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| KAORI. and her retirement from voice acting
Kaori, who also goes by the names KAORI.
(with a dot at the end there) or Kaori Suzuki (鈴木カオリ), is a former voice
actor / singer who's probably best known
among Pocket Monsters fans as
the voice of Haruka in Pocket
Monsters Advanced Generation
and Pocket Monsters Diamond &
Pearl. She's since taken an indefinite hiatus from voice acting,
with most fans in
vaguely understanding that she has some sort of medical issue keeping
her from continuing on as a voice actor.
The purpose of
this page is to share as much information as I could gather about
Kaori stepping down from voice acting, primarily by translating blog
entries she's written herself, and to work out what all this means for
| Early Life and Pocket Monsters | Health Issues | The
band breaks up |
| How is she doing now? | Haruka's future | Final
|Early Life and Pocket Monsters
According to this
with Animate TV, Kaori has wanted to be a singer ever since she was
a little kid.
She started going to music auditions when she was in elementary school
and, after many years of trying, finally managed to get herself signed
to a record label after graduating high school. She made her
professional singing debut in 1994 by performing one of the
songs for the CD Drama THE
HEROES III: Gagharv trilogy first "White Witch" and her
voice acting debut the following year as the voice of Lime
in the CD
Drama Popful Mail Paradise 5.
Kaori joined the cast of Pocket
Monsters Advanced Generation in 2002 as the voice of Haruka, the
young Coordinator who travels around the Hoenn and Kanto regions with
Satoshi, Takeshi, and Masato. She played a few other bit roles
the series -- a
Lucky in one episode, a Konohana in another, etc. -- but Haruka was by
her largest and most prominent role.
Around 2003 or so Kaori started going to her friends' rock concerts
and, after seeing how fun they looked, decided she wanted to get in on
action as well. She eventually joined a rock band with some of those
friends but it didn't last; the band dissolved after less than a year.
Not long afterwards, however, Kaori joined a second rock band, "Spunky
Spunky Strider doesn't seem to have released any CDs or anything but I
did manage to come across this promotional video on
YouTube of a
(hilariously named) music festival they took part in back in 2010.
When Pocket Monsters Advanced
Generation finished its run in 2006 both Haruka and Masato ended
the show. Two years later, however, Kaori came back to play
Haruka for a five episode mini-arc in Pocket Monsters Diamond & Pearl.
Since then, Haruka hasn't appeared at all
a few silent cameos here and there.
Kaori herself, meanwhile, hasn't
had any voice acting roles since
Problems apparently started back in
2007 (so a year before her return in Diamond
& Pearl) when the voice actor / singer started feeling that
something was off. Five
years later, in May 2012, she made a blog post announcing that she had
dysphonia (痙攣性発声障害), a
form of focal dystonia
(局所性ジストニア). Here's a
translations of the blog
post she made on Spunky Strider's website at the time:
|☆ To all my
fans out there ☆
I want to start by saying I'm really grateful to all of you who have
been graciously supporting
me all this time. I have something to announce to you all and so I've
this page set up to do just that.
Some of you may have noticed this already, but my singing voice has
a little off during recent in-person events. I went to see a specialist
this and, long story short, I was diagnosed with focal dystonia
and spasmodic dysphonia. And so I would like to report that I have
these conditions and have started taking medicine to
I started feeling something was off with my singing voice around
2007 or so but I had no idea a medical condition like "spasmodic
dysphonia" even existed or
that there could ever be a world where I, someone who's been
singing for as long as I can remember,
could find myself unable to do so.
So from around last summer or so I've been studying up on various vocal
watching TV and searching the Internet. I want to keep singing, of
course, and I
want to allow the band that I love so much to continue playing. But the
agony of not being able to sing the way I know I can has gotten so bad
that I find myself being terrified of even getting up on stage. I was
stuck between those desires to help the band and my own mounting fears
and so I talked it
with my bandmates
and we made the difficult decision that I take a break in order go
to the hospital for treatment and recharge. Conditions
like the ones I
have are not common in Japan
and so the doctors here find it difficult to
even diagnose, much less treat, And the treatments that are effective are
difficult to get approval for because health insurance companies
don't cover them. And so the whole thing's been really stressful.
In my case, the only major symptom I had was with my singing and so
it really took a long time for them to diagnose me.
