Name: Takahashi Chiaki (たかはし 智秋)
DoB: 8 May 1977
Hometown: Yokohama, Kanagawa
SNS: Twitter, Blog, Website
This is my first time attempting to translate Seiyuu Road, a feature that takes the form of a monologue instead of the typical Q & A, and is billed as ‘advice from super veteran seiyuu to you, the wannabe seiyuu’.
Oftentimes, interviews only offer a brief snapshot into a seiyuu’s mindset but Seiyuu Road gives the reader an opportunity to learn about the seiyuu’s background and hence, helps you to better appreciate their success. Be warned though, that with seiyuu telling their personal stories, there can be a lot more bitterness, darkness, and at times, ranting, than you expect. It is interesting though, that you can sort of gauge a seiyuu’s personality through their words. Some are hilarious, like Chiaking. Others are more pensive, others intense. It will be tl;dr to get through the whole thing, but hopefully you’ll learn something from it…
Pt.1 I respect people who are operating on a different plane, I want to interact with others while showing consideration
I selected a short-term, intensive training school course after winning an audition
When I was in elementary school, I wrote “I want to be a seiyuu in the future” in our graduation yearbook. Having said that, it’s not like I really wanted to be a seiyuu, I just wrote it partly out of spite. At the time I was fat and had a weird voice and was badly bullied. Asked to write an essay with the title “My Future Dream”, I reasoned, “I am fat and my voice is weird so people will make fun of whatever I write. If I write ‘sumo wrestler’ or ‘seiyuu’, maybe they won’t laugh at me. But girls can’t be sumo wrestlers, so I guess I’ll write seiyuu?”. Seiyuu at that time were seen as people who had chosen the job because ‘they had weird voices’ rather than because it was a fashionable industry like how it’s perceived now.
From an early age, despite being fat, I felt passionately that “I want to make a living in entertainment. I want to be a model” and so on. I really craved the limelight. Still, I never talked about it as I was sure I would be laughed at, so I attended auditions in secret. As expected I was told that I possessed a “unique voice” which made me recall what I had written in my elementary school graduation yearbook, and I then started to receive training in voice acting school. I wanted to stand out so much in auditions that I created a weird character for myself where I’d “walk with a strut then deliberately fall over”. I wanted the audition committee to remember me as “the girl who falls over”. I think I was just a bit of attention whore. Now that I’m an adult, I do think I was bullied not because I was fat or because I had a weird voice – it was because I was an attention seeker.
My parents opposed my showbiz ambitions. But my father told me “I’ll allow you to pursue it if you prove that you can make it in through tough competition”, so I entered some large-scale auditions with many applicants and ended up passing about 5 in total. I confidently brought the acceptance letters to show my parents. My father used to do the martial arts and is the type of guy who would never go back on his word, so he said “Okay. I’ll give you 1 million yen so in return, get out of this house!!”. That is how I left home and started making my way into showbiz.
Amongst all the acceptance letters I had received, I chose to go with a well-established voice actor training school. The course was for just 1 year but with classes 6 times a week so I felt I would be able to fully concentrate on it. The material was fairly substantial as well and it felt like I was learning skills geared for mainstream talent rather than attending a mere voice training school. It was perfect timing for me – once I graduated from high school I went into voice training.
Leaving home, I attended the training school while co-habiting with my boyfriend at the time. He was a wonderful person who had fully supported me after I left home. I even thought about getting married to him but once I had graduated from training school, he dumped me… My love affair ended right around the time I passed agency auditions. Thinking that “my life as a voice actor starts now”; at the age of 19-20 I swallowed my pride, begged for forgiveness and returned to the family home.
After joining my agency I auditioned for a number of works but failed them, one after another. I love R&B, hip-hop and reggae and favoured wearing sexy import dresses but it seems that those elements did not give off a good impression. At the time, seiyuu mostly wore frilly clothing. “This is a job that involves voice work, why should clothes even matter?” – I tried to argue my case but because of my young age, nobody would listen to me. Sometime later when I was auditioning for a role in a game, we were required to perform character songs and I was the only person amongst the potential cast dressed like Beyonce (laughs). It was not only my attire that was a problem but my performance in front of a mic was so terrible that you’d want to cover your ears – it was obvious that I would fail the audition.
My rookie era where I was unable to communicate well with the people around me
The reason I originally wanted to be a seiyuu was because ‘I have a weird voice” and not because I had any particular love for anime or games. In training school, and after I joined my agency, I began to meet more and more “people who loved anime and games” – something I had no experience of up ‘til that point, and it felt like an unknown world was opening up to me. The agency was my first experience of society at large and it all felt like a social study to me. I think I learnt things like “hierarchical societies” at this point as well.
When I started out, I was quite bad at communicating with the people around me. Though I do still suffer from such problems these days (laughs).
For example, everyone has different methods of working towards securing work for themselves. One factor that’s surprisingly important is how well one communicates with production staff and managers. The me of that time however, dismissed such notions. “You’re getting work via false flattery! What an ass-kisser! It’s unfair!” – I’d say rude things to veteran seniors and offended a lot of people along the way.
