This series of posts pays tribute to seiyuu idol units of past and present.
First up, I will cover DROPS (inexplicably pronounced as “drop”), a 5-member idol group formed by Aoni Production.
Members: Kouda Mariko, Kanda Akemi, Nonaka Ai, Kaneda Tomoko, Shiraishi Ryoko
Period of activity: 2004
Releases: 2 singles, 1 album, 1 DVD
Notable Events: DROPS Live Tour, Starchild Dream in Kobe
DROPS was a unit consisting of Aoni’s brightest young talents with veteran seiyuu idol Kouda Mariko as an anchor. The group made its formal debut in January 2004 with Koi no American Football, a cover of a Finger 5 song. In April 2004, DROPS released their 2nd single Furare Kibun Rock’n’Roll, a cover of a TOM CAT song that was used as the ending theme for the anime Sensei no Ojikan DOKI DOKI SCHOOL HOURS.
In August 2004, DROPS embarked on a 3 date tour in support of their album CAN DROPS (released July 2004), taking in venues in Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo. However, prior to the tour, Kouda Mariko injured ligaments in both feet during dance practice sessions and was forced to take to stage in a wheelchair for both Osaka and Nagoya dates. Significant changes had to be made to the choreography and stage production to accommodate Kouda’s injuries, and she managed to take to the stage in Tokyo as the performance was to be filmed for a DVD. In an interview some time later, Kanda Akemi described the whole ordeal as being ‘The Cruel DROPS Tour’. The group’s last performance (with Kouda only taking part in the talk segment as she was still in a wheelchair) was at Starchild Dream in Kobe 2nd in October 2004.
No split was ever formally announced but I think it’s pretty safe to say we’ll never see a DROPS reunion, what with KaneTomo-sensei now signed to a different agency.
Short bios (taken from respective wikis and Starchild site, etc)
Kouda Mariko (國府田 マリ子)
Born 5th September 1969 in Miyashiro, Saitama. Active as a seiyuu, singer, actress and narrator. Her nickname is Mari-nee. The ‘eldest daughter’ of DROPS, she has taken on the role of leader. Despite being the older sister figure of the group, she is prone to bursts of mischief and being a little airheaded, plays the boke to Kanda Akemi’s tsukkomi. For some reason, Mari-nee often gifts Nonaka Ai with bottles of shochu. Her image colour is pink.
・She debuted in 1991 with a recurring role in Goldfish Warning! and went on to play major roles in Ghost Sweeper Mikami (Okinu), Marmalade Boy (Koishikawa Miki), Mamotte Shugogetten! (Shugogetten Sharion) and Kanon (Minase Nayuki)
・She announced her marriage on her radio show Kouda Mariko no GM in 2003. One of her assistants on said radio show was a young Chihara Minori.
・She possesses a B-class motor sports license and was gunning to get upgraded to an A-class, but Aoni put a stop to it.
・In 2010 she was appointed as an ambassador for her hometown of Miyashiro alongside comedian Katagiri Jin (sample newsletter here)
・In 2012 she formed a unit with fellow veteran seiyuu Kingetsu Mami, called MK CONNECTION. They released two anisong cover CDs and performed 2 tours. You can check out samples of their songs here
Kaneda Tomoko (金田 朋子)
Born 29th May 1973 in Yokohama, Kanagawa. 150cm tall. Most famous for her high-pitched voice and peculiar, airheaded behaviour. Her designated role in DROPS is as its “pet”. She says her voice sounds the same even if she inhales helium. Her image colour is yellow.
・She graduated from Kanto Gakuin University with a Bachelor of Engineering from the Architecture Department. However, she felt herself inherently unsuitable for construction-related jobs and instead, took up a human resources job in the Niigata headquarters of the confectionery company Bourbon, delivering salary slips to foreign employees, confirming the number of lunch boxes to be handed out etc. She later changed jobs and worked in the toy department of the Shinjuku branch of Takashimaya, while taking voice acting classes at Aoni Juku at the same time. However, classes clashed with her shifts and she again switched jobs, this time as a safe-deposit box rep with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. In April 2000 she passed the Aoni Production auditions and quit her job to be a seiyuu full-time, making her debut the same year in Mamotte Shugogetten. Her breakthrough came in 2002 as the voice of Mihama Chiyo in Azumanga Daioh.
・She left Aoni in April 2011 and joined her current agency Across Entertainment in August of the same year. Her mainstream profile has since risen with regular appearances on the mainstream variety circuit, including guest spots on Nakai Masahiro (SMAP)’s Nakai no Mado.
・Generating much curiosity is her 2-year marriage to ikemen actor Mori Wataru, 10 years her junior. The pair has appeared on TV together, where hosts probe them on the dynamics of their relationship. As Kaneda is generally hopeless at wife-like things like cooking and cleaning, people wonder why Mori is married to her – his answer is that he chose her because he thinks she would be someone he could imagine being with even when she was ‘an old lady’, and not because she was ‘cute’ or ‘beautiful’. You can watch some of their interactions here, here (LQ) and check out her cooking skills here.
