Category Archives: tldr

2016 Round-up

What was supposed to have been a ‘year in review’ piece has turned into a ‘Whoops! Christmas cheer got the better of me (again)!’ list of lists. Happy new year and may all your resolutions be ever kept!

12 seiyuu performances I’ll remember
1. Otsuka Hochu as Sato (Ajin)
2. Ishida Akira as Yurakutei Yakumo VII (Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju)
3. Yamadera Koichi as Yurakutei Sukeroku II (Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju)
4. Ono Kensho as Tanaka (Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge)
5. Koyasu Takehito as Roswaal L Mathers (Re:Zero)
6. Tsuda Kenjiro as Fango (91days)
7. Hosoya Yoshimasa as Epizo Evans (Bubuki Buranki)
8. Yuki Aoi as Hinazuki Kayo (Boku dake ga Inai Machi)
9. Kamiki Ryunosuke as Tachibana Taki (Kimi no Na wa)
10. Kanemoto Hisako as Uasaha (Jakusansei Million Arthur)
11. Kimura Subaru as Tendo Satori (Haikyuu!! S3)
12. Ando Mabuki as Ujibe Nagisa (Keijo!!!!!!!!)

10 favourite seiyuu moments
1. Handa-kun’s eraser song: Hondo Kaede – I don’t want youuuuu to get dirtyyyyyy

2. Successfully rolling Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch off the tongue award to Mimori Suzuko

3. I am a voice inside a paper bag: Sakurai Takahiro

4. Step on them idol wota pigs! (says Uchida Maaya)

5. IT’S JJ STYLE (courtesy of Miyano Mamoru)

6. SEXUAL HARASSMENT!!! (by the seiyuu who is doing that to everyone else)

7. Crab song (from the anime nobody watched)

8. Nyan shogi (by the 3 cutest seiyuu cats)

9. Hippopotamus Song

10. The Tanaka shorts are the cutest things ever

8 seiyuu I had tremendous love for, for various reasons
1. Senbongi Sayaka – She’s improved so much since Kitakubu
2. Hondo Kaede – Real-life Yae, the type who unwittingly offends others
3. Lynn – I used to think she was just a boring, generic heroine voice but Keijo changed that
4. Onishi Saori – 2016 has been great for Saorin but 2017 will be even better.
5. KENN – I loved his Gieve, and I loved all his idol animu charas even more cos that meant he’d have plenty of idol songs to sing *swoon*
6. Taneda Risa – Get well soon! I never knew how much I’d miss your voice!!
7. Hosoya Yoshimasa – I can never not love a Hosoyan character (except maybe well…read somewhere below)
8. Okamoto Nobuhiko – Only he can make fatty Nikaido sound so sawayaka

6 rookie seiyuu on my watchlist
1. Kito Akari
2. Horie Shun
3. Toki Shunichi
4. Fujita Akane
5. Tomita Miyu
6. Takada Yuki

4 miscasts
1. Hanae Natsuki as Mythos in Active Raid – Mythos is supposed to be some mysterious genius with a cherry tomato fetish but Hanae couldn’t make it work for me; instead, I burst out in laughter at that bitch imouto tomato scene.

2. Hosoya Yoshimasa as Haruhiro in Grimgar – Cool refreshing Hosoyan voice is a totally bad fit for an emo teenager.

3. Hanae Natsuki as Kusakabe in HaruChika – I don’t mean to pick on Hanae specifically but…he just doesn’t sound right as Kusakabe, who’s meant to be some brilliant teacher that the kids worship – he comes off sounding more like a condescending asshat.

4. Aoi Shota as anyone in anything – The guy really can sing but man his acting! His 滑舌 skills are close to zero and he appears to be able to produce only one type of voice – dead. It’s like listening to a talking tsundere corpse…

2 favourite seiyuu radio shows
1. Sakura to shitai Onishi (Sakura Ayane, Onishi Saori) – I didn’t think listening to seiyuu talk about random anime-unrelated stuff could be interesting, but these two have a kind of ‘chemistry’ that just works. I love chalk and cheese personalities! (why does Onisshi keep getting put together with people who are so different from her….) Also, I thought Morse Shingou was the worst idea ever, before it turned into the best segment ever.

2. Shadowverse Channel (Yuki Kana, Sakura Kaoru, Ishigami Shizuka) – Like Blazblue Radio Mk II with the plus point for me being that I actually kind of play Shadowverse so I have fun watching the match-ups too. Please bring Ogura Yui on to a Nama and let her be corrupted!

Spreadsheets masterlist

Just gonna make this a sticky post of the spreadsheets that I make. Still working on updating the ones I did previously with season information but the new ones I’ve listed have all that down. Any names down there that don’t have links yet means I’ve not quite made the data presentable yet, but they’re coming…soon-ish.

Male
Abe Atsushi
Asanuma Shintaro
Chiba Shoya
Enoki Junya
Furukawa Makoto
Hamano Daiki
Hanae Natsuki
Hatanaka Tasuku
Horie Shun
Hosoya Yoshimasa
Ishii Mark
Ishikawa Kaito
Ishiya Haruki
Kaji Yuki
Kawanishi Kengo
KENN
Kobayashi Yusuke
Kumagai Kentaro
Maeno Tomoaki
Masuda Toshiki
Matsuoka Yoshitsugu
Nakamura Yuichi
Nishiyama Kotaro
Nogami Sho
Okamoto Nobuhiko
Okitsu Kazuyuki
Ono Kensho
Osaka Ryota
Saito Soma
Sakurai Takahiro
Shimazaki Nobunaga
Sugawara Shinsuke
Suzuki Ryota
Takeuchi Shunsuke
Tezuka Hiromichi
Tsuda Kenjiro
Uchiyama Koki
Uchida Yuma
Umehara Yuichiro
Yamashita Seiichiro
Yashiro Taku

Female
Amamiya Sora
Anzai Chika
Asai Ayaka
Chiba Saeko
Fujii Yukiyo
Hayami Saori
Hidaka Rina
Hikasa Yoko
Hondo Kaede
Ishigami Shizuka
Inoue Marina
Ito Kanae
・Ito Shizuka
Iwami Manaka
Kaida Yuko
Kanemoto Hisako
Kayano Ai
Kito Akari
Kobayashi Yu
Kohara Konomi
Komatsu Mikako
Kotobuki Minako
Lynn
M.A.O
Minase Inori
Morohoshi Sumire
Naganawa Maria
Nakahara Mai
Omigawa Chiaki
Onishi Saori
Ozawa Ari
・Saito Chiwa
Sakamoto Maaya
Sakura Ayane
Senbongi Sayaka
Seto Asami
Taichi Yo
Takagaki Ayahi
Taneda Risa
Tanezaki Atsumi
Tomatsu Haruka
Toyama Nao
Toyosaki Aki
Yuki Aoi

Notes
-Yes, I am prioritizing working on Aketagawa Jin’s cronies. I really like looking at his hiring patterns
-Through doing this, I learned that Mima Masafumi is really biased too *cough* Kaji *cough* Anzai Chika
-Kimura Eriko’s my favourite sound director to look at in terms of her casting decisions. She picks interesting people!

