Counter-casting of seiyuus in anime

January 14, 2009

“In commercial films, you tend to see a lot of type-casting. In my last violent instalment of revenge trilogy, I wanted to try what Hitchcock called ‘counter-casting’. Lee Young Ae grabbed my attention because Koreans have such a narrow pre-conception of her image as being nice, gentle and forgiving. One of my ongoing artistic challenges as a director is exploiting images of these well-known actors…”

– Park Chan Wook, director of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Lee Young Ae as a killer in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

left: actress Lee Young Ae type-cast as a gentle and loving woman, right: Lee Young Ae as a killer in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

And yet, there is much more to counter-casting than simply portraying a character that goes against your type-cast actor’s image. Hitchcock in his Psycho for example, used ‘gentle pretty boy’ image of Anthony Perkins to deceive audience into believing that he was innocent, consequently evoking greater shock when people later found out that he was the murderer. On the other hand, Park Chan Wook deliberately kept juxtaposing Lee Young Ae‘s past character (gentle, loving woman) to her present character who is a manipulative and relentless goddess of vengeance; a female incarnation of Edmond Dantes. So,

-Counter-casting is not simply a matter of choosing which type-cast actor to play a different character. How to use that said actor’s pre-conceived image, is the question that is just as, if not more, important.

-Usually greater the type-cast actor’s pre-conceived image, greater the impact. I could predict the murderer in Psycho possibly because I didn’t see Perkins the same way as the people of 1960s era did. And maybe, my fascination with such a powerful character transformation of Lee Young Ae could be due to all the gentle characters she was type-cast in previous films/dramas.

So where have we seen counter-casting in anime?

Lelouch

After the shistorm that was Geass, it’s fair to say that many were inevitably reminded of Lelouch when Jun Fukuyama voiced Daichi (from Akikan!) with that same air of confidence and asshole attitude. I don’t know why but it was funny. Maybe it’s because of how hilariously low his character was compared to Lelouch. Or maybe it had nothing to do with the casting. In any case, if this was meant to be counter-casting, then I certainly didn’t find such one-dimensional gimmick as intriguing as Park Chan Wook‘s meticulous weaving of type-cast and a counter-cast in a juxtaposing narrative. Interesting for what seems to be yet another guilty pleasure though. Other than that, I unfortunately don’t know much of, if there’s any, successful counter-castings in anime. Perhaps hashihime might know.

What is Kugara-chan doing there o_0

What is Kugara-chan doing there o_0

Personally I’d love to see a well-executed counter-casting of Kugimie Rie. No seiyuu is as royally type-cast as her short-tempered, flat-chested and ear-rapingly high-pitch voiced loli, who bounces back and forth from tsun-tsun to dere-dere so much, you will roll your eyes more than is needed to follow every single volley played at Australian Tennis Open (which is btw, on 19th January GO SHARAPOVA ^_^). There are just so many opportunities to exploit this type-cast image of her. Maybe she can first start acting as yet another loli tsundere, then gradually transform into a more mature woman and…well actually, developing as anything besides tsundere would be good, that’s how ridiculously type-cast she is.

So, do you remember any memorable counter-casting of seiyuus in anime? Or is there a seiyuu you’d like to see counter-cast in any particular way?

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7 Responses to “Counter-casting of seiyuus in anime”

  1. Sasa Says:

    Hmmm, actually Kugimiya Rie also plays Matsudaira Touko in Maria-sama ga Miteru (and many other characters who don’t look that tsundere to me). Perhaps she is not a calm Yamato Nadeshiko, but she’s not really a tsundere as Touko at all: She’s more a mischevious, smart and sometimes slightly mean character. I think that Kugimiya Rie is actually a versatile seiyuu, it’s just that she is only known for her tsundere roles.

    Ah, I am sure there are many examples of seiyuu playing very different roles, they are just not as prominent.

  2. gaguri Says:

    Ah yes, she does play a range of roles outside her type-cast character. Two examples I can think of are Al (FMA) and Kagura (Gintama). And looking at her magnificient list of roles, I’m sure there are more (and I agree that the voice actress herself is versatile…just not her most popular characters).

    I was more interested in the way the directors would use type-cast image of actor/seiyuu that is ingrained into the majority of audience. For example, Lee Young Ae did play other roles, such as a military officer in JSA. But Park Chan Wook was still able to channel people’s “narrow pre-conception” of her image by first creating a gentle, loving character (where we’d then expect yet another nice lady we know of Lee Young Ae), then juxtaposing that with a relentless goddess of vengeance. I think the effect is that her transformation feels more terrifying. So I guess I was more interested in different ways in which we might exploit that firmly established type-cast images of seiyuus.

  3. animekritik Says:

    Sorry to break your heart, but sharapova is out of the australian (yah, she called me on the phone the other crying blah blah). No, really, she’s injured.
    I think it’d be interesting to have an entire cast of one popular sign up en masse for a totally different show. for example a shojo cast all doing a mecha series together (Marmalade Gundam, we could call it)…

  4. gaguri Says:

    ;_;

    Australian Cup is one of those rare sporting occasions that I actually follow, it sure is a bummer to see her absent. Now who am I supposed to cheer for.

    And I think your idea might be fun for a short OVA title. I’d personally go for manly seiyuus like Nakata Jouji and Wakamoto Norio doing something like Marimite. Although that might turn out to be a bad parody of BL anime.

  5. TheBigN Says:

    “I’d personally go for manly seiyuus like Nakata Jouji and Wakamoto Norio doing something like Marimite.”

    I’d have to agree. It would make things pretty interesting, at least.

  6. ghostlightning Says:

    You’ll be missing Masha’s ear-splitting shrieks in the Aus Open this year. I’m excited to see Nole defend, but I’ve no idea how the women’s tourney will turn out.

    Jun Fukuyama’s turn as Luca in Macross Frontier was remarkable counter-casting. You wouldn’t recognize him!

  7. gaguri Says:

    @TheBigN
    Not sure why that hasn’t happened yet. I would check it out no matter how bad it is, if only for curiosity’s sake.

    @ghostlightning
    Since Sharapova is out, I’m not really interested in women’s anymore. As for men’s, we’ll see. Maybe there will be another Tsonga to root for.


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