Days in the Life
Idelivers a peek into the lives and dramas of a trio of young Japanese women who aspire to careers as voice actresses. By Charles Solomon.
t’s not surprising that the slice-of-life shojo comedy Seiyu’s Life (2015) offers insights into the world of voice acting in Japan: the original manga was written by the accomplished voice actress Masumi Asano. The basic set-up feels almost like a 1930s Warner Bros. musical: Three young friends set out to launch their careers as voice actresses.
At the center of the story is Futaba Ichinose (Rie Takahashi), the most insecure member of the trio. She’s a bit of a fangirl and frequently suffers from bouts of stage fright and selfdoubt. She lives in a tiny apartment with her plush dog, Korori-chan, who offers her advice and occasionally serves as a narrator, explaining things to the audience.
Futaba’s friend Ichigo Moesaki (Yuki Nagaku) likes to describe herself as a princess from the Planet Strawberry ( ichigo means strawberry in Japanese). She’s the most voluble and assertive member of the trio, but she sometimes gets carried away with the strawberry persona shtick. Although she’s only 15 and still a student in middle school, Rin Kohana (Marika Kono) is the calmest and most professional member of the group. Because she was extremely shy as a child, her parents enrolled her in a children’s theater workshop. Over the years, she gradually acquired poise and confidence.
After being accepted by a talent agency, the three girls sometimes work together. Sometimes they compete, and Futaba has to learn to deal with disappointment and jealousy when Rin gets a part she had hoped to land. Their assignments involve everything from voicing animated characters to dubbing foreign films to narrating TV specials. They learn how to take direction and how to time a line to fit the allotted seconds. The series they work on are often spoofs, like Buddha Fighter Bodhisattvon and Weekend Pastry Chef.
Futaba, Ichigo and Rin all have high-pitched voices that may strike Western audiences as squeaky or shrill. To Japanese listeners, that tonal range is cute and appealing. The young women who greet customers in department stores are trained to pitch their voices higher, to produce a more adorable “welcome.”
To promote the young actresses, the talent agency has them form a “unit,” one of the innumerable girl groups created for the ravenous Japanese pop industry. Futaba, Ichigo and Rin aren’t natural musicians. Like the guys in Shonen Hollywood (or The Monkees), they’re given songs and taught to dance and sing. They rehearse their signature catchphrases and gestures. They enjoy a modest success as The Earphones, a real-life group made up of the actresses in the vocal cast.
A Clear Heirarchy The sequences of the girls at work offer a rare behind-the-scenes look at the Japanese animation industry. Korori-chan explains the terminology and the etiquette: As the newest member of the cast of a series, Futaba is expected to greet the other actors first. When they arrive, everyone says they’re looking forward to working together. When they finish, they compliment each other on their hard work.
The characters invariably stress their dedication to doing their very best, trying their hardest, giving it everything they’ve got. Although translated various ways, their statements all relate to the verb ganbaru, which basically means to work until a task is completed, regardless of the obstacles. It’s a very important concept in Japanese culture that can be applied with equal sincerity to studying for a college entrance exam, pitching a baseball game, acting a part, or rebuilding an earthquake-ravaged city.
Although the premise of Seiyu’s Life may feel like an old Busby Berkeley musical, the filmmakers wisely avoid giving any of the three young women the kind of instant stardom Ruby Keeler’s characters attained. By the end of the series, they’ve gained some experience and a measure of success, but they’re still minor figures in the high-powered world of Japanese media. The limits of their achievements keep the show grounded, in contrast to frothy fantasies like Fancy Lala. Futaba, Ichigo and Rin may be dedicated and even talented, but they and the audience know stardom is a long way off. [
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BD and Digital customers can pump up the Troll jam with interactive fun in “Party Mode.” RSVP, ASAP.
[Release date: Feb. 7] movie Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (also on DVD), “The Story of Swamp Thing” featurette, “Did You Know?: Constantine Origin / Color of Magic / Black Orchid / Deadman Casting,” 2016 NY Comic Con Panel; sneak peeks at Justice League: Gods and Monsters and Justice League: Doom; and two Batman: The Brave and the Bold episodes from the DC Vault. And you can’t go wrong with the BD Deluxe Gift Set ($39.99), which includes an exclusive Constantine figure.
[Release date: Feb. 7] ing household names in the worst way.
The voice cast is filled out by comic royalty: Hannibal Buress, Riki Lindhome, Kate Micucci, Laraine Newman and Paul Scheer. The script was written by creep-master Andrew Kevin Walker ( The Wolfman, Sleepy Hollow, Se7en), and Titmouse handled the animation. This is one of those movies that even if you like it, you might not like yourself for it.
[Release date: Feb. 7] Special with Kurt Loder, the 1994-1996 “Butt-Bowls,” MTV 20th Anniversary Special, Frog Baseball (the short that started it all, original and uncut), 2011 Comic-Con panel featuring Judge and moderated by Johnny Knoxville, promos, montages and more.
Embrace your inner couch potato, dudes.
[Release date: Feb. 14]