Don't Let a Little Thing Like a Sex Video Slow You DownS

During the 1990s, when Neon Genesis Evangelion exploded in popularity, voice actress Yuko Miyamura was along for the ride. Like many other voice actresses, she wasn't merely someone who read lines, she was an idol. Fans worshipped her.

That is, until the unthinkable happened: A porno.

In Japan there are, generally speaking, idols who are supposed to be pure and idols who are not. The pure idols are usually young popstars and voice actresses. They've got a girl-next-door quality to them, and like American idols during the 1980s and for much of the 1990s, they are supposed to refrain from things that most humans do: You know, have lives, get married, have sex, or even make people. The other types of idols, such as voice actress Chiaki Takahashi, are given the go-ahead to run wild with their sexuality.

Image is extremely important in Japan—not just for celebrities, but for regular people. While Western celebrities can seemingly re-invent themselves over and over again and survive scandal after scandal, the Japanese public is far less forgiving, which is why super famous variety show host Shinsuke Shimada left the entertainment industry after a scandal broke out over ties with organized crime.

This pigeonholing is why game and anime voice actress Aya Hirano is catching heat for leaked photos of her with male companions. Those photos are tame, but they place against type. So much of image in Japanese entertainment is manufactured the way it was in Hollywood during the old studio system. With Hirano losing fans over the photos, Japanese publication Men's Cyzo looked at other voice actresses who weathered even worse storms, with the worst of them all seeming to be Yuko Miyamura.

As the voice of Asuka Langley Soryu, one of Evangelion's principle characters, Miyamura grabbed a brass ring in Japanese voice acting. The anime took the country by storm during the 1990s, and Miyamura scored other major roles, such as Kazuha Toyama in the Detective Conan anime. She also released CDs and picked up game roles like Chun-Li in the Street Fighter Alpha and EX games as well as Akane in Pokémon.

But in 1997, a porno, dubbed Experiencing Erotic S&M as a Couple, surfaced. The video was apparently from when she was in her early 20s. It wasn't until the following spring that Japanese tabloid Friday ran a story on the video. Fans were certain that the woman in the video was Miyamura, who was still riding high with Evangelion. But the video, combined with her marriage, quick divorce, and second marriage changed the way fans viewed her.

By 1999, Miyamura was in the hospital from fatigue (it was later discovered that she suffered from Graves' disease). Outside Evangelion and Conan, the voice work slowed, and the TV appearances came screeching to a halt. The music CDS, always a good indicator of an idol's popularity, stopped. Her image had been changed.

It's a shame the scandal more than anything else ultimately impacted her work, because Miyamura, who is originally from Kobe, is a talented voice actresses and often voices characters in the Kansai dialect. While work dropped off significantly, Evangelion and Conan stuck with her. She also picked up memorable roles, such as the lady who explains "Battle Royale" in the landmark film of the same name, and more recently took over the role of Larxene in Kingdom Hearts. She continues to occasionally appear in movies, and every once in a while, she pops up on TV to talk about Evangelion.

It's no longer a popularity contest. Game makers and anime companies who now hire Miyamura aren't doing so because she has otaku fans. They do it because she's good at her job and that's more important than baggage, innuendo, or even image. Voice actors and actresses are supposed to become the characters fans love, not be the characters.

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(Top photo: 宮村優子 | PR)

You can contact Brian Ashcraft, the author of this post, at bashcraft@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.