(note: I actually posted this on one of my defunct Tumblrs before. Re-editing with updates & preserving it here before it sinks into the sands of time…)
1999. 24-year old Konishi Hiroko is at the top of her game. Possessing a naturally cute, girly voice yet versatile enough to handle sexy and mature female roles as well as those of young boys, Konishi won plenty of plum roles – Nene Romanova in Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, Sawanoguchi Sae in the Mahou Tsukai Tai! series, the titular role in NHK’s Ojamaru, Nanohana Jiyu in Jubei-chan. Future prospects look bright – she’s voiced the important role of Honda Tohru on the drama CD adaptation of the popular Fruits Basket manga and if that gets turned into an anime, she’ll be one very famous seiyuu indeed.
2000. It all falls apart. Ill-advised comments by Konishi and her ‘representatives’ that allude to the fact that she wishes to pursue a career as a ‘tarento’ instead of as a seiyuu results in a falling out with her agency ARTSVISION. Konishi signs up with the large Tanabe Agency management company for a while, but the work offers have already dried up. Nobody in the anime business will touch her, mainstream showbusiness does not know or care who she is. By 2002, Konishi was out of work.
If you read back now the various reports documenting her downfall, you’ll see a lot of speculation on how Konishi (or her people) was unhappy with the meagre stipends seiyuu were getting paid at the time and that she felt that she deserved more. Konishi and her team perhaps felt that her position as one of the best up-and-coming seiyuu would provide some leverage – so they struck out and tried to negotiate for more money. Her paymasters were not impressed, and Konishi was frozen out of the business.
Back then, the seiyuu and mainstream entertainment industries were not as closely intertwined as they are today, where you see people like Hirano Aya being able to shift from one to the other without being overly affected. The seiyuu from the mid-2000s up to today have the luxury of regular media exposure that Konishi and her peers did not. Without the backing of a big name agency like ARTSVISION, Konishi found herself isolated and eventually, ostracized.
After Konishi disappeared from the seiyuu world, two of her roles – Nanohana Jiyu in the Jubei-chan series and Honda Tohru in Fruits Basket, went to Horie Yui, a young seiyuu who had just gotten her big break in the anime adaptation of Akamatsu Ken’s Love Hina. Looking at Hocchan today, you wonder what Konishi could have achieved had she not been so rash.
Despite various rumours linking Hiroko to anti-nuclear demonstrations (she actually left a comment in support of the Nuclear Power World Conference 2012 Yokohama) and what not, I was actually quite surprised when she resurfaced in 2013 with a new agency Office Squirrel. She now has a personal blog and Twitter, and released a single SAYONARA ARIGATO.
It is out of the question that Hiroko will ever be able to make a return to TV anime, but she has done a bit of voice work for mini-dramas. Rather than her work however, I am more concerned by other things I have been reading on the nets.
According to wiki and so on:
She teamed up with Ryo Arshe (Ryo Asakawa), her musical collaborator since 1998 and the artist NAOMI, forming the musical unit LITTLE CURE, which provided such tunes as the Eurodance composition “bit of love” for Konami’s music video game Pop’n Music. Ryo Arshe is also the head of the record label she moved to, as well as chief representative of CCAS Ombuds, a judicial watchdog organization for whom she does occasional legal work.
She has a bachelor’s degree in law, and has passed the national bar exam, doing occasional legal work for Ryo Arshe’s judicial watchdog organisation. She has also been active filing legal claims to demand the removal of internet material she considers defamatory.
That last line in itself seems like a mild statement but if you read this and Arshe’s twitter, it all starts getting a bit freaky with all the threats to sue people who have speculated or written blog posts on the reasons for her disappearance from the seiyuu business all those years ago. Some of those articles have been taken down, and Konishi’s wiki has been aggressively edited over the last couple of months O_O
PS if this page suddenly disappears you’ll know why.