I used to do this kind of crystal ball post (please excuse the chuu2ness) back in the day – it seemed easier to predict 10 years ago because, rather ironically, there wasn’t so much media and industry info available back then so all I could do was to try to analyze casting trends.
I’d always used the ‘2/3-cours after’ thing (refer below) to spot potential stars – it was a very apparent trend/pattern to me even 10 years ago so yeah, I suppose everyone else noticed it too and it’s not something new or surprising…
However, nowadays there are a lot more parties that have interest in, and influence over seiyuu castings that it’s kind of a crapshoot to predict first-time breakout stars especially with those idol tie-ups/gorioshi happening all the time – at best, what people can do now is to predict which seiyuu will ‘consolidate’ their success and turn it into a longer-term thing where they’re still steadily doing voice work into their 30s.
Here, I will translate three articles featuring an anime magazine writer (A), an anime site editor (B) and an anisong insider (C) looking back at the trending seiyuu of 2015, and predicting the next big things for 2016. I read the first one way back when it was published, but only decided to translate now because we have the results to go with their predictions. There’re some pretty crude comments in there, you’ve been warned.
First is the article written at the start of 2015. Not that every time they say ‘this year’, it’s referring to 2015.
The important period for a seiyuu is the 2nd cour after their first hit
Q: In 2014, we had Uchida Maaya, who did a gravure shoot for Weekly Young Jump as well as Amamiya Sora who got a lot of buzz for her looks – you could say both of them were breakout stars for the year. What’s the outlook for 2015 like?
A: Hard to say. No matter what we say, seiyuu fans would be like “No way!”.
Q: You don’t have to bother about what the fans say. Just talk about it from the viewpoint of an industry insider.
A: Okay then (laughs).
B: In that case, how about Taneda Risa. If this was baseball, she’d have racked up 10 wins already.
C: Her first heroine role was in 2012’s Shin Sekai Yori, and it was for 3 cours. Last year she was in the 2-cour Strike the Blood and 2 cours following that, she started getting popular doing anime work and this year, has been much sought-after. Her growth as an actor has been the most apparent.
B: She was in countless things in 2014. The goddess of fortune was shining upon her. If she repeats that this year you could say she’s made it.
C: It could be Yoshimura Haruka. She’s one of the pillars of Idolmaster Cinderella Girls and on top of that, she did SHIROBAKO and Sora no Method this year. She’s definitely in a good position since the Idolmaster Cinderella Girls anime starts next January. Now will be the time for auditioning for the shows starting in April and July so it’ll be interesting to see how many regular roles she can snag.
A: Seiyuu who’ve had a hit anime will get audition offers coming in so what’s important is the 2-cours that follow that good role they got. It’s easy to see that I’m [Ent] pushed Yoshimura hard in 2014. Auditions, events, CDs; she got all of them, what’s left is to see whether she can sustain it next year.
C: Since we’re talking about agencies, how about the force that is Horipro?
You can tell a seiyuu’s agency by looking at their face
B: So that’d be Tadokoro Azusa. We did an article on her back in 2011 when she won the Grand Prix in Horipro’s Seiyuu Idol Audition and if I’m being honest, there were other people at the audition who sang and acted better than she did. Yet, she’s got that something where you just look at her & it gets you thinking “I wanna support her”.
A: She’s well received by the industry people as well. Someone like Nakamura Eriko’s taking good care of her and even calls her ‘Koroazu’. Her face totally changes once she’s got make up on too (laughs). In that sense I’ve got high hopes for her. What’s best is that she can sing.
B: Her singing is outstanding. She made her artist début in July last year and before her live concert that May she’d already done about 100 lives so she had thorough preparation. If she can get an OP/ED theme tie-up to one of her shows than she could potentially blow up. How about Terui Haruka? When I interviewed her I was impressed by how ambitious she was.
C: That girl really ‘feels’ like Aoni [Pro]. Also she’s got big boobs.
A: Yeah she looks like an Aoni girl. Plain but cute. I wonder why Aoni doesn’t take in flashy, cute girls. But yeah her boobs are big.
B: It could be scary ‘cos Aoni really puts big effort into their juniors. You don’t see too much of someone like Ito Kanae these days after all. It used to be that every show had Ito Kanae in it. Same for Sugar [note: Sato Satomi] too.
A: They push ‘em when they’re young, then leave it to them when they’ve made it. That’s why they get fewer jobs from that point onwards.
Q: So for juniors, who do you think is showing signs of breaking out this year – the potential ‘Rookie Award Candidates’, so to say?
The Rookie Award Candidates – Lining up those who are well received by the industry
C: Vims’ Hashimoto Chinami might take flight this year. She landed her first regular role in last summer’s Saikin, Imoto no Yousu ga Chotto Okasshindaga, and has been doing some other anime and a radio with Yoshimura Haruka. She’s got momentum.
