This week I'd like to focus on Megumi Ogata, who stars as Shinji in our beloved Evangelion. She was born on June 6th, 1965 in Tokyo... blah blah, you can get stats like that on any web page. But what makes her unique? She is one of the few voice actresses who can convincingly play male roles and sound really good. Tonight's Eva episode will surely be testimony to the ability of her vocal chords, with which she has been gifted, that enable her to produce such deeper voices.
Her debut was in '92 as Kurama in The Poltergeist Report (Yu Yu Hakusho), a 900-year-old fox-spirit who got reincarnated in human form. Because of the popularity of the series, there was much controversy when she was chosen as his voice because fans were uncertain that a woman could play his role adequately. Indeed, at that time, there weren't any notable voice actresses who could play a guy past puberty - Masako Nozawa of DBZ fame excluded (I think she's played only one female role thus far, and that didn't sound "right" - but she mostly does younger boys). All concerns were blown away, however, at how perfectly the voice gave life to Kurama's beauty and composure. One could only express awe at the studio authorities who saw Miss Ogata's potential and decided to risk that skepticism. She had auditioned for her part when she was having trouble just getting by, but the role instantly launched her into fame. Kurama's mysterious character and beauty, combined with the voice with a hint of seduction, subtlety, and delicacy that only a woman's voice can provide, was a phenomenal hit among teenage girls.
Then came her role as Haruka, or Sailor Uranus, in Sailor Moon. This time, she was portrayed as an "older woman" who surpassed the concept of gender - she was a subject of admiration among the younger Sailor Scouts. Only with Miss Ogata's voice would that relationship, especially with Sailor Neptune, have been possible. Miss Ogata became so popular that Animage magazine created a monthly feature that gave fans a chance to meet her and go on a "date" with her.
She speaks of Shinji as how she could sympathize with his personality and how she could immerse herself into his mode of thinking and emotions while playing him. That must have been stressful on her part - but that slightly wavering quality in his voice, gingerly reaching out to others while still possessing surprising force, fits so well that it is amazing. Miss Ogata has certainly been taking on some of the juiciest roles in anime that it is worth keeping up to date on her progress.