Being a Seiyu in Japan
In Japan there are about 130 schools for voice acting. This may be due to the fact that voice acting is more prominence than other countries. Japan puts in more animated series than other countries as well, taking 60% of the animation industry. Voice actors can always find a job in Japan if not from anime or video games, then dubbing over non native films, video games, and the like. Some voice actors use this as a footing into live movie or TV shows. They also may use this to become a singer as well.
Seiyu’s and Actors
Voice actors are people who use their voice to perform voice-overs or dubbing. The word seiyu comes from the Japanese kanji koe no haiyu (声の俳優). The term was shortened to seiyu by using the first and last of the kanji symbols (声優). The word became widely known after the voice acting boom. This makes the elder voice actors resent the usage of seiyu. During their time it had a negative connotation. Chika Ōtsuka is quoted saying “We are actors. Even if a performance only requires the use of our voice, we still remain actors, and it is therefore incorrect to refer to us as just voice actors, isn’t it?” He was against separating the voice actors from other actors.
What changed the view on voice acting?
There are three main demands for helping voice actors get more respect.
1. During the radio dramas golden age, Tokyo Broadcasting Drama Troupe brought a lot of professional upbringing.
2. Japan lacked Japanese made movies and TV shows, thus brought a lot of foreign movies over. This made the demand for voice acting rise.
3. The anime boom produced a new wave of voice actors rather than actors.
History of Voice Acting
Since the invention of the radio and its spread to Japan, voice acting has always been around. In the 1970s, seiyu became a more popular usage for their career. This is mostly thanks to the anime Space Battleship Yamato. The voice talent manager said in an interview once, “Since the Yamato boom, the word ‘seiyū’ has become instantly recognized, before that actors and actresses who introduced themselves as seiyū were often asked, ‘You mean you work for Seiyu supermarket?”
The Radio Drama Age of Voice Acting
Tokyo Broadcasting Company began running radio broadcasts in 1925. There were twelve students who became voice actors that same year when they broadcasted the show. They used the word seiyu, but the newspapers referred to them as radio actors.
The Tokyo Broadcasting Company became later known as the NHK. In 1941 a public training program was opened up to people who wanted to become voice actors. They called the program “Tokyo Central Broadcasting Channel Actor Training Agency.” The Tokyo Broadcasting Drama Troupe made their first debut in 1942. It was the second time the word seiyu was used to refer to these voice actors.
To begin with, voice actors specialized in radio drama at the time. There was a different meaning to those who did voice dubbing or animation. Radio drama actors had their fair share of fans.
Voice Acting in the 1960s
The Five-Company Agreement (Gosha Agreement) dried the Japanese movie supply up. Therefore many foreign movies and programs were brought in at the time. The NHK subtitled many of the films to begin with, but dubbed became more of a standard. Famous voice actors such as Nachi Nozawa, were created during this time.
The Gosha Agreement stated that TV actors and cinema actors were prevented from dubbing the foreign films and programs. This is where the radio actors and Shingeki style actors came in to play. These voice actors were called ‘dubbing talents’ since all they did was dubbed. The Tokyo Actor’s Consumer’s Cooperative Society was founded during the golden age for dubbing.
On October 9, 1955 an American cartoon episode of Superman was the first dubbed show. Cowboy G-Men was the first non-animated in 1956. They were dubbed live. On April 8, 1956 the first recorded dubbed was The Adventures of Television Boy.
Voice Actors from the 1970s
Slapstick was the first band united by Akira Kamiya, Toru Furuya, and Toshio Furukawa to perform live. Many other voice actors created their own albums as well. The first anime magazine was published in 1979. Hideo Ogata, editor-in-chief of Animage, started to publish editorials about voice actors and their transformation into idols. Other magazines followed his example and began ‘seiyu corners’ in their pages. Voice acting schools saw a huge increase in students after this. This was a voice acting boom that lasted only mid way into the 1980s.