Edit: And as always, please excuse any errors – these are all sheets I make for my own personal reference & liable to the mistakes of my fat fingers…so if anything is screwed up rest assured I will rectify them at some point 😛

Spreadsheets, or stuff I do when I’m bored

As you may or may not have noticed, I love data. I love plugging stuff into spreadsheets; I like looking at text and figures, analyzing things. I had that ‘married seiyuu’ list for years and I used to keep silly ones about seiyuu height and blood type…but what I’ve been doing the past X months has been looking at an individual seiyuu’s animation credits. Since I posted that stream of consciousness blah post a year ago, I’ve been thinking a whole lot about the casting process. This kind of stems from this one comment I heard from Amamiya Sora, about how her casting in Akame ga Kill! was ‘decided’ [決めていて was the exact word] well in advance of her role in Isshukan Friends, the latter of which aired the cour before the former.

‘Decided’. Who decides? What are the factors etc etc? For Amamiya/Akame, it is hardly a stretch to suggest that she was shoehorned into the anime’s lead role to tie it into the fact that Sony Music Entertainment (one of the members of the Akame ga Kill production committee) was preparing to launch Amamiya’s solo singing career via Skyreach, which served as the anime’s first opening theme. Did she have to audition for the role? Maybe only for show? Who knows. Nobody’s going to tell me or you, for sure.

Of course, I offer no answers. Instead, I offer you…spreadsheets. Which are a WIP, let me warn you, likely to contain typos and errors. I have been looking at a couple of seiyuu, some are personal favourite and some are just people I am interested in for various reasons. Mostly I look at the director and sound director and in some of the idols’ cases, the production companies involved. I was thinking about the studios but really, it’s only Shaft [Shinbo/Kameyama] and Bones [Wakabayashi/Mima] that are so easy to predict with their favoured sound directors/castings.

1. Sakamoto Maaya
I’m always amused when people dismiss Maaya as being ‘a singer, not a seiyuu’. She started off as a child actress and voice actress anyway, before Escaflowne & Kanno Yoko came along. She doesn’t do a crazy amount of anime but that’s because she already has so many things on her plate – her film/drama dubbing credits list is way more extensive, plus all those games, narration work, planetarium navigation, radio…and oh, her singing career. Casting-wise, Maaya’s a Bones/Wakabayashi favourite
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2. Tomatsu Haruka
3. Amamiya Sora
Comparing notes over Music Ray’n/Sony’s two golden egg- I mean, girls. So far, Amamiya’s voice acting career isn’t hitting the heights as quickly as Tomatsu’s did – at the 5-year mark Tomacchan was already doing things like Anohana and Pokemon while Amamiya is um…well, we shall see.
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4. Toyama Nao
5. Uchiyama Koki
6. Ozawa Ari
Three talented young actors who aren’t playing the idol game and get cast by whatever sound director, purely based on ability.
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7. Ishigami Shizuka
8. Kobayashi Yusuke
9. Taneda Risa
10. Onishi Saori
Comparing some of Aketagawa Jin’s favourites. When the guy likes you, he really likes you. The key is whether one can turn that initial visibility he gives you into something bigger – the seiyuu’s got to catch the eye/ear of other sound directors, cos Jin-kun doesn’t stick with his ‘favourites’ for very long and you can’t rely on him to keep giving you roles.

Initially, I was planning to look at Aketagawa’s castings over the years, just for the heck of it. Just to look at how his casting patterns have changed, which girls he’s favoured over the last 2 decades. I may yet come up with something but for now it’s on the back-burner cos the sheer amount of data involved is just…hah. Still got plenty of seiyuu I’ve been/am looking at; mostly older favourites though. People like Nakahara Mai, Sakurai Takahiro and Kawasumi Ayako.

So, can one even predict a cast for an upcoming anime? My answer would be ‘maybe’, but only if I know the following in advance 1) studio 2) director 3) sound director 4) production committee members. And I can tell you from experience that for roughly 65-75% of anime, you won’t know who the sound director is or the identity of the production committee members until that first episode airs. They know crazy people like me are watching, closely w

Otsuka Akio’s Seiyuu Tamashii

Hooray, another entry in the ‘oldfags shitting on modern day seiyuu and the industry’. Maybe I should start a tag for that.

Anyway, I have referred to this book previously. With almost 30 years’ experience, Otsuka is one of the most publicly recognized seiyuu with extensive work in anime, dramas and on the stage. He is also the son of the late, great Otsuka Chikao, one of the members of the pioneering group of actors back in the 1960s who helped shape ‘seiyuu’ into the profession it is today.

Like many of his generation, Otsuka doesn’t mince his words and pretty much rips into everything and everyone; from his contemporaries and juniors to anime fans to the industry itself. Much of the book repeats the same kind of sentiments, trying to drive home the core message that ‘young people today should not aim to become seiyuu’.

As in real life with baby boomers complaining about millennials in the workplace, it’s obvious that there is a sizable divide between the veterans and rookies in the seiyuu industry. Lest we forget though, the veterans themselves also rarely saw eye-to-eye with their seniors (to put it frankly, those who are now either dead or retired). They were however, more subservient back then and dared not rock the boat for fear of losing their jobs but at the same time, they were also more resilient than today’s seiyuu appear to be. Most of them tell similar kind of life stories – just look through the Seiyuu Road tag for some examples.

Obviously the young seiyuu of today face an altogether different set of problems but I doubt the gap between the young and the old will be bridged at any point. But that’s just life – the condescension of seniority, the petulance of youth. A cycle that will no doubt be repeated 10-15 years down the line when all your current favourites are greying or balding or have married into obscurity.

Tl;dr. Translated a couple of chapters of Otsuka Akio’s Seiyuu Tamashii on a private basis, might as well let them see the light of day. Not promising that I’ll do the whole thing though…!

