Voice actress Aya Hirano doesn't seem to want to be a voice actress anymore. The 22-year-old is trying to make the leap to mainstream celebrity and ticking off her rabid fan-base in the process.
Hirano is best known for voicing schoolgirl character Haruhi Suzumiya in the animation adaptation of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. She has also voiced schoolgirl character Konata in the Lucky Star anime. In Japan, voice actors and voice actresses are generally a big deal among anime fans and gamers.
Hirano has also done plenty of voice work for games, including the Haruhi and Lucky Star games, Luminous Arc, Magna Carta II, Yakuza 4, Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology 3 and the Japanese voice location for Assassin's Creed II.
Hirano also does modelling and records pop music.
In Japan, the biggest celebrities are not movie stars, but TV stars. So somebody like Chiaki Kuriyama, who appeared in Kill Bill, isn't as famous as someone like Suzanne, who appears on variety shows and in commercials. So versatile!
Like Hirano, Suzanne started from a hardcore otaku fan-base. But Suzanne has successfully left her past behind her. She started as a singer of Nakano Fujoshi Sisters ("fujoshi" means "rotten girl" and refers to female otaku), but has since left the group, only promising to return someday. (She's also been open about working as a hostess.) But Suzanne, who plays a ditzy-type character on TV, has been smart and subtle about her move. Hirano has been less so. Or maybe she is being utterly brilliant by alienating all her otaku fans?
In a recent appearance on Gout Temps Nouveau, a Japanese program for women, Hirano has confessed to liking and dating older men, talked about her ex-boyfriend who cheated on her and dating with several different partners at the same time.
People talk about stuff like this all the time on Japanese TV (especially on this program!), but for her fan base, this is way too much information. Hirano isn't just a voice actress. She's an idol. And idols are not supposed to be normal girls, but an unattainable ideal.
Things didn't go that well when she was on another program called Best House 123. Hirano was playfully mocked for the "Aya Style" incident in which she wore a bikini upside down. The hosts of the show, comedy group London Boots, make fun of pretty much everyone, so the ribbing was expected.
Likewise, the reaction online to the admissions about her love life should have been expected. Fans have been posting photos of ripped-up Aya photos and destroyed Aya music CDs and generally being over melodramatic. The freakout is way bigger than the time Hirano appeared to be wearing an engagement ring in a photo. This time, it is as though she has betrayed her fans. Hirano might find it hard to nuzzle back to Japanese geekdom, but that's probably the last thing she's planning on doing. Up and onward!