I apologize for not being able to announce this sooner, and since I
just started taking medicine for this I have no idea how much time
it'll take before I start seeing improvements. And so that's all I can
say right now. I'm afraid all I'm doing with this
announcement is causing everyone to worry but I also couldn't just sit
anything while you all waited so patiently for Spunky Strider to take
the stage again.
so to avoid wasting any more of your time I've chosen to make this
For me, not knowing what's going to happen from here on out is scary,
but getting to the point where I can start actually taking medicine for
this is a huge step in the right direction. And so I will do my best to
do whatever I can to help my treatment along. And if you'll have me
again, I'd love to get back up on stage someday, share my experiences
with you all, and sing for you all
with a renewed
zest for life.
I will let you know if there are any developments. I'm sorry to be
selfish but please give me some time. And please keep me in your
Thank you for reading.
May 2012 KAORI.
Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
offers the following description of spasmodic dysphonia:
dysphonia causes voice breaks during speaking and can make the voice
sound tight, strained, or breathy. In some people, the breaks occur
once every few sentences. In more severe cases, spasms may occur on
every word, making a person’s speech very difficult to understand. Some
people with spasmodic dysphonia may also have vocal tremor—a shaking of
the larynx and vocal folds that causes the voice to tremble.
Spasmodic dysphonia is a chronic condition that continues throughout a
person’s life. Spasmodic dysphonia may develop suddenly, with severe
voice symptoms present from the start of the disorder, or it may start
with mild symptoms and occur only occasionally before worsening and
becoming more frequent over time.
Spasmodic dysphonia is a rare disorder. It can affect anyone, but the
first signs occur most often in people between the ages of 30 and 50.
It affects more women than men.
Kaori was 36 years old when she made the
May 2012 announcement.
I haven't been able to
find any evidence that Kaori's diagnosis was ever picked up by the
Japanese mainstream media. Every fansite or social media post that
her affliction simply
link to the blog post above where she made the announcement, not a news
like Yahoo! Japan or NHK. It makes some
sense, I suppose; Kaori was never
really a huge figure in the
world of voice acting and Spunky Strider wasn't
exactly setting the charts on fire, either. So it's not super
surprising that this news kind of fell under the radar.
the next few years, Kaori would post on her band's blog to let fans
know how she's doing. In this entry from Christmas Day 2012, for
example, she mentions how she's feeling a lot
better but still isn't at 100% yet. In March 2013, she talks about
how the side effects
from some of the medicines she had been taking made her not
want to leave her house for long periods of time, but that when she
taking them she started feeling a lot better. In August 2013, she pops
in to tell fans that she's closed her
mixi page due to her inability to keep it up-to-date. In December
2013 she wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and
a Happy New Year.
June 21st, 2014 Spunky Strider -- that rock band she had been a part
of since 2003 -- posted an announcement on
website that also included an update on Kaori's health:
|To all our fans
We apologize for the radio silence. The members of Spunky Strider have
been doing well and working hard!
You may have seen this news already, but our drummer Sugiura left the
band last August -- we're sorry for taking so long to address that
On top of that, Kaori's voice still hasn't recovered yet and so it
looks like it's
going to take a little more time for her to return to the stage.
Other members of the band like Satoyan (bass) and Kou (Guitar)
have started going down their own paths and so those of us remaining
talked it over and have determined that it'll be difficult for Spunky
Strider to start holding regularly scheduled events and that the
under right now shouldn't
continue in limbo the way it has. And so it is with a heavy heart that
we've decided the break up the band as a way to draw a line in the sand.
This doesn't mean that "Break up = The End," just that we don't know
when or how we'll be able to have fun with you all again.
enough words to express how grateful we are for the unwavering support
we've received from all you up until now. But I guess this will have to
Everyone, thank you. Thank you so, so much. ☆
From here on out the members of the band will be here under the same
sky as everyone else, wishing for everyone's happiness. There are a lot
of people out there who have it rough but if we all work together to
give it all we've got, and even cry it out sometimes, we'll be able to
get through all the hard times with the sounds of our laughter.
We look forward to seeing you again someday ♪
June 21, 2014 - Spunky Strider
While Kaori's health wasn't the main reason the band broke up, it
doesn't seem to have not been
doesn't seem to
have her own social media accounts (she mentions that
she finds them too cumbersome) but she has kind of taken over her
band's old blog to reach out to her
from time to time.
