Just to prove that I stan actors beyond the badass baritone type. Murase Ayumu first came to my attention in Haiykuu!!, mostly for his impressive range of squeals and squawks. But I didn’t really start paying proper attention to him until Yuri On Ice, and its subsequent seiyuu event.
I love watching actors talking about their roles and seeing them out of character. Having done a fair bit of (amateur) acting myself, I’m fascinated by the acting process and how different an actor can seem from the roles I’m used to seeing them play. Murase struck me as someone who knows how to play up his cuteness when it suits him and who genuinely enjoys playing cute roles, without any of the obnoxious ‘no homo’ attitude that seems to crop up from some actors who need to be ultra macho on-stage.
He’s also got an impressive vocal range, in addition to his proficiency in English (having been born in LA).
As always, the list is in no particular order (the day I can choose a favourite anything is the day the earth turns backwards).
1. Miao, ‘Hey, Your Cat Ears Are Showing’
A cute BL series based on a Chinese webcomic about a mangaka and his cat-boy roommate. Although the episodes are only three minutes long, some get surprisingly emotional, and Murase is a perfect choice for the adorable Miao. The subtitles call him and others like him “ear people”, presumably because when they’re in human form they still keep their animal ears.
See also: Bananya (Murase and Kaji Yuki voice all the bananyas between them); My Roommate Is A Cat (Murase plays the lead cat’s little brother, alongside Tsuda Kenjiro as a much older cat).
2. Minami Kenjiro, ‘Yuri!!! On Ice’
It wasn’t so much Minami’s episodes in the series that grabbed my attention, but more Murase’s performance at the Yuri On Stage event. Firstly in the ‘Carabosse’s Room’ segment talking about Minami’s cuteness (and poking fun at Yasumoto Hiroki), and secondly in the drama segment where Minami actually gets to interact with Yuri Plisetski. Murase and Uchiyama Kouki play against each other brilliantly, and it’s a lot of fun to watch the actual actors do so instead of their characters.
3. Mitsuhashi Kei, ‘Hinomarozumou’
Another sports anime*, but a different character type. In Hinomarozumou, Murase plays the least likely sumo wrestler imaginable. Mitsuhashi is a first year drawn to the sumo club by their recruitment fair, and although he has tons of enthusiasm, he has no fighting experience (unlike the rest of the club) and honestly looks like a chihuahua puppy next to a pack of St. Bernards. But in true sports anime style, he works hard and trains hard and…does start to improve. A bit. I dunno, I didn’t finish watching the first season. But I liked Mitsuhashi.
4. Yasaka Kazuki, ‘Sarazanmai’
Of course Sarazanmai has to be on the list. Kazuki’s breakdown at the end of episode five was heartwrenching, and he also gets to have fun playing Kazuki-as-Sara (although it’s interesting that he still sounds like a boy pretending to be a girl in those scenes, when Murase actually can pull off a convincing female voice).
He’s a decent singer too, getting the first two solos in ‘Sarazanmai No Uta’, and manages the balance between the comedy and the drama very well.
5. Ryou Asuka, ‘Devilman: Crybaby’
This was the show that really cemented Murase as a stellar talent, for me. Not only is he playing against type and speaking from the lower end of his vocal range, but he also makes use of his English skills: about half of his lines are in English, and although he’s by no means as proficient as a native speaker, he manages impressively well with keeping the dialogue fluid and believable.
Once again, he’s paired with Uchiyama Kouki, but this time it’s Uchiyama playing the cute (in the first ep at least) and honourable protag, Akira, against Murase’s morally questionable Ryou. Be warned, if you’ve never seen the series, there’s plenty of gore and body-horror, but if you want to get a real taste of Murase’s range as an actor, then this is a must-watch.
These Seiyuu Lists are proving a lot of fun to write! Should I keep going? Or is there something else you’d rather I write about? Do tell me in the comments!
* It is a real one, because Hosoya Yoshimasa is in it.