Link to contents page – I’ll be dumping all the chapters under the pages section of the blog so check back every errr…6 months to see if I’ve translated any more.

Ps. Otsuka’s just put out another book called Seiyuu Juku for the people who didn’t heed his advice in the first book and still want to become seiyuu, hah. Got that one on order so let’s see how it turns out…

To become a seiyuu…

Da Vinci interviewed a seiyuu agency insider back in December 2015, hoping to learn what it takes to become a professional voice actor.

An increasing number of young people nowadays harbour dreams of becoming seiyuu. Recently, the manga Sore ga Seiyuu!, which depicts life in the voice acting industry with a comedic touch, was adapted into an anime that aired in July-September 2015.

Seiyuu, people who we start to admire after we begin to watch anime… The severe employment conditions faced by voice acting school graduates are widely discussed on the internet. Some of the freely flowing information includes an estimate that more than 300,000 people are trying to become seiyuu, but only 300 of those will make enough money to eat.

“What does it take to become a seiyuu?”. To answer that question, we asked a certain person who works in the seiyuu production industry, whose stories were told on the condition of anonymity.

Q: Right now, the number of seiyuu production companies and voice acting training schools is growing. This in turn, means that the chances of becoming a seiyuu are now higher…does that sound right to you?

A: It’s true that the playing field for seiyuu has widened with anime and games and so forth but having a bigger satellite dish doesn’t mean that you’ll get better reception. In fact, agencies are seeing an increase in the number of affiliated seiyuu who are merely decorations; you could actually say that the situation is rather unfavourable [for people wanting to become seiyuu].

Q: Apologies for tracking back a bit – could you please tell us about the kind of work that seiyuu production involves, as well as the criteria to gain affiliation with such a company.

A: To describe our business – we manage our affiliated seiyuu. That is to say, we provide services such as schedule management, support services for recordings and so on. As to how to become affiliated to the company…basically, you’ll have to audition.

Q: We hear a lot about ‘seiyuu training schools’; do (seiyuu production companies) have anything to do with them?

A: Yes we do. First off, it’s really rare to find anyone who can pass the seiyuu production company auditions right off the bat. It pretty much only happens to talented geniuses or former child actors and celebrities. By celebs I mean idols, actors or models – there are agencies with ties to the entertainment industry that do head-hunt these kinds of people and take them in. Analogy-wise, you could think of this group of people as having ‘skipped a grade’ in college.

So if you’re neither supremely talented nor already in showbiz, then the normal route to seiyuu production company affiliation would be through training schools. There are already plenty of training schools directly operated by the seiyuu production companies themselves, so in most cases people would move up to join the agency after they’d graduated, or they’d aim to get affiliation with another company. In any case, there are rigorous screenings done to get into training school and even with several hundred to a 1,000 applicants in each recruitment window, we only see maybe a few dozen or so people make it through – the doorway to seiyuu production company affiliation is extremely narrow.

Q: What a harsh world it is…to only have a few dozen people make it through training school to become seiyuu! Isn’t it?

A: You’ll have to break through that first barrier, to an extent. Training school takes roughly two years, but there are promotion tests every year. For example, let’s say there are 20 students, and only half of that number, 10, will progress to the 2nd year; and by the end, only 1-2 of them will have gained affiliation with a seiyuu production company.

So thinking about it beginning from the training school application stage, I guess that means only 1 out of 10,000 people will make it to the affiliation stage.

Q: Would you say that in order to obtain the skills needed to become affiliated to a seiyuu production company, one should go to a voice acting-related training school?

A: Well, it’s true that it’s tough to gain affiliation with a seiyuu production company out of the blue so for now, the quickest path would be by enrolling in a training school. Even if you’re one of those elite grade-skippers we’d still want you to have at least 1 years’ worth of acting experience so some people enrol for that reason; pro training schools teach you how to handle being in front of a mic etc. You can think of it as learning all the stuff that you should know before you become a seiyuu.

Q: There are an increasing number of vocational schools that offer seiyuu courses – any pointers you could offer as to which school to choose?

A: Honestly speaking, there are certain schools that are pointless to enrol in. The main point you should look out for – the achievements of the school’s graduates. To find out the type of seiyuu who have graduated from the school, do check out the alumni list. Recently we’ve seen students from various schools making their début or starting to work before they’ve even graduated, so it’s better to avoid schools that have poor track records, as well as newly-established schools.

I hope that people do pay attention to the ads that schools put out – “So-and-so Famous Teacher or Famous Seiyuu Supports You!”, that kind of thing. There may be schools with zero track records that bring in popular seiyuu for one-off courses, taking advantage of students’ desires to meet said seiyuu in a bid to raise their enrolment numbers. In my opinion it’s imperative that the content of the course is both practical and meaningful, as well as reflecting what actually happens in the recording studio. It doesn’t matter if the school isn’t in Tokyo as long as it has a good track record.

And this is just my personal opinion but…if you’re aiming to become a seiyuu, I would hope that you would attend college as well.

Q: College?

A: Yes. First of all, college entrance examinations are very painful and tough to go through. Overcoming those difficult experiences would serve you well when the time comes to enrol in voice training schools or when trying to join a production company.

Also, this depends on the person but I do believe that college life is a period of time where one is most able to ‘live life freely, making his or her own choices’. Meeting people from all walks of life, being a member of society – these are the kinds of life experiences that are truly priceless to an actor. You not only get to broaden your horizons; I also believe that it can help to make you more attractive as a human being.

When you’re young, you tend to think ‘doing anything that isn’t directly connected to my dream job is a complete waste of time’. Take this as an example. You’re working on an anime and you have to record a situation as follows: ‘a mid-afternoon date in the park with a member of the opposite sex’. If you’ve never hung out with friends or dated at the park, you might end up with a banal, boring, mediocre, unconvincing performance if you’re just trying to pull it out from your imagination. Having had similar encounters helps you build up a bank of experiences that you can draw from when required to in your acting. Even if you’ve never experienced something directly, you could still draw on the stories you’ve seen and heard from others around you as a ‘substitute for experience’. That is to say that, even if you haven’t got the direct experience, by mixing around with other people you can make their experiences ‘your own’.

There are merits in being a jack-of-all-trades. The seiyuu world really is very narrow, so rather than running away, consider the benefits that graduating college can offer in terms of future possibilities, or think of it as insurance. There are schools where you can polish your voice acting basics at night or on weekends, while still attending college. I would like for people to please consider the option of enrolling in college.