I'm not going to bother translating the dozens of blog entries
she's posted over
the last ten years so I'll just focus on her most recent entry from
called "Excuses." It's
a long, long entry that's mostly about her elderly dogs' health
she also sprinkles in updates on how she's doing, health-wise, that are
relevant to this article.
getting an average of around three hours sleep each night. One reason
is that I can't go long without going into one of my coughing fits.
Once I start coughing I can't stop, and I have to do things like
press down on the acupressure points on my throat in order to calm
ordeal puts a lot of stress on my body and so I never have time to
rest, day or night.
So when I sit down to update this blog I have to start and stop so many
times and it can get frustrating.
A few paragraphs later,
she talks about all the treatments she's been trying:
|I just want to
stop the coughing, somehow, but there just isn't anything more that
Western medicine can do. I've tried every medical nutrition
therapy, Eastern health food, and herbs one could ever think of but so
far nothing's worked. I'll start a new treatment and I'll get excited
because it seems like it's working, but then my
body will get used to it and its effects start to fade. So I've
been spending all my time searching endlessly, every way I know how,
the time I wake up to late into the night and then early into the
morning again. The number of days where I've just crashed on the floor
or in a
chair without dragging myself to bed first have been increasing lately
started looking at some new herbs and supplements and I'm getting a
good feeling about them, and so while I'm not pinning all my hopes and
dreams on them I do remain hopeful and will keep looking forward and
the blog entry with one more note about her condition:
This happened a little while ago, but you heard the announcement that
(famous enka singer) Natsuko Godai has been diagnosed with spasmodic
dysphonia, right? To think that it's so bad for her that she even has
trouble speaking! And yet she's still so full of life and courage
That fact that it's being reported by the mainstream media and even
make the evening news
means that more and more people will learn about this condition, which
will lead to more people understanding it and help accelerate the
development of effective treatments. And so I'm really grateful she's
forward with her story. There's still so, so much we don't know about
this condition and I think a lot of people are really suffering from
it. I pray that an effective treatment will be
developed as soon as possible.
As of this writing, this blog post from July 2021 is the most recent
update she's made.
seventh animated TV series, Pocket
Monsters (2019), has been featuring old traveling companions
coming back to the show, one
after the other. What are the chances that Haruka will come back?
Well given what we've been reading in her blog entries I'd say the
chances of Kaori herself coming back to voice Haruka are practically
zero. It'd be great if she discovered some miracle treatment that made
her well enough to come back but at this point it just doesn't seem
So what about having a different actor come in and take over the role?
It'd be possible, but highly unlikely. Countries like the U.S. will
replace their voice talent at the drop of the hat but that is
not the case in
Japan, where voice actors are usually not replaced unless one of the
Kaori doesn't really
fall into any of these categories, does she? She has a medical
prevents her from continuing to work as a voice actress, sure, but it's
not like she's dead or
the powers that be
probably think it would be too disrespectful to replace her. The
chances of her getting better aren't 0%, right?
- The original voice actor passes away (i.e. Dr.
- The voice actor needs to go on maternity leave
Hayashibara, Ikue Otani, Mariya Ise). In this case, a replacement voice
actor (or, in Ms. Ikue's case, stock audio) fills in for the few
episodes they miss but the original actor always seems to come back as
soon as possible.
- The original voice actor is too expensive now (I'm
guessing that's why Shijima
got recast when he reappeared),
but even then the show mostly gets around
that by just not having the character appear anymore (i.e. Mamoru
Miyano as Dent)
- The original voice actor has some sort of scandal
that makes it difficult for the Pokémon
brand to continue associating with them (i.e.
Tatsuhisa Suzuki as Kibana).
- The voice in question is of a minor character that
nobody would notice (i.e the Trainers who make it to New Island in Mewtwo Strikes Back Evolution).
So the way I see it, unless something miraculous happens I'd say the
chances of Haruka coming back in anything
other than a silent cameo are practically non-existent.
At this point, all I can
really say is that I hope Kaori is able to discover some sort of new
that helps her feel well enough to return to both the recording
booth and the stage someday.
To learn more about spasmodic dysphonia, including ways you can help
support the search for a cure, check out the National Spasmodic
Dysphonia Association's website at www.dysphonia.org.