Esteemed Voice Actor: "1 in 100 Voice Actors Become Pros"
posted on by Eric Stimson
Hiroshi Ohtake, an 82-year-old voice actor known for his roles in 1960s anime like Mōretsu Atarō (Nyarome), Pāman (Booby) and Himitsu no Akko-chan (Daisho), won the Achievement Award at the 9th Seiyū Awards on March 7. He used the occasion to speak about the challenges faced by up-and-coming voice actors.
"In the past, when people heard my job, they thought I was saying 'western friend' [which is pronounced the same as "voice actor"], but now when I say it everyone wants to be one. I teach young hopefuls at a voice actor academy, but honestly one in 100 become pros," Ohtake said. While praising the younger voice actors who won the Rookie Awards, he warned them, "If you don't keep up the effort, you won't be able to work as voice actors for over 60 years like me."
Voice acting is an increasingly popular vocation in Japan. When veteran voice actor Daisuke Namikawa began appearing in live-action TV roles, enrollment at voice actor academies leapt to 300,000. This has only increased the competition and made it harder for voice actors to break out. As an editor at an anime magazine puts it, "Ohtake-san said one in 100, but those are the ones that just become voice actors. It's more like one in 1,000 that can put food on the table without working on the side. Even fewer are able to sell themselves. The competition's pretty rough." Mid-level voice actors have it the hardest; since pay is based on seniority, companies prefer younger actors, while mid-level voice actors lack the prestige and reputation of high-level actors.