Megumi Hayashibara Shares Her Thoughts on Modern Voice Acting
posted on by Eric Stimson
The mook (a publication that's part magazine, part book) Seiyū Premium interviews voice actors who got their start in the industry in the 1990s, a time when demand sharply increased for new talent, especially female talent. Among these actresses is the legendary Megumi Hayashibara (Rei in Neon Genesis Evangelion, female Ranma in Ranma ½, Jessie/Musashi in Pokémon), who shared her thoughts on voice acting and how it's changed over the years.
Although Hayashibara was among the first voice actresses to become a celebrity entertainer in her own right (she is a singer and broke into the Oricon weekly album and song charts), she voiced misgivings about the emergence of voice actors as all-around entertainers. "If they put their faces out there [as gravure idols], what happens to the gap between them and their characters?" she wondered. She remained apprehensive even as she became a celebrity, but came to accept that fans would want to see voice actresses' faces if they were cute, and realized that "the border between voice actors and their characters disappeared." Yet she also realized that the previously lengthy lifespan of voice actors was now shortening and described voice acting as "shadow beauty."
When asked if she had any advice for young voice actors, Hayashibara said:
There were times when I had to read stereotyped lines as best as I could... I've been asked how to read lines like that. It's not about getting into the right emotion; it's hard to think of the right way to say those lines. Read them with all your effort and leave your heart behind.
Hayashibara described modern voice acting as a hectic, busy life with on-stage appearances adding to the tumult. "You're made to feel like an indispensable person, but in three years' time that position might change." She lamented managers who felt no responsibility to "raise" their voice actors and hoped that voice actors wouldn't be used up fast for short-term profits. But she also claimed that this state of affairs isn't "good or bad, it's just what we're placed in because of the boom."
Hayashibara also complained about what she felt was a lack of originality in modern anime. She describes too many anime and characters as being "like XX," giving Evangelion and Rei as oft-imitated examples. "I want to get involved in making something that's not like something else."