It all began with Yami no Matsuei, a shoujo anime about shinigamis doing their jobs in the world of the living, in an interpretation very different to Bleach. Except there was a commonality that stood out for me – seiyuu Miki Shinichiro, as main character Asato Tsuzuki in the former and supporting character Urahara Kisuke in the latter. And he’s the reason I’ve been watching anime ever since. Not the plot lines (yes they play an increasingly important part), the beautiful graphics or the soundtracks. Just pure, voice acting.
There has been a certain stigma attached to watching anime or being in any way associated with any part of the industry. It is a convention that one is suppose to grow out of yet with the influence of Miki Shinichiro I’ve graduated from shoujo (Fruits Basket) to shounen (FMA, Gundam 00) and even across genres such as reverse-harem (Hakuoki). Oh and BL of course. He’s credited in many x Morikawa Toshiyuki, who was also in Yami no Matsuei and whose first impression as Ichinose Takumi in NANA still leaves me as breathless as he did to one of the protagonists. Not bad for a 2D character. Obsession Fascination with one seiyuu led to noticing another and this domino effect has knocked on a decade later into conceptualising this blog with my fellow seiyuu-inspired writers.
I didn’t really think voice acting was such a big deal until I heard Sakurai Takahiro‘s turn as both Shibuya Yuri & Morgif in Kyou Kara Maoh! (which sealed the deal for me listing him as one of my all time favourites) and Fukuyama Jun‘s unforgettable Lelouche (Code Geass) contrasted with Shimizu Keiichi (La Corda) in the 2007 Summer season. The clincher for me is when a seiyuu has such restraint in his/her voice that it brings these screen characters to life as much as a live-action show does, by adding depth and colour to characters that do not have the benefit of natural facial expressions. Character development can be scripted but without that half-sob Sakurai Takahiro gave Yamazaki Susumu (Peacemaker Kurogane), I probably wouldn’t have mourned for his sister as much and truly appreciated his rage. The same goes for Hanazawa Kana’s muffled sob and gasps as Tsunemori Akane (Psycho Pass).
A decade since I’ve ventured into watching anime, the veteran seiyuus are still at the top of their game and up and coming newbies have proven their mettle in a tough industry in recent years. I’ve had the privilege of consciously looking out for Kaji Yuuki (also a favourite) back in Kuroshitsuji (in spite of seiyuu heavyweights Ono Daisuke and Maaya Sakamoto) to witness his graduation into vastly different roles delivered within the 2012 autumn season in Zetsuen Tempest, Magi and Shinsekai, onto his current worldwide success in Shingeki, potentially as successful as what Death Note did for Miyano Mamoru or even greater. A seiyuu’s ability to bring out a range of emotions with just voice is to me, simply amazing. To the point that these seiyuus sometimes save an anime (*cough*Guilty Crown*cough*, although its mindblowing OST helped as well), it is undeniable that without them, an anime just isn’t as good as it can be – just look at the dubbed ones!
What was initially simple fangirling over voices, guessing the seiyuus behind the roles, noticing and following their various works and liking the seiyuus themselves beyond just the characters they portray, matured into a complex appreciation for the actual acting, the bigger picture of understanding plot arcs and generally, the coming together of a good story. At the centre of it is the acting and thanks to their emotive performances, I’ve cried (AnoHana, Natsume, Sakurasou), laughed (Level E, Gintama, Ixion Saga), been thrilled (Shinsekai, Another), warmed (Usagi Drop, Nodame) and despaired (Mahoushoujo, Psycho Pass). So stigma or not, I’m glad I’m still watching anime till this day.
Seiyuus and in turn anime, has had such a big impact on my ever increasing interest in all things Nippon. I remember pausing at the credits to get a good look at the casts’ names in kanji, slowly learning to recognise names along the way. I’ve picked up certain phrases, learnt idioms, how to swear and how guys speak. Regardless of the genre (even the obligatory fan-service filled ones), give me a good seiyuu and I’ll watch it. With this blog, hopefully I’ll write about it and in the process, learn to appreciate anime even more :)