For the last 20 years, Megumi Hayashibara can be considered the Queen of Seiyuus. For those that don’t know, her longest role to date is Musashi, aka Jesse, from Pokemon. Not only is she active as a seiyuu, she has also contributed to many theme and image songs. As we explore what we consider her top 5 roles she has done throughout her career, it’ll give an excellent sense showing how multi-talented Megumi Hayashibara truly is.
5. Lina Inverse from Slayers
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 7, 1995 – September 29, 1995
Kicking off this list is one of the 90s most iconic characters, Lina Inverse from Slayers. In Slayers, Lina is a traveling teenage sorceress who has a knack for getting into trouble. Through this character, Hayashibara can bring out both the serious and comedy elements of this cult fantasy series. She can be mature and she can be destructively crazy, and Hayashibara is an actress does a great job of capturing those core qualities of Lina. Through this role, viewers can get an excellent balance of how she can soften and roughen her voice when required, and be able to distinguish them once they immerse themselves with her performance.
4. Christina Mackenzie from Pocket no Naka no Sensou (Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket)
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: March 25, 1989 – August 25, 1989
Compared to Hayashibara’s other roles, Christina is meant to be very unassuming as she presents herself as the typical girl next door when in fact, she’s a Gundam pilot! Though her performance isn’t as recognizably bombastic as that of Lina’s, she is always enthusiastic to spend time with Al, the main character. And whenever you hear that enthusiasm, you can recognize that pitch in a more natural setting. Whenever she’s in combat, Christina doesn’t get excited but stays calm and collected. She may not have hardened experience, but still has courage. As a mech pilot, Hayashibara does an excellent job of portraying Christina’s rookie naivety when she is out on the field thanks to the advance armor and weaponry of the ALEX, the Gundam she pilots.
3. Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 3, 1998 – April 24, 1999
Yes, a lot of people debate that the English dub to Cowboy Bebop is superior, but with the inclusion of Megumi Hayashibara as Faye Valentine, purists have a strong argument on their side. As opposed to playing a teenager like a large majority of her work, you get to see Hayashibara shine as a femme fatale. The pitch she brings to Ranma and Lina are largely recognizable, but as Faye, she isn’t as hyper or aggressive, but delivers a poker face intensity in conjunction to her personality. It’s not that she comes across as mature, but considering the experiences the character goes through, she hides the fact that she is world weary upon her introduction, and she’s trying to get through life the best she can. She is initially unassuming, but when she finally bonds with the Bebop crew, you see that she’s truly a caring person beyond the money. Compared to her large body of work, Faye is more multi-dimensional and Hayashibara does a great job of bringing it all out.
2. Ranma Saotome from Ranma 1/2
- Episodes: 161
- Aired: April 15, 1989 – September 25, 1992
If any character can be considered the break out role for Hayashibara, it certainly has to be that of female Ranma in Ranma ½. Her performance perfectly matches that of Kappei Yamaguchi, the male Ranma. She captures the character’s stubborn and aggressive nature in the same manner that Yamaguchi does. This is most certainly the role that also made audiences recognize her more famous husky voice. For those who aren’t fluent in Japanese, she tends to use male standard speech standards. Since the character is supposed to be male, even as a female, Ranma retains not just standard male speech patterns, but is more definitively masculine. For example, as opposed to the standard “watashi” as a first person pronoun, whether in male or female form, the character will use “ore,” the masculine first person pronoun in Japanese. To native or fluent Japanese speakers, hearing a woman using such speech will seem out of the ordinary, but it shows that Megumi Hayashibara finds a way to capture who Ranma truly is when it’s her turn at the mic.
1. Rei Ayanami from Shinseiki Evangelion (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 4, 1995 – March 27, 1996
This controversial and hit series is filled with a cast of who’s who in relation to its original Japanese cast. If there is one character that cements the legacy of Megumi Hayashibara, it certainly has to be the role of the quiet and reclusive Rei Ayanami. Though she was already famous in Japan prior to being casted as Rei, her performance as Rei forever changed how fans perceived her. Most of her other famous roles listed here tend to portray her more rambunctious and crazy. When you compare this role to let’s say Ranma and/or Lina, it’s be hard to believe they’re played by the same actress.
While her louder voice is easy to recognize due to its husky pitch, her performance as Rei who is not over-reactionary like her other roles, masterfully demonstrates that she is multi-talented as an actress. As Rei, you truly feel her isolation and her mystique. It shows that Hayashibara doesn’t have to be type casted to playing hyperactive teenage girls and that she can show range with the type of characters she can play as.
Last, we would like to make some honorable mentions to her roles as Aki in Tekkaman Blade and as Ai in Video Girl Ai. So, what are some other notable roles do you think should be acknowledge? If you got any, please leave your ideas in the comments!