"I don't want to be labeled as 'Singing Voice-Actor Chiyako Shibahara,'" says Chiyako Shibahara, who broke into voice acting in 1995 with the significant role of idol singer Miho Utsuse in Key the Metal Idol. Shibahara, at the beginning of her planned singing/stage career with several amateur performances to her credit, went to the audition without realizing it was for an anime; she was promptly chosen for the role of Utsuse, a mysterious, many-faced character whom director Hiroaki Sato has said is his favorite character in the series.

Shibahara is one of the not uncommon examples of singers becoming voice actors. She is no idol singer, and also prefers traditional music to Miho Utsuse's rock, but her wide experience in stage performance helped both to portray Utsuse's concerts and to draw cheering crowds at a performance before American fans at Anime Expo '97. It's ironically appropriate that Shibahara, a singer who does not want to be identified as an idol, played Utsuse, who is referred to as the 'last idol' -- the ultimate expression of a dying (or at least changing) breed. Key is about the idol-making process itself, and presents many of the obsessions, dangers and exploitations of the Japanese cult of personality. Both the idol industry and Shibahara needed to be mature for the role to work. But for Utsuse, the natural qualities of her own voice are more important than deep analysis -- perhaps overanalysis -- of the characters she plays. At Anime Expo she was thrilled when an American fan told her he was "in love with her voice", and explained that in her opinion Japanese fans always tried to overanalyze the characters, but that the reason she was hired to play Utsuse, first and foremost, was because of her voice.

Vocally-oriented, Shibahara enjoys both voice acting and singing, although she dislikes TV work. She has no CD singles available, but has participated in the Key soundtracks, vocal data disks, and radio show. Recently she began a humorous radio show,
Cream Soda to Giblet. Her latest roles -- though she has still not done many -- include Gabrinne in Harimogu Harley and the gun-toting Sakura in the anthropomorphic cop comedy Hyper Police.


 

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