Voice acting in Japan

Voice acting in Japan is acting as a narrator or as an actor in radio plays or as a character actor in anime and video games. It also involves performing voice-overs for non-Japanese movies and television programs. Because Japan's large animation industry produces 60% of the animated series in the world,[1] voice acting in Japan has a far greater prominence than voice acting in most other countries.

Some voice actors—especially certain voice actresses—often have devoted international fan-clubs. Some fans may watch a show merely to hear a particular voice actor.[2] Some Japanese voice actors have capitalized on their fame to become singers[3] and many others have become live movie or television actors.

There are around 130 voice acting schools in Japan.[4] Broadcast companies and talent agencies often have its own troupes of vocal actors. Magazines focusing specifically on voice acting are published in Japan, with Voice Animage being the longest running.

The English term character voice (or CV), has been commonly used since the 1980s by such Japanese anime magazines as Animec [ja] and Newtype to describe a voice actor associated with a particular anime or game character. Conversely, the Japanese term seiyū is commonly used among English-speaking anime and game fans for Japanese voice actors.

Actors and seiyū

Initially, dubbing and doing voice-overs was a performance of actors who used only their voice, who were called "voice actors" (声の俳優, koe no haiyū). For convenience, the term was shortened to a new compound consisting of the first and last kanji to make seiyū (声優).

It was only after the voice acting booms, however, that the word became widespread. Elderly voice actors resent being called seiyū because during their time, the term had a different (and minimizing) connotation. The renowned Chikao Ohtsuka, who dubbed Charles Bronson, was quoted in a special issue of Animage as saying, "We are actors. Even if a performance only requires the use of our voice, we still remain actors, and it is therefore incorrect to refer to us as just voice actors, isn't it?". He was opposed to the new trend of separating actors and voice actors, even in the face of emerging voice actors like Genzō Wakayama, who learned how to act using their voice and never set foot in a theater.

There are three main factors that set voice actors and actors apart.

  • Their professional upbringing by the Tokyo Broadcasting Drama Troupe (東京放送劇団, Tōkyō Hōsō Gekidan), formed by NHK and other private networks during the golden age of radio dramas.
  • The lack of Japan-made movies and dramas forced TV networks to air foreign shows, which raised demand for voice actors.
  • The boom in the anime world market, which produced a wave of young talents who wanted to become voice actors, rather than actors.
Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Seyyu
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Сэю
català: Seiyū
čeština: Seijú
Deutsch: Seiyū
español: Seiyū
français: Seiyū
한국어: 일본의 성우
հայերեն: Սեյու
Bahasa Indonesia: Seiyū
עברית: סאייו
Basa Jawa: Seiyū
magyar: Szeijú
Bahasa Melayu: Seiyū
Nederlands: Seiyu
日本語: 声優
polski: Seiyū
português: Seiyū
русский: Сэйю
shqip: Seiyū
slovenčina: Seijú
Türkçe: Seiyū
українська: Сейю
Tiếng Việt: Seiyū
中文: 聲優