Seiyu’s Life’s premise is refreshingly interesting – self-referencial seiyu career drama/slice of life/coming of age-character based story with a big emphasis on the nitty gritty quirks of working in Japan’s highly-competitive and internationally recognised voice talent industry. As a long-time fanboy why wouldn’t I jump at the chance to check it out?
Seiyu’s Life follows Futaba Ichinose’s second year as a newbie seiyu (or voice actor). She’s often held back by anxiety and inexperience, but her passion for becoming an amazing seiyu keeps her plodding along. While there’s an impressive cast over the course of the season, Futaba’s main contemporaries for the story are Ichigo and Rin, the former being an aspiring brand idol and the latter an unassuming but super-talented middle school student who works as a seiyu part time. The three characters cross paths during the shooting for an earnest, delightful parody that mashes Eva and The Big O together, and end up working together on a series of side-projects culminating in the formation of their own idol unit, Earphones.
On paper the premise seems like a typical rise through the ranks to become the secret best of whatever much to everyone’s surprise – something akin to the sports anime trend that Calo’s written about with her coverage of Yowamushi Pedal – but refreshingly it isn’t. Futaba’s lack of confidence continually trips her up during auditions and networking opportunities, and maybe it’s because of her earnest flaws that she remains an interesting character. Where it echoes other archetypes is the way it applies a stack of meta analysis on the typical life and career of aspiring seiyu, in this case often delivered via Futaba’s favourite plushie, Korori-chan. This means there’s a bit of edutainment thrown in, but it’s really fascinating – it helps flesh out various aspects of the peripheral sides of the industry, whether it be pre-recording etiquette, business norms and even down to typical recording environments. It adds a sense of autobiographical detail that strengthens the narrative, especially when we see Futaba and Rin experiencing very different environments with their part-time jobs that help pay the bills between paid voice work.
Another surprising element of Seiyu’s Life is the impressive support from many major players in the industry. The venerable Masako Nozawa gets the show off to a cracking start, with other actors such as Hiroshi Kamiya, Yukari Tamura and Yui Horie playing themselves. The main cast of Futaba, Ichigo and Rin’s unit, Earphones, were not only placed together fictitiously, but they apparently continue to perform outside of the anime too. There’s a real sense of self-awareness and degrees of self-reflection between the writing and the performances. Another deft touch is that all the ending themes across the entire run are slightly different, incorporating some chit-chat between the main cast about what happened during the episode and covers for popular anime theme songs (including Sailor Moon Crystal’s Moon Pride and Eva’s Cruel Angel’s Thesis amongst others!).
Perhaps Seiyu’s Life real strength depends on how much you’re into anime – if you passively consume it the show’s probably going to come off a little dull, but if you are actively into it, have a selection of favourite seiyu, are super-keen on learning about the production engine and enjoy a deep-dive into the business side of things you’ll find a lot to enjoy. The show’s reliance on contemporary drama/comedy and slice of life is very much to its benefit as well – while there’s bouts of usual oddball comedy, it’s a pretty grounded series that’s more interested in giving the viewer an insight into the realities of breaking into the voice acting industry in Japan and how the engine has to crank in different ways to accommodate voice work across anime, games and dubbing foreign movies. This even goes down to the art direction that’s a bit minimal at times, but the style perfectly fits the story, its focus on the realities of the industry and the slice of life pacing.
Madman’s release for Seiyu’s Life is tidy, but effective. The 2-disc set contains the full series plus the OVA across 2 discs and benefits from the usual HD supersampling and digital production source materials that allow for an impressive encoding job considering how old the stalwart MPEG2 codec is in 2017. Being an NTSC encode there’s no issues with PAL conversion artefacts and the audio’s a standard stereo mix and in Japanese only. The extras are slim as well, consisting of the usual ops and eds, but as always – I’d rather the space be committed to getting the best transfer so this doesn’t bother me at all.
Seiyu’s Life was an interesting pick. Being into anime for a long time you get to build an affinity for different actors, but it’s more than just a straight-up enthusiast anime as it benefits from a great cast and steady pacing that fits perfectly with the slice of life nature of the show. It’s also a nice departure from the typical high school setting. If you’re a long-time or passionate anime fan this is a great series you should check out, same if you appreciate the slice of life side of things or are after a break from typical fantastical storytelling in anime.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.