A: I’d say Ozawa Ari is looking good to be I’m’s next big ‘it’ girl. She had Gekkan Shojo Nozaki-kun in summer 2014 and staff will be thinking ‘let’s get her in to audition’. That’s why she hasn’t got much going on for this autumn or winter but starting next spring, she’ll be coming on strong.
B: Kurosawa Tomoyo too. She’s not from seiyuu school, she’s a child actor. Since she’s used to having to deal with the adults, she’s good at handling herself and has gotten a good reception from the industry. Plus she looks cute.
A: In terms of good industry reception, there’s Aoki Ruriko as well. She’ll give a wave even at small events. Staff love her too.
C: It’s a natural gift to be liked by other people. If we’re talking about those with unusual beginnings, then there’s someone like Fujii Yukiyo who used to do stage lighting. It’s been 1-2 years since she converted into a voice actor and she’s been getting good roles. She’s still a junior but as she’s in Aoni, she might get a real push.
B: Maybe Tanezaki Atsumi too. She did stuff like Karashi in Houzuki no Reitetsu last year. Her acting’s great. You can’t tell that she’s actually so young but she’s still not too well-known; if she gets the right roles then she could go far.
These 3 will be the male seiyuu to look out for
Q: Finally, how about the male seiyuu?
A: The guys are harder since they basically tend to use the same people over and over. That’s why you’ve only got someone like Matsuoka Yoshitsugu of late. Maybe also Hanae Natsuki. He had Aldnoah Zero and Tokyo Ghoul last year. Both shows have sequels this year.
B: For me it’ll be Aoi Shota. He may be 27 but I think he’ll get a break. He’s originally a musician so it’s a given thing, but he can really sing. He did most of the guide vocals for UtaPri as well. He may be an ikemen but his persona is the scary, unpopular type. That’s the reason he’s grabbing many female fans. I think people can cheer him on with confidence. I just watched his live the other day and his fans were going “Shota, look at me~~” and he’s like an idol that way.
C: I’ll say Murase Ayumu. He was the lead in Gatchaman Crowds and followed it up with Haikyuu!! so he’s in the midst of breaking out. He’s getting a load of roles lately. Also, Saito Soma who’s also in Haikyuu!! He’s 81[produce]’s next big thing.
Secondly, the follow-up article published on 30 Dec 2015 talking about the outcome of their predictions.
The unexpected big success of M.A.O
Q: So this was the New Year 2015 project that surprisingly gained a lot of feedback. First of all, let’s look back at the year for the seiyuu industry including the predictions that were made initially.
A: I’ve nothing to reflect upon about my previous forecasts. As expected, Ozawa Ari appeared in an increasing number of shows in 2015. Taneda Risa was in Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso and continued that 10+ baseball match winning run. B also hit the target with his prediction about Kurosawa Tomoyo.
B: Yeah, she was the lead in Hibike! Euphonium after all.
C: It’s a plus point for Kurosawa that she’s in college now, which makes it easier for her to work. Looks like she’ll be getting more jobs in the future. I think I got it right with Murase Ayumu and Saito Soma for the guys.
A: On the other hand we had the unexpectedly prolific M.A.O [Ichimichi Mao]. According to this sheet she had more than 30 shows so that makes her the number one seiyuu in terms of the number of performances. I got the impression that her name would always be there if you looked at the staff credits roll.
C: As the number of shows you work on increases you get to appear at events and stuff like that as well, so that means you can make money as a seiyuu.
B: You make more from event performance fees than you do from working on anime episodes after all.
Q: It’s a rare success case for a tarento-turned-seiyuu. Why do you think she earned so much work?
A: Isn’t this what those seiyuu otaku are always deludedly talking about – the pillow business thing? (laughs)
C: Totally not the case here. She’s the type who rushes home at the speed of light when the after-parties are done. Instead, her manager will be the one sitting there forever, drinking (bitter laugh). It seems she doesn’t really talk to her female co-stars either. She’s getting more work because her acting is great and she’s found favour with the sound directors.
Will this year finally be Tadokoro Azusa’s year?
Q: On the other hand Amamiya Sora didn’t manage to sustain (her success) following the high expectations of her.
A: They pushed TrySail hard so her solo work took a bit of a back seat. I wonder if they’re trying to sell both as a ‘combo deal’.
B: For TrySail, I’ve got the impression that the balance of sales between the 3 members is quite bad. There’s a huge difference between Amamiya and Asakura Momo + Natsukawa Shiina in terms of popularity.
C: But M-san who’s in charge here will definitely turn up at Asakura Momo events (laughs).
