Anime and video game voice actress Aya Hirano continues her move into mainstream Japanese entertainment. Today, she appeared on popular afternoon show Waratte Iitomo! ("It's OK to Laugh!"). Yes, that's a big deal!
While game and anime vocal talent might be popular, they exist largely on the periphery of the entertainment world. This past August, the 23-year-old Hirano appeared on another program and mentioned how she liked older men and how her ex-boyfriend cheated on her.
Topics such as these are typically off limits for Japanese idols like Hirano. They shatter the illusions fans create and alienate fans. Hirano has achieved idol-like status through her pop music and voice work in anime like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Lucky Star and video games like Eternal Sonata and Yakuza 4.
But she's moving beyond her initial otaku fan base. Waratte Iitomo is a Japanese institution and appearing on it is a big deal. That's singer Tsuyoshi Kusanagi next to her. He once went on a drunken, naked rampage in Tokyo.
The "duck face" ("ahiru guchi") Hirano is making is supposed to be cute. She isn't alone in doing it, and Japanese women have been making that face for the past 10 or 15 years!
With Hirano making more an more mainstream appearances on talk shows and variety programs, that probably means fewer voice acting roles in games and anime. Shame for her fans that truly enjoy her work. But, hey, now you can see her on TV - and making a duck face!