Tomoko Kawakami passed away on June 9, 2011 due to complications of ovarian cancer.
It's taken me about a day to process this information, and I'm still in shock. As you can imagine, I'm even updating my relatively defunct DA journal to talk about it. When I learned the news, I had to be alone to have a bit of a cry by myself. I'm shocked with myself for feeling this way. Who would have thought that the death of a seiyuu would impact me so much?
Even as a little kid, I've probably heard her voice in shows but never realized it, like Chiriko in Fushigi Yugi, for example. It wasn't until Shoujo Kakumei Utena that she really caught my ears. I was about 12 or 13 when I first encountered the show, around '97-'98. I remember seeing a picture of Utena and thinking, "There is no way I can take a main character with pink hair seriously." But then I watched, then I LISTENED, I fell in love with Utena. I think she's about the only main character in any anime and manga that I love. And it was Kawakami-san's voice that did it for me. It caught me off guard, because seeing a girl with pink hair, you'd expect her to have a ditzy-sounding voice. But Utena was boyish and passionate, even when her tones were feminine and dialogue innocent. She was downright HEARTBREAKING in many of the series' memorable scenes.
And every year since then, even when I have already stopped watching anime, I watch Utena. I've grown up and gone through all the awkward phases of growing, and whenever I felt the need to escape, I'd immerse myself in SKU. And looking back, the symbolism of SKU and Utena's journey became clearer. And it was really the character of Utena, and the pure performance of Tomoko Kawakami, that got me through those times. Whenever I think of nobility, whenever I remind myself that I need to do the right thing, it's the voice of Tomoko Kawakami that's running through my head.
I can't tell you how many times I would track down an episode of some random anime I haven't even heard of just to hear and see what kind of character she's played. I can't tell you how many times I've watched Soi Feng fight and cry over Yoruichi. I've abused my repeat and replay buttons listening to drama CDs and songs Kawakami-san has performed.
To Tomoko Kawakami, this is my love letter to you. You've shaped and influenced a nobody like me just by working in a humble job as a seiyuu. I cannot thank you enough for all you've done. Maybe to others, you seem insignificant, but to myself and many more, you were that "shining thing" that we were searching for. Rest in peace and know that we love you.
Listening to: The Sunlit Garden - Shoujo Kakumei Utena OST