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Actors We Admire: Mayumi Tanaka

I have a tendency to surf through the cast of shows I watch to see who played any memorable characters, and/or what unexpected names are in the cast, and/or if I correctly identified familiar voices. Hence the first in what I intend to be an occasional series of musings on favorite actors of all stripes.

This particular one came about when I was looking through the cast of the relatively compact (and decent) shounen action show Kekkaishi, and happened to spot a familiar name as crotchety grandmother Yukimura: Mayumi Tanaka. (She also voiced young Shishio for good measure.)

Now, if you’re a shounen action show fan, you probably recognize her name, and you certainly recognize her voice. Or, more accurately, one of her many—that woman has got range, and skills.

Talk about shounen action chops—there are not many actors who can boast of voicing major characters in two huge franchises and a minor one in another—she’s the star of One Piece and Krillin (plus a few others) in the Dragon Ball franchise, not to mention minor player Koenma in YuYu Hakusho and granny Yukimura (plus young Shishio for good measure) in Kekkaishi.

Let’s hit some more classics, too: She also voiced gender-confused secondary player Ryuunosuke in the Urusei Yatsura franchise and male hero Pazu in in Laputa.

The roles she plays aren’t usually what you’d call dramatically subtle, but there’s still plenty of drama in them, and she’s always front and center with more than enough gusto to carry the character and the scene. And when the role has more subtle emotion—some of the drama in Kekkaishi, for example—she’s fully up to the task despite years of practice chewing up scenery.

Now, Tanaka obviously has what you’d call a traditional “cartoon” voice, and a heavy lean toward male roles, but she still gets credit for a lot of range—somewhat wacky pirate, somewhat high-pitched brawler, very angry high-school girl, normal boy hero, and largely straight-faced grandmother (actually played pretty close to her real fifty-something age). And that’s without even getting into her dozens of smaller or less-well-known roles.

One of which is a personal favorite of mine (and why I actually recognized her name), the cheerful Okinawan brawler Kanna from Sakura Wars. Her trademark high-pitched, boyish voice is on display, but the reason I remember the character is that Tanaka can also, it turns out, sing—and quite well, at that.  Kanna’s theme song, Shakunetsu Boogie, is so infectiously energetic that it’s almost impossible not to smile when you listen to her belt it out, and there’s some technical prowess mixed in with the energy and colorful character voice.

And just to toss in one of those “really?” bits, she’s done a few amusing dubs: she supplied the voices of Babe in the two Babe movies, John Connor in T2, and Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

So yes, Babe, Mokney D. Luffy, and Krillin have the same voice.

2 Responses to “Actors We Admire: Mayumi Tanaka”

  1. Matt Says:

    Well, I now need to scour the Youtubes for Japanese clips of Babe and Temple of Doom. I wonder if she was offended by the latter- she’d certainly have every right. I’m trying to think of a Tanaka role I’ve heard that I didn’t like but am coming up with a blank. I’m sure there’s at least one out there as no one bats 1000 (even Tomokazu Seki has the abysmal Geisters on his resume).

    Not to be “that guy” but her character in Dragon Ball is Kuririn; Krillin is the modified FUNimation name. It’s one of those name changes I can understand because Kuririn is genuinely hard for a westerner to pronounce.

  2. Ghostwriter Says:

    You must forgive me,but I’ve never heard of this person so I can’t comment myself. I’ve only seen the English language versions of stuff like “Dragon Ball” and others like it. I probably wouldn’t know who you were talking about anyway.