What kind of training do aspiring voice actors undergo before debuting as pros in Japan? We took a trip to a Tokyo voice acting academy to find out.
Voice acting is a form of art in which your voice serves as your sole means of expression. Nowadays, many Japanese voice actors (known as "seiyu" in Japanese) have achieved a level of popularity similar to that of pop idols. They provide voices for a variety of projects, including breathing life into beloved anime characters. It wouldn’t be far-off to call them “voice magicians,” so to speak.
One of our Japanese reporters was recently given the opportunity to visit Amusement Media Academy in Tokyo’s Ebisu district. This school for voice actors-in-training has produced a number of stars in the industry, including Tetsuya Kakihara and Kanae Ito. At Amusement Media Academy, voice actors not only receive vocal training, but they also take a diverse array of lessons in singing and dancing. Our reporter observed an acting and a singing class on the day that he visited.
The first class that he observed was an acting class. He watched as second-year students who would soon be going for auditions began acting with scripts in hand, but something about the scene completely floored him–the fact that they had to act and move while staying completely in character.
Our reporter had always thought that training to be a voice actor meant not much more than standing in front of a microphone and receiving endless vocal lessons. However, these students were no different from regular stage actors in the way that they were training using their whole bodies. Their instructor was not only instructing them on the quality of their voices, but was also providing them with other types of advice such as “Your facial expressions are dull,” and “You’re not fully capturing the mental age of your character.” It was fascinating to see the actual depth of training that goes into the profession of voice acting. While most people view voice acting as a form of acting, many have never realized the extent to which practicing facial expressions and bodily movements are present in a voice actor’s training.
The next lesson that our reporter observed was a lesson in singing. Our readers may be wondering, “Huh? Why are voice actors taking singing lessons?”, but there’s a reason for this. In recent years, voice actors have often been called upon to sing anime theme songs and character image songs for the shows in which they act, so it’s important for them to hone their professional singing skills as well.
Furthermore, the number of live concerts given by voice actors has increased in the past few years. Consequently, voice actors-in-training are being taught how to dance as part of their normal curriculum more and more these days. On the day of the vocal lesson that our reporter observed, the trainees were singing while performing a complex dance routine that they choreographed themselves. It seems that voice actors from here on out will increasingly be expected to sing and dance as well as to lend their voices to the projects they work on. What an incredibly demanding profession.
Check out some short clips from the two lessons in the video below.
We had never realized that nowadays voice actor trainees must take intensive acting and dancing lessons, just like regular stage actors, in order to become professionals. It seems that voice actors-in-training must devote incredible amounts of time and effort to their development in order to be successful and survive in the demanding industry. The work of voice actors is much more than simply breathing life into characters using their voices alone – they’re part of an incredibly profound and fascinating world.
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