Voice Acting in Anime is Acting!

Wow, I think we can all agree that I have reached new levels of post naming perfection! Really do I need to even write anymore, that title is so incisive and intricate, it can just stand on it’s own. And maybe it should cause the rest of the post ain’t getting any deeper.

I used confused anime character images so often that I made a collage!

So what am I talking about today? Everybody already knows that voice acting is acting. It’s in the actual name. But well, I had a sort of epiphany of sorts. I was talking to a friend about voice acting both in anime and in other mediums (western animation, games, dubbing…). This friend, like about 98% of the people I know (myself included) want to be a voice actor and we were discussing some of our favourites. They remarked that a lot of the voice actors I really like, always sort of sound the same. As in, you can always recognize their voices in pretty much every role they take on. If you want to be mean about it, you could say they have very limited vocal range, the optimistic take is that they’re distinctive.

In any case, after thinking about it, I agree. Most of the voice actors I really enjoy don’t tend to do a lot of different voices. They aren’t likely to be voicing several characters in the same series unless those characters are supposed to sound similar and I can usually tell it’s them by their pitch and intonation as they don’t necessarily have tons of variability. This is by no means an absolute, as there are voice actors I love who are barely recognizable from one role to the next and play various ages and genders but it does happen often enough.

seiyuu

seiyuuseption!

I know that when I was first introduced to voice acting as an actual job people had, I thought it was mostly about , well, their voice. One of the base qualities of a voice actor, I figures, was a good clear voice with great enunciation and the capacity to control and modify that voice to suit a wide variety of characters. It actually took me some time to realize that although those can be an asset and are very admirable skills, they are not in fact requirements to be a voice actor, or even to be a great voice actor. What can I say, I’m a little slow sometimes.

The more important part of being a voice actor, is the actor part and not the voice part. A voice actor has to sell a role with only their voice. That takes some major acting chops. And a voice actor that can modulate to create a lot of different voices may have more ease getting different jobs, but at the end of the day if they cannot get the emotion across or embody the character, it generally doesn’t matter how great they sound. For the most part, audiences seem to prefer a better actor with a less impressive voice to the opposite, if given the choice.

In my specific case, this become particularly true because of my voice acting preferences. I really like deadpan and naturalistic performances. I don’t even mind when people mumble. Since I watch anime subtitled it sort of doesn’t matter how easy the actor is to understand and that’s probably very different for people who don’t. With that consideration out of the way, I listen to voice acting in a different way then people who are actually listening to dialogue and following the story along.

anie reading paper

the reading part has drawbacks as well…

I listen to the sounds more, and what they convey. This makes the acting part of the performance even more important to me than it would otherwise. I know this because I take in the voice acting in dubbed anime differently. Since I’m combining understanding and following the narrative with the interpretation of the voice acting, I don’t pay as much attention to the subtleties of inflection and I don’t read into voice performances as much. I take them more on face value. I wonder if it’s the same for fans across the world. I figure everyone takes in voice acting differently when they are experiencing a dub versus a sub.

Add to that the fact that I tend to enjoy understated and naturalistic voice acting and you basically have a fan that is almost indifferent to the voice part of voice acting. That’s an exaggeration. Some people have super yummy voices and I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy listening to them. But I have and do enjoy a lot of voice actors who sound like perfectly average people. You know, the type of voice you wouldn’t really notice if they were asking if you were paying cash or credit. That’s a super specific example. I mean a voice that doesn’t stand out in any way. As long as I believe it’s the character speaking and not some person in a studio, then that’s a performance I can get behind. And if they make me believe and animated person is real even for just a moment, then I’m going to call them a great voice actor even if they can only do one type of role.

Of course, this is based on my preferences and experiences. They differ a lot from viewer to viewer. I’m sure some people care a lot more than I do about the quality, pitch, timber, register (I don’t actually know what the words are to define the quality of a human voice…calibre?). But I’m willing to bet that the acting part is still important even if it may not be more important.

Shirobako voice acting

I obviously had to use Shirobako at some point

What I’m saying is that I have to give up my dream of voice acting, because I’m a really bad actor. Like painfully bad. Maybe I could get hired specifically for productions that are aiming for the so bad it’s good sort of thing but even then, I might not be talented enough for that. I’m good at other things. For instance, most studios would be lucky to have me as a PA. I would be the awesomest PA. I gave myself a pep talk. That was weird but it just goes to show how great a PA I would be.

