Foreign voice actors realise anime dreams

Foreign voice actors realise anime dreams
Jenya, a Russian voice actor, in a studio at the Tokyo Anime Center in Akihabara, Tokyo.

The fascination of Japanese anime has prompted young people overseas to pursue careers as voice actors, and some of them have made their dreams come true.

Jenya, who hails from Russia, is one of them.

Having worked as a voice actor for such works as the TV anime "Mainichi Kaasan" (Everyday mother) and the anime film "Evangelion: 2.0 You Can(not) Advance," Jenya has proved quite successful in Japan.

We interviewed Jenya at the Tokyo Anime Center in Akihabara, a memorable place for her.

Born in Novosibirsk, Siberia, Jenya says her encounter with the TV anime "Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon" completely changed her life.

She became fascinated with the characters' big eyes, long arms and legs, and was completely taken by the sense of "kawaii" that was absent in US anime works.

Jenya began studying the Japanese language and started to dream of living in Japan. In college, she majored in information technology and founded an anime club.

In 2005, she finally moved to Japan and began frequenting Akihabara, a magnet for anime fans. In 2007, she participated in the TV Champion 2 Gaikokujin Akiba-O Senshuken (TV Champion 2 Akiba king contest for foreigners), in which non-Japanese participants competed over their knowledge of Akihabara, and won second prize. The Tokyo Anime Center was one of the venues for the programme.

Regarding her various jobs in Japan, which include overseeing Russian versions of anime, she says she feels happiest when "I'm expressing my feelings with my voice through the microphone [as a voice actor]."

Ryu Seira, from China, is another up-and-coming non-Japanese voice actor.

Born in Beijing, she watched many Japanese anime as a child. But "Slam Dunk," a basketball-themed anime that was broadcast in China when she was a middle school student, made an especially big impression on her.

"I felt the author, Takehiko Inoue, had created the work with all of his soul," she said in an interview at a Tokyo coffee shop, which was conducted after she had finished the recording of an NHK international radio programme.

Because of her admiration of voice actors, she began studying the Japanese language. She met voice actor Toru Furuya in Beijing during 2007, when he visited the Chinese capital for an event. She was extremely impressed.

She eventually came to Japan and attended a two-year voice acting course at a vocational school. Upon graduation in April 2011, she joined Aoni Production, a leading management company for voice actors.

Later that year, she was chosen for the lead role in the Chinese version of the Japan-China joint anime, "Chibetto-ken Monogatari" (The Tibetan Dog).

"My dream is to play the protagonist in both Japanese and Chinese versions of the same anime," Ryu said.

A total of more than 200 non-Japanese people took part in the "All Japan Seiyuu Contest: Seiyuu Damashii" voice actors contest that began in March last year. The contestants come from places across the globe, including Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America, North America and Australia.

At the second competition in March this year, Zhou Boyi from China, who spoke such fluent Japanese that it astonished the judges, was awarded the special prize in the voice actor division.

The number of non-Japanese voice actors following in the footsteps of Jenya and Ryu appears to be on the rise.

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