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Friday, April 4th

by Kyle Pope,

This year SakuraCon suffered some minor disruptions as a result of world events. Because of Pioneer's prohibition against any of their people traveling during times of international crisis both Yoko Ishida and Maria Yamamoto had to cancel their appearances. In addition Akitarō Daichi and Atsushi Okuda also canceled.

For this first day the bulk of my time and attention was taken up by some lovely company. Two english voice actors who have made quite an impression in the fan community are attending this year.

Hilary Haag firmly entered fan consciousness with her performance as Nene Romanova in ADV's Bubblegum Crisis 2040 and has stayed there ever since. Her distinctive voice has given us such characters as Dortin from Orphen, Yukina Shiratori from Nadesico, Misuzu Gowa from Gasaraki, Ryō Hayakawa from Princess Nine, Karinka from Steel Angel Kurumi, Menchi from Excel Saga and many others. Clearly she is one of the brighter stars in ADV's firmament.

Michelle Ruff is also in attendence and brings with her an equally impressive set of credentials. She has lent her voice to such characters as Tae from Rurouni Kenshin, Fujiko Mine from Lupin III, Kaori from Akira, Lady Meow from Tsukikage Ran, Aoi Sakuraba from Ai Yori Aoshi and Chii from Chobits. Once acting under the pseudonym of Georgette Rose (her mother's name) Ms Ruff is now completely credited under her own name and deservedly so.

Hilary Haag

First was Ms Haag's panel were she took questions from assembled fans. For those who have not had the pleasure of seeing Ms Haag in person she is an utterly adorable young woman and every bit as cute as her voice sounds. One of the more interesting revelations to come out of the panel is that voice acting is not Ms. Haag's primary occupation. She makes her living as an outside sales rep for ADP (the paycheck people). Given the quantity of acting work she is known for it is difficult to imagine that she can maintain a day job. She also enjoys playing psycho characters best noting how much fun she had with Karinka. She also revealed what seems to be a common theme among voice actors, that playing quiet subdued roles is more difficult than more emotional ones. She was commenting on her portrayal of Chloe from Noir who is essentially an emotionless killing machine. Her voice work for ADV is not limited to anime as she has lent her voice to ADV's release of Gamera. Interestingly she states that she has not noted any effect the increasing quantity of televised anime has had on the voice acting career field. Her work with ADV involves her continued work on Noir as well as contributing to other un-named titles.

Michelle Ruff

Michelle Ruff did not hold a panel today so I had the opportunity to interview her in a more intimate session with one other reporter. Unlike Ms. Haag, Ms. Ruff does make her living exclusively as a voice actress. Being in Los Angeles makes this easier for her. Anime is one facet in a wide range of voice over work to which she lends her considerable talents. After years of steady work as supporting characters she has landed the leads in two major Pioneer releases. She portrays the demure Aoi Sakuraba from Ai Yori Aoshi and the enigmatic Chii from Chobits. The interesting thing is that both of these roles go very much against the tomboy type she is primarily known for and she is grateful for the opportunity to stretch her acting legs with them. She says that Chii is her favorite role but it is also her most difficult. For those familiar with the series, Chii doesn't say much. Ms. Ruff was very amused at spending an entire episode essentially saying "underpants" repeatedly. The hard work lay not in what Chii says but in how she says it. This was the challenge as Ms Ruff had to maintain an apparently emotionless surface while communicating Chii's feeling in subtext conveyed through subtle vocal changes. I, for one, think she pulled it off quite well.

Neither Ms Haag nor Ms Ruff have had an opportunity to meet with Japanese seiyuu but they both wish to. Both have expressed an interest in extending themselves beyond simple voice acting and into writing and directing as others have done.

Long time fans of anime have noticed that the quality of english dubs has increased dramatically since the bad old days of grabbing the receptionist and putting a script in her hand. With such talents as Michelle Ruff and Hilary Haag the quality of anime dubs can only get better.

Kyle Pope

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