Voice Actors of the 1980s
NG5 was formed in 1989 by the five main voice actors of the animated show called Ronin Warriors. Nozumu Sasaki, Takeshi Kusao, Hiroshi Takemura, Tomohiro Nishimura, and Daiki Nakamura were featured as a special documentary on the TV station MBS.
During the 1980s, specific classes for animation dubbing were provided by on-site training schools.
Voice Actors in the 1990s
In the 1990s, radio shows, OVAs, TV quizzes, public events, and even the internet, provided numerous jobs for voice actors. There were two magazines that came out of this time, Seiyu Grand Prix and Voice Animage. Due to their radio shows and CD sale increase, voice actors gained many new fans. Voice actors even became DJs and the recording houses made the radio show voice actors their sponsors. Large amounts of money began to circulate.
During the second half of the 90s, anime began to boom in Tokyo area. Fans were able to easily access information on their favorite voice actors due to the internet. Internet-based radio shows began to show up all over the internet.
St.GIGA, the first radio broadcaster by satellite in the world, began to transmit video games episodes with voice actors dubbing in both separate and continuous vocal tracks from 1994 to 2000. This was only to play the Nintendo’s Super Famicon console in Japan. It even had Satellaview peripheral. The world’s first radio-game was Zelda no Densetsu.
Other Duties of Voice Actors
Voice actors not only perform character voices, but also training videos for a companies, announcements at supermarkets, broadcasts as bus route information, ring announcers, and announcements for railway routes. During these cases, their name may not be given.
Types of Voice Actors
Anime Voice Actors
In anime, the voice actors read lines into a microphone. They do this before they finish the production. This is so the artist can draw in the facial expression to how the voice actor performed the line. OVAs and anime tend to use young voice actors, but will use well known voice actors in more fan-oriented shows.
When it comes to foreign movies, dubbing is usually the preferred method. They lower the original voice track (or completely get rid of it) and voice over in Japanese. They will hold auditions when dubbing. They want the perfect person.
Normally the video game voice track is recorded by itself. This is mostly because the voice tracks are selected individually and on how the player is progressing. Normally the voice actor will have a script and say what best fits while watching the video. These voice actors rarely interact with one another on projects. Clients will want speicific voice actors since they are sometimes a selling point.
Radio and CD Dramas
Radio and CD voice actors have a lot easier job. They do not have to meet up with a video. When they are creating a radio show of an anime they tend to use the same voice actor. The production staff usually picks the voice actors used in the radio or CD dramas.
Puppet and Kigurumi Shows
Puppet voice actors say their lines according to the puppets movements. Kigurumi voice actors get the privilage of recording before hand. The Kigurumi will move and act according to the voice track.
You can often hear voice actors in commercials, both radio and TV. The voice actor is mostly picked due to their expertise, but sometimes famous ones are chosen.It requires a high acting ability and therefore veteran actors are usually preferred. The voice actors send sample videos in and they are chosen due to that.
Shingeki actors and actors take a course in small theatres performing to become voice actors. The successful ones take the acting roles of their choice. Voice acting agencies play no part unless the theatre manager requests it.
Voice actors will sometimes go into singing using their voice acting credibility. They will release albums and hold concerts in their voice acting name. They do this to become full time singers. It also now common for the voice actor of the main character of an anime to sing in the anime opening or ending. These people will release albums in their characters name.
Aniradio is the term used for radio talk shows. Local broadcast station are usually the ones to air them. The metropolitan radio stations began using them as well after the communication boom in the 1990s. Some of these programs are aired for a very long time. The fans like to get to know the voice actor as a human being rather than a character. More of these shows are hosted on the internet to cut back costs.
Agencies and Management for Voice Actors
Voice Actors are usually regulated by voice acting agencies. Each agency has a specialization. They take care of their sales promotions and business related affairs. Of course for a fee.
Troupe Hinawari is known for being a youth theatrical companies. When child voice actors are needed, they go there to find an actor. If not, adult females will play the child actor.