It was a long time ago when I first decided to find out who voiced an anime character that was interesting. I think the reason was an image song used in the show, and some related extra material (a music video or something?) gave me the first glimpse of of who they were. I think that is still the most prominent way voice actors are featured today–DVD extras, image songs, and the occasional documentary.
I get the impression, over the years, that many of us are aware about voice acting. Disney made a point to give well-known actors and actresses chances to feature their voice in feature films. There are also those who were consistently more famous doing voice work than their live-action counterparts. In a lot of ways the only real difference between the American voice acting industry and the Japanese one is the sheer size–America is small, in this instance.
Over the years I’ve read up on a fair share of voice actors as well. Many of the older generations in Japan had training both as professionals and as students in acting as “voice acting” schools didn’t really pick up until recent years. A few even branched over from live action acting, like this charming lady. Many more applied their acting skills into voicework, some more vocal about it than others.
However, what always strikes me as a peculiar aspect of the Japanese voice acting industry is its repeated attempt to package some of their better talents. In some instances they really are talents; they eventually breach genre bounds and make a career for themselves. In other instances they fall into the fold as we know as the pop idol industry not unlike everyone else, but it just seems less brilliant than they could have been. They’ve made it, but they aren’t that big.
As stars in the sky, these stars are just as interesting though. Interesting enough that I think someone can really fansub this piece and uh, we’ll watch it and go “oooh” and “waah” and maybe we’ll ask smarter questions at anime convention panels as a result. Yea, it is so relevant… In as much as it is a curiosity, it is a story for every one of them, pioneering in a strange industry that only really exists in Japan, and yet making things so big for themselves that their fans overseas would wait in line for hours just to hear them. As much as I’d like to attribute things to personal insanity, part of it might just be due to the fact these stars are brilliant.