January 26th, 2012

cartoon o' noz

The human voice: dulcet vehicle or descent into madness?

A little less than a week ago, I stumbled across a blog that I've been voraciously devouring ever since. It's actually not a huge amount of content, but it's taken me a while to get through it all because it spawns wiki-walks as I end up searching and then reading about all sorts of people I never knew about. In short, the blog is about Seiyu and their various radio shows. I'll explain a little bit about the horror of it all and then, assuming everyone hasn't fled, talk a bit about the blog and related tidbits.

Now, those of you who know what a seiyu is, or can remember from my usage of the term are probably shrieking right now. Since I'm sure most of you won't recall, seiyu is a japanese term for voice actors. These are the professional people who provide voices for anime as well as dubbing for shows from abroad, though there's really not much crossover between the two groups. The reason for any potential shrieking is because an interest in seiyu is usually one of those signs of the apocalypse that signals a person's descent into full blown spastic otakudom. Some of the other signs include:

  • Calling things 'kawaii' in real life.

  • Referring to yourself and others with honorifics -chan, -kun, -san, whatever.

  • Buying any anime figure, especially if it's pose-able and comes with multiple outfits.

  • Wearing cat (or any other animal) ears with a tail being optional.

  • Telling people you have a 'waifu' and she's 2 dimensional.

  • You keep track and celebrate the birthdays of anime characters.

I haven't rank ordered these since the horror mileage will vary from person to person, but none of them are good signs. They all signify imminent descent into weeaboo territory. There's a fine, fine line between being a fan and being a crazed nutjob that everyone looks at funny. So it's with some mild trepidation that I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

It also doesn't help that seiyu otaku are traditionally one of the most batshit insane branches out of the overall otaku family. These people don't just like the various voice actors, they obsess over them. Nothing quite prepares you for the spastic levels of crazy these people can exude. Here is just one example. Every year, these people begin stalking seiyu online around Christmas time to make sure that they're behaving in a virginal manner and not actually out with men. It's part of the general understanding that seiyu are required to be vestal virgins, and any evidence of that to the contrary can not only destroy a career but bring levels of rage and crazy the likes of which you have never seen. The lengths that some of these people will go to is beyond belief.

So, it's pretty clear that unless something really bizarre happens I'm not going to start stalking japanese voice actors and performing virginity tests so why the concern? Well, there are differing levels of disturbing and I sometimes wonder if I'm going to wake up one day 5 years from now wearing cat ears and going to anime conventions.

All of that said, even before this anime stint, I've always had this thing for the human voice. Most of it was through musicals where some voices were just so beautiful that you could just tumble head over heels for them. So I guess it's not a really far stretch that as I've seen more anime, I've come to recognize and parse the voices, becoming enamored with some people's portrayals over others. It'd be much like liking certain actors and making sure to watch films they're in, though more difficult. Not being fluent in the language really tends to blunt some of you ability to differentiate one person's voice from another, not to mention that it's their job to have and use different voices based on the role. Still, I've come to identify a few seiyu I really like and will make an effort to see shows that they have a role in.

Maybe a week ago, I stumbled across a blog called Ambi'seiyuulog in which someone writes blurbs summarizing and occasionally translating various radio shows run by seiyu. It's apparently a very common thing for voice actors in Japan to host their own radio shows or at the very least run a radio show in order to promote an anime they're in. The former may run for years while the latter tends to be a limited run going for only as long as the show is on the air or still being released on dvd/bluray. Radio in the United States, outside of music and sports/political talk radio, might be dead but it looks like it's thriving in Japan.

I read a few entries of the blog on a lark but almost immediately became hooked on it and started going through the archives. Seldom have I so lamented the fact that I can't speak the language because these radio shows sound absolutely hilarious and it's clear that it'll never be worthwhile for the companies to provide an english translation, nor is it likely any subbing group will ever take on the challenge for such a niche audience. While the radio shows are produced, meaning that there is a staff and planned events or 'corners', the impression I get is the whole thing feels more like a podcast than anything else for the more freeform nature. I don't have much experience with podcasts, in fact the only one I listen to with any regularity is the Gabfest on Slate, which is mainly about politics. If there is anyone out there who actually has some podcast suggestions, I'd love to hear them. I'm wondering if I'm missing a good thing by never listening to them if they're half as entertaining as these seiyu radio shows seem.

Here, I'll provide an example where Ambi actually translated part of a radio show and I was also able to find a youtube video of the episode in question.

Here's the translation:

(Go to 7:25 in the video. That's where the translated part starts)

Momonoki 5

- Nakamura Eriko groping Hikasa Youko on radio from Momonoki 5 (hosted by the two of them) on Hikasa’s birthday, 16th of July 2010.

Eriko: I have a present for you! Do you want it?
Hikasa: No.
Eriko: Eh?
Hikasa: Thanks, but no thanks.
Eriko: Oh you’ll take it? Thank you so very much!!
Hikasa: I can’t get through to her…
Eriko: …Hmm? …Hmm? The key.. I lost the key?
Hikasa: What?
Eriko: Sorry I prepared a present for you, but I seem to have lost the key to the box holding the present.
Hikasa: Thats great!
Eriko: I think I must have dropped it around here…
*Goes to Hikasa*
Hikasa: …Huh? …Save me! Save me! I’m being violated! No! *hii hii* Stop it! You… You sexually harrassing demonic bastard! You… You perverted lez bastard!
Eriko: I can’t find it… I guess it should be down below then?
Hikasa: …Below? …SAVE ME!! She’s trying to flip my skirt! She’s trying to flip my skirt! …You… You pervert! …Nakamura… They’ll catch you… They’ll catch you for this…!
Eriko: Ah it should be somewhere here.
Hikasa: Stopstopstopstopstopit THOSE ARE BREASTS
Eriko: Ah sorry, sorry, there wasn’t anything there so I didn’t notice… (LOL)
Maybe around your ear?
Hikasa: Stopstopstop save meee! Ah that tickles~ that tickles…That’s the inside of my ear!
Eriko: Ah I see.
Hikasa: Save me! You sexually harrassing devil bastard!
Eriko: I can’t seem to find it… Hmm?
Hikasa: Save mee… You…
Eriko: Ah I found it! Found it!!
Hikasa: …I’m going to kill you…
Eriko: Well now that we’ve found it it’s time to open up that present!
Hikasa: …What was with that little act…

Incidentally, the present was a keychain with “N.E” on it, Nakamura Eriko’s initials lol, which Hikasa threw back at Eriko ahaha.

If you actually watched the rest of the video, no, I have no clue why they were trying to make her eat noodles through a tube. It sounded entertaining though.

I did find one subbed chunk of the show from when it had been Eriko's birthday. It pretty much explains that the above was pretty much an act of revenge more than anything else.

*sigh* I wish more of this sort of thing were translated. It doesn't even have to be just the crazy spastic parts. Reading Ambi's blog, a lot of the general conversation in these radio shows just seems to be fun and the various seiyu seem to really enjoy one another's company. Maybe if I get around to it I'll actually write an entry about some of the specific seiyu I like and am following. I know it won't mean a damn thing to most of...well, actually to any of you, but it might be fun to write. Since the odds of me actually getting around to writing an entry isn't great, you might all just be spared.