Welcome to this very new series of articles based on voice actors and actresses, more commonly known as Seiyuu, on So Japan!
The Seiyuu genre isn’t entirely a niche this part of town. But my job here is to share with those of you who has that language barrier that you just can’t seem to cross. For some of you who have some idea of what exactly a “Seiyuu” is, but not really sure if it’s a swamp worth jumping into, I’m here to help.
And for those of you already knee deep into this, practically spending your free hours listening to some sort of internet seiyuu radio with the most obscure of contents, you probably know even more than me, and I could use your companionship for this!
Of course, before we begin our coverage of the seiyuus themselves. I’m going to give you, the reader, a general introduction on what exactly a Seiyuu is.
What is a Seiyuu?
The word Seiyuu is the english romanization of the Japanese word 「声優」. The original term of the word spawned from 声の俳優 which quite literally stood for voice actor. Realising using that long name was long and unnecessary, the first and last characters were taken and hence the word “Seiyuu” was born.
For anime in particular the term Character Voice is used instead, or CV for short.
So now you know what a Seiyuu is, here’s a simple history lesson to get us going. Before all the Hiroshi Kamiyas and the Mamoru Miyanos, or the Nana Mizukis and the Miyuki Sawashiros, here are some of the people who helped lay the groundwork for these people, and for many years to come.
History of Seiyuu:
In the past, Japanese movie companies didn’t see eye to eye with TV broadcasting companies so they prevented their movies to be screened on the airwaves.
To counter that, these broadcasting companies decided to buy the licenses to air American TV dramas, and thanks to that, a new process titled After-recording (where voices are dubbed after a film or animation is produced) or Afureko for short, and a new job, Seiyuu, was born. In the past, even sound effects for many anime were recorded with voices.
Until the 1980s, Afu-reko and Ate-reko (where Seiyuu have to match the opening and closing of the characters’ lips on screen), were mostly done by theater actors as a hobby or part-timers, as well as veteran actors who has worked on TV since its dawn.
Many of them would often say “I’m an actor before a Seiyuu” or “Seiyuu is just one part of acting” such as Yasuo Yamada (first Seiyuu of Lupin the third) and Goro Naya (first seiyuu of Inspector Koichi Zenigata) didn’t like to be called a Seiyuu.
On the other hand, there were some veterans who thought Seiyuu was a job of a specialist. Akira Kamiya, (Ryo Saeba, Kenshiro) who was a junior of Yamada and Naya in the same theater troupe, had an entirely different way of thinking. For him, he was “not an Actor, but a Seiyuu. My livelihood mostly came from voice-work.”
For Masako Ikeda (Maetel in Galaxy Express 999), one TV drama producer told her that “dubbing is just a byroad. If you’re an actress, take the highway.” This comment upset her and she replied with “What’s wrong with taking the byroad?”
Genzou Wakayama (dub voice of Sean Connery) was originally from a broadcasting theater troupe, but had zero experience in it said “when dubbing originally began, most of the actors in the troupe also did dubbing and that really pissed me off” while discussing about the different between seiyuu specialists and stage actors.
For Norio Wakamoto (Charles Zi Britannia) he said ironically stated that “it doesn’t really help them grow as a theater actor nor be of use” and perceived that “Seiyuu are different from actors” and that “Seiyuu are artistes.”
Some of them saw the worth of being a Seiyuu in itself, while there were others like Ikeda and Atsuko Enomoto (Aina from .Hack// series) who balanced both voice and acting work. For Ikeda, she devoted herself to voice work, but at the same time treated her Seiyuu colleagues like fellow actors and was very candid when some of her peers didn’t have their acting basics down. For Enomoto, who wanted to be an actor but went the Seiyuu path, he held herself proud as an actress while as much as being a Seiyuu.
Did you enjoy our basic history of Seiyuu? I sure enjoyed researching this information! Our next part will focus on the various types of jobs that a Seiyuu would normally do. Everyone knows they voice characters in anime but did you know they are the voices in the trains too??
We do not have a name for these articles yet so actually we would like YOU, the reader, to help us decide on what name we will be using going forward for our new ongoing series. Please share your ideas in the Facebook post, or leave a comment in this article!