4.2 Why work doesn’t fall in your lap

4.2 Why work doesn’t fall in your lap

“Akio-san, I wonder why I’m not getting any work….”

Once upon a time, a young man confided this in me. He was a seiyuu struggling in the bottom ranks.
I’d worked with him in the studio before and I offered him an answer right away.
“It’s because you’re awful”.
You might think that I’m being too outspoken but there is basically no other reason why you’re not getting any work.
I could see that he was wounded by my words. To his immense credit, he picked himself up from there and started to really put in the effort. When we met in the studio, I would offer him a range of advice, saying things like ‘This is what you did just now – to clear that hurdle, how about trying this out instead?’. I met him in the studio again after quite some time had passed and I’m glad to report that his acting had become a lot more robust.

Being a part of the voice acting industry, the idea that there would be specific ‘times where seniors give their juniors guidance’ – that rarely ever happens. If it were to start it would probably quickly get out of hand. First of all, the studio is a place where the aim is to complete the [recordings] so there is no time for that sort of thing. All you have to do is to follow the recording process under the director’s supervision. If an individual actor were to start making suggestions about doing this or that to the other actors it would be like having too many cooks spoiling a broth & only end up adding confusion to the situation, given that there is already a limited amount of time to work within. In other words, you’ll be wise to do as they do in theatre work – settle down, put your mind to the job at hand and recite your lines properly.

As I wrote earlier, if you want to practise you’ll have to do it alone – that is the life of a seiyuu. Due to budget concerns it is rare for a show to hire significant numbers of veterans so accordingly, there are few opportunities for rookies to observe excellent acting displays. In many ways, it is difficult to transfer skills from the old to the young within this industry. The only ways one can do so are by observing, or by directly asking. Unfortunately when recordings are done and you ask me “How did I do?”, all I can say is “you were awful”….

This is a truly thorny problem. It would be meaningless to teach point-by-point and asking them to copy what I did, even if they could do as you asked. If you asked staff members whether they prefer ‘a copy of Otsuka Akio’ or ‘Otsuka Akio himself’ then they would of course, go for Otsuka Akio. Hence I can only say that you’d have to try out a lot of things on your own, seek other people’s opinions and think about it without blindly accepting everything – that is the only way you can survive.

“I now understand the meaning behind what you said at that time, Akio-san”.
He said this to me later on. It was an event that made me think ‘I might have made him feel terribly uncomfortable then but it looks like that meddling nature of mine was not wasted in the end’.

The majority of seiyuu will not find work and get buried under a pile of people who share the same fate. To survive amongst 10,000 seiyuu, you’ll have to think of something – anything, to stand out from the crowd, even if slightly. That ‘slightly’ however, is the most difficult part.

How do you get your head above everyone else’s? I’m not the kind of guy who’s qualified to talk about that but at the very least, you won’t learn anything merely by looking at your narrow, immediate surroundings.

Watching anime, reading seiyuu magazines and practising trying to produce an anime-like voice won’t help you get out of that range of ‘sounding kind of like a seiyuu’. As long as you adhere to stereotypes, there is no other path for you than to end up getting buried. Though there are people, both male and female, who get popular for merely having damned beautiful ‘heads’…but I know nothing about that route so if you want to know more, go ask someone else.

In our world, there is this thing called an audition. What the selectors look for there is nothing other than an individual’s ‘potential’. Just how far can that person go? Their selections are made based upon those evaluations. After all, the cost of casting a rookie is virtually the same across the board.

At those times, the rival who is most likely to make more money than you would not be the one who tries to curry favour by meekly introducing themselves, “Hello, I am Otsuka Akio. I will do my best”, but rather, might be the guy who gets into the role so much that he messes up his introduction and even forgets to give his own name. However, it’s ultimately up to the selectors’ so I can’t say that it’s 100% categorically true.

The recent batch of seiyuu, are in a way, ‘good’. When reading their lines they are already able to formulate their own methods of intonation. Whether or not they’re considered able to expand upon that potential is of course, a separate issue. I, and a lot of others, believe that it’d be better if people dealt with their rivals verbally and directly but somehow, it seems that not many are able to do this.

There are certain cases where you see fresh young stage actors appearing on the scene and quickly gaining popularity – I think that it’s possible because these guys have been quietly studying up how to produce performances that can devour their rivals’. Create voices that sound like those of seiyuu, match the mouth flaps the way seiyuu do during recordings – they’re working on all these things beforehand and perhaps, this is why the selectors are seeing the potential in them.