Over the years as an anime fan I have picked up a few skills from just watching enough anime. They include the ability to notice animation errors, an eye to detect directorial styles, and an understanding of Japanese trends and tropes. You always have these abilities to some degree but the more you watch the better you are at it. The one skill that Narutaki and I have never been that great at no matter how much we watch anime is the ability to instantly recognize voice actors. We are far better at it then when we started the blog but honestly that is because the only direction we could head was up. We have the basic detect Norio Wakamoto and recognize Rie Kugimiya skill set but we are far below the proficiency of any decent seiyu aficionado.
But there is one voice actress I can always recognise and it is very unsurprisingly Ayako Kawasumi. While I remember her playing Melfina in Outlaw Star but she really caught my attention as Lafiel in Crest of the Stars. She has played roles I love like Megumi Noda in Nodame Cantabile and Kanako Ohno in Genshiken. She also starred in shows I have much less love for like Mahoro Ando in Mahoromatic and Aoi Sakuraba in Ai Yori Aoshi. But to cut to the heart of the matter the character that trained me to recognize her voice is very clearly Saber. If there is any character that is going to make me remember your voice it is her. So when Fate/Extra came along they announced that while the playable Saber maybe very familiar looking she would be a very different character to the point where she would be voiced by Sakura Tange. So hearing this new Saber leads me to an odd bit of cognitive dissidence which is what this post is all about.
Past this point is spoiler country. While I assume the identity of Fate Stay/Night Saber is firmly entrenched in the “No. *I* am your father ” territory for anime fans the identity of Fate/Extra Saber is far less a piece of common knowledge.
In Fate/Extra you are given the choice of three different servants one of which is a red clad warrior of the Saber class who is similar to the iconic blue themed King of Knights. But if you choose this red swordswoman the difference is made very clear very quickly. The original Saber is stoic and reserved. A woman of duty and honor she is very spartan in her lifestyle. While she can be very proud she can be very humble depending on the circumstance. She is not a big talker and prefers deeds to words. She goes out of her way to be gender neutral and is very reserved in her few dramatic emotional moments. Even then is usually small changes in tone and speech. While Fate/Stay Night Saber is revealed to be Arturia Pendragon the Fate/Extra Saber is in fact Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus and their personalities are like night and day. Fate/Extra Saber is a hedonist who does everything with an overindulgent gusto. She fights like a demon when she is on the battlefield and indulges herself in vice twice as much when at rest. She is very openly bisexual saying the only things she cares for is what is beautiful. She is loud and opinionated often butting into conversations, throwing around advice, and insulting your enemies as she sees fit. She boisterous and arrogant and all her proclamations are that of an empress that is partially divine. Each seiyus puts that unique character into their respective performance. Ayako Kawasumi plays Saber in a very understated manner with a regal but reversed tone. She allows occasional variations to sink in when appropriate but has them be understated so they are noticeable but not out of character. Sakura Tange on the other hand is just eating up the scenery in her performance. I often felt like she is channeling Megumi Hayashibara’s performance of Lina Inverse. I mean just compare the two and see how frighteningly similar they are.
This all leads to the odd surrealness to my current media. Ayako Kawasumi is ingrained in my head as the voice of Saber from anime, movies, visual novels, video games, drama CDs, image albums, and variety of other places where they can stick a talking Saber. So it is odd hearing a strange voice coming out of Saber even if it is Permanent-Panty-Flash-Saber™. It is like meeting your best friend after a week’s vacation as hearing them with a different voice and personality like some silly soul swapping episode of a series. I got used to it after a few battles but I was surprised how much it threw me off at first. I never realized how I had imprinted that character design with that voice. It makes me understand a little better why people get so up in arms when the seiyu for the drama CD is different from the seiyu for the anime.
Several people have asked me how can there be two Sabers. I usually give them a rather long explanation of how the Holy Grail system works in Fate/Stay Night but I won’t bore you with the detailed explanation here. Sufficed to say it is like a Dungeons & Dragons character class. Saber is merely a class like fighter or rouge. Any one can fill the slot as long as they meet the requirements. So there can be any number of Sabers. But why do they both look the same? If I want to be cynical I think it is because the Saber character design is one that sells. I have heard several people say they love Saber by looks alone but have never seen anything of the Type-Moon universe. But the fan in me wants to believe it is also partially to invoke this reaction I just explained. Giving you something you think you know but changing it enough that it becomes a strange but intriguing new flavor. Hoping for a Cherry Coke reaction and not a New Coke disaster. Overall I think Fate/Extra Saber is not as divine as the original but she is not a flavor I mind sampling from time to time.