1.1 Becoming a seiyuu ≠ Choosing a profession
A considerable amount of time has passed since the initial ‘seiyuu boom’ period. I couldn’t tell you what nth boom we’re at right now, but it seems there are still so many people who admire seiyuu. Over the last 10 or so years, the number of rookie seiyuu I’ve come across in the studio has increased to figures beyond my grasp. It was only until recently that you could still recall some of their faces or say, “Oh for the current batch of rookies we have X and we have Y…”. It’s kind of surreal talking to seiyuu wannabes and rookies nowadays where a lot of them will declare “I’ll become seiyuu”, as if they were applying for a regular job.
After I hear what they say I can only think of them as being extremely naïve to believe that the following blueprint still exists. First of all, get into seiyuu school, then progress to a seiyuu production academy, all for the sake of learning how to produce a good voice and how to act properly. Following that, you’ll gain admission to a famous seiyuu production company and start taking on smaller roles that your manager has snagged for you, while waiting for that big chance to come along. Initially you’ll only be landing cheap-paying jobs so you’ll spend half the time doing part-time jobs and the other half doing voice work. Soon, you’ll land a big role and it’ll help you get on track so that you can eventually earn enough to feed yourself.
I wonder how I should start picking that apart…thinking of all this stuff makes me want to take a drag on a cigarette. It seems there is still a never-ending parade of young seiyuu who believe that this is the ‘basic’ route that they should follow.
“I want to become a seiyuu”.
It’s up to you if you want to think that way. However, it would be better if you did not equate “wanting to become a seiyuu” with “choosing a profession”. Choosing this path is fundamentally different from saying ‘I want to be a doctor’, ‘I want to be a pâtissier’ or ‘I want to work at Bandai’. Or at least, that is what I think.
Think about it carefully. There is nothing that certifies you as being a ‘seiyuu’. You earn no qualifications nor do you have a license. At best, all you can say to other people is “I am from X Seiyuu Production Agency” or “I voiced the role of X in the anime Y”. It’s not the type of self-introduction that anyone could understand. You’d seem like a rather unreliable guy from society’s point of view; in fact, your [seiyuu] title may as well be non-existent.
In the first place, what allows a person to say ‘I’ve become a seiyuu’? When you’ve joined a seiyuu production company? Can you call yourself a ‘seiyuu’ when all you’ve done is utter ‘Welcome!’, a single word of dialogue in an entire production? I think everyone will be aware of this, but just because you’ve become a seiyuu doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll get money rolling into your bank account every month. For every piece of work you’ll be forced to fight it out on equal footing with the so-called ‘popular seiyuu’. These battles are way fiercer than all of you believe them to be.
From a content creator’s perspective, they’re mostly looking to hire people whose pay packets fit within the budget constraints, and it’s a plus point if they can act; plus it’s totally up to them to look at employing TV and stage actors as seiyuu if they see fit. It’s only a small minority of otaku who mistakenly believe that “people who call themselves pro seiyuu can produce better acting performances”.
In other words, possessing the title of ‘seiyuu’ has no effect on one’s ability to land voice acting jobs. You’re just an actor who does voice work so of course you’d call yourself a voice actor. Rookie seiyuu who get the order of these things mixed up often wonder to themselves, “Hmm, it’s odd that I’m not seeing any jobs come in now that I’ve become a seiyuu…” but in my opinion, they would be better off changing their line of thinking to “Why am I not able to get any work at all?” instead. It seems to be rather difficult for those who can’t seem to get out of the job-hunting mindset and they get stuck in their belief that ‘it’s so strange that work is not falling in my lap’, and facing a variety of disappointments both big and small, they end up quitting the industry.
I’m fed up of having seen so many of these kinds of people. I think it’s safe to say that 90% of the rookies I meet will end up following the same narrative. After all, the majority of seiyuu cannot find a sufficient amount of work.
I normally choose not to say anything when I see the youngsters getting stuck up the creek without a paddle. However, I’ve got a chance to express myself in a different way now that I’m writing this book so I’ll try to state the reasons I don’t recommend the seiyuu way of life in as clear a manner as possible.