Q: Once you graduate from college you’d be 22 or 23 years of age. If you went straight to vocational school you’d be out by 20. Wouldn’t the former situation be detrimental to one’s hopes of joining a training school?

A: There is absolutely no problem with such a gap. This is especially true for the guys, where it’s not exactly uncommon for them to get their break at 30, so I think it’s unnecessary to worry about such things. Recently we’ve seen a lot of people who’ve switched careers, moving from normal jobs into voice acting. This group of seiyuu are well-received by staff members as they’re well-versed with social norms, plus they know how to conduct themselves as part of a group, which is always handy.

On the other hand, if you’re aiming to be an ‘idol seiyuu’ where youth is an advantage, you’d better start as early as possible. Rather than looking at training schools or seiyuu production companies, you should just aim for mainstream entertainment agencies. Raise your profile as an idol, model or tarento and you will receive more voice acting opportunities – that’s the usual pattern. However, I’d like to stress that I believe it’s incredibly difficult for someone to switch from being an idol seiyuu to [what we call] the ‘talented’ type of seiyuu, who can make voice acting a job for life…so I don’t want to recommend the (idol) path too much…

Q: Let’s change it up a bit now. You’ve probably seen a lot of A-grade seiyuu in your time so in your opinion, what are the necessary criteria for one to become a popular seiyuu?

A: Obviously, what I say is going to be pretty subjective. Let me write a rough list of 5 things.

1. Voice quality
This would be the only criteria that you’d be born with. Those with a 100% unique voice would have an advantage; it wouldn’t be unusual for offers to come in specifically because of the voice you possess. Even for those with common-sounding voices, there will be a higher demand for your services if you can handle a wide range of roles from young children to older parts. Apart from that, a voice that is easy on the ears. No matter whether it’s a high or low-pitched voice, it’ll be useful if it’s the type of voice that can be listened to for a prolonged period of time.

2. Acting ability. Expressiveness. Imagination
These can come naturally, but they can also be cultivated through effort. To refine your voice acting techniques as well as enrich your life experiences, don’t just limit yourself to watching anime, reading manga or playing games; go see the theatre, read novels, watch films, listen to music, see plays, visit art exhibitions – see, hear, touch and let the arts stimulate your senses.

3. Communication skills
There are seiyuu who describe themselves as ‘loners’ or ‘being shy’, but the truth is that you cannot survive in this industry if you don’t possess a certain level of communication skills. You have to build good relationships not just with your seiyuu colleagues, but with the staff as well; if you don’t, you may find that they may not call you in for job offers the next time around. Obviously there are people who truly do find it hard to be sociable, but they still put in the effort to be able to communicate properly in public. Additionally, there are a lot more opportunities to interact with fans through various channels such as concerts, public recording events and Nico nama, so fanservice is now an important point.

4. Speaking skills
This isn’t just about mastering ‘the art of conversation’ where you are to able to speak fluently or make people laugh. Providing firm responses, looking the other person in the eye when you talk, clearly listening to what others say – these are all important points. Also, having good general knowledge and the ability to strike up casual conversations are useful traits. It would be even better if you harbour interest in an array of topics, are able to discuss those subject matters extensively and can get a good response in return.

5. Visuals
What I mean by ‘visuals’ is whether seiyuu are conscious about ‘aesthetics’ in terms of grooming and physical appearance. People often say things like ‘it’s not about the looks but it’s about the ability!’ but in my opinion, if you want to know what a person is like on the inside, you should start from the outside. The seiyuu industry consists of people connecting to other people. To give someone you’re meeting for the first time even the slightest bit of a positive impression, you will inevitably have to pay attention to your outward appearance.

Those are the 5 criteria I can offer. Somehow, many wannabe seiyuu tend to spend too much time thinking about no.1 – voice quality or no.2 – acting ability when in truth, no.3 – communication skills, is the most important. Some people may be poor actors but instead, having charming personalities and are fun to work with so they might just keep getting calls for jobs (by the directors). To be honest, seiyuu are pretty much freelancers; sole proprietors whose agencies act merely as mediators and providers of referral services. In the end, it is the individual’s personal charm that is the deal breaker. Thus, to the people who have no friends or people who have a hard time making friends, try to work on that and make an effort to increase your number of friends. If you’re thinking ‘that’s pointless’ or ‘it’s too hard’, then you should just give up on becoming a seiyuu right now.

Q: Thank you so much for taking time to speak to us. Lots of very good stories in there but last of all, let us ask you about something a bit more sleazy…you know, what people call the ‘pillow business’.

A: As far as I know, I’d say ‘no’, (it doesn’t exist). This is true for the seiyuu industry at least – there is little to be gained from engaging in pillow business. It’s such a small industry where word travels around fast; plus, if you easily get a lot of jobs within a short space of time and continue to land offers, you might stop bothering to keep up good relations [with others]. If your relationship with the person in question starts to unravel; ie. you start fighting and then break up, then all jobs related to him or her will be cut off straight away. You’ve already gone through such great pains to get through that narrow doorway to the seiyuu world that it’d be a shame if you had to leave the industry because of such a thing.

Of course, relationships can go as far as the [anime/game] staff members and (seiyuu) going for meals together. For reasons like improving harmony, or to celebrate the end of a project. It’s similar to general corporate circles where you have meet-ups with business partners; stuff like year-end parties or New Year parties. The (seiyuu’s) managers will obviously attend together with the seiyuu and make sure they go home right after that first party [and not move on to a second one].

Q: Thank you very much!

A: It ended up being an interview about the skills needed to become a seiyuu as well as relevant topics of interest. I wonder if it will be of much help to wannabe seiyuu?

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Notes: There are a lot of confusing, sometimes interchangeable terms tossed about in interviews with/about seiyuu. I myself am guilty of inconsistency in translating these terms, so here’s a list of words I tend to use:

所属 (shozoku): literally, ‘belonging to’, ‘attached to’. I have often used ‘attachment’ in the past, for this article I use ‘affiliation’.

養成所 (yōseijo): training school
専門学校 (senmon gakkō): vocational school

The difference between the two? Training schools are subsidiaries of, or connected to, seiyuu agencies. Examples – Aoni Juku -> Aoni Production, Pro-Fit Voice Actor’s School -> Pro-Fit, School Duo -> KenPro, Nichinare -> Artsvision, and so on.

