If there’s one thing any anime fan has thought about at least once, it’s to become a seiyuu and star in a popular anime. Sure enough, many overseas anime fans have taken up studying Japanese in the hopes of moving to Japan in order to achieve that dream. Of course, the first step would be to attend a voice acting training school. But just what would be attending one be like?
The answer to that question is explored in Hashiri Tsuzukete Yokattatte.
The anime follows main characters Minato Suyama and Chikako Oomori on their way through Suidobashi Animation Academy to achieve their dream of becoming successful seiyuu. But to do that, Chikako must first learn to gain more confidence in herself, and Minato has to learn what it means to really bring his characters to life. Once they can do that, only then can they truly succeed.
After all, to become a seiyuu, all that is needed is acting ability and confidence, right? Unfortunately, real life isn’t that simple. Becoming a seiyuu takes a lot of time and effort, as well as sacrifice. And even then, one won’t necessarily succeed.
To start with, many aspiring seiyuu first move to Tokyo to attend a voice acting training school. More often than not, they live on their own, having to take care of their daily needs as well as to pay their way through school. This was depicted accurately with Minato moving into a new apartment away from his family upon entering the academy. However, he doesn’t seem to have any issues with living alone.
With real-world seiyuu, living alone often brings its own set of problems. For example, Tetsuya Kakihara, known for the voice of Natsu in Fairy Tail, moved to Japan from Germany when he was 18 to pursue voice acting.
He would attend his voice acting vocational school in the morning, work part time in the afternoon, and then take Japanese language classes at night. The next day he’d start over. To make matters worse, some fresh seiyuu living on their own, earning little money from part time jobs and voicing a character with a 3-second line, like Jun Fukuyama, didn’t even have basic necessities like a fridge. Fukuyama had to be lent one by Kazuya Nakai. Definitely not the glamourous, interesting life as depicted in Hashiri Tsuzukete Yokattatte.
Of course, these problems are only just the beginning for anyone looking to become a professional seiyuu. Even if one manages to get through voice acting training school, there is no guarantee that they will manage to land roles. Hiroshi Ohtake, an 86-year-old seiyuu known for roles in old anime such as Moretsu Ataro or Himitsu no Akko-chan, stated that he believes only one in one hundred aspiring seiyuu will become professionals.
And even then, of the ones who become professionals, not many of them will be able to devote all their time to voice acting, and may have to take a job on the side just to earn enough to live. After all, why give roles to newbie actors, when anime production companies can just hire veterans who have prior experience?
Some companies may attempt to take advantage of new coming seiyuu, especially female seiyuu. New female seiyuu may often to be told to do, or forced to do illicit things for a role. For example, there was a case where a 16-year old girl auditioning for a role was promised to be recruited. However, she was taken to an office, where she was touched on her lower body. She bore with it, since she wanted to be accepted. In the end, she was still rejected. Similarly, former voice actress Hiroko Konishi was tricked into attending a mixed bath at an onsen by her producer, and even told to serve him without wearing a swimsuit.
Finally, idol group members may often choose to, or are even offered to, become seiyuu after they graduate from their group. Since they are often young, beautiful, and already have an established fan base, taking the leap from singing on stage, to recording behind the microphone is easy, even if they don’t have formal training in acting. Furthermore, their ability to sing does come in handy if the role requires an extensive amount of singing.
An example of this would be former AKB48 member Amino Sato, who voices Alice Tachibana in The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls mobile game. This season’s Goblin Slayer anime also features a former idol-turned-seiyuu. Priestess is voiced by Yui Ogura, former member of idol group StylipS.
While a seiyuu’s job looks to be fun and exciting, it certainly is anything but. In reality, it is incredibly taxing and difficult, and not always rewarding. Especially now, since there is a greater influx of aspiring seiyuu, but just not enough roles on the market. For anyone who wants to move to Japan to become a seiyuu, it’s best to really think about if you can devote all that time, energy, resources, and even emotional state in trying to achieve that dream. For now, it’s best to cheer on and support the amazing seiyuu for managing to make it this far, despite all the odds. And remember, all that glitters is not gold.