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Who was Sayaka Kanda, the Japanese ‘Frozen’ actress who passed away?

From Anna in 'Frozen' to 'Yuna' in Sword Art Online, Sayaka Kanda is sorely missed by fans of her work as a singer and voice actress.
This article is over 2 years old and may contain outdated information

Stage and voice actress Sayaka Kanda passed away at the age of 35 on Dec. 18. She was found unconscious on a fourteenth-floor hotel patio in Sapporo. After being taken to a nearby hospital, Kanda was pronounced deceased at 9:40 PM JST. Her death is being investigated as a suicide.

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Born Oct. 1, 1986, Kanda was the daughter of actor Masaki Kanda and singer Seiko Matsuda. Also known as the “Eternal Idol, Matsuda was one of the most popular idols in Japan in the ’80s and continued releasing music until her untimely death. She’s one of the best-selling artists in the country and regularly regarded as a beloved idol. Kanda is survived by her parents, actor Masaki Kanda and singer Seiko Matsuda. The couple divorced and have no other children.

Kanda’s career began in 1999 with an appearance in Bean Cake, winner for the Short Film Palme d’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. Kanda was a student in Los Angeles at the time. She continued to act in film and on stage and debuted as a voice actress in 2012’s  Good Luck Girl! 

She would make a name for herself shortly after as the voice of Anna in the Japanese dub of Disney’s Frozen, winning Best Actress at the 9th Seiyu Awards following its release and Sora in Kamen Rider Den-O. Kanda was best known by anime fans worldwide for her performance as Yuna in Sword Art Online. She also appeared in video games—as Kaede Akamatsu in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony and reprising Anna in Kingdom Hearts III. She would return to Danganronpa as Junko Enoshima in three stage adaptations.

The official Sword Art Online Twitter account published a statement on her passing. The statement reads in part: “Sayaka-san, with her sincere acting and wonderful singing voice, made the character Yuna a diva loved by many people, much like herself.”

Kanda also followed her mother as a singer, releasing 6 LPs from 2005 to 2018 and numerous singles and EPs. In 2017, she was married to the actor Mitsu Murata until their divorce in 2019.

But Kanda was most often acting on stage. She has previously performed as Cosette in Les Miserables, Wendy in Peter Pan, Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Eliza in My Fair Lady. She was touring with a production of the stage musical My Fair Lady at the time of her passing.

If you know someone suffering from severe depression, there’s help at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255 or SuicidePreventionLifeline.org

Update Dec. 22 12.51pm CT: Sayaka Kanda’s uncle and CEO of the agency representing the late actress Mitsuhisa Kamachi shared that a funeral was held for family and friends on Dec. 21 in a post on her official website. He also shared that the police concluded their investigation into her death. As reported by Crunchyroll in English, the post casts doubt on speculation Kanda died by suicide. She was fatally injured after falling from her hotel room, but police and Kanda’s agency “wish to refrain from disclosing the cause of the fall in consideration of Kanda’s honor and the potential impact on the people around her.”


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Autumn Wright
Autumn Wright is an anime journalist, which is a real job. As a writer at We Got This Covered, they cover the biggest new seasonal releases, interview voice actors, and investigate labor practices in the global industry. Autumn can be found biking to queer punk through Brooklyn, and you can read more of their words in Polygon, WIRED, The Washington Post, and elsewhere.
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