Vocational schools are places that offer general courses that polish the skills related to becoming a seiyuu. These would be schools like A&G Academy, Tokyo Announce Academy and Amusement Media Academy.

声優プロダクション (seiyū production): seiyuu production companies, which in my mind is the same as 事務所 (jimusho)

実力派 (jitsuryokuha): ‘talented’. seiyuu who make it in the business by virtue of pure voice acting talent/ability, as opposed to アイドル (idol)-oriented seiyuu whose looks, image and personality are key.

声質 (seishitsu): voice quality, descriptively – high/low pitch, clear, husky, nasal etc

枕営業 (makura eigyō): pillow business. Literally sleeping with the people with the right connections for benefits.

The next big thing? 2016 edition

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.
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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 [2015], 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)
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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.

*Seinenza Film Broadcasting

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.
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[end]

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;;;)

#71 – Seiyuu castings, earnings & everything in-between

I read Otsuka Akio’s book Seiyuu Damashii recently. It’s not so much a tell-it-all on the industry as it is a primer for wannabe seiyuu on what they should and should not do to survive in the business, but it does reaffirm a lot of my general thoughts & opinions about the industry.

There are a lot of misconceptions people – not only fans, but aspiring seiyuu themselves, have about the seiyuu industry. These cover everything from salary expectations to the casting process to the role of agencies & managers. I am by no means any expert nor do I have any juicy insider information to impart, but here’s getting down in writing stuff that is swimming in my brain.

Warning: Extremely tl;dr, Unorganized Great Wall of Text follows. My thoughts, not necessarily yours.

Casting & Auditions
・Let’s go through the casting process, roughly:

1. Preliminary consultation meetings involving authors, producers, sponsors, director & sound director
2. Sound director contacts agencies to let them know about auditions (if any)
3. Auditions are held
4. More meetings held to discuss & finalize casting
5. Agencies are notified of the decision

・Auditions can take place any time from more than a year before, to just a couple of months away from airtime. In most cases, auditions are only for the main characters. Supporting roles are usually left to the sound director’s discretion.

・The most important considerations in casting seiyuu for anime: budget constraints & keeping those damned producers & sponsors happy. In an ideal world directors would cast experienced, top-ranked seiyuu, but not every show has a budget the size of One Piece’s. Hence the trend of casting ‘popular’, fresh seiyuu who are still within junior ranks and earning peanuts.

・There are two main ways to determine seiyuu castings – the ‘hard-coded’ castings demanded by authors, sponsors and producers, and those that are done through the traditional audition system. Sometimes, the cast can already be in place before a sound director is even hired.

・The author does have a big say in casting. Hata Kenjiro for example, specifically asked for Shiraishi Ryoko (and possibly also Tanaka Rie, Ito Shizuka & Kugimiya Rie) in Hayate no Gotoku!. Takahashi Rumiko anime will always feature Yamaguchi Kappei. And so on.

・Sponsors and producers have a bigger and bigger say in seiyuu castings. Aniplex & SME famously love exerting their powers over anime castings by way of shoving in the Music Ray’n girls in exchange for production dollars yen – package deals, basically. It used to be the case with Tomatsu Haruka, and now it is so with Amamiya Sora. I’m wondering by this point how many roles Amamiya has actually ‘won’ through auditions. You could probably count the number on one hand.

・Increasingly, producers and sponsors want to cast ‘popular’ seiyuu. This refers to both male and female seiyuu who have a considerably large number of fans, whose names can help sell event tickets, merchandise and so on. They can also be employed to do cheap PR for the show through radio, magazines, events etc.

・These ‘popular’ seiyuu usually have a short shelf life; once they’re out of junior ranks times will be tougher. Not to mention (kuso-DD) fans these days tend to have short memories where ‘popularity’ is as permanent as a cloud drifting by. In this respect male seiyuu tend to do better as the rabid fujoshi fanbase’s loyalty is not to be underestimated.

・Before auditions even take place, the sound director will place calls to agency managers and get them to send their seiyuu along. Not all agencies will get a call. The smaller agencies will probably get very few calls. Sometimes, the sound directors will ask for specific names. Auditions are by no means a level playing field, which is why budding seiyuu will always try to get into one of the big agencies to maximize their chances.

・Sound director Hamano Kazuzo has mentioned that he has conducted blind auditions before, where the auditioning seiyuu’s face is not shown and their info withheld to prevent preformed opinions of the auditioner’s ability. He however, notes that such a move can backfire as the committee becomes too fixated on playing a “guess the seiyuu” game instead of assessing a candidate’s suitability.

・Someone like Aketagawa Jin doesn’t really bother with cattle call auditions. Instead, he’ll call up the managers he’s friendly with and they’ll send along seiyuu he likes or might like. Aketagawa tends to cast from within a selected group of seiyuu, getting them to try out for multiple roles until they find one that suits them – this is how casting for something like Shokugeki no Soma, which is a roll call of Aketagawa favourites, went.

・Off the top of my head, casting for recent things like Punchline and Kyokai no Rinne went similarly – call a selected bunch of seiyuu in, have them try out for everything. Chiranosuke (the cat) was hard to cast – there was no gender limitation set, so both male seiyuu and even Kugimiya Rie tried out for the role but all failed ‘til they found Yoshida Yuri.

・Voice samples found on the agency websites do actually play a bigger role that you’d think. In the past, agencies would have to send sample discs along to sound directors for consideration but nowadays, directors just browse the websites to check out potential castings, especially for juniors of whom little is known. That is why even a dinosaur agency like Osawa Office has had to get with the times and put up profiles for all their talents.

Agencies
・Getting into a reputable agency doesn’t mean the roles will roll in. This is why building a good relationship with your manager is paramount. Most of the time, it’s the managers who decide which seiyuu to send once they receive news about casting calls. So if you don’t get along well with your manager…

・When I see that a seiyuu has left their agency, is switching to another one or is going freelance, the first thought that comes to my mind is that they are not satisfied with their management. If not, then the seiyuu must be following their old manager that has left their current agency.