What do you look for in a voice acting performance? Do you now or have you ever wanted to be a voice actor? If you still do, do you need an agent. Cause I think I would probably be pretty good at that too….

Rini 2020 (9)

let’s negotiate!

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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26 Responses

  1. I can identify certain voice actors from their voice alone – AMQ has taught me that I can generally single out Saito Soma, Kaito Ishikawa and (of course!) Ume-chan by singing voice – but normally when I play the “Who’s That Voice Actor?” game, the answers can be fairly off target.

    The problem with the male voice actors I stan is that they tend to have one “mode”… maybe a falsetto…and they tend to not really go outside those. Sometimes you don’t notice because you’re focussed on the plot and not the voice, but this is especially true of Ume, as sad as that may be, with the glaring exception of Wakasa (Orefuro) which is his falsetto. From that, you can basically tell from that all I need is a nice voice for my bois and I’m sold. (To my knowledge, this was also true of Vic Mignogna, which I was a stan of for a time several years before the whole legal thingy happened against him.)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Such a fun post. I am impressed by your voice over talents.Great post!

  3. Miandro says:

    Most of the time, I only voice actors when they are known to be super flexible and talented with how they voice different characters. I usually think of Kana Hanazawa’s performances and how different they are for shows like Prison School where she played as Hana and in the Monogatari series where she played as “Sengoku Nadeko” – these two characters are in totally different sides of the “character spectrum” (sadistic to cute).

    For the English dub VAs, I can only remember being a fan of Crispin Freeman’s performance as “Kyon” in the Haruhi Suzumiya series. The character’s snark and sarcastic attitude fitted his voice performance well!

    • Irina says:

      I almost never watch dubs, I should get better acquainted with dub VAs

      • Miandro says:

        I only know of dub VAs from like the early 2010s. No idea who’s hot in voice acting right now hahaha.

        It’s super hard to find good dubs nowadays, but whenever there is, it’s always worth a listen.

  4. Krystallina says:

    I definitely couldn’t be a voice actor, but I am constantly wishing that Western VAs would get more respect and prestige. I mean, no matter what, some people are going to get voiceover or traditional acting jobs based on their starpower alone, but it seems like too many animated projects go to TV/movie actors instead of voice actors. They just seem very disposable to companies sometimes. The upcoming SCOOB! movie or The Powerpuff Girls revival come to mind, and Tales of Vesperia Remaster and Kingdom Hearts 3 also have main characters who, according to their VAs, were not asked to return.

  5. Andy says:

    Voice acting can really make or break a series for me. The Monogatari Series has some of the best out there and I always point to it as a huge reason why I love it.

    Also, if you want to dive deeper into the rabbit hole of voice acting, I always enjoy rewatching this video on how voice actors tend to voice characters sharing similar physical traits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocg62MF9A84

  6. Scott says:

    I can feel this so much on a lot of different levels. I am not as good as detecting Japanese voice actors until it’s obvious for me like Jun Fukuyama and such, but I find a great joy in listening to English voice actors I know and hearing their voices or trying to hear what kind of range they have and when I can spot them.

    That’s why something like the dub for Promare is my perfect version despite probably knowing that the Japanese voice acting is great too. The dub had all Star voices from when I started watching anime but experienced so they were at there peak.

  7. Mari says:

    I think voice actors often get an unfair shake, especially dub actors. You have to convey a huge breadth of emotion using only your voice – you can’t rely on facial or body expressions like a film or stage actor can. And you also have to make sure your voice fits perfectly with the way a character’s face is moving on screen – which often means changing lines on the fly or digitally altering them in post-production. I watched a YouTube vid recently about Sarah Natochenny (the English voice of Ash in Pokémon) and hoo boy, I could never do what she does every day haha

  8. Dawnstorm says:

    I like all sorts of voice actors. Daisuke Ono is a voice actor I always (?) recognise, for example, while Daisuke Namikawa is a voice actor I never recognise. Yet, I like both.

    In the industry, it seems to me, there’s often a personality cult, where you type cast voice actors, even though they’d probably be capable of more. I think I remember, though it’s been a while, Kana Hanazawa being typcast on moe roles, so that she was actually looking for different kind of work (and finding it in Shin Sekai Yori and Psycho Pass). Interestingly, at the same time, I think they were trying to push a singing career for her (see the ending of Shin Sekai Yori, I think).

