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It's Hard Out Here For a Seiyu
March 9, 2009 2:22 PM   Subscribe

The global economic crisis claims another industry - anime voice actors, or seiyu. In a country that produces 60% of the world's animation, competition has always been fierce, but the rewards can be great, as seiyu sometimes achieve national fame, and are lauded with awards. The fame does come with a price, though: Female seiyu have fallen prey to stalkers, and male seiyu face the wrath of their fans should they dare marry. And for most seiyu, life isn't at all glamorous. It's estimated that 80% need to take on part-time jobs (at McDonald's, for example), or do voice acting for hentai; pornographic anime, in order to make ends meet. The fact is, the industry is glutted, and being a seiyu is no easy life.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing (34 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
seiyu later!


sorry Marisa.
posted by Mister_A at 2:24 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not really any different than, say, people who are trying to break in as performers on Broadway, and have to wait tables in the mean time.

Or, for that matter, people trying to get their big break in Hollywood. There are a thousand dreamers for every one who succeeds.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:26 PM on March 9, 2009


It's not really any different than, say, people who are trying to break in as performers on Broadway

The difference is that seiyu are involved in the actual production of works, and are in fact the central feature of anime, arguably more important than the animation or writing.

So it's sad that they can't make a decent living doing this, for whatever reasons.

Games and videos are leisure luxuries that a depression economy can't fund well I guess.
posted by troy at 2:32 PM on March 9, 2009


Seems the hardest thing to do is to find a friend or two.
posted by jquinby at 2:32 PM on March 9, 2009


Does dubbed anime still sound like they use about 3 different people for all of the voices, all of them annoying?
posted by Artw at 2:35 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait. The people that voice the boys that look like girls are in fact boys that look like girls?

Hunh.
posted by kavasa at 2:35 PM on March 9, 2009


arguably more important than the animation or writing.

My friend, that is an argument you should lose.

Also: This is a pretty fascinating post, thanks.
posted by absalom at 2:41 PM on March 9, 2009


Doesn't surprise me much, as Chocolate Pickle said, the entertainment business tends to be that way. Only a few really make real money in it.

Also: HURF DURF anime sucks.

Good post.
posted by Chan at 2:44 PM on March 9, 2009


Mrs. Beese thinks all female anime characters sound like they're having polite little orgasms anyway - so hentai may not be that big a deal.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:45 PM on March 9, 2009


Artw - just about (I have no idea how current this link is). English voice acting is less glamorous, though I have a friend who has/had something of a man-crush on Keith David for his work as Goliath. In general, I think much fewer english voice actors fear stalkers than their Japanese counterparts.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:55 PM on March 9, 2009


I was once involved with an American woman who was living in Japan. She had worked in a hostess bar for a while at some point, and on one of my visits to see her, she took me to the bar where she had once worked.

Like most Japanese bars, it had a karaoke setup, and at one point somebody cued up the opening titles for some animated kids show. One of the hostesses took the mic and started singing the title theme, and she was really good. I had never heard it before, but I could still tell she was spot-on. It was startling—it was like having Nancy Cartwright in your living room doing Bart Simpson's lines while you watch the show.

I mentioned how impressed I was to my girlfriend and she told me "she should be good—she does that voice for that show."
posted by adamrice at 2:56 PM on March 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


Not that it's much different for voice actors here; I was listening to the audio commentary for the new Futurama DVD and John DiMaggio (voice of Bender) mentions offhandedly that he had emceed some small corporate convention in Nutley, NJ. Honestly, I don't see where he'd find the time with all the shows he's involved in.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 3:07 PM on March 9, 2009


It's not really any different than, say, people who are trying to break in as performers on Broadway, and have to wait tables in the mean time.

this makes it sound like performers on Broadway are some kind of reasonable standard for industry glut, though. Broadway is ALSO a place where it is extremely difficult to make even a decent living unless you're one of the very few headlining performers. From the few stage actors I know (all of them still trying to make it big), you can practically hear a citywide groan every time they announce that a celebrity like Tim Curry or (shudder) Clay Aiken will be taking over a big part in a broadway show. With fewer and fewer people going to see plays ever day, smaller theaters and productions are closing down all the time, and it looks more and more like the only shows that will stay open long enough to make money are big budget Disney productions. So long as famous faces are willing to work the stage for cash, fewer unknown stage performers even get a chance to make it big. Compared to Broadway, Hollywood looks like the easiest place in the world to start a career in acting.