・When I see seiyuu not getting any roles for X period of time, what goes through my mind:
1) They’re not getting along well with their manager, who doesn’t bother to send him or her along to auditions
2) They suck at voice acting so they keep failing their auditions
3) They’re ill or pregnant

・Freelance seiyuu who actually remain freelance (as opposed to just temporarily being ‘unemployed’ before joining another agency) are rare. You might not have to give a cut of your earnings to your agency as before, but it’s harder to get jobs that way unless you have a great relationship with the right directors and producers, or you are very good at what you do. Examples of seiyuu who have been freelancing for at least a year – Arai Satomi, Kobayashi Yumiko, Takagi Wataru, Narita Ken, Yuki Hiro, Asakawa Yuu, Yusa Koji, Takahashi Chiaki, Yajima Akiko. Hosoya Yoshimasa, Shimizu Ai and Goto Saori are also approaching their first anniversary of freelancing in the next couple of months. Nazuka Kaori used to be managed by her mother when she was a child but now handles her activities herself. These guys have all built up respectable banks of work and staff members know and trust them well enough to give them jobs.

Seiyuu earn peanuts
・The ‘peanuts’ seiyuu earned formally referred to as ‘guarantees’ (gyara), amounts to around 15,000yen per 30-minute episode for the lowest-ranked seiyuu, no matter the amount of dialogue they get. The difference in earnings between a junior-rank seiyuu and seiyuu of a higher rank is not that much, give or take a couple of thousand yen per episode, but the costs do build up over the 1-2 cours.

・Seiyuu are ranked as juniors for the first three or so years after they debut. After that they climb a ranking ladder starting at rank 15, which signifies 15,000yen gyara. They slowly move up the ranks to 16 (16,000yen gyara) and so on. The highest gyara earned by a ranked seiyuu is apparently 45,000yen per episode. Anything higher than that and the seiyuu is deemed ‘no rank’, where they are free to negotiate their own pay levels. As a reference, someone like Kaneda Tomoko, who has been in the business for 15 years, apparently receives gyara of around 30,000yen per episode.

・Junior seiyuu are (apparently) not entitled to other fees such as TV broadcast fees, secondary usage fees (fees when your show gets released on DVD/BD), time premium fees (an additional premium paid to seiyuu on top of their basic gyara if a show runs longer than 30 minutes), and so on. If you’re interested in seeing the fee and percentage provisions for different media, please refer to the Japan Actor’s Union page (in Japanese, of course).

・Thus, rough calculations for a Rank-15 seiyuu whose anime show gets broadcast on TV, they will earn 15,000 + 15,000 x 80% initial utilization rate (初期目的利用料) = 27,000yen. From that, the seiyuu’s agency get a 20% cut and the taxman gets a 10% cut, leaving the seiyuu with a take-home pay cheque of 18,900yen.

・You can see why producers are reluctant to hire ranked seiyuu if they’re low on budget. Also, thanks to the need to pay seiyuu rebroadcast fees, some TV stations can’t be bothered to show reruns of older anime.

・Estimations by seiyuu themselves – only 10% of seiyuu (Otsuka Akio), or around 300 seiyuu (acc. to Namikawa Daisuke) can make a living from voice acting. The rest only get by with supplementary income from part-time jobs. And of course, no banks will give them loans because of their unstable income, though this is not exclusive to seiyuu but to the entertainment industry in general.

・Some basic numbers – average rent in Tokyo 23-ku is 97,000 yen/month, Saitama is 68,000yen/month & Kanagawa 66,000yen/month. Adding food, travel & living expenses, the average junior seiyuu would need at least 3-4 regular roles in anime shows per season to survive, not taking into account any other earnings from games, dubbing etc.

・Part-time jobs pay around 1,000 yen per hour on average, with a maximum of 29.5 working hours per week (if people work more, companies have to pay their health insurance).

Seiyuu schedules & the actual work
・A bit on seiyuu work schedules – I like to think of them in ‘blocks’. 3 potential blocks of work per day – morning, afternoon, night, any day of the week. That’s 3×7=21 potential blocks of work. If you’re a popular/idol seiyuu, weekends will mostly be taken up by events, so that’s 3-6 blocks gone.

・Afureko will take biggest priority on a seiyuu’s scheduling as you can imagine how hard it is to assemble a cast of X number of seiyuu at the same time. All other work revolves around those schedules. Afureko can take place at night as well if that’s the only time everyone is available. Game lines are recorded solo in a booth, so they can be done whenever the seiyuu is available. I suppose most seiyuu would prefer not to work at night so that they can spend time prepping (script check etc) or resting, but c’est la vie.

・Article 61 of Japan’s labour laws prevents under-18s from working between 10pm and 6am, so that’s late-night TV & radio appearances out of the question for young seiyuu idols and child actors.

Besides anime..
・Dubbing work doesn’t require auditions, the TV station, producers and audio directors will decide the castings. Games do sometimes require auditions, particularly if it’s a big title from a big maker.

・For drama CDs adapting manga/ranobe, most of the time the author of the original work can pick their own cast (within limits). The reason why anime casts can differ from drama CD casts is simple – different production companies, different directors.

・I’m actually quite conflicted when it comes to seiyuu radio shows. One the one hand it’s an opportunity for the seiyuu to show off their personalities and good fun for the fans to get to learn more about them, on the other hand they get paid next-to-nothing for such work, if at all. For every Suzakinishi there are 20 other shows with barebones listenership and they’re just taking a block out of seiyuu’s schedule which could be spent more productively.

・Instead of thinking about what type of jobs pay seiyuu the highest gyara in raw numbers, let’s think about a ratio: pay per hour. In this case, CMs would give seiyuu their biggest bang for buck. Game recordings are tiresome, but little preparation is needed – you’re just reading a phone directory-sized book of scripted lines. Anime requires a bit more thinking, especially if you’re voicing a major role where interaction and dialogue with other characters is important. Western film and TV dubbing is the least rewarding due to the amount of prep work needed – having to repeatedly check the source material to make sure your performance is as close to the original’s as possible.

・There is no hard and fast rule for earnings from things like gravure/PBs, solo DVDs, events & merchandise. Figures thrown around: for college festival events – 50k+ for higher rank seiyuu, 30k for junior/newcomers. For CDs – if it’s a solo release under your own name you get royalties amounting to maybe 1% of total sales, more if they wrote lyrics or music (+ more royalties if the song gets on karaoke machines). If it’s an anime-related one (charasong) you just get paid a flat fee based on your rank. If the charasong is recorded on the same day as afureko you get paid 0.5 gyara, if it’s on a different day then you get paid full gyara.

・Event fees depend on the scale of the event and what type of event it is. Promo events could pay nominal or even no gyara, large scale live concerts will obviously pay more. Don’t worry, the frontline iM@S & Love Live seiyuu are making enough out of these things. At least someone like Nakamura Eriko, whose anime work is almost non-existent, made/makes enough to survive.

