Voice Acting in Tokyo with 坂井 俊祐, 山口 立花子, 渡部 優衣
Voice acting is more difficult than it sounds, Japanese voice actors and actresses are incredibly passionate about their jobs and… delightfully good looking.
That is more or less what I learned during a dubbing lesson with professional voice actors in Tokyo. Tomek and I were incredibly lucky to meet Yui Watanabe, Shunsuke Sakai and Rikako Yamaguchi who took their time to teach us how to dub for anime after a fun day at Tokyo’s International Anime Fair on the 24th March 2013.
From left to right: Shunsuke Sakai 坂井 俊祐 , (me), Rikako Yamaguchi 山口 立花子, Yui Watanabe 渡部 優衣.
I first met Yui Watanabe. She introduced herself as the voice of Tokyo’s Skytree mascot Sorakara-chan, which means From the Sky. She dubbed Macaron in 30-sai no Hoken and Laval in Lego Chima, Yuri Oshimoto in Teekyū. She is the voice of the anime character Hibari Isora 伊空 ヒバリ in the popular Japanese series called Mawaru Penguindrum 輪るピングドラム where she also performed the theme song. Yui Watanabe is the voice of one of the Triple H girl-idols of the show and simply adorable. She also has her own kawaii blog (in Japanese) and I am her wanna-be sibling.
We share the same fascination for Japanese fashion and… similar hairstyles. I wish I could say the same about voices. Her voice is amazing. Naturally cute and extremely special, not close to any voice I have heard so far.
The introduction to voice acting took place at the Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel in Odaiba where we found out more about the joys and challenges of voice acting and their personal profiles.
Shunsuke Sakai had an impressive portfolio despite his young age. He gave his voice to the anime series Darker than Black – Kuro no Keiyakusha, to the episodes of Eureka 7, he did the theme song lyrics for Gintama, he was a cast voice actor for Man in Amnesia, he dubbed in the anime Shikabane Hime and the White Album.
But voice acting doesn’t come easy, even once you have made it to the popular shows.
Shunsuke demonstrating how he has to suffer tease attacks from Yui and Rikako during co-work.
The girls were setting things straight.
He also demonstrated Kamehameha かめはめ波 (Turtle Devastation Wave). Kamehameha is the energy attack shown in the Dragon Ball series which has turned into a hilarious internet meme.
Before getting to our live voice act, we were going to get prepped and had to get down to the nitty gritty of voice training. Our trainer was Rikako Yamaguchi, a popular voice actress and already a voice acting teacher herself. She also writes her blog (in Japanese).
Rikako has extensive experience as an established voice actress. She was Kouhai-sensei in Chitose Get You!!, the voice of Pūsuke in Gon, Osaki-ko in Hiiro no Kakera – The Tamayori Princess Saga and Hiiro no Kakera Dai-ni-Shō. She dubbed the character Sachi Nogami in Lagrange – The Flower of Rin-ne, Mary in Red Garden, Fumi Kanno in Devil Survivor 2. She also did various roles for some episodes of the Sengoku Collection and From the New World.
Just as Yui, she also had a non- anime role in “IDOLM@STER Million Live“.
Voice acting in Japan is incredibly popular. Not surprisingly, considering that more than half of the anime market in the world is from Japan. Unlike in other countries, it is not a behind the curtains job. Voice actors and actresses have their fan clubs and can advance to become singers, TV actors, film stars.
We were just beginners and Rikako made sure we were using our voice potential to the fullest by going through a set of breathing techniques and voice practice. Essentially voice acting is about giving 100% of your voice capacity, which sort of means making screaming enjoyable for listeners.
It sure did help to be a Speech and Language Therapist! After all our travels my degree was useful again. It wasn’t difficult for me to follow as I knew breathing exercises from my work with patients helping them to support speech and voice.
We had to feel the mechanism of breathing and that means that your waist and abdomen should expand as you inhale naturally. As you exhale, your waist contracts and we could feel the air flowing out. Tomek had the lung volume of a swimmer, still exhaling on ‘aaaaa’ when the rest of us gradually ran out of air.
We were ready to manage greater vocal demands.
Shunsuke showed us our script and assigned our roles which we would be dubbing – characters from the Japanese anime Pata Pota Monta.
While the three professionals guided us through the handouts, we were preparing to try anime snacks.
To mark the occasion we would feast on nothing less than specially selected anime nibbles.
I thought that maybe I will just munch all the way through and Tomek will do my part. But others seemed to have had the same idea.
Our performance was about to start.
Timing is all. Watching the clock and knowing when to start, matching the mouth movements with text and expression with intonation.
Tomek was going to be the voice of the Tiger.
I was going to dub the character Monjiro. Notice how the Japanese voice actors read their scripts diagonally.
Our scripts were horizontally arranged and had an English translation. Phew. The scripts have many different columns with a section for ‘situation‘ (what the anime characters are doing) and a ‘comment‘ section (what the characters are saying). Every new scene is divided and numbered on the script. We had to find out the time of voice-onset to fill another column by ourselves – which was not easy at all.
The repertoire of professional voice acts give seiyuu confidence and ours were full of energy showing off a wide spectrum of voice variation that we were going to incorporate into our performance. Watch the video with awe about what we were about to do.
And off we go.
We are voice actors!
‘We are excellent (-ly struggling)‘ – is what that thumb is meant to say.
It was a lot of fun to fail, too.
As a reward Rikoku was giving out sweet butter cookies which were part of a game. If you got a spicy cookie you would go through the stinging sensation of eating pure Japanese wasabi but in turn you could win of a lot of anime memorabilia.
My tongue burning… but it was worth it.
In the end we were all winners of a fantastic day.
Thumbs up for the pros! Someday we might meet again – they did say to see us for another dubbing challenge…
On the way home I was finishing my stock of received anime snacks.
What? Finish the post? Okay.
Just one last bite.
Okay, folks, see you around!
I would like to thank Meet The New Japan Campaign, the organizers of a great and memorable event!