Welcome back to our series where we talk about Voice Acting, or Seiyuu, in Japan. Welcome to The Art of Seiyuu!
In our previous article, we talked about the introduction and history of Seiyuu. Hopefully, you have some general idea of how the industry came to be!
Many of you may already know that your favourite seiyuu voices a certain character in your favorite anime or video game, but what if I told you said person also does the voices for the local train?
This week, we’ll be featuring the different type of jobs a seiyuu does on a regular (or irregular basis).
The main bread and butter of a seiyuu’s job. There’s actually two styles of recording for anime. One would be the recording of lines before the actual animation is done, or pre-recording. Japan traditionally use the afureko style, or after-recording, which is recording done after the animation is made. For afureko, a group of seiyuus are gathered for recording session where they take turns to read lines off a script, playing off each other while looking at a screen.
This is the most common work seiyuus do on a daily basis. They are paid per episode like a guarantee or gyara, for short.
Dubbing for foreign films:
Dubbing is mostly the same as anime, but the video in question is of foreign dramas or films. The boom of Japanese dubbing happened because films and TV dramas were few and far in between during the 1960s so they brought over American films and drama and the industry began. Nowadays, there are plenty of films and drama from across the world dubbed in Japanese.
There are some seiyuu who mainly do work on anime, and there are some who focuses mainly on dubbing. They are not mutually exclusive however.
Satoshi Mikami is famously known for being the Japanese dub actor of Benedict Cumberbatch as of late.
You might know Yuko Kaida more commonly as Marida Cruz in Mobile Suit Gundam UC or Tsukuyo in Gintama. She’s very well known in the dubbing scene doing a wide variety of roles, especially of the strong willed, cool women type. It’s practically hard to list down in particular which ones but as of late, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Anne Hathaway in Colossal and Ocean’s 8.
Unlike anime where two or more seiyuus talk to each other, game recording is more often than not done alone. So even if certain seiyuus work on the same game, they may not even meet each other at all!
Game dubbing began in the 1980s, but only really took flight during the 1990s with the rise of the Playstation. Thanks to its high specification for that time period, developers were able to take advantage of the technology and it became the norm since then.
Visual novels, Otome and Bishojo games have made their main-stay on platforms like the PSP and PS Vita thanks to the evolution of game dubbing. Also, many young seiyuu get their start voicing characters in mobile application games in recent times.
It’s really hard to pin down seiyuu who ply their trade mainly in games as those who usually voice anime also do games. My personal mental image would be that of Akio Ohtsuka. He appears in many games across the years, well-known as the voice of Solid Snake/Big Boss in the Metal Gear Solid series.
Another one such seiyuu who often appears in games is Asami Imai who voices Chihaya Kisaragi in THE iDOLM@STER series and Kurisu Makise in the Steins;Gate series, and many titles under the 5pb. label.
Radio Drama/Drama CD:
Dubbing over characters for a radio drama or a drama CD. For Drama CDs, they usually cast very popular seiyuu. Using those who are still relatively unknown or new wouldn’t help sales, so using big names would help to sell more copies. As fans of the seiyuus would usually drive sales numbers, Drama CD would usually feature them as the main cast.
Drama CDs can be anything from an entirely new stories based off of original visual novels or entirely original stories. Some seiyuus themselves group together to make their own drama CDs too! Take for example last week’s AiShota announcement for example.
Narration could mean anything from Television programs, TV commercials or for PR videos. TVCMs are usually very good in terms of salary. Ayana Taketatsu and Maaya Uchida has appeared for TVCMs such as for Yoshinoya‘s seasonal limited Beef Bowl.
Speaking about narration, have you seen this amazing video by Aoi Yuuki narrating a 30 second PV speaking over 330 words?
Seiyuu who perform on a stage around theaters halls in Japan. This can be anything from an original story or an adaptation of already famous plays from around the world. As of late, 2.5D musicals, adaptation of existing anime has been gaining popularity as of late. Some of these 2.5D musicals will also have the original cast reprising their roles from the anime.