So yeah, maybe it is a bit like Broadway. It's apparently really really difficult.
posted by shmegegge at 3:17 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


So long as famous faces are willing to work the stage for cash to bolster their shaky credibility as "real actors"...

FTFY
posted by Joe Beese at 3:29 PM on March 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't care a hoot about anime but I sure appreciate the work done for the post. Nice going, Marissa.
posted by etaoin at 3:43 PM on March 9, 2009


arguably more important than the animation or writing.

What.
posted by rifflesby at 3:50 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Desu~
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:05 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Seiyu" falls solidly under the realm of "Japanese words that you only ever see English speakers use, ever." ALSO "BUKKAKE" DOESN'T MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:15 PM on March 9, 2009


I don't know what it's like in Japan, but you can make very good money as a voice actor in the US. Getting picked for an animated show is nice steady money, and once you've shown you can deliver the goods under a little pressure like that, it's easy to get get gigs if one of your voices matches someone's character conception well. Breaking in is, apparently, very difficult, but once you're in, there can be lots of work.

As a somewhat interesting aside, Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker from the movies, is an extremely talented voice actor. He's been criticized for "Hey, I'm wearing pants!" acting in Jedi, but he's marvelous behind a microphone. His best-known role is probably that of the Joker in the animated Batman series, but the man is freaking everywhere. Check out his IMDB listing -- 198 "Actor" credits (many of which are, of course, "Joker", but there's a lot of variety). Chances are fairly good that you had no idea it was him if you saw any of those shows. The man is a verbal chameleon.
posted by Malor at 5:20 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


the central feature of anime, arguably more important than the animation or writing.

Yeah, this needs some explanation, please.
posted by GeekAnimator at 5:23 PM on March 9, 2009


The future of 'anime' industry is in doubt:

Ide's is a success story in an occupation that, according to a study conducted by the Japan Council of Performers' Organization, has an appalling turnover rate of 80 percent.

The study revealed that a single cel on average earns animators a meager ¥186.9. Considering how a grunt worker has to fill in 500 in-between cels per month for a television animation series, this means a monthly wage of ¥94,000 at best — for an average of 250 hours of work — until an artist gets to handle key frames or storyboards.

posted by KokuRyu at 5:34 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well everything's arguably more important than everything else. It just depends on your tolerance level for retarded arguments.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:35 PM on March 9, 2009


erm good acting can cover for lackluster animation or writing and is what brings the characters to life. The story and overall production design is of course crucial but serious anime watchers don't watch dubs IME.
posted by troy at 5:42 PM on March 9, 2009


HOLY SHIT, BATMAN!

i followed BATMAN, "The Animated Series" back in the day while studying for my PhD exams. the Joker was one of the most intense voice-over characters (outside of any of the Simpsons) on TV. i had no idea Mark Hamill has voiced the Joker since 1992!

one of my most favorite character actors-animation actors is Ron Perelman as the voice of Slade in Team Titans. that whole Terra arc with Slade was just terrifying --the first time ever i saw any US cartoon deal with the issue of rape and child abuse. he really is amazing.

the guy that does the voice of Spongebob, by the way, is none too shabby. and the guy that does Patrick Star really found his niche. what's-his-name used to be in that show Coach but was always just too awkward. as Spongebob's sidekick he is just perfect.

i loved Jason Alexander as Duckman. and to be honest, the best animation show on TV at the beginning of the century was Nickelodeon's Arnold. the voice work on that work with all those kids was just beautiful. really gave you a feeling that you were looking at theater not just TV.

of course, the work in any Pixar movie is just out of this world. am waiting for Brad Bird to just surrender to my harassment and make a movie just about Edna Mode :D ok, the Shrek movies had awesome work also (Cameron Diaz' best work yet) and Jack Black was perfect as Po in Kung Fu Panda.

i did some voice over work in the 1990s and loved it. actually made some money. stopped acting after i became a mom and, quite frankly, what i miss most before doing theater or film/tv is voice over work. it is really some of the most fun work i've done in anything.

is it wrong that my dream is to become the voice of a pixar character? that would be so cool :D
posted by liza at 6:00 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been tracking this thread through secret server scripts and have found that 99.9% of the readers clicked on that "pornographic anime" link first...... and never came back...
posted by HuronBob at 6:02 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]



The difference is that seiyu are involved in the actual production of works, and are in fact the central feature of anime, arguably more important than the animation or writing.

So it's sad that they can't make a decent living doing this, for whatever reasons.