In any society, the connections between people are important. Even if a certain person really is a flatterer, he or she is just working to the best of their ability. Being able to accept that as fact is in itself a form of courtesy. I think it was jealousy on my part – I was jealous of people who could communicate well. Even when I tried my best to imitate them it would all backfire on me and instead, I’d get told off. “You’re taking me for a fool, aren’t you (fumes)”. That is why I decided that I had no choice but to accept that my ‘making life tough for myself’ personality is what it is. In recent years, I have come to comprehend that part of meyself and I think I am gradually starting to gauge the pace at which I function. Respect people who operate on a different plane and be considerate when interacting with others – these are things I try to keep in mind on a daily basis.
Pt.2 I am who I am today because of those days
The birth of the sexy voice actress. That R-rated PV too!?
I am described as ‘the overly sexy seiyuu’ and that is a very unusual position to be in. There are of course,other sexy seiyuu. It’s just that I am ‘overly sexy’ (laughs). “How much sexier can she possibly get”? My motto is ‘to go where nobody has gone before’. I’m just going to travel further and further off the beaten path!
It has been 7 years since I started doing sexy gravure work at the age of 30. I have always loved sexy clothing and import dresses that the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna and Shakira favour and I often upload photos of myself wearing such clothes on my blog. Eventually, someone working in the industry called me up and asked “Would you like to do gravure?”
Seiyuu started to venture into activities and fields outside of voice work around that period and it kick-started a 2nd seiyuu boom for the group of seiyuu in the generation following our seniors who are now aged in their late 40s to early 50s. I was singled out amongst the various seiyuu who were prominent in the media as ‘that kind of weird person, the one who’s got great impact’ (laughs). “She’s gravure-oriented” was how I was described and starting with Weekly Playboy, I begun being approached by various magazines. That was followed up with an offer to shoot a photobook and before I knew what was happening, I had earned the title of “overly sexy seiyuu” (laughs).
I’d previously released solo CDs but when the official PV for Kon’ya wa Chupariko was uploaded on Youtube, it gained an R rating within 3 hours (laughs). I wanted to pull off a reggae dancer kind of feel so I was dancing while wearing a T-back, maybe that was the reason why the video was classified as ‘racy’? Well, it was another achievement for me. I mean, you don’t normally see PVs for seiyuu songs being designated as R-rated (laughs). In some ways, it became a legend (laughs).
‘Sexy Spice’ brings good luck!
When I was a member of the seiyuu unit Aice5, I rapped and sang and wore skirts that were shorter than those of the other girls…I was a nonconformist. I had participated in various other units apart from that but none of them showcased the ‘Sexy Spice’ in me.
Yet, beginning with the Aice5 members, all my colleagues in the units I participated in put up with my selfish ways, watched over me warmly and supported me. Maybe it was easier for us to get along because our personalities didn’t clash, but I do feel that I was blessed to have such wonderful companions. I’m very grateful.
With help from these friends, I developed this specific boisterous ‘Sexy Spice’ act. “Takahashi Chiaki may be sexy but she is also fun”. Recently, I have also received invitations for and been cast in events and programmes featuring popular male seiyuu. Of course, while dressed in my usual sexy outfits (laughs).
As I have a number of female fans, I often wonder whether they would denounce a woman like me who is very open when it comes to sex appeal but to my surprise, they have accepted it well. In fact, I have started receiving lots of fan letters from women. Currently, I am working with young female rookie seiyuu on various shows, and I also receive letters from male fans of those young female seiyuu saying “Thanks for helping to nurture xxx-san”.
Actually…I have heard that there is a rumour going around that “You will become successful if you work on a regular radio programme with Takahashi Chiaki!” (laughs). I’m delighted to know that my ‘Sexy Spice’ could be bringing good fortune to others.
There are great benefits to be gained when you worship my chest. I am sure of it ♥
A beauty regimen is all about finding the routine that suits you!
I’m often asked “Do you have any beauty regimens to recommend?” and the answer is…that there are so many. What is most important is to find out whether it “suits you”. It doesn’t matter how good people say a specific beauty regimen is if you don’t follow it for a prolonged period of time. In my case, I only started putting more effort into beauty maintenance when I turned 30 and had decided to do gravure.
Up ‘til then I had been trying out diet plans that were detrimental to the body ie. “not eating at all”. However, once I learned that beauty and health go hand-in-hand, I was able to come up with suitable meal plans, food content and mealtimes.
Obviously I do visit beauty salons and have frequently received placenta, vitamin B6 and amino acid (tryptophan) injections. I also work out and train my inner muscles etc, even vocalization is useful exercise. Anyway, what’s important is to “find out whether (a regimen) yields good results for you”. One man’s meat is another man’s poison so there’re an infinite variety of things you could try. It goes without saying that you’ll be spending quite a bit on this so you should identify and ensure that the treatments are value for money.
I have tried out various things and arrived at my current care routine. As I get older, my body will change. When that happens, I will search once more for a beauty regimen that suits my body. It’s a long road ahead!
