They are the voices behind the characters we love. Voice actors, known as seiyuu in Japanese, have the capacity to make or break a character’s persona with the power of the voice. A lot of popular anime characters from hit series have a huge fan base but, more often than not, the voices behind them only get minor credit.
The truth is, voice acting isn’t as easy as it seems and pure determination often is not enough to land a spot in this competitive industry in Japan. However, there are methods that increase one’s chances of getting discovered by top voice acting management and here are the four most common ways.
1. Enroll in a Formal Voice Acting School
This is the most obvious method in the list. If you want to learn a craft, study it! Schools such as the Human Academy and Yoyogi Animation Academy specialize in anime and offer training courses to interested students who dream of becoming professional voice actors in the future.
One of the great things about this is that age doesn’t matter. Most, if not all, training schools only require you to pass the entrance exam for you to take part in the classes. Whether you are a fresh high school graduate or want to pick it up later in life, it does not matter.
It is worth mentioning, though, that the chances of landing a voice acting career through formal study are slim.
Given the hundreds of new enrollees every year, you have to be really good to make the cut. But that is no reason not to try! Successful voice actors who started in formal schools include Megumi Hayashibara, Kotono Mitsuishi, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Rie Tanaka, Mai Nakahara and more!
2. Start Fresh at a Broadcast Drama Troupe
This method is highly recommended for people who have already had some experience or a job related to the voice acting industry. Actors and pop idols who have a flair for voice acting can take advantage of their connection to join a local broadcasting troupe that allows them to hone their speaking skills.
Contrary to the usual public speaking courses, broadcast drama troupes tend to have a better edge since their members are trained specifically for voice acting rather than the typical public speaking. This method also gives members the needed exposure to attract more listeners and eventually fans who can help catapult them to the top as a skilled seiyuu.
Popular broadcasting troupes include Tokyo Broadcasting Drama Troupe (Hisashi Katsuta, Akira Nagoya, Ryo Kurosawa, Kazue Takahashi and more), NHK’s Sapporo Broadcasting Drama Troupe (Genzo Wakayama), NHK’s Kyushu Broadcasting Drama Troupe (Kenji Utsumi), RKB’s Mainichi Broadcasting Drama Troupe (Joji Yanami).
3. Start as a Child Actor and Join a Theater Group
For children exposed to entertainment from a young age, this is one of the most direct routes into the industry. It could be in movies, commercials, cameo appearances in music videos or even guest interviews.
Starting out as a kid allows you to build connections while at the same time learning the ropes of the industry. Child actors who later on join theater groups generally increase their chances of getting scouted by people working in the anime industry.
This is even better if you become a part of theater companies like the Bungakuza Company, Seinenza Company, Troupe Pleiades, Theatrical Group EN and Theatre Echo.
Child actors who ventured into theater and eventually to voice acting include Ryusei Nakao, Yoku Shioya, Katsumi Toriumi and more. Those who were spotted by anime management staff or discovered through local and college theaters include Romi Park, Fumiko Orikasa, Tetsu Shiratori, Kazuya Tatekabe and more!
4. Apply to a Talent Agency Training School
Talent agencies have exclusive training schools. This is where they hone the skills of deserving individuals who have a huge potential of becoming the torch-bearer for the next generation of talents.
Here, one can expect to receive intensive training with a focus on voice acting. Of course, joining is never easy. Many participants take part in the entrance audition but only a few are selected.
Much like other areas of entertainment, the voice acting industry in Japan has a very tough competition. Aspirants across all ages dream of voicing characters on anime, video games and even audio versions of manga in the hope of building their professional career.
This shouldn’t stop you, though. If you are passionate about it and have the time and resources to spare, then test your luck by trying out the common methods to help you get started with your voice acting career!