A: I mentioned Tadokoro Azusa as a potential breakout star last year, and for 2016 she’s singing the ending theme for Kyoto Animation’s Musaigen no Phantom World plus she’s appearing as mascot characters in anime so it looks like she might make it this year instead.
C: Terui Haruka’s in a bit of a lull. Though she’s working quite a lot.
B: Terui’s a bit similar to Kanetomo [Note: Kaneda Tomoko] and when you do events or radio there’s got to be a bit of a trade-off with the other performers, which makes it kind of hard to utilize her. She did actually do a radio show with Suwa Ayaka – Suwa herself is a natural airhead but Terui was even more of an airhead so Suwa quite sadly lost her flavour in the process (laughs).
Q: Looking at the overall picture, and using last year as an example – it’s quite difficult to understand exactly what type of seiyuu sells.
B: This year , there weren’t many seiyuu who you’d see as a batter who could hit a home run with just one shot – instead, there were a lot of average hitters. Going by numbers alone, the I’m Enterprise (girls) Hayami Saori, Hikasa Yoko, Sakura Ayane and Ozawa Ari performed strongly.
C: For dubbing, 81produce did well. On the other hand, Aoni Production was quiet.
A: Perhaps they’re readying a curveball right now. Aoni’s training school Aoni Juku is crazily tough. Even getting through to Junior is a huge task. Lead roles aren’t something that come along later in life.
C: I get the impression that they’re always late in coming though. (laughs)
Part 3 – predictions for 2016.
2016 predictions: Female Seiyuu
Q: Your predictions for 2016’s breakout seiyuu?
A: I have someone that I have absolute confidence in. So you two go ahead first.
C: I’ll go with Hanamori Yumiri. She’s an 18-year old signed to Swallow formerly known as Pony Canyon Artists and she’s starring in Garasu no Hana to Kowasu Sekai that hits cinemas in 2016. She’ll be in UnHappy which starts in January*. Also, Ueda Reina. She’s the lead in January’s* Bakuon!!. She’s a real nice girl and the type who’s loved by both her fellow actors as well as staff. In 81produce, she’s close in age to the Wake Up Girls! and i ☆Ris and I think the agency will give her the big push this year. She was also in the news recently for that crowdfunded project** that hit 2 million yen when it’s target amount was 600,000 yen.
*note = both will actually air in April 2016 instead.
**Idol Recollection, a project to get a themesong for a mobage recorded
B: I think highly of Ueda too. My prediction though, is Hondo Kaede. She’s I’m Enterprise’s big hope. Her baby-faced visuals are something that would be well-received by the otaku. If we talk about this in terms of horse racing… using a rather outdated example, but she’d be Fuji Kiseki.
Q: Maybe she should retire early then (laughs).
B: No no, what I mean is that she’s the most amazing of her generation. Apart from Hondo there’s Kouno Marika from the seiyuu unit Earphones. Mausu Promotion’s putting a bit of effort into her. She shines brightly at events. In terms of horse racing she’d be Twin Turbo.
Q: The one that never seems to win?
C: She’s popular but doesn’t appear in anime that much, instead she has a lot of events.
A: Finally it’s my turn. I have total confidence in my pick. Cast-iron confidence. If this was baseball then this person would play as huge a role as Akiyama Shogo of Seibu [Lions].
Q: Ah, the Akiyama who set a record with 216 hits in a single season. That’s some confidence you have.
A: My pick is Takahashi Rie! Definitely. She’s on the verge of her big break. She was in 3 shows in summer ’15 – Gakkou Gurashi, Ranpo Kitan & Sore ga Seiyuu! and she won all of those through auditions. What’s more, they were all different types of roles. She’ll grow even more as she continues to work with veterans. She’s the leadoff batter for 81[produce].
C: It’s true that her agency is pushing her super hard.
A: Apart from Takahashi I’d say Asai Ayaka. Her agency* isn’t that strong but I’ve this image that her foundations are solid. In baseball, she’d be Yokohama’s Kuramoto Toshihiko.
Q: We can stop it with the baseball comparisons now.
2016 predictions: Male Seiyuu
B: Work for male seiyuu is increasing thanks to the emergence of social games. Stuff like Ensemble Stars! and Idolmaster Side M. There’s this new generation of male seiyuu who appear in nothing but social games and get popular off them – they’re called the ‘Socia-ge Generation’.
C: For the new generation, in the lead would be Uchida Yuuma, who had the main role in the TV anime Classroom☆Crisis. He’s the younger brother of Uchida Maaya and he’s well taken care of by the people around him too. Probably will be the biggest breakout star of 2016. There’s also Chiba Shoya. He does the voice for the leader of the most popular unit High x Joker in Side M and he’ll be voicing the lead male role in 2016 anime ALL OUT!!.
B: It’s hard to predict the guys. If I said Ume-chan [Umehara Yuichiro] people would complain “But he’s already made it big.