From my childhood, I had a complex about my weight and was bullied about it but I have finally gotten over it now that I’m older. “When I grow up I’ll work hard to earn money so that I can buy the care products I need to become beautiful” – that was my true dream. My wish has been fulfilled and I’m even a gravure model. The other reason I was made fun of was my “strange voice”, and I’ve also managed to utilize that through my voice acting profession.
I really am lucky. In turn, lucky ‘ol me is going to sprinkle good fortune on as many of you as possible!
Pt.3 Never give up and if you work hard, all your dreams will come true
Draw luck nearer to you. Every minute and every second is a thing of the past!
I have been freelancing for a number of years now and the one thing I want to say is that I’m extremely lucky. Going through the pain of being bullied as a child and even running out of credit as an adult, a perverse person like me has still been supported by my parents, my friends, colleagues and work associates. I truly do appreciate it. I am not just a lucky person.
This feeling of luckiness at being able to be actively working freelance – I do not know if people understand, but it makes me one of a minority. From my point of view, it is even tougher to be part of a business organization, bound by its rules and living life by compromising. In truth, it is the path that an upright person should take. Sociability through corporate life, a cooperative nature; how you adapt to your surroundings and the pace depends on your level of education. Thus, if one is not as lucky as I am, I would suggest that you do your absolute best to comply faithfully with the rules of this society.
Having said that, it was just a case of incompatibility between myself and my agency; it wasn’t like I decided that I wanted to go freelance. Personally, I believe that ‘every minute and every second is in the past’. Nobody knows what is going to happen. Every minute, every second is a chance for a new me to be reborn. Hence, I might even join an agency 1 second from now and after 1 minute, I might start something entirely new. The future is always unknown.
This is why I go through each day in excitement, because you never know what’s going to happen. The character 運 consists of the radical 軍 from 軍人 (soldier), combined with 辶, which means ‘go’.
“The path tread by he who fights”.
If that is what ‘being lucky’ means, then someone like me who chooses to live a life that does not conform to public opinion, without relying on organizational forces or major authority; can truly say that “luck” is with me because I bear all responsibilities on my own. It may sound cool but if you over-exaggeratedly insist that you cannot accept the benefits that come with organizational power and authority, then you are like a ‘lone wolf’. What you get in return is freedom and to no longer be tied down. There are pros and cons to both sides. Yet, there are so few who choose to be independent from the system that you can’t really generalize them as ‘rogues’. Well, this is my own unique story. Each person stands on his own stage. Will you be able to grab onto that “luck” when you’re fighting on your own stage, without getting trapped by the past? No matter what profession you choose, I believe that a positive attitude can be an important motivator in life.
To those aiming to become seiyuu in the future…
These days, the seiyuu profession covers a wide range of activities. Anime, games, dubbing foreign works, radio…the number of broadcasting stations have increased as well with BS (broadcasting satellite) and CS (commercial satellite). There is plenty of content available through the radio as well as Nico Nico live broadcasts and net-distributed shows. There are more chances for seiyuu to show their faces on programmes as well. It has become difficult to determine just what makes one a ‘seiyuu’ based purely on the work you do. There is a genre such as “seiyuu artist” nowadays after all. I myself have become synonymous with the term ‘gravure seiyuu’ (laughs).
Thus, you must first of all think carefully about what genre of seiyuu you would like to be. If you wish to become an anime seiyuu, , it is essential for you to constantly attend auditions for new shows as most productions these days are 12-13 episodes each. You may also have to take on additional, unexpected work. You might end up doing things that are completely unrelated to anime, such as fashion shows or receive an offer to appear on a cooking programme. It’d be easy to turn it down, but if you were to take on the challenge you might put in a performance that could get you mistaken for a professional model, or your cooking might be so amazing that it makes the show a roaring success…
Wouldn’t that be great? Of course, you shouldn’t get your priorities all wrong and end up neglecting seiyuu work. Please produce wonderful performances in front of the mic. What do you have to do in order to create a good performance? You can learn from the many words of wisdom given by our revered seniors through this Seiyuu Road series. By all means, do go back and read the previous articles. They’re packed with words that will penetrate your heart!
Apart from that, it’s good to consider potential 2nd and 3rd professions if you do not make your #1 choice of becoming a seiyuu. For example, #1 would be a seiyuu and #2 a pilot. They’re both extremely hard to succeed in but just do your best at them. So if you started working as a pilot and managed to pass an anime audition, you could be a splendid “pilot seiyuu”. Then, lots of wonderful job opportunities will open up. You might think that I’m being ridiculous but I believe that as long as there remains no one profession that is exceptionally stable in this day and age, you will not be able to make a living unless you work hard at a combination of things.
While continuing seiyuu activities, try on different masks and you will gain attention for your skills. Then, you will be able to handle a diverse array of seiyuu-related work, which opens up many possibilities. You only live once. Let’s go all out and hit as hard as possible!!
Yeah I think Chiaking only makes sense when she’s talking about herself (what a narcissist!). Towards the end, when she’s supposedly dishing out advice to seiyuu wannabes, it becomes a torrent of verbal diarrhoea and her words go to pot – totally no idea what she’s on about in the last couple of paragraphs. It’s like she started the interview with a can of beer in her hand and ended it drunk on a dozen pints of JD on the rocks. But it’s all still hella fun!