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The Many Sides of Voice Actor Radio
Episodes 1-2

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 1 of
The Many Sides of Voice Actor Radio ?
Community score: 3.7

How would you rate episode 2 of
The Many Sides of Voice Actor Radio ?
Community score: 3.8

If you're like me, and if you're following The Many Sides of Voice Actor Radio you probably are, at least in one way, then you enjoy an adversarial relationship. It's a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine, watching the squabbling and sniping of a couple of characters who clearly can't stand each other but also can't get out of each other's heads. Maybe eventually they'll notice that these flaring fights are sparks flying, and convert that chemistry into a real, heated romantic relationship. Until then, their coming to grips with one another encompasses many sides. Many sides to a voice actor radio show, in this case. Hence the title.

The working relationship between Yasumi and Yuhi (I'll be referring to them by their working names, for simplicity's sake) isn't just the titular feature of this series, it's the defining one. The duo's effective enmity comes through both on and off the mic, enhanced by those many sides promised in the title. When they're waiting to record or just interacting at school, Yasumi and Yuhi are short and sharp with one another. When it's time to get professional, they do so, but with layered tones to their voice-acted performances, delivering their lines through gritted teeth.

It is all, not to put too fine a point on it, extremely my shit. Out of the two leads, Yasumi is the leading one—the point that viewers follow things through. She's an earnestly cool gyaru, so yeah, go ahead and guess why I liked her right away. Yasumi's up-frontness contrasts as she gets to know Yuhi, those interactions peeling back the layers of their personalities and relationships. It's some pretty simple subversive switches as far as the characters go: Yasumi has a kind, noble streak that you might not expect from a boisterous gyaru, while Yuhi presents as a demure, delicate type but can be quite blunt and harsh in her interactions with others. But Yuhi's directness also manifests in her compelled honesty, which contrasts with her need to "act" as an actress and performer, and forces her to compliment her arch-nemesis skills even when she really, really may not want to.

Voice Actor Radio is certainly aware of the artifice of the Japanese entertainment industry. It's not yet going wholly into Oshi no Ko territory—heck it's not even embracing the abrasiveness of its primary performers as in Girlish Number (a pity, I would love to see Yasumi and Yuhi with their toxicity dialed up even further). Still, it's not sugar-coating things either. That's exemplified in things like Yasumi's acknowledgment of the ticking clock of her career, or the sudden stumble taken by the girls' senpai Otome in the second episode. The latter winds up spinning into the leads grappling with aspects of impostor syndrome, ending with them resolving to strive for greater things to make up for the resultant disappointing idol performance. This makes it a disappointment of its own that the anime can't properly sell that sort of dramatic feeling.

For as enjoyable as the premise and the leads powering it are, the fact is that the production of Voice Actor Radio is letting it down thus far. Character models look cheap and chunky, and the energy is just so limp regardless of whether it's trying to deliver emotions upbeat or melancholy. A better show would have been able to palpably communicate the disappointed dissonance felt in the second episode's idol performance, but this is not that show. Instead, the anime has to resort to narration and dialogue from the characters telling you that's how things felt, and it's hardly the only time. Simply declaring the premise of the series becomes one of those occurrences that you frustratingly can't un-notice once you notice it. The characters will regularly describe what their current character arc is, just in case the viewers forget. It's aggravating because it shortchanges the sharp nuance that should compliment a characterful piece like this, and also calls attention to the visual and directorial shortcomings that necessitate it.

There are achievements to enjoy here. Yasumi and Yuhi's voice acting, provided by Miku Itō and Moe Toyota, respectively, shines as it should in a show like this. They reflect the layers of the in-universe performers, particularly impressively when they shift into "voice acting" mode within the series. Their dissonant facial expressions during the radio bits are a gag I hope never gets old. And it's not like the anime doesn't have some presentational chops. The second episode's opening where Yasumi's mom sets out breakfast while listening to the radio show is smartly structured, particularly in how it stacks audio. The anime even makes a solid effort at actually animating the idol performance at the end of the second episode, ironic given that it's intended to be sub-par.

If Voice Actor Radio can find a side of itself that works within its limitations while embracing its strengths, this could be a time as entertaining as I hoped for from its promising premise. The second episode has already thrown the characters and the audience into the deep end, and if the OP is any indication, there is a lot more to come from this story. I hope to enjoy it, so long as the characters can focus on speaking for themselves and their terrifically toxic relationship with one another, and less so to plainly describe the point of the show.


The Many Sides of Voice Actor Radio is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

The many sides of Chris include reviewing anime, playing rhythm games, and treating himself to too many Transformers toys. You can find him posting about all of these and more over on his Twitter, or occasionally going more in-depth on his blog.

Disclosure: Kadokawa World Entertainment (KWE), a wholly owned subsidiary of Kadokawa Corporation, is the majority owner of Anime News Network, LLC. One or more of the companies mentioned in this article are part of the Kadokawa Group of Companies.

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