Q: That’s okay. You don’t have to bother about those kinds of otaku who only know how to point out other people’s faults (laughs).
A: I’ll say Shirai Yusuke, who was in Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! alongside Umehara. He’s the type who’s a bit dirty…or should I say, helps to make events livelier. He’s the least famous one in Boueibu so if they want to push him they’ve got to do it now.
As for me? Well, you can probably tell which seiyuu I am vouching for by the articles I choose to translate (so I apologize to the idols who I have zero interest in w).
For me, here’s what I’m thinking about going into 2016:
1.The I’m Enterprise girls: I have always been fond of I’m Ent girls, from the days of Ueda Kana & Nakahara Mai through to Saito Chiwa, Hikasa Yoko and Hayami Saori, and now to people like Ozawa Ari and Onishi Saori. Their next three big things will be Hondo Kaede, Naganawa Maria & Senbongi Sayaka.
2.Aketagawa Jin’s girls: Jin has helped the likes of Taneda Risa break out in recent years; it’s worth nothing who his current favourite girls are – Ozawa Ari, Ishigami Shizuka, Takahashi Minami, Kimura Juri, Takahashi Rie. Ozawa Ari is on fine footing already as is Takahashi Rie (new Precure lead), but it remains to be seen whether Ishigami and Takamina can start getting hired by other sound directors. The key cours to gauge their long-term career outlook will be spring/summer 2016.
3.Ponycan is the new Muray/SME/Aniplex: So it’s funny that I have no problems with Aketagawa’s casting business yet I do have a bone to pick with Ponycan. In fact, I get exasperated whenever I see that Ponycan is producing any new series or movie ‘cos I’m almost convinced that they’ll stick one of their kids to lead the show or sing the theme song. For Jin-kun I have no real issues because he hires people who can at least do their day job properly. For Ponycan we get stuck with Taketatsu Ayana in ill-fitting roles and breaking my eardrums with her ‘singing’, and now it looks like we’ll get tons of Hanamori Yumiri. I’m not sure whether I should be jumping with joy about that…maybe I’ll just wait for her swimsuit photobook or something.
4.Speaking of Muray: I can’t stand Amamiya Sora any more. There, I said it. She was a great turn-off for me in 2015, voice-acting wise (Plamemo, Monmusu). And she just kicked off 2016 in a bad way with Konosuba. Stop annoying me with the DAAARRRLINNNGSSS guys, it just makes my ears bleed faster.
5.Blur the lines, moar!: Just like the lines between the mainstream idol/talent world and the seiyuu industry are getting ever the fainter, I’d like to see more seiyuu being on both the ‘dark’ (eroge) and ‘light’ sides. KenPro and Pro-Fit are amongst the agencies who encourage/allow their charges to do the dirty – we’ve seen Ito Shizuka and Nabatame Hitomi do that over the years with KenPro. Pro-Fit has got girls like Nagatsuma Juri, Takamori Natsumi and now Ishigami Shizuka who do the ero stuff as well. The pay is nice too! Obviously I want this to happen cos it spares me having to play eroge on mute..but yeah, wishful thinking.
6.The halfs: I’ve been doing a bunch of articles on half-Japanese, half-Caucasian seiyuu – Ishii Mark, Lynn, Sarah Emi Bridcutt, and Arthur Lounsbery to come at some point. It’s an interesting niche to be in. 3/4 of them have sizable roles this season – Lynn is the female lead in Saijaku, Sarah the female lead in Haruchika, Mark is Lev in Haikyuu. We’ve also got Kimura Subaru who is already a star in Doraemon. Will definitely be interesting to watch their progress, and that of other halfs in the future.
7.The guys: Oh yeah this is hard. These guys really come from nowhere sometimes, and as mentioned in the third article there are some who get hot from doing mobage and I’m all ??? when it comes to those. I’ll just throw some potential names out there now so let’s see how they’ve done by year-end: Hatanaka Tasuku (KenPro), Amasaki Kohei (I’m), Yashiro Taku (Vims), Uemura Yuto (Himawari). I consider people like Uchida Yuuma, Kawanishi Kengo and Murata Taishi as having ‘made it’ already.
8.The other girls: Thinking purely in terms of voice acting roles – there’s Kito Akari (Pro-Fit). I’d like to see Tanezaki Atsumi get more roles. Yamamura Hibiku might be getting a break, as is Fukuhara Ayaka (beyond Imas). There’s the Macross girl Suzuki Minori. I like Tomita Miyu and Waki Azumi from Galko-chan and uhh…I don’t know. I’m actually really bad at remembering the younger girls and wouldn’t know a potential star until she hit me in the face; there are just too many of them and they all sound the same….only Yoshida Yuri’s voice is super distinct to me (sweat drop;;;)