Talented solo artists, singer-songwriters in the making, poster boys for several 2D music projects. These are the top Rising Stars in 2021.
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
From December 27, 2021, until January 10, 2022, over 2500 of our readers voted at THTFHQ AWARDS 2021.
Nominees were shortlisted by The Hand That Feeds HQ and a winner emerged, however, in the interest of fairness – and want to put the spotlight on other male seiyuu that also had a fantastic 2021 -, this feature includes the top 10 in the voting, with only #1 being ranked.
To avoid petty fights between fans and disrespect towards seiyuu and their fans, no votes are disclosed in any of the written features covering THTFHQ AWARDS 2021.
If you want to check the abridged version of the complete results of this year’s edition, those were unveiled on episode 78 of SEIYUU LOUNGE, our weekly podcast all about male seiyuu music and 2D groups.
Without further ado, these are the seiyuu that made it to the top 10.
#1 Gakuto Kajiwara
This was, easily, the most competitive of all categories up for voting in THTFHQ AWARDS 2021 with at 4 rising stars being all separated by only 7 votes in total.
Gakuto Kajiwara takes the crown as the Rising Star of 2021 for our readers after what was a really impressive year.
The talented voice actor and solo artist was active in several 2D music projects and left a mark as a solo artist.
For those following his adventures with 2D music projects, Kajiwara has been active as a member of the rap team BAE in the popular Paradox Live franchise.
His rap flow is insane, he’s got that swagger you want in a leader of a rap crew, the intensity, not to mention it’s quite impressive the sheer ease with which he shifts from English and Japanese lyrics.
ALKALOID is yet another group he has been pretty active with and that has, in return for his energetic performances, attracted a lot of attention to himself.
εpsilonΦ in the FROM ARGONAVIS franchise has a unique dynamic, as he shares vocal duties with the band’s frontman Yuki Sakakihara.
And with Golden Record, he was on top of his game. His performances alongside Yuya Hirose and Shogo Yano in the group’s debut single “Love Holic” are quite impressive and definitely worth checking out. That’s an underrated CD by a group that didn’t receive much love, as a matter of fact, many fans of the Pythagoras Production franchise were against the group joining the franchise.
Have you heard Golden Record? They singlehandedly had the best group debut of 2021.
As always you can find Kajiwara lending his talents to the Actors franchise, delivering performances slightly different from what you may be familiar with.
Now, as a solo artist, Gakuto Kajiwara went all-in in 2021. He focused on releasing his 1st mini-album “Dokoka no kimi ni” and, to promote it, held his 1st one-man live show 此処にいる君に (Koko ni iru kimi ni).
Fans were showered with content and Gakuto Kajiwara made sure to meet you all halfway, posting content in English and making sure everyone could attend his livestream.
In 2021, Gakuto Kajiwara was, alongside Mamoru Miyano, the only male seiyuu artist to make a live show or tour available as a livestream worldwide. This is impressive and all the more reason for Kajiwara to win the Rising Star of the Year award.
From this point on, the seiyuu mentioned are not ranked (the order in which they appear below doesn’t correspond to the place they ranked in the final voting):
Tetsuei Sumiya continued to showcase his singing talents in 2021.
For those that follow 2D music projects, Sumiya was a name you could have possibly come across as he was active with pioniX, standing out in all entries in the “SEASONS” CD series. He showed that he can perform ballads, intense dance-pop tunes, and rock music, with his sweet mid-toned voice fitting all those genres without an issue.
It was with pioniX that he showed that his control and technique have improved a whole lot in the last couple of years. Among Yoshiki Nakajima, Tadokoro Hinata and Mizuki Chiba, Sumiya was shining. He was not only a reliable anchor for the group but also incredibly powerful when leading the way.
He also joined SCHWARZE KATZ (Dragon’s Bite) and FAM (ENLIGHTRIBE franchise) in 2021 and was active with SP!CA (Readyyy Project).
Shun Horie challenged himself in 2021.
Aside from his work with established 2D groups such as Beit (IDOLMASTER SideM franchise), Anthos* (Hana-Doll* franchise), Hoshikuzu Ryodan (JAZZ-ON franchise), and VAZZY (VAZZROCK franchise) he branched out to new, exciting projects exploring music genres he’d never performed before.
Those include FABULOUS NIGHT! (as part of NEO BASARA), VISUAL PRISON (as part of O★Z), and Live us (as part of StrelitziA).
His unique skillset as a singer and otherworldly singing tone – high tenor with a raspy voice – made him one of the most sought-after young talents in the past year.
And as part of SparQlew, seiyuu unit that went through a massive image and concept change in 2021, Shun Horie got to showcase how would he sound as a solo artist.
It was impressive. The sheer power in his performance, the emotions overflowing, the little details, the insane technique that made him pull off a chorus 90% in head voice, all contributed to impress a lot of people.
Seiichiro Yamashita may be one of those young talents that most fans of 2D music won’t bat an eye for but what he has been doing with Anthos* (Hana-Doll* franchise) and WITH (Pripara franchise) have been quite awesome and well worth your attention.
He’s not a belter or even an emotive bass singer, but he’s got solid baritone vocals and has been showcasing those both in clean singing and rapping.
I believe he has been shining the most with Anthos*, having a solid role as a lead rapper for the group. It’s in that moment that you notice the intensity of his performances and the confidence he has in delivering those.
But there’s more to him. When prompted to sing – harmonizing with other members within the group – he shows that he has good control and can be on par with the high quality that Shunichi Toki, Kent Ito, Toshiki Masuda, and Shun Horie – easily Anthos*’s core singers.
While he may not have been the most active or sought after, Yamashita has been impressing in the background.