・Something vaguely related – I always bought merchandise like T-shirts etc for all the indie band lives in clubs & livehouses I went to cos that was the only way they’d make money since they’d be in the red from the get go thanks to the noruma system. I’m pretty sure the same rules apply to any of the anisong artists playing venues such as the Shibuya-O groups (O-East etc), Duo Music Exchange, Liquid Room & Zepp…so please buy the merchandise!!!

Future expectations of seiyuu
・For a while I was actually quite angry about mainstream talent agencies muscling their way into seiyuu management *cough* HoriPro *cough*. I see the way these guys ‘manage’ their idols and talents and I really don’t like the idea of such practices being imported into the niche seiyuu industry.

・Nowadays I’m just resigned to the fact that the seiyuu/aidoru/tarento worlds are all converging and there’s no point getting all worked up about something I can’t stop. Whether or not Horipro exists, the seiyuu of today all need to be entertainment machines well-versed in the art of public appearance or they won’t get hired.

・Obviously, more and more kids are getting into voice acting before they’re truly ready – they’re still in school and haven’t even received proper training which inevitably means that some of them will crash and burn fairly quickly. We used to only see the truly talented ones like Sawashiro Miyuki and all the Himawari kids (Miyano, Irino etc) coming through but these days all you need to get by is a pretty face or an entertaining personality.

・If all a seiyuu has is a pretty face and an entertaining personality to go along with their very average voice acting, I am almost 100% certain that they’ll have faded into obscurity within 10 years. Talent doesn’t guarantee you a solid, long-term career either. I’m thinking of the early to mid-00s, of people like Shimizu Ai, Nogawa Sakura, Mochizuki Hisayo, Chiba Saeko, Kuwatani Natsuko, Matsuoka Yuki. The likes of Hoshi Soichiro, Toyoguchi Megumi, Orikasa Fumiko, Ueda Kana and heck, even Ito Kanae, aren’t getting as many roles as they used to.

・Even if you have a ‘good’ voice, the chances of making a lifelong career out of seiyuu work are slim. Examples of people who are still working steadily into their 50s and 60s – Tanaka Atsuko, Koyama Rikiya, Otsuka Akio, Ishizuka Unsho, Fujiwara Keiji, Inoue Kikuko, Yamadera Koichi. How many of today’s seiyuu do you think will survive in the industry until their 40s?

Tomatsu Haruka & her future career path
・I’ve been following Tomatsu Haruka since her debut in Polyphonica in the spring 2007 season. At the beginning she was rather obviously being gorioshi-ed by MuRay and unsurprisingly, gained a lot of haters. She was MuRay’s test seiyuu idol guinea pig, being pushed into anime, dorama & everything in between to see what worked and what didn’t.

・Hardly anybody bought Tomatsu’s first single naissance and it wasn’t until Kannagi that same year that people started paying attention. Her success gave Sphere the platform for success, though it was K-ON! that really cemented their status.

・Sphere itself is reaching a plateau as a group, no thanks to all the new kids on the scene including their juniors Trysail so I don’t foresee MuRay putting too much money or effort into them for much longer.

・On an individual level Tomatsu remains the most successful of the first-gen MuRay girls and has steady, diverse income streams – there was that series of ads for Furuta chocolates she did last year, she has her photobooks, voicing the PR mascot character for NHK’s 2015 taiga dorama Hana Moyu and most importantly, she has Youkai Watch (and Precure). At the very least, I am no longer worried about whether she’ll be earning enough to feed herself in 5 years’ time (discounting the fact that her dad is most likely super rich…).

Everyone wants to appear in kids’ shows for a reason
・Forget about that boring line seiyuu feed you in interviews about ‘wanting to give children dreams’ when they talk about why they became seiyuu or what type of shows they want to appear in. The true reason anyone wants to be part of big-name franchises like Precure, Doraemon and Shonen Jump adaptations is that involvement in such shows means they can pay their bills for many years down the line. TV series, movies, games, merchandise, rebroadcasts, CDs, Blurays, events – the potential earnings are mind-boggling. That is why I’m happiest when my favourite seiyuu land big roles in kids’ anime – happy for their bank account.

SHIROBAKO
・What you see happening in SHIROBAKO is the cattle call audition where dozens of seiyuu from dozens of agencies try out for specific roles over a span of many hours – sometimes auditions can even stretch on for days, if there are a significant number of leading roles that need to be filled. The process is both tiring and tiresome for the audition committee and too often by the end of the day, everyone sounds more or less the same, which makes it difficult to make a proper judgment. Hamano Kazuzo also notes that it’s not necessarily true that the seiyuu who audition first will have an advantage over those who audition later on during the day – sometimes, an amazing performance will snap the audition committee out of a lull.

・And yes it can be intimidating to see the other seiyuu who come in to audition for the same role that you’re trying out for. Look at this talk about auditions between Ueda Kana & Shimuzu Kaori back in 2008….
marunage
・That one episode where different parties with different interests duke it out over the seiyuu casting? Maybe exaggerated a bit, but it’s a good illustration of how castings aren’t made based on who fits the role best. They might not fit the role at all, or even be fit for voice acting in the first place (Hi, Denpa Kyoushi).

The people
・Anal directors who have doubled up on duties as sound director – Sato Junichi, Ikuhara Kunihiko, Matsumoto Rie, Mochizuki Tomomi, Chigira Koichi, Mizushima Tsutomu, Oizaki Fumitoshi, Inagaki Takayuki.

・Prolific sound directors whose names you’ll see appearing again & again in anime season listings – Aketagawa Jin (much more on him later), Tsuruoka Yota, Iwanami Yoshikazu (the SHIROBAKO parody guy!), Kameyama Toshiki (Shaft’s chosen sound director), Mima Masafumi, Iida Satoki, Wakabayashi Kazuhiro. I’m actually working on a sound director spreadsheet so maybe that will see the light of day…some time before I expire.

・Seiyuu-turned sound directors: Inoue Kazuhiko, Chiba Shigeru, Tsujitani Koji, Fujiwara Keiji, Goda Hozumi, Mitsuya Yuji, Nakajima Toshihiko, Shioya Yoku.