・Currently she hosts web pay-per-view TV programme Kane-Tomo Laboratory, where she interviews (or rather, harasses) rookie seiyuu. The contents have been released on a series of DVDs.
Kanda Akemi (神田 朱未)
Born 10th November 1978 in Nagoya, Aichi. As the most level-headed member, Akemi is designated as the ‘mother’ of the group. She is also in charge of half-heartedly praising Nonaka Ai as being “kawaii, kawaii”. Her image colour is red.
・Her career was very much in its ascendancy when she joined DROPS – within a few months she had taken on the flagship role of her career as Asuna in Mahou Sensei Negima, and was tapped for another idol unit: Aice5.
・Aice5 was led by good friend Horie Yui, whom she had formed a strong friendship with from their time working together on the anime Ultra Maniac. The pair went holidaying in Okinawa for two straight years, in 2004 and 2005. Akemi also appears in the anime adaptation of Horie’s self-created property Miss Monochrome as Mana, the person who cons Miss Monochrome out of her fortune.
・She revealed on her Twitter account in July 2012 that she had gotten married to a salaryman.
Nonaka Ai (野中 藍)
Born 8th June 1981 in Fukuoka. Gaining increasing popularity after voicing the heroine Katase Shima in Stellvia, Aipon is a self-proclaimed ‘iyashi-kei’ seiyuu. Likes to create cute poses for the camera, making everyone around her go “Yes, yes, we know you’re cute” in a deadpan voice. Despite being older in years than Shiraishi Ryoko, she is deemed as the baby sister of DROPS. Her image colour is green.
・She originally wanted to audition for Takarazuka Revue but her voice and lack of height (156cm) put paid to those dreams. She eventually entered Aoni Juku as she was a fan of then Aoni talent Ogata Megumi, who voices her beloved Kurama from Yu Yu Hakusho.
・She is a SHAFT/Shinbo Akiyuki favourite, having been consistently cast in the studio’s productions, starting from Pani! Poni! Dash (Ichijou-san) to the Zetsubo-sensei series (Fuura Kafuka) to Madoka Magica (Sakura Kyoko).
・As part of a project to commemorate the 400th episode of her Nonaka Ai Rarirure, Saturday Night radio show, Aipon took on the challenge of entering the 2012 Kobe Marathon. She completed the race with a time of 5 hours 38 minutes and 46 seconds. Competing in the 2013 edition, she recorded a quicker time of 5 hours 10 minutes and 28 seconds, and again in 2014, narrowed her time down to 5 hours 9 minutes and 2 seconds.
Shiraishi Ryoko (白石 涼子)
Born 7th September 1982 in Kashibashi, Nara. Formerly a member of the idol group Pastel. Her role in DROPS was as 2nd eldest daughter, despite being the youngest. Has a weird sense of humour and can often be found laughing at pointless things by herself. Recently, others have noticed that she has a habit of leaving her mouth wide open, particularly when Kaneda Tomoko goes off on another one of her tangents. Her image colour is white.
・Her nickname Uryocchi was given to her by Kanda Akemi and Nonaka Ai. She used to be called Uryo, but the other two complained that ‘it’s too hard to pronounce’ so they changed it to ‘Uryocchi’.
・She is most well-known for her husky voice which has been often utilized in male roles, most notably in Mahoraba (Shiratori Ryuushi) and Hayate no Gotoku! (Ayasaki Hayate), the latter in which she was cast by the request of author Hata Kenjiro, without needing to audition. In spring 2007 she underwent throat surgery having gone through 6 months of pain, resulting in a short hiatus from Hayate no Gotoku! as well as some of her radio shows.
・She announced her marriage to a salaryman in September 2012, but by July of the following year they had divorced.
・Currently she is active as a member of canguryotch – the band can/goo + uryocchi. The group has been doing lives around the Kanto area but has yet to officially release any material. During their summer tour last year, Nonaka Ai + Kanda Akemi joined them on stage for a good chunk of the setlist, performing DROPS and Negima (Uryocchi, Aipon & Ake-chan were all cast members) song medleys.
When the group was first announced I thought someone at Aoni musta be smokin’ some crazy substances – really, KaneTomo in an idol group??!? It did kind of work out in the end though, since they didn’t really let her sing that much LOL. Still, seeing the pictures and videos of Mari-nee in a wheelchair/on crutches and struggling through the DROPS Tokyo date was heartbreaking and probably my first real taste of “WTF Overworked Idols FFFFFUU stupid agency FFFFF” :<
But! DROPS was what introduced me to Uryocchi’s supreme talents – during the times Mari-nee was out for the count she was pretty much the glue that held the songs together; the other three couldn’t really uhhhh….sing. Hah.