[Editor’s Note: This month we’ll feature 2 seiyuus, Hayashibara Megumi and Yukana. I (Ray) didn’t go to PMX and so I’m covering the former. Mike (who got a private interview with Yukana) is swamped with school work for the rest of the month and he’ll cover Yukana in detail later this month or the beginning of next month.]
Strangely, even though she became more well-known even than Mitsuishi Kotono, I didn’t learn about her until later. For 90’s anime, I first watched Sailor Moon, then Nadesico, and then Slayers.
Hayashibara Megumi, often known to many as simply “MEGUMI,” or even”Megumi-sama,” is probably still the most popular seiyuu of all time (I have no official sources to confirm this). The reason I said “probably still” is because in recent years, especially after the year 2000, her number of roles seemed to have dropped significantly, especially as leading characters. However, according to Wikipedia, she is still the most prolific seiyuu, with 236 roles credited to her name.
Megumi Hayashibara (林原 めぐみ, Hayashibara Megumi?), born March 30, 1967 in Kita, Tokyo, Japan) is a very popular Japanese seiyū, lyricist and singer. She is married and has one daughter. Her Blood type is O. She is 155 cm tall and weighs 45 kg. Her three sizes are 80-59-85. Her shoe size is 23 cm. She is not associated with any production (formerly Artsvision).
Here’s an excerpt from from Movietime.com, http://www.movietome.com/people/116262/megumi-hayashibara/bio.html
Megumi Hayashibara was born on March 30, 1967 in Tokyo. She’s been an anime fan since her childhood, her favorite being “Uchuu Senchan Yamato”, later translated into “Starblazers” that she saw when she was 11. As a child, Megumi thought that the characters were real. What a shock when she found out that it was some seiyuus (anime voice actors) that made them alive! From that moment on, Megumi decided to become a seiyuu herself.
The first time I listened to her voice was when I inserted the fansub VHS tape of Slayers into my VCR. Lina Inverse was making me literally rolling on the floor laughing! Her character was sassy, outgoing, fun, strong, tough when needed to be, wild, wacky, and very very smart. Of course she had a team of people with unique personalities to play off of. And in real life, I’m sure Megumi-sama had a great time with the other members on the cast of Slayers. But it was Lina’s, no, Megumi-sama’s voice that had me captivated.
I went through the ups and downs that Lina went through in the show; most of the time I was laughing my ass off, sometimes I felt the tension she felt in when facing ultra powerful enemies like the Dark Lord who’s like the mother of all black magic in the Slayers universe, and other times it was fun to see Lina blushed about Gourry, that rather lovable idiot swordsman. What struck me about Lina’s character was that she’s like a huge tomboy but she has a feminine side that doesn’t easily show up, but it’s there. However, I still loved her wacky voice the best.
But that’s only one of the many voices that Megumi-sama can do.
Slayers really lifted my spirit and I walked with Lina, Gourry, and the rest of the gang through a good part of the ’90s. But later Megumi-sama struck me again with a different character and a different voice.
When I first watched Evangelion I wasn’t impressed at all. I didn’t understand any of the symbolism and I didn’t feel a thing for Shinji, except I hated him and I wished he’d just go out and beat the crap out of whatever angel it was for the week. I didn’t even finish the TV series until years later, when a certain Mike Huang brought me to the power of the dark side – after being explained of what was going on, I realized that I could finish the series, and I learned that Megumi-sama was playing Rei Ayanami.
It was frankly, quite a shock to me because I had been watching Slayers, and I figured that Megumi-sama is known for being wacky (apparently she can be a little wacky and quite humorous in real life). When I first heard Rei Ayanami’s voice I didn’t think much. I’m afraid much of Megumi-sama’s performance was lost on me because at the time, I was in love with Mitsuishi Kotono-san. However, the brilliancy of Megumi-sama’s voice acting really shined there. She was being Lina and Rei in practically the same year! That means for one day she has to act like Lina, and for the next day she had to act like Rei. Fire VS Ice, the tropics VS Antarctica, exaggeration VS subdued…She was being completely opposite people every week! That made me respect her even more.
I almost forgot the Saber Marionette series minu R. Megumi-sama’s performance continues to shine as she acted as a child/girl/teenage girl/grown woman at the same time as Lime, the main female character, explored her growth and feelings. Lime is a wacky, fun, “natural,” pure and stout-hearted character who’s devotion to Otaru is peerless. Megumi-sama was so convincing as just that – a absolutely loyal companion and a love interest. It has been said that it’s even better when your lover is also your friend. Lime and Otaru are the perfect examples of best friends and lovers, and Megumi plays off of Yuka Imai, the voice actor for Otaru in that vein.
Both Mike and I wondered about the decision of casting her as Faye Valentine. But you know what? Megumi-sama played a sexy thief and a hustler well enough and I cannot imagine Cowboy Bebop without Faye around. It’d be rather boring without Faye messing up a couple of things and using her wily feminine charms on stupid men. Megumi-sama was rather wacky sounding most of the time, but her serious voice and her flirtatious voice still fueled many wild imaginations in many Otaku men.
I can’t say that I felt she was awesome in Love Hina, simply because she didn’t appear that often. But whenever she did appear as that tough, funny aunt with a cigarette in her mouth and a cook’s outfit hiding that mature sexy body underneath (I’m talking about the character), I made sure I paid attention and I laughed.
The other half of her ability that impressed me is her singing. One simply cannot talk about her without talking about her singing.
Megumi-sama has, according to Wikipedia, 332 unique songs and appeared in 562 CDs with singing performances on 325 of them! But since there are no official records, it’s quite possible she has done a lot more than that.
Megumis-sama’s voice is passionate, brave, courageous and encouraging in most of her songs, because most of her songs are about being strong, moving on and pursue your dreams. Yes, these themes have been done in anime music infinite amount of times, but nobody does them more convincingly than she does. The power, the passion, the sense of unwavering belief in her strength and her soul (which is required when singing) make her songs quite a treat to listen to. Her voice is crystal clear and her enunciation helps anyone who wants to learn Japanese.
I’m much less fond of her more subdued and quieter songs, however, these often brings a sense of nostalgia for their listeners and the emotional power is different but just as vital and touching.
One thing I must confess is that because she has appeared in a lot less roles, I felt she has been on a decline after 2000. But I read that she decided to take less roles for the sake of family and she also wanted to help new seiyuus, which was why she decided to try out the role of Urashima’s aunt in “Love Hina”. She coached the young female seiyuus on the show. It appears that she knows how to transition from being front and center to more of a background role very well.
She has written a few books, hosts two radio shows, and writes an advice column in Newtype Magazine. For details see here.
It is a shame that she decided not to be front and center as much and also, it’s a shame that the current seiyuu trend in Japan seems to be more focused on little girl and moe voices, and the more sexy and mature voices aren’t favored as much, however, I doubt anything will faze Megumi-sama and I wish all the best in her career as well as her family life. I’m also looking forward to more works that she’ll collaborate with in the future.
Thank you very very much, Megumi Hayashibara-sama, for bringing us many joys and laughs!