Takeo Otsuka has started to be a name people have to be familiar with. Otsuka got to be the face of a 2D music franchise in 2021 by nailing his role as Gilgamesh in the Fabulous Night franchise, leading ChronoStasis.
There he showed sweet vocals, plenty of control, and a quality that, up until recently, many wouldn’t believe he had in him.
SCHWARZE KATZ was yet another group he showcased his singing skills, with him teaming up with Tetsuei Sumiya and Yuki Sakakihara. Otsuka did impress with a heartbreaking performance in the song “In the rain”.
He also joined C.FIRST in the IDOLMASTER SideM franchise and yet again he was impressive with his skills and ability to adapt to different music genres with polarizing intensities.
Later in 2021, he joined the Technoroid franchise as a member of Mechanica Metallica.
As 2021 wrapped up, Otsuka showed he does have the talent to lead projects, to team up with top-tier talents in the seiyuu industry, and deliver, time after time, performances that impress.
Shoya Chiba was the busiest young talent when it comes to working in 2D music projects and seiyuu units.
He has been, since 2020, one of the most sought-after talents for 2D music projects much due to how he has improved over the years as a singer, now being incredibly charismatic, overflowing with emotion, and with a polished technique on top of his unique tenor voice.
He’s the poster boy for the CARNELIAN BLOOD (as part of EROSION), PERFECTION NOISE (as part of NOISE NOVA), VISUAL PRISON (as part of O★Z), and Tokyo Color Sonic!! (as part of Unit 1) franchises, which is impressive.
He was performing all kinds of music genres and continuously showcase his consistency and technique across all of those.
On top of those projects and groups, he was active as well with KiLLER KiNG in B-PROJECT, HighXJoker in the IDOLMASTER SideM franchise, and joined the Paradox Live franchise as part of 1nm8 as well as GAMDOL as part of Gambét.
And before his departure from SparQlew, he penned the lyrics to his solo track “Criminal”, making a lot of jaws drop with his technicality.
Rock, hip-hop, ballads, metal, pop. You name it. Shoya Chiba can tailor his voice and skillset to each of those and deliver outstanding performances, making all eyes (and ears) focus on him. At the same time, he got to showcase his singer-songwriter self which may hint at interesting projects in the future for him.
2021 was his year by a mile.
Yuki Sakakihara may be best known for being a member of Bad Ass Tempe in the Hypnosis Mic franchise but there’s more to him than angsty rap with a touch of visual-kei rock.
The talented voice actor was active with La-Veritta in the Readyyy Project franchise, SCHWARZE KATZ in the Dragon’s Bite franchise, Shura Jodo and ALBA in the HANDEAD ANTHEM franchise, εpsilonΦ in the FROM ARGONAVIS franchise, Gambét in the GAMDOL franchise as well as the seiyuu unit Mosotei Ichimon.
A wide variety of music genres and yet his crystal-clear high tenor vocals were a match for all of those, with him showcasing just how technical he can be.
Jin Ogasawara took a massive step in 2021.
He made his solo debut with the digital single “Only one thing” and quickly impressed with the refreshing take on pop-rock music, channeling strong early 00s vibes. He then released “Guns & Loudness” and wrapped up the year with the release of his 1st single “TURBO”.
While his solo career is currently quite overlooked, Ogasawara has shown he does have the talent to be a top singer among male seiyuu.
However, it’s not for his solo career that Ogasawara is best known for. That’d be for being GYROAXIA’s passionate frontman. 2021 was a massive year for the band, releasing its first album “ONE”, solidifying its stance as one of the most exciting and refreshing 2D rock bands currently active.
And as GYROAXIA’s popularity grows, Ogasawara’s singing skills have been developing. He’s got solid mid-toned vocals, with a bit of a raspy twist to them and he can perform both clean and screamo parts with no issue. He’s quite impressive when he fully embraces screamo, something that most seiyuu want to avoid as a bad technique can permanently damage their vocal cords.
He was also active with Gambét and although the group is not popular, “STAYBACK” has a fantastic performance by Ogasawara that is well worth checking out.
As time passes, Ogasawara keeps on improving his singing skills, emphasizing him having a versatile skillset, a lot of passion, and a good emotional range that make his performances gripping from start to finish.
Yuya Hirose is, easily, one of the most exciting talents to jump to the spotlight in recent years.
The talented seiyuu was active with EROSION (in the CARNELIAN BLOOD franchise), and Himmel (in the Fabulous Night! Franchise).
Due to his unique singing tone and technique, he’s been a sought-after talent for 2D music projects.
Fans will best know him as ZOOL’s center in the IDOLiSH7 franchise but he’s got a lot of versatility to him that not only make him excel in pop, EDM, and R&B but also rock with EROSION in the CARNELIAN BLOOD franchise and even Eurobeat music as the leader of Himmel in the FABULOUS NIGHT franchise.
Versatility, reliability, and a quality that few his age have make Yuya Hirose one of the most exciting talents and certainly a seiyuu impressed in 2021.
Hinata Tadokoro is such an underrated talent.
Owner of a massive vocal range – from bass up to faux tenor -, can pull off spine-chilling high notes and powerful low ones, can do falsetto, and has a sweet vibrato. He adds a lot of emotion to his performances, making those engaging.
He was active as part of pioniX (in the TSUKIPRO franchise) as well as Neo Basara (in the Fabulous Night! Franchise) and time after time he showed he’s a vocal powerhouse with an unreal technique that puts him up there with singers like Shunsuke Takeuchi and Yoshiki Nakajima.
Hinata Tadokoro made sure 2021 was all about honing his skills and delivering memorable performances.
Thank you to everyone that voted and spread the word about THTFHQ AWARDS 2021!