The Musical Worlds Of AYA HIRANO & YUI HORIE

Two of the brightest stars on the anime song circuit, Aya Hirano and Yui Horie combined their talents for the supernatural antics of anime series Nura Rise of the Yokai. But prior to this, the pair had built up a formidable history between them…

Pity poor Rikuo Nura. Although human by day, he transforms into a yokai (demon) at night while living in a house full of yokai along with his grandfather who is also (yes, you guessed it) a yokai. Rikuo tries to rebel against his supernatural heritage, but with his grandfather wanting Rikuo to become Third Head of the Nura Clan, things aren’t easy.

Nura Rise of the Yokai features an impressive cast of veteran voice actors. Among them is Aya Hirano (who plays Kana Ienaga) best known for her role as the feisty title character in the 2006 series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Aya also sang on the opening theme ‘Bouken Desho Desho’ and the insanely popular ending theme ‘Hare Hare Yukai’ – the song beloved by many cosplay performers.

Embarking on a musical career, Aya achieved early success with debut album ‘Riot Girl’ while continuing to add to her anime CV with roles in the likes of Lucky Star, Death Note and Nana. However, in 2010, Aya announced that she had been suffering from issues related to a non-malignant tumor. With the tumor sometimes times affecting her vision and speech, she announced that although she would be continuing ongoing anime roles, she wouldn’t be taking on new ones – and also temporarily halted her music career.

Her role in Nura Rise of the Yokai also led to the formation of a new music outfit called Katate☆SIZE which featured fellow seiyuu Yui Horie and Ai Maeda – both of whom also play roles in Nura. Katate☆SIZE features all three of them in character performing several of the ending themes used throughout the series, including the catchy melodies of ‘Sparky☆Start’, the bright and airy ‘Orange Smile’ and the engaging vocal harmonics on ‘Symphonic☆Dream’ .

One of Aya’s associates in Katate☆SIZE also comes with her own rich history in both anime and music. Yui Horie is probably best known for the iconic role of Naru Narusegawa in the classic anime Love Hina. She also played Tohru Honda, the central character in the anime adaptation of Fruits Basket. This was alongside roles in other notable anime titles such as Angelic Layer, School Rumble and Mahou Sensei Negima.

But like Aya, Yui was keen on developing a music career (an early taste can be sampled on some of the Love Hina soundtracks) and released her first album ‘Mizutamari ni Utsuru Sekai’ in 2000. There’s a distinctive charm to Yui’s singing which conveys a gentle, heartfelt style from slow ballads to energetic J-Pop tunes. Among Yui’s impressive anime-related releases is ‘Hikari’, the dance-trance theme from the supernatural-themed anime Inukami!, plus contributions to the slice-of-life series Toradora!, particularly the euphoric ending theme ‘Vanilla Salt’.

Among Yui’s more recent anime work has been contributions to titles such as Penguindrum and Fairy Tail (in which she again stars with Aya Hirano).

Katate☆SIZE’s third member, Ai Maeda, often adopts the stage name of ‘AiM’ or simply ‘ai’ for her musical contributions, which includes theme songs used in various titles in the Digimon series.

Ai also has a number of anime roles to her credit, but Western audiences would be more familiar with Ai due to the fact that she voiced O-Ren Ishii in the dynamic anime segment of Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 film Kill Bill.

Nura Rise of the Yokai is an intriguing insight into how the talents of the seiyuu involved can be utilized to make full use of their impressive voices.

Aya Hirano

Yui Horie

Nura – Rise Of The Yokai Clan Season 1 Part 1 [DVD] is available from Amazon

The original version of this article appeared on the Manga Entertainment Blog 26th August 2013