Seiyuu Spotlight #2 – Tanaka Rie

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声優 • スポットライト 第二語: 田中理恵

With no further ado, I am pleased to bring you the next part of our ongoing series covering the voices behind the characters, Seiyuu Spotlight #2. This installment of Seiyuu Spotlight features Tanaka Rie. An exhaustive list of her credited roles to date is easy enough to find and I won’t attempt to reproduce it here but chances are you’ve heard her voice before.

With her extensive and considerably diverse range of roles over the course of her career, Rie-chan has earned veteran status; and while she doesn’t have a single, specific niche her voice easily lends itself to playing elegant, refined oujou-sama/onee-sama/mentors and confident, professional women types. That’s not to say that she is in any way limited in the types of roles she can play. To wit, it was Rie-chan who in 2002 gave voice to a certain fair-haired persocom that to this day remains an ubiquitous cosplay favorite at anime conventions everywhere under the sun; a slightly neurotic but nonetheless good-natured high-school teacher forever lamenting her Christmas Cake status in 2008; and from 2007 on, everyone’s favorite fresh, 17-year-old housemaid. Rounding out her repertoire, Rie-chan has also played a number of memorable villains.

The lovely Tanaka Rie. Elegant, no?

In most such cases she’s charmingly malevolent or seductively dangerous, as with Suigintou in Rozen Maiden. However, in certain roles she can be downright terrifying. Case in point: Liang Qi, pathologically sadistic right-hand woman of the primary antagonist in the critically-acclaimed Canaan.

A few words about this character and, more to the point, Rie-chan’s acting ability. You either love Liang Qi or hate her; if I had to pick a side I’d go with the former, if nothing else for Rie-chan’s brilliant, visceral performance. Ruthless, vindictive and psychologically unstable, Liang Qi thinks nothing of wanton, indiscriminate killing and in fact, slaughters innocents with glee. She’s a complete slave to her onee-sama complex and her dependency on Alphard is pretty much the only thing tethering her to any concept of reality. When Alphard tosses her aside, the last trappings of stability give way and she loses it.

She’s such a striking character, consumed by her insecurities  —a completely, utterly desperate woman in every way. Desperate for the one person in the world from whom she seeks acknowledgement to return her twisted love, and at the same time so desperate to destroy the one thing that, in her mind, keeps her from being fulfilled with her precious onee-sama: the thorn in her side and her unconquerable enemy, the “white-haired devil” Canaan. Given the severity and nature of her violent failed yuri tendencies, it was all but inevitable that she follow a path of self-destruction. Liang Qi herself is a byword against obsessive love and obsessive hatred both burning within so many frayed, intertwining strands of a dark, fractured psyche. In short, she’s just such a fascinating, complex character and Rie-chan brings her to life quite masterfully.

On a lighter note, it’s far more common for Rie-chan to voice heroines that, happily, are neither insane nor homicidal in the least. Although Rie-chan does not enjoy superidol status in regards to her singing ability, she has enjoyed success with music in connection with certain roles. Her performance as Lacus Clyne, songstress/political figure and one of the major female protagonists from a title within a certain mecha franchise remains one of her most celebrated roles to this day; her insert songs for the series garnered her significant popular and critical acclaim, giving rise to a fervent cult following.

She is without doubt one of my enduring favorites. The anime world is great in part because we have Tanaka Rie and in the future, with any luck we will have kittens, curry and RPGs named for this illustrious seiyuu. Cheers.

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