    Some voice actors I like have an idol career, too (e.g. Yukari Tamura), and it’s often marketing synergy (I think I remember Natsuiro Kiseki being marketed with the idol group Sphere, who voiced the main characters – most notable member: Haruka Tomatsu).

    I tend to be most impressed by voice actors who pull off lots of different roles, though – if I ever realise they’re the same person. That can take a while.

    I also sort of get a kick out of juxtaposing very different roles. For example, Yuki Kaji, who voiced both Eren Jäger and Bananya (I tend to have character swap fantasies, which in this case is hilarious).

  9. Pinkie says:

    I do notice how many people do the same voice. Mark Hamill is a great voice actor for example but his recognisable roles all fall a bit in that “samesie” kinda feel. A lot of them sound like Joker. Chucky in the New Child’s play for example can feel that way. It is something that kind of gets me out of things, but not that much more as seeing Nicolas Cage be Ben Franklin and Johny Blaze.

    I oftenly here voices that sound familiar coming from people I don’t know at all so in a way it happens in real life as well, without acting so seeing a voice return is not the issue here I think. It is due to becoming so familiar with a voice we can identify it. I am not sure if manga producers watch as much manga as some of us do. So while we can hear someone who voiced 20 things on our anime list, they might just see a person who is perfect for the part.

    When voice acting doesn’t work it REALLY doesn’t work, if I am annoyed by a voice I can’t move past it and when its “Mark Hamill again” I can ..even if I am aware it’s Mark Hamill and not the character. When this happens I pretend that that story is just set in an alternative world where everyone that exist here exists there in some shape way or form. The actor and character share the same soul… but in a different part of the multiverse.
    That usually helps me move on.

    What I look for in voice acting is a bit hard to put into words. I feel like I can explain this best again with Mark Hamill, who is such a great voice actor. When he plays the Joker.. I think the character comes alive .. he stops being Mark Hamill for a while and IS the joker.
    Good voice acting is about transforming to me. With a good voice actor you should be able to take away the script and by explaining the situation.. they should more or less know what the character would say next or at least give me that sensation. Rip the script from Hamill’s hand and he can still keep a scene going without losing Joker.

    The Japanese voice for Dio is another example of this for me, each line is so consistent in tone you just know the voice actor understands the character. The Japanese Voice actor for Adachi from Persona 4 in the anime is an example for me that comes to mind as in someone i never felt the character. Neither did Elfen Lied to me.. in both versions. Black Clover would be a third example as I feel they try to hard to be the standard shonen protagonist..at least as far as I got into it before I dropped it. There is nothing that makes it their voice. As much as Chucky sounded like the Joker I still felt … yeah the way the actor speaks .. he knows what the character is about.

    • Irina says:

      I quite like John DiMaggio and Patrick Warburton as voice actors and they both tend to always sound the same

  10. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see myself ever becoming a voice actor because i’m way too shy irl and i may stumble on words.
    We really came a long way from the 90s with Resident Evil and Castlevania Symphony Of The Night levels of voice acting.
    Cowboy Bebop for a 90s anime its the best voice acting in both sub and dub.
    Yes you would still need an agent in Japan seiyus have a variety of Agencies. representing them and they could drop you at the blink of a hat if you do something really controversial. (Aya Hirano and the time she slept with almost everyone in the band except for the bassist.)
    -K rogueotakugamer.

  11. David Boone (moonhawk81) says:

    Tried to reply with a great image of Kanamori in negotiating mode, but I’m just not that good with computers. Still, it’s the thought that counts, right?

  12. I think it varies for me depending on the character. I tend to jsut like good performances regardless of style as long as they fit what I’m seeing on screen.
    As to being a VA…I have recorded some lines for a couple of small projects, but they haven’t gotten off the ground yet. So, consequently, I haven’t gotten paid yet, which is a shame. Regardless, I’m voicing a nonbinary android in an FNaF fan production, four different scientists in a web series, and a father in a radio drama. Assuming they don’t get cancelled.

  13. K.A.L.T says:

    Never really thought too much into it like you do. Although I can say I definitely really like deadpan and naturalistic performances too. That’s probably just my preference in character type though ^^”

  1. May 21, 2020

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