Maaya Sakamoto leads a dual career as both a renowned J-pop vocalist and a talented seiyuu (voice actress).
Maaya was born on March 31st, 1980 in Tokyo. At the age of fifteen, she became an overnight sensation for her work in the immensely successful fantasy/mecha anime series, Vision of Escaflowne. She provided the series' seifuku wearing school-girl-turned-mystical-seer protagonist, Hitomi, with a fitting voice as well as singing the episodic opening theme song, "Yakusoku wa Iranai." While her voice acting of Hitomi wasn't bad by any means, it was this opening song that really opened people's eyes, or ears rather.
Since her debut in Escaflowne, she's gone on to voice countless female characters in anime and video games, star in a handful of plays and films and work with musical mastermind Yoko Kanno for four albums of J-pop goodness.
Maaya the Musician
Ranging from soothing ballads to sultry jazz to goofy children's songs to straight up marketable J-pop, Maaya croons across a wide spectrum of genres. While her versatility across musical styles is respectable, her voice exceeds in mystical, atmospheric pieces. At her best, her pure, breathy timbre straight up gives the chills after a few poised and spectral vibratos. She sounds forlorn, transcendental and serene all with a soft under stroke of compulsion... As airy Enya, but not quite as ethereal, or maybe as ambrosial as Madonna but without all the sluttiness.
Even though she has a great singing voice, a large portion of Maaya's lyrics and songs are done by other people. Despite being the icon marketed on the front of her four CDs, there is little pretention about her role as simply an accompanying vocalist for the music. This isn't necessarily a bad thing at all, for it is the illustrious musical composer Yoko Kanno that has written most of the music Maaya accompanies. Furthermore, as Maaya has matured, she's become increasingly involved in the musical and lyrical creation of the songs she sings.
Another aspect that has matured in Maaya is her English and its influence in her songs. For example, in "Yume iro no Lolipop," a song from her younger years, she pronounces "lolipop" as "roripopu." Despite her feeble Engrish beginnings, she has improved greatly nows sings entire songs in near perfect English. "Gravity," the closing theme song from the popular anime series Wolf's Rain, is a perfect sample of her growth as bilingual songstress.
Three years after her first CD, Grapefruit, Maaya performed her first live concert June 25, 2000 in Tokyo, Japan and has played live at least four other times since then.
And now, a highly scattered and incomplete discography (for Maaya has appeared on an obscene amount of anime singles which may or may not exist, as many of which fansites contradict each other, the info is totally untranslated, the sands of time claimed them in eternal bondage and other general confusions):
With so much Maaya and so little time, you may wonder which songs to sample in this confusing mass of J-pop. For all out amazingness and crazy mystical music, I highly recommend her later singles (i.e. Hemisphere, Gravity and Tune the Rainbow). For the true, disturbingly power of cuteness, I command the listening of Shippo no Uta and Youke no Octave.
Sakamoto the Seiyuu
Maaya Sakamoto generally plays the roles of supporting characters. To make a further generalization, she usually plays the role the mysterious, mystical and powerful yet benevolent, kawaii and spiritual female.
The roles she voice acts aren't just restricted to otaku crowd pleasers. She voiced the Japanese dub of several popular pieces of American media: Queen Amidala from Star Wars Episode I, Juliet from Romeo and Juliet, Aeris from Kingdom Hearts (gah, Mandy Moore did her voice in the English voice dub, how upsetting) and Lisa from Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball.