I’ve had my fair share of anime crushes, and now that I think about it, I think that about 90% of the reason why I develop an anime crush is the voice. I have a
fetish thing for voices, after all. Ahem!
Anyway. . .what I’m trying to say is that I understand when people admit into becoming full-fledged fangirls (or fanboys) of a seiyuu. I also understand when someone admits to watching an anime just because their favourite seiyuu is on the cast.
Seiyuu are one of the most important aspects of anime. They bring characters to life, and I think that depending on how well they portray their characters, they contribute greatly to the overall popularity of the anime series, and I argue even to the total sales of the series’ merchandises. Sometimes you even fall in love with a character because of the excellent portrayal of the seiyuu.
Saying all of these, however, I would caution against confusing your favourite seiyuu with the characters he/she plays. There are many seiyuu who are pigeon-holed into voicing similar types of characters throughout their careers, that they ultimately become redundant. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind this much. These seiyuu have found their specialties, and they worked hard to become the best and the first choice for portraying certain types of roles.
Nakai Kazuya (中井 和哉), for example, who voices Zoro from my favourite series ONE PIECE, also voices quite a lot of other swordsmen. Think about Hijikata of Gintama and Mugen of Samurai Champloo. He is not the most versatile seiyuu, but he has one of the most easily-recognizable voices in the industry. Even if you don’t know that he’s on the cast, you’ll immediately say, “Ah, it’s Nakai Kazuya voicing this character.”
Similarly, Kugimiya Rie (釘宮 理恵), is hailed as the 「ツンデレの女王」 (Tsundere no Jo-ou) or “Tsundere Queen” because she has voiced a lot of tsundere characters. Think about Shana of Shakugan no Shana and Louise of Zero no Tsukaima. Of course, I’m not saying that she only voices tsundere characters. She has also voiced quite an array of different character types throughout her career, but she will always be known to her fans as the “Tsundere Queen”.
There are so many awesomely talented seiyuu out there. Of course, they don’t only work in the anime industry, but I’ll be focusing on anime seiyuu in this post. I think that I’m mostly impressed with those seiyuu who possess extremely versatile voices. They are shapeshifters who can transform into almost any type of character, sometimes even disregarding the gender gap altogether.
Perhaps some of my favourite versatile seiyuu are Namikawa Daisuke (浪川 大輔) and Okamoto Nobuhiko (岡本 信彦). I dare you to check out each of their roles and compare them against each other. I guarantee that you’ll find yourself exclaiming, “These characters are voiced by the same person?!”
These versatile seiyuu can avoid being pigeon-holed to voice a single character type. I’m not saying, though, that versatile seiyuu are better than the “specialist” seiyuu. Both kinds of seiyuu are special and talented in their own way, and I admire them all.
Returning to my main point of not confusing the anime character with the seiyuu, I want you to remember:
Seiyuu are NOT anime characters.
Sure, they give life to anime characters, but they are not them. It’s good that you admire a seiyuu and the amazing job he/she does in portraying your favourite character, but I think it’s too narrow-minded to become violently upset if the seiyuu voices a completely different character type. It’s most unfortunate that I read so many harsh posts about irate fans ranting about how their favourite seiyuu “betrayed” them by voicing a character “inappropriate” and “unfit” for them. How sad.
Is it so bad to let these amazing seiyuu spread their wings and broaden their creative ranges by voicing a character type that is different from what they’re used to? It’s not the seiyuu who are “wrong” for voicing different types of characters, it’s you who are wrong for placing them on your own self-imagined pedestal. You are the one who cages them and limits their “acceptable” types of characters to voice.
Almost all seiyuu are passionate about their work, so let’s focus on the incredible job they’re doing in voicing our favourite characters, instead of criticizing them. Without them, our favourite anime series would be lifeless. Would you like your favourite anime to be voiced by complete amateurs? The ones who sound so obvious that they’re reading from scripts? I sure don’t want that. I prefer these amazing professional seiyuu who do their job so perfectly that you forget there’s a real person behind that anime character.
Kugimiya Rie Profile at I’m Enterprise (Japanese)
Nakai Kazuya Profile at Aoni Production (Japanese)
Namikawa Daisuke Profile at Stay Luck (Japanese)
Okamoto Nobuhiko Profile at Pro-fit (Japanese)
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