HUH? Are you saying that broadway actors are not involved in the production of, and a central feature of Broadway shows?
posted by delmoi at 6:07 PM on March 9, 2009


arguably more important than the animation or writing.

Nthing the "what?" I've talked to people who are absolutely certain that one aspect of filmmaking is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT PART. Most of the time it's some aspect of the writing, but sometimes it'll be a real head-scratcher like music. It always strikes me as silly to place an extra level of "importance" on one aspect of a medium that is almost by definition collaborative.

erm good acting can cover for lackluster animation or writing and is what brings the characters to life. The story and overall production design is of course crucial but serious anime watchers don't watch dubs IME.

They also don't watch animes that have been re-animated by Westerners.
posted by brundlefly at 6:11 PM on March 9, 2009


Well, since you mentioned Spongebob and Patrick Star, the voice actors also play Starscream and Bulkhead in the new Animated Transformers cartoon (which you know all about if you have small kids).

There's a funny Animated Transformers spoof where the voice actors use their Spongebob voices.
posted by eye of newt at 6:15 PM on March 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


It always strikes me as silly to place an extra level of "importance" on one aspect of a medium that is almost by definition collaborative.

I'm not saying it's the most important, but the voice acting is (often) where I find the true entertainment value of anime, such that not-bad voice acting is more important than not-bad writing or not-bad animation. Eg. I don't care if they throw filler (non-) animation scenes in, or if the story has some rough spots, but baad voice acting will drive me away from a series.

Now, a first-rank effort like Outlaw Star is hard to break out into which part was "best", but for me the cat-girl character's performance just slayed me over and over again. That this seiyu also did Asuka in Neo Evangelion should not be surprising.
posted by troy at 6:25 PM on March 9, 2009


As KokuRyu points out, via his link, it's not just the voice actors. I'm under the impression that the production of anime involves a ton of hard work with very little reward beyond the recognition of obsessive fans. For every Satoshi Kon, Yoko Kanno, or Hayao Miyazaki, there are stables full of gruntworkers living hand-to-mouth.
posted by lekvar at 6:33 PM on March 9, 2009


Also, skimming IMDB, one thing I notice about American voice actors is that the successful ones work. Constantly. Cartoons, games, movies, documentaries, promotional tie-ins, toys, anything. Further, my marginally-informed impression is that voiceover work isn't as simple as doing impressions; studio time is expensive and timelines are tight, so the actor has to be able to arrive on time, get into character, get the session in a take or two and then haul off to the next recording session. An 80% failure rate doesn't surprise me much.
posted by lekvar at 6:47 PM on March 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not really any different than, say, people who are trying to break in as performers on Broadway

The difference is that seiyu are involved in the actual production of works, and are in fact the central feature of anime, arguably more important than the animation or writing.

So it's sad that they can't make a decent living doing this, for whatever reasons.

Games and videos are leisure luxuries that a depression economy can't fund well I guess.
posted by troy at 5:32 PM on March 9 [+] [!]


I . . . I don't even know where to start here.

I make my living as a voiceover producer. Saying that voiceover is the central feature of anime is flat out delusional. No ifs, ands, or buts. That is some Timecube-level crazy. Writing comes first, always, and even on a bad day art substantially outweighs voiceover in importance.

Breaking into voiceover work is not like breaking into Broadway - big-budget productions like videogames frequently use local actors for trial readthroughs of the script. Anyone who turns in a stellar performance, of course, has a shot at being kept. Broadway doesn't, as far as I know, routinely bring in local talent for their stars to rehearse against.

Finally, games are doing extremely well in a depression economy - large and sloppy publishers are closing down B-grade studios left and right, sure, but anyone with the chops and a smattering of experience can get hired easy. I can think of ten AAA game studios that are actively undergoing major hiring right now just off the top of my head. Consumers are depressed and desperate for escapism right now - this is a boom economy for us.

I think yours may be the first comment I've seen on Metafilter that isn't egregiously grammatically butchered and yet every single statement contained within is absurdly wrong.
posted by Ryvar at 6:47 PM on March 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Let's get the actors who performed Death Note or Ghost in The Shell 1st and 2nd series and give them a poorly written script with horrible animation and see how it does in comparison.
posted by juiceCake at 7:14 PM on March 9, 2009


I just love the distressed looking anpan in the fujoshi link. Chocopie in a goblet, Death Note, oh no!

Voice, stage, TV, whatever - all actors have it rough.
posted by betweenthebars at 7:45 PM on March 9, 2009


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