Seiyuu such as Tomokazu Seki and Kappei Yamaguchi usually appear in the more traditional theater. One example of 2.5D musical gaining grounds as of late is Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight. Unlike the more traditional 2.5D musicals, the cast of the anime, game and musicals are all one and the same.
Acting in TV dramas, variety shows or even movies. Anything involving appearance on regular television programming or dramas. The more ‘mainstream’ seiyuu such as Keiko Toda and Koichi Yamadera have appears in many of these. Keiko Toda have appeared in many TV dramas and films whereas Koichi Yamadera has appeared on variety TV shows mimicking his famous anime characters and even popular Japanese Youtuber hikakin.
Releasing CDs and performing concerts, similar to J-pop singers. On the contrary, there are recent cases of idol singers becoming seiyuu as well.
In anime and games, it was common that the seiyuu of the main characters sing their respective theme songs. And if the characters do actually sing in-universe, the CDs are usually released under those characters’ names instead of the seiyuu themselves.
This trend became popular in the late 90s with record labels signing seiyuu to be their singers. It became very obvious in the late 2000s era.
There are also seiyuu groups formed with a number of seiyuus performing together. Famous examples would be The iDOLM@STER and LoveLive! franchises where they sell out arena-level locations such as Saitama Super Arena or even the Tokyo Dome.
In 1997, Shiina Hekiru was the first seiyuu to do a solo concert at the Nippon Budokan and thanks to that, many seiyuu big aim when stepping into the industry is to headline Nippon Budokan. In 2011, Nana Mizuki was the first seiyuu to headline a solo concert at the Tokyo Dome.
Seiyuu as radio personalities have been going on for a long time. From the 1990s with the advent of Bunka Housou, Radio Osaka and Radio Kansai, the seiyuu ani-radio saw a huge boom. From the 2000s onwards internet radio became the main platform for these seiyuu-related radio.
The most fun part about listen to seiyuu radio shows are being able to learn about their personalities through them. Unlike voicing characters or doing narration, more often than not you are able to learn more about the person themselves behind these radio shows.
Seiyuu such as Eriko Nakamura and Saori Onishi can be heard often on radio shows. Some radio shows popular among Japan, and overseas, are Sakura toshitai Onishi (on Onsen Radio) featuring Ayane Sakura and Saori Onishi and Anigera! Didooon! (Bunka Housou) featuring Tomokazu Sugita, Mafia Kajita (free writer) and Makoto Kedouin (writer of Corpse Party).
For these works, seiyuu normally use an alternate name or their names don’t appear at all in the credits. There are also seiyuu who specialise in adult works.
In tokusatsu shows such as the Super Sentai, Kamen Rider and Ultraman, seiyuus often appear for roles as anthropomorphic characters, or villains. Aoi Yuuki and MAO has appeared often for these, with MAO even appearing as Gokai Yellow in Gokaiger.
Seiyuu such as Joji Nakata (Roshuo in Kamen Rider Gaim) and Tetsu Inada (Dekamaster in Dekaranger) has appeared in many series as recurring villains or even as heroes who aid the protagonists.
For puppet theater, it involves performing the characters to match the lines. There are certain performances when seiyuu would do their lines live, but these are more often recorded before-hand. As these are often done in small theaters across Japan, there aren’t many footage or photos around in the wild.
If you’re visiting a small mall around the greater Tokyo area you can usuall see these puppet theater on weekends!
Announcements for departmental stores, supermarkets, trains and buses are also done by seiyuu. For those of you who have lived in Japan and been to stores such as AEON Supermarket, My Basket or even convenience stores such as Family Mart, 7-Eleven and such, you may have not realised but the in-store announcements are done by seiyuu too.
They also do appearances at events related to anime they’re currently working on as well, and this trend has been on the rise in recent times. This however is another story for another day.
Hopefully you have an idea of just some of the many things that a seiyuu does for their day job. I can list so much but it then article will simply never end. We’ll delve deeper into these subjects in days to come. Our next article will feature some of the biggest names in the industry. Look forward to that next week!