Seiyuu Work: M

I read this and I’m like, either this brain is too small or it’s just not how it works. However I appreciate this point of view, focused on the male voice actor side of things.

But to look for – in a prospective seiyuu – qualities way far from what being a seiyuu entails, already tells us how the industry has shifted to the point that talent agencies believe that only seiyuu with good looks, that can sing and act are the ones that will be successful in the future. [emphasis removed]

What they are forgetting is that most of these seiyuu, unfortunately, will not survive the industry unless they are extremely lucky.

With the seiyuu rankings, the abuse and manipulation in the seiyuu industry that lead to some – unworthy seiyuu – to rise quickly in the ranks and snatch roles from talented voice actors that didn’t even had a chance due to rigged auditions – in which power plays and favoritism end up deciding most of the main cast in anime series – it is hard for seiyuu to thrive.

Is this fanon leaking? I don’t know…

Based on the handful of older seiyuu who’s given talks in the States, seiyuu industry started out as actors and actor-like talents getting into dubbing. Eventually specialized talents called seiyuu became a thing and really blew up in the 90s–and in a lot of ways the requirement for this is just a specialized actor with additional training/education.

The fact that a lot of the popular male seiyuu nowadays climb the entertainment industry ladder by leveraging fan fame because of their solo activity is pretty much textbook entertainment industry stuff. To me this is more of an indictment that you can’t grow your career purely on voice acting, especially if you are expected to be the primary financial provider in your family. There are only so many ways to monetize fame (traditionally, anyways), and if you make it long enough to be a veteran, there are only so many ways to you can continue the career outside of regular dub roles, such as being a teacher or write a book. I can see a lot of older female seiyuu working mostly just behind the scenes while married with children, because that option is open to them and they don’t have to bust their butts making a buck. I am not sure if I can see any successful men doing this short of the rare SuzuKens (who probably make as much as his wife actually) out there.

So it isn’t seiyuu are becoming like tarento–they are actors to begin with, and it is just like how things were many years ago. Just like how actors sometimes also show up in variety shows and whatever, except they don’t have to as much because they are paid a lot more doing acting on popular TV shows and films.

Yes, seiyuu have to do tarento things because voiceover alone doesn’t pay much, and it’s hard enough to get regular roles in a super competitive field. Even if you make it, it doesn’t really pay until much later, which means you have to “keep” making it, or expand the zone to get into other things like all other types of acting, music and general purpose entertainment. Plus, doing all these jobs open doors that might not otherwise be there.

It’s probably super important to highlight what makes a seiyuu a seiyuu–a set of specialized skills reflected in a seiyuu’s ability to create a character voice or a narration voice based on the customer’s needs. It is not something that is that easily done, and like acting there are different ways or styles (schools of thought) to accomplish this, which is going to also impact how seiyuu work with ADR people, directors, and other people running the project. This is the skill set that made seiyuu a distinct profession, which is not something the average generic JP geijokai tarento will have. In fact most people don’t have it. While any actor can probably do a dub, working with actors and specialized seiyuu are different, and it is something sound directors can figure out–still, directors would want seasoned veterans over people who are not experienced at voicing, no matter if they are tarento or not. That’s why they cost more.

On that note, the other major problem on that article (and the writer) is on “rank” because, again, ranking is not some controversial fandumb. It’s kind of boring. Voice acting in Japan is largely unionized work in which the major agencies agree on a set of pay scale, and industry-wide most agencies follow suit. Internally, each agency have varying systems on ranking their new hires and paying (and charging) out, and rank advancement. There are cases when a seiyuu’s career facilitates going freelance once it reaches a certain point. Different agencies have different priorities in terms of talent management (family friendly work vs. eroge, for example; or voice work versus general purpose versus seiyuu idol). Some agencies don’t do the ordinary cut until you are at high rank and is flat rate until then, etc. It can vary a lot.

Having followed IM@S over the years, it’s a good case study. Every time a new branch launches (although I’m not sure who is that for CG) some seiyuu gets on board as their first role. For example, Eriko Nakamura, Asami Shimoda and Manami Numakura. You can see what happened to them, and wonder as I do why Eriko isn’t married yet? Good for her. But those 3 are still doing well enough to stick with Arts Vision, which is still one of the largest seiyuu agency out there.

If you look at Million Live, there are now a handful of freelancers who have left the mothership, the latest being Asuka Kakumoto. Given it’s been over 7 years that these talents have been with the company, their future careers are well realized at this point. The three Spacecraft Millions each have achieved some degree of success, although arguably none of them are successful; at the same time, being able to participate in a project that do not have an ending in sight and is already relatively popular is a silver bowl of sorts, it is an auto-win.

Which is just to say, with the Million Live anime on the horizon does this mean Asuka gets to keep more of her gyara? Is it because of some internal rank issue? I have no idea, but these do play a role for someone who doesn’t have a lot of jobs otherwise.

More commonly, freelancing is a thing that happens when you think your career has either plateaued or you have a spat with management. Mostly the former. My hunch is also that managers are really in short supply, especially skilled and well-connected ones that can really develop talent. What happens when the manager that helped you out in your first 4 years gets bogged down with newbies and you think the agency isn’t going to help you much more, and you are ready to take on some administrative work to earn back some fees that otherwise goes to management? Again, there is already a pay scale for major work, and freelancing gives flexibility to let you take on smaller jobs or jobs that your agency would not have accepted, it’s not a bad option for established talents.

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