"But I don’t understand this Japonese!" I hear you cry. "Because I am a fat American!"
No worries, because you don’t actually need to understand any Japanese in this tutorial, though the ability to recognise Kanji will help a great deal.
"But I think dubs are better! I don’t want to have to read, reading is tiring because I’m American, too fat to open my eyes!"
Oh then you can continue reading this post but substitute American voice actor names in instead.
Why are seiyuu (Japanese voice actors) important? They are way overrated actually. Self-proclaimed purists will always say, "They bring to life a character! They provide the star value!" but this is bullshit really. The cold hard truth is that seiyuu are the last remaining links anime have to real life. To test this hypothesis, try watching an anime with the dialogue turned off and just read the subtitles. You will find that your enjoyment, especially if you do not know Japanese, doesn’t dwindle as much as you would expect.
The vast majority of anime fans deep in their subconscious minds, only think seiyuu are important because of the big names. It is just like watching Hollywood movies for say, stars like Angelina Jolie or Jessica Alba. Nobody cares about the smaller seiyuu or even the bulk of the male ones, everyone loves the female stars because they are the last remaining links to real live action celebrity people that these anime fans just have to have, despite their constant delusion of 2D > 3D.
But as a n00b, your first objective is to blend in with the otaku crowd, so you will need to learn how to recognise the voice of a seiyuu. Actually, you don’t have to recognise them all, just about 8 will do because "fans" only talk about the most beautiful/most casted ones anyway.
Enough of this introduction, your fatty American eyes must be getting tired of this new-fangled reading business by now so let’s hurry before the HP runs out.’
As a n00b, the very first show you should see for seiyuu training is the Galaxy Angels season 1-4. This is an excellent starter show for seiyuu recognition as it has 6 extremely different voices by 5 people. The show is mainly dialogue-based as well, so it’s a good way for you to pick up the different tones, speech patterns, speed and other attributes of a seiyuu.
The easiest voice to recognise is actually Ranpha’s, who is voiced by Tamura Yukari. She has this huge nasal twang, and is a bit whiny. This was the very first seiyuu I could recognise as well. This seiyuu has poor range and is quite distinct, so you can always tell at first hearing when she is in a show.
Mint’s voice, by Sawashiro Miyuki (then a 15 year old prodigy who outshone everyone), is classy with a touch of evil. Sawashiro in recent years has taken on a wide-ranging selection of roles, from old vampire women, blonde dolls, to high school males with large blades in their arms. This is one for the later chapters.
Kanai Mika voices Vanilla AND Nomad, two voices so different a n00b, or even a fan, would never be able to tell. Vanilla is the typical monotone stoic loli voice that otakus cherish more than their moms. Anyone can do this sort of voice very very easily. Nomad, on the other hand, is a robotic machine gun-speed wise-cracking whiner, that shows just how much variation a good seiyuu’s voice has.
The other two angels, Miefeulle (Shintani Ryouko) and Forte, are useful to remember but not significant in fandom. Shintani does sing quite a bit of OPs and EDs though and she is always appearing together with Sawashiro. So by now, you should be able to recognise 1 seiyuu, Tamura Yukari, and have witnessed the range of two others.
At this point, you can start to join in the otaku conversations. How? You just state, "My favourite seiyuu is Tamura Yukari. I love her distinctive voice." and everyone will nod to acknowledge you. Because chances are, everyone’s a n00b anyway at this. Try not to let loose the fact you know only one person.
Next show we’ll see is School Rumble. Conveniently, this show lets you view 4 of the top female talents at once, along with a smattering of other lesserknown but just as beautiful voices.
Tsukamoto Tenma the ditzy female lead is by Koshimizu Ami, who is quite unique as well. For now, we shall try to remember those with unique voices, rather than confuse ourselves with the actual talented seiyuu who can do multiple role types.
Tsukamoto Yakumo, the perfect oriental girl, is by Noto Mamiko. She has a huge fanbase because of her ONE and only voice, the airy, highpitched yet rounded, totally one of a kind one which you can’t miss. This should be the 2nd seiyuu you will ever remember, so you can add her to your favourites list, which is actually more like a I know this seyuu list.
Sawachika Eri is voiced by the rapidly-aging poster girl of cuteness, Horie Yui. She has a distinctively cute but not artificially fake loli type voice. You’ll have to hear it to believe it. You know the typically saccharine sweet, high pitched voices one associates stereotypically with anime? Horie is not like that at all.
If you like sultry,mature babes, you will like Asakawa Yuu. She has a monopoly on this sort of role in Japan. As Itoko sensei in School Rumble, she rules.
Alright, now we have a good list of favourite seiyuu for you. But oh no, they are all female and not bad looking! To prevent you from looking like a sex-crazed n00b, we must balance the list with males.
Thankfully, because no one else knows too much about male seiyuus, you can get away with just knowing a couple of names. Now watch Code Geass and you will hear the voices of one of the abovementioned females. If you can recognise her, then you will have passed the female component of this module. Meanwhile, check out the male lead, Lelouch. He is voiced by the new king of male seiyuu popularity, Fukuyama Jun. Again, his is a unique voice that you will surely notice. He has more or less only one voice type as well, so this will be the first male seiyuu you will remember.
In the same show, check out this ultra low manly sound resonating from your speakers. It is the voice of NakataJouji, the lowest in the history of Mankind. Unmistakable.
Finally, watch the last show here, Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu. The main lead is Tomokazu Sugita, who has an easy-to-recognise deadpan style he carries over to most of his other roles. Oh that’s all for guys! The same show has arguably the biggest sensation in the seiyuu world (artificially enhanced), Hirano Aya. You must know this name by heart, and by voice. She has this panty voice, I mean PANTING, where she sounds like she’s short of air all the time and speaking too close to the mic. Or maybe the mic is in her mouth blow jobstyle.
That’s all, you have now achieved a level of seiyuu knowledge that rivals 90 percent of all anime fans!! Wow, that’s not even 8 steps. Hurrah!
Here is the final exam…
What is your favourite seiyuu?
Ans: My favourite seiyuu is [insert one of the above mentioned], for her role in [insert one of the above anime]. I love her [insert style] and her [insert nonexistent trait inferred from characters she plays]. She’s really cute too! As for the males, I prefer the manly [insert name of male seiyuu]. I can’t believe how shallow most of these so-called fans are! All they do is talk about [inserted overrated seiyuu here] who doesn’t deserve to win anything in the [insert awards ceremony or competition here]!
Conclusion: You don’t have to know much. You just need to know the names, and name drop often. But it would make good sense to read some seiyuu blogs like Hashihime or j1m0ne’s Blog. They teach you stuff.Oh, find out the seiyuu of your favourite character in some anime series, via ANN. And then look out for all her roles, and then claim you’re her biggest fan.
The Graduate Studies level is when you pick one really obscure seiyuu and champion her as the best ever and go around educating people on why she is good. Good example to start with include Hanazawa KYORRRCHAN Kana. It sucks to be mainstream and if you pick Hirano Aya or someone popular as your favourite then prepare for a lot of stick. Otherwise, you could pick a known seiyuu with strong ability but underrated due to lack of marketing and looks, like Kuwashima Houko. Or a classic old schooler like Hayashibara Megumi.
Pumpkin Scissors (Regal, majestic Itou Shizuka
REC (learn about the seiyuus)
Minamike (Inoue Marina, Satou Rina)
Ichigo Mashimaro (Chiba Saeko, Noto, Orikasa Fumiko, Nobatame Hitomi, Kawasumi Ayako)
Full Metal Panic (Tomokazu Seki, Satsuki Yukino, Yukana)