously, I was curious, and had to check it out, even though I wasn’t seriously expecting any actual gay content.
Rei was easily the most relatable character for me; uptight nerd who can only relate to things by researching them first and who struggles to fit into a friendship group with a shared history he doesn’t understand. Hirakawa gets to show so many different sides to Rei as well, from his initial hautiness, to uncertainty and then triumph as he learns to swim, to his anger and resentment towards Rin, and the soft, fun friendship he shares with Nagisa.
It’s a real shame that the second and third seasons gave little time for both Rei and Nagisa’s development. I hope we get to see more of them in the new content scheduled for 2020.
2. Sagara Rei, ‘Love Stage’
Oh look, another uptight nerd called Rei! But this uptight nerd becomes a lot more interesting when you learn his backstory. The anime only hints at what’s explored in the light novel and spin-off manga ‘Backstage’, which reveals that Rei was a former delinquent who was literally rescued from the gutter by Izumi’s father, a famous idol-singer. After working hard on self-improvement to prove himself worthy of Sena’s generosity, Rei became infatuated with him, but somehow ended up in a relationship with his eldest son, Shougo.
Although it’s a less varied performance than the other Rei, it’s still a fun one, with Hirakawa playing authoritative and caring in (mostly) equal measures.
3. Noriaki Kakyoin, ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’
Although it’s a role best known for that cherry-eating scene (and what an odd day in the booth that must have been for Hirarin), Kakyoin gets to do a lot more than just make bizarre noises. He’s a relatively refined and reserved young man in a franchise full of dumb rowdy boys, and a cool counterpoint to Jotaro’s growly delinquent.
I still miss him and his funky earrings.
4. Kouji Tanaka, ‘Ajin’
HIrakawa’s rich, deep voice is strangely well-suited for the menacing Tanaka. As one of the show’s morally questionable antagonists, it kind of feels like he’s playing against type, or at the very least it’s not a role I’d have matched him with initially. But somehow it works to great effect. Hirakawa plays a lot of suave, cool, mature types, but here he gets to turn the cool mature role on its head as a villain with complete faith in his superiority over others.
It’s interesting to compare the cold ruthlessness he shows in this role with someone like Sagara Rei’s similarly calculating but secretly caring nature.
5. Gentoo Penguin, ‘Shirokuma Cafe’
One sign of a good actor, for me, is how they handle silly roles – gag characters or mascot characters. Many of the other animals in ‘Shirokuma Cafe’ are played reasonably straight, as the humour largely comes from the situations and the dialogue, so the three penguins who make up the South Pole Squad are a real treat to watch. They’re first introduced trying to sell a penguin trading card game, but they get a chance to shine in a later episode about a penguin tokusatsu show (where you can also hear Miyano Mamoru as a porcupine idol-singer, and Yoshino Hiroyuki, a.k.a. Present Mic, as a villainous rockhopper penguin).
‘Shirokuma Cafe’ is a seiyuu fan’s dream, and Hirakawa, like everyone else, makes the most of a relatively small gag role.
Hazuki, ‘Hybrid Child’ – a fascinating 3-part shounen ai OVA about the development of artificial humans which ‘grow’ and learn depending on how much they are loved by their owners. Hazuki is an abandoned hybrid child taken in by the heir to a noble family who has to face the realisation that a hybrid child might not live forever, no matter how much they are loved.
Asahina, ‘Brothers Conflict’ – I’ve said it before: bonkers show, stellar cast. Watch it if you want to listen to seiyuu being suave and romantic, but don’t pay any attention to the plot.
Avoid at all costs:
‘Diabolik Lovers’ – I went looking through Hirarin’s back catalogue some time back for new shows to try, saw a show about a family of vampires, and hit ‘play’ without looking up the actual plot. Everything about this show is wrong, from the initial premise (girl gets dropped off at a mansion, gets told ‘you live here now’, and then is left to the mercy of the vampires who live there and also has to go to school with them), to the unbelievably rape-y subtext of the vampires’ bloodlust, to the implied mother/son incest and the fact that Hirakawa’s character insists on calling the girl ‘bitch-chan’.
‘School Days’ – it may be the role that made Hirakawa’s name, but there isn’t a single likeable character in this whole show. It’s not worth it, not even for the memes.
Think there’s a great Hirarin role I’ve missed? Or is there a seiyuu whose roles you’d like me to write about? Tell me in the comments!