OP: 「それが声優！」 (Sore ga Seiyuu!) by Takahashi Rie, Nagaku Yuki, & Kouno Marika
This is probably the best—and funniest—show you weren’t planning to watch. It’s a seiyuu-specific Shirobako with tons of heartwarming laughs. I highly recommend it.
A Seiyuu’s Life
Here’s the basics: Sore ga Seiyuu (Seiyuu’s Life) is the story of three young seiyuu: Ichinose Futaba (Takahashi Rie), Moesaki Ichigo (Nagaku Yuki), and Kohana Rin (Kouno Marika). It’s a doujin work illustrated by Hayate no Gotoku’s Hata Kenjiro, and set in the Hayate no Gotoku world (Rin’s uniform ought to look familiar to some), but it’s a completely separate story which is written by veteran seiyuu Asano Masumi. Those are its bona fides, but the most important question remains: Is it any good?
Yes! This first episode reminded me of some of the lighter episodes of Shirobako, which I hope is enough to get you watching. It mixes three important elements to create its appeal:
1. Iron-clad Industry Experience
Asano Masumi’s seiyuu industry experience is undeniable. This series has the same initial draw as Shirobako, in that it lets us peer behind the curtain and see how our favorite anime get made. Though, in this case, it’s more concentrated—instead of the whole anime production, it focuses on the seiyuu experience, which encompasses more than just recording an episode. There’s a lot of explanation and exposition in this series, but rather than being tiresome (like the first episode of Chaos Dragon: Sekiryuu Sen’eku), or tolerable but not especially the draw (like the first episode of Rokka no Yuusha), here the explanation is the draw. Little things like Futaba picking clothing that wouldn’t make noise, greeting everyone individually, and suddenly being asked to voice a bit part prove that Sore ga Seiyuu knows its stuff. While in a fantasy series this might be mildly interesting, here it’s really cool because people actually do all this stuff. It’s like learning how a grain thresher works. It’s fun to learn.
1b. Cameos & References
I have to tell you a funny story. While I was watching this episode, I was talking to one of my friends. He’s not usually an anime watcher, but he did watch Dragon Ball Z as a kid, just like every little boy our age in America did. So when I told him about Dragon Ball Super, he watched the first episode. He asked me about Goku and Gohan’s seiyuu, asking if they were voiced by a woman (having grown up on the dubs) … when who should show up on Sore ga Seiyuu? None other than Masako Nozawa herself!
The brilliance of having their characters record what sounds like a Dragon Ball / Neon Genesis Evangelion expy (trope!) the same week as the first episode of the first Dragon Ball TV series in nearly two decades is beautiful. And having the main characters karaoke the Evangelion OP at the end was great too! I don’t expect this to be much into referential humor, but once or twice an episode would not go amiss.
2. Solid Comedy, Outstanding Reaction Faces
The next ingredient is the comedy. Comedy is the most subjective of arts, but I found it really funny! It’s true slice-of-life comedy, finding humor in the little things, but the biggest element I loved was the reaction faces. Especially Futaba’s. She was great! Sure, they’re definitely over the top, but if they tickle your funny bone, it’s worth it. This is probably the area people are most liable to disagree with me, and if the comedy falls flat for you, not watching would be understandable. I could watch hours of these reactions, though.
3. A Heart-Warming Beginner’s Tale
The third special spice is in the main characters themselves. Explanation of the seiyuu industry without a story wouldn’t be a story—it would be a documentary. Here, the story is a simple one, which is good, because I don’t feel like high drama would fit the necessarily mundane world of trying to succeed in one’s chosen career. This is a beginner’s tale, telling of how Futaba, Ichigo, and Rin proceed through the seiyuu industry. That gives us opportunities for character growth over time. From zero to hero is a tried-and-true plot form because it works.
Special Note: Creator Owned Property
This anime is a little different from, to my knowledge, every other anime ever produced (though correct me if I’m wrong there). Rather than having a publisher like every other anime, the Sore ga Seiyuu! source material is a doujinshi. That means that, rather than handing their work over to some multinational corporation and hoping that don’t screw it up, Asano Masumi and Hata Kenjiro have been involved in every step of this anime, collaborating with Gonzo to make it a reality.
As an indie author myself, I think this is incredibly cool! I’ve always respected Japan’s doujinshi culture, because even if it sometimes seems to mainly generate porn, it gives creators (young and old) incredible leeway to tell the stories they want to tell. But usually to make it this big, they have to sell out—and by that I mean sell their rights to a publisher who will all but cut them out of the loop for the adaptation, whether that’s their desire or not. Asano Masumi and Hata Kenjiro managed to leverage their names to get an anime made without all that rigmarole, giving us as closed to their unvarnished view of the adaptation as we’re going to get. Hopefully the only corporate suits that will be involved in this anime will be the ones on the screen, helpfully hinting that Futaba, Ichigo, & Rin will be getting a radio show soon. I can’t wait!
Looking Ahead – Cheer up, Futaba!
Obviously I’m a little hyped on this show, though that’s mainly an outgrowth of most people’s low expectations, and because my abnormally high expectations haven’t been betrayed. This is a solid show so far, easy, fun. I don’t have any current plans to blog it regularly, but I will be watching it, and it will have a slot on the monthly impressions. Until then, enjoy!
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Solid industry knowledge + hilarious reaction faces + a heartwarming beginner’s tale. That’s #soresei’s secret sauce.
- Use the voice of someone with bigger boobs? How… o.O There you go, Ichigo. Do that. I’m sure it will help *shifty eyes*
- You can tell which ones are the anime characters (instead of cameos) because they’re the one’s with the colorful anime hair.
- Related: I appreciate that they didn’t try to name all the production people. I know they were more important in Shirobako, and I generally remembered who everyone was, but I never really remembered the names to most of the characters.
- This guy needs to be punched. What’s the use in putting her down? Discourage an artist, and you get absolutely nothing in return, ever.
- So far, Futaba’s problem is that’s she’s too much in her own way. But she decided to go for her craziest dream, to make a difficult job search worth it. I like her : )
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now available in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel short story. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: How to save Twitter, The secret to enjoying a long life, Story Review: Mad Max Fury Road, and How to not get butthurt when others insult stories you love.
ED: 「あなたのお耳にプラグイン！」 (Anata no Omimi ni Plug In!) by Takahashi Rie, Nagaku Yuki, & Kouno Marika