・It goes without saying that sound directors play favourites. They like certain types of voices, they like to work with certain people who they know can get the job done. Nothing galls sound directors more than having recording slowed down by hapless, inexperienced seiyuu who mess things up & force retakes. Though, as Otsuka Akio points out – if a director doesn’t ask for a retake it doesn’t necessarily mean the seiyuu did a good job. It could also mean that the director thinks that that is the limit to a particular seiyuu’s ability and it’s a waste of time and resources to ask for retakes when they won’t get better performances out of them. Tomatsu Haruka has also mentioned that early on in her career, a (director) sent her home early from the studio as he didn’t think she’d be able to produce anything better than what she’d done that day.

Aketagawa Jin
aketagawa
・Let’s talk about Aketagawa Jin. He’s 43 years old, the son of Aketagawa Susumu, a veteran sound director and one of the founding members of the now-defunct Group TAC studio. He started working in anime in the mid-90s on shows his father had a hand in such as Those Who Hunt Elves and in 1999, broke out as a sound director in his own right.

・As Jin started his sound directing career at a young age he has always been close to his seiyuu. Many of them treat him as a personal friend – Iwata Mitsuo addresses him as Jin-kun and even today, someone like Matsuoka Yoshitsugu refers to him as Jin-chan.

・Aketagawa’s casting patterns are fairly predictable. Within a certain window of time (let’s say 2-3 years) he fills his main cast with his favourite junior talents. When they’ve moved up ranks and their guarantees get too expensive, he’ll move on to another batch of young seiyuu. That doesn’t mean Jin will cast aside his past favourites – when there are side characters or guest roles he needs to fill, he’ll give his ex-faves a quick call and into the studio they come.

・When Aketagawa plays favourites, he really plays favourites. You can do a quick google of the keywords ‘Aketagawa Jin’ and ‘pillow business’ and come up with plenty of hits and supposed examples of seiyuu that he literally ‘favours’. Of course the list also includes plenty of male seiyuu.

・Aketagawa loved/loves Tomatsu Haruka. He was the sound director of her first ever anime Shinkyoku Sokai Polyphonica in 2007 and continued steadily casting her – in 2009, 9 out of 18 of Tomatsu’s roles had Aketagawa as sound director. By 2014, this was no longer the case – only 1 out of her 17 roles was directed by Aketagawa and she was being hired equally by people like Mima Masafumi and Iwanami Yoshikazu.

・Let’s look at another recent example. Around 2013, Taneda Risa was accused of engaging in pillow business with Aketagawa. Of her 24 anime roles that year:

Aketagawa Jin 16
Iwanami Yoshikazu 2
Tsuruoka Yota 1
Fujino Sadayoshi 1
Ishibashi Rika 1
Kikuta Hiromi 1
Mizushima Tsutomu 1
Motoyama Satoshi 1

・However you play it – that’s just a crazy amount of roles being handed out to you by the same guy.
taneda
The tabloids covered the ‘scandal’ too. Whoopee.

・Coincidentally or not, Taneda’s Jin-chan ratio dropped to 4/14 in 2014 and so far this year, it’s been 4/11.

・Aketagawa has been casting from within a larger pool lately – Ishigami Shizuka is quite obviously a new favourite of his with her count at 7/18 for 2014 & 5/10 for 2015, including 2 upcoming lead roles (in Shimoseka & Rakudai). He also likes Ozawa Ari and Kimura Juri and for the guys, Hanae Natsuki & Kobayashi Yusuke are his golden boys of 2015.

For 2014 he had 13 shows:

10 Nakamura Tomo
9 Yamamoto Itaru
8 Murata Taishi, Yamamoto Kanehira
7 Ishigami Shizuka, Sakurai Hiromi, Soma Koichi, Suwa Ayaka, Yanagida Junichi, Saito Hironori
6 Hikasa Yoko, Kakuma Ai, Minase Inori, Ishiya Haruki
5 Kawamura Rie, Kayano Ai, Furukawa Makoto, Nogawa Masashi, Kanemoto Ryosuke, Matsumoto Shinobu
4 Taneda Risa, Takahashi Minami, Sakurai Takahiro, Koyama Rikiya, Onishi Saori, Kido Ibuki, Noto Mamiko, Tezuka Hiromichi, Yamagishi Haruo, Dendo Rina, Kawanishi Kengo, Nose Ikuji

And for 2015 so far he has 13 shows, 1 of which he had little control over casting (Grisaia):

8 Furukawa Makoto
6 Sakurai Hiromi, Murata Taishi, Hashimoto Chinami
5 Ishigami Shizuka, Hanae Natsuki, Nose Ikuji, Kakuma Ai, Yamamoto Itaru, Kayano Ai, Kimura Juri
4 Taneda Risa, Kobayashi Yusuke, Onishi Saori, Takahashi Minami, Matsuoka Yoshitsugu, Hosoya Yoshimasa, Nishi Asuka, Muranaka Tomo, Nogawa Masashi, Ozawa Ari
3 Tomatsu Haruka, Uchida Maaya, Hikasa Yoko, Noto Mamiko, Sakurai Takahiro, Miyake Kenta, Suwa Ayaka, Minase Inori
2 Ono Kensho, Komatsu Mikako, Ono Yuuki, Suzaki Aya, Koyama Rikiya, Hidaka Rina

Not full data, but just some of what I picked up by looking at cast lists. You haven’t heard of some of those people? That’s ‘cos they only voice mob characters.

Ozawa Ari
・Yes I’m totally biased towards Ozawa-chan, but I’m not the only one who loves her. At the very least, I’m Enterprise + her manager loves her enough to get her tons of jobs. And sound directors love her enough to keep casting her. Look at her stats for 2015 thus far:

Total roles: 19
Of which are leading roles: 6
Sub-leads: 4
Anime-related radio shows: 4 (Monmusu, Aquarion, Gakkou Gurashi, Classroom Crisis)
Other radio shows: 2 (Ozanari, Nairaji)
Sound director breakdown:

Aketagawa Jin 6
Motoyama Satoshi 2
Okuma Akira 2 (1 joint with Urakami Yasuyuki)
Iida Satoki 1
Morishita Hiroto 1
Shimizu Yoji 1
Fujita Akiko 1
Hata Shoko 1
Inagaki Takayuki 1
Oizaki Fumitoshi 1
Yamamoto Koji 1
Tanaka Akiyoshi 1

Incidentally, one of her mob roles was in Doraemon.

I guess I think about stuff too much. But then, I always worry about whether my favourite seiyuu
Okay this post has been sitting in my drafts for way too long. It’s not finished but I think this is as far as I’ll get at this point in time (ok I’m just lazy).

On a somewhat unrelated note, Sore ga Seiyuu! starts airing next week. Please do watch it!