Starving Seiyuu Poor as Church Mice: 80% Work Part-time


Seiyuu throughout the land are so hard pressed to find work that the vast majority can only subsist with the aid of additional employment, according to an industry insider.

The insider is しろがねしょおむ / Shomu Shirogane, the director of agency Winner Entertainment.

He has this to say about the business of voice acting:

“How many seiyuu are thee in the country at present?”

“It’s thought there are about 1600. Of that figure, about 10% are “free” (freelance as opposed to agency employed) seiyuu, and some 80% can’t make ends meet with just their voice acting work, so they work other jobs part-time.

The numbers go up a bit if you include all the actresses, idols, talent and so on. It’s said if you go so far as to include all the potential seiyuu candidates, the number swells to around 80,000, all in all.”

“There are that many? That’s quite harsh. What do you have to do to become one?”

“Probably the main shortcut is enrolling in a specialist seiyuu school, or in a training school run by an agency. By the way, there are actually more than 50 such specialist schools in the country, just for training seiyuu. Of course, just getting into one is no guarantee of becoming one.

In the seiyuu business there are also thought to be more than 850 seiyuu who are not actually formally employed by their agency, but are instead temporarily attached.

Even if they do get formally employed, it’s no guarantee they’ll find work soon, they have to keep auditioning constantly whilst working part time. Their income is by no means stable.

And then even if they land a part, they may only be employed if their fee is low – if it climbs too high they are no longer wanted.”

Via Ameba News.

Clearly, this is a highly competitive trade, and not one which is necessarily highly remunerative.

Of course, supremely talented though they are, the cost of extravagantly paid seiyuu has to come from somewhere, so from this perspective anime and game fans may very well be much better served by the money going towards production or development, or else going to the original creators and encouraging more such works, rather than fuelling the ever increasing girth of Aya Hirano…

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    Comment by IC DeaDPiPoL
    07:19 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Reminds me of Shiraishi Minoru's comment in Lucky Star of working his ass over at Cocob**** alongside being a Seiyuu.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:45 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well i heard is seiyuus when in desperate need for quick cash they Go and work as VA for those Eroge games..

    Some of the VA used Pseudo name as credit as some fear someone find out They work for a porno game. Their name get tarnish.

    Comment by Smiling MAgician
    00:10 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    This is nothing special. it's how it is with all creative industries. it's worse for writers. i think only 5% of novelists live on their work. it's just the way things go. you either work for money or work for love.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:49 03/06/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's funny how most people commenting now think that their favorite seiyuu can't make ends meet. The seiyuu that don't make much from their jobs are the ones who have only landed a handful of (most likely small) roles, not the ones that are being cast as main characters. Those seiyuu that get main character roles most likely also get paid for doing things like image songs, radio dramas, and other promotional work for the shows they're on. Plus many popular female seiyuu have modeling and singing careers as well. Your not going to hear about your favorite seiyuu working at some average part-time job (that's what american voice acters do), it's only the people who voice those small characters who you can never remember the names of that will need extra work.

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:32 16/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'm not really surprised. Like its been said before, the rich and famous celebrities that you see on t.v. makes up less than 10% of the numbers of actors in America. What I want to know is: how much are the top seiyuus making.

    Avatar of kenshinflyer
    Comment by kenshinflyer
    00:11 15/05/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well, lucky for seiiyu like Midorikawa Hikaru--he has debuted his skills formally to a worldwide audience already. But, then again, Japanese-themed foreign films come quite rarely nowadays.

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:16 02/06/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    No wonder Touhou Musou Kakyou can employ well-known names! I guess the price of employing middle-high quality seiyuu is still affordable even for doujin circles...

    Comment by ATMalicious
    15:29 23/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I wonder how much Rie Kugimiya makes a year now

    Comment by sealouse
    14:25 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Isn't the anime industry really small over there? I can't believe there's so many. Whenever I hear about statistics like this I always wonder about how there's so many anime produced in Japan each year.

    Avatar of Artefact
    Comment by Artefact

    Yes, the anime output of the USA just dwarfs Japan doesn't it?

    Avatar of RaikenTB
    Comment by raikentb
    16:39 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Once again Artefact jumps to the aid of poor defenseless Japan! lol

    He even used his ESP to sense sealouse's comment had something remotely to do with America. (<_<;)

    Avatar of Artefact
    Comment by Artefact

    If anime isn't mainstream in Japan it isn't mainstream anywhere. Besides which seiyuu also work in games, on the radio, etc...

    Avatar of RaikenTB
    Comment by raikentb
    02:22 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    In a nutshell that comment was unnecessary given it's tone and something you were better off keeping to yourself.

    Avatar of Shuu
    Comment by Shuu
    02:47 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I actually think that Japan dwarfs America when it comes to the amount of animation produced yearly. Dozens of new series every season (TV and OVA) as well as a fair number of movies, I think even more than the 2-3 ones Pixar and Disney throw out every year. I don't have any statistics to base this on, though. Just the impression I get.

    Comment by sealouse
    01:41 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'm talking about how anime isn't mainstream over there, yet I see numbers like 80,000 and how realistic is that?

    Avatar of Artefact
    Comment by Artefact

    Are you sure about this? Japan produces a lot of animation... I suppose it mainly comes down to the market for children's cartoons.

    Comment by Ichigo69
    00:52 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    The amount of sarcasm in this particular comment thread dwarfs the amount of seiyuu currently in Japan.....

    Avatar of Zelgadis4tw
    Comment by Zelgadis4tw
    09:23 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Since when did anime = animation you ask? Since the hiragana for animation spells 'AH NI ME SHO N' I would guess, speaking of which, Artefact, do the Japanese consider American cartoons and such to be "anime" too? Doesn't make much sense to me that there would be separate terms for the two types of animation styles/story telling types, but then again America does just that.

    As for the vast amount of animation that Japan produces, yes it dwarfs American production by a mile and a kilometer. Seeing as how there are only two studios that seriously produce cartoons over here that I know of offhand.

    Avatar of Quen
    Comment by Quen
    09:40 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Anime /アニメ is most definitely used by the Japanese to refer to any sort of animation, whether it be Japanese or not.

    It's simply a given on places like 2ch and other Japanese forums that "late-night Japanese anime" is what they're talking about 99% of the time when they mention "anime".

    Avatar of Artefact
    Comment by Artefact

    Quen is in New York.

    If you ever have a Japanese teacher, it is almost a given that they will correct you when you say "anime ga suki desu", and make you say "Nihon no anime ga suki desu" - as we are of course interested in Japanese anime, not just any old anime.

    Avatar of Zelgadis4tw
    Comment by Zelgadis4tw
    10:10 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Thanks for the info, I need to try to remember that there are more than just two people in Japan on these forums. D:

    Avatar of Quen
    Comment by Quen
    10:43 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yep, it's been a while since I properly lived in Tokyo (2003-2004), although that should change when I can find another job, ideally.

    Avatar of Zelgadis4tw
    Comment by Zelgadis4tw
    11:47 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Indeed, I can see that being reasonable from a teacher teaching proper Japanese. I had not realized Quen is in New York currently, something else I shall try to remember. :/

    GL on finding another job Quen.

    Avatar of Quen
    Comment by Quen
    11:58 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)


    Comment by Anonymous
    23:29 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Since when was anime = animation? If you mean animation in general then yes, the US completely dwarfs Japan when you factor in Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks etc.

    Avatar of Artefact
    Comment by Artefact

    Who else produces a lot of animation, pray? Why would anyone think that of Japan is "really small" when the only other country producing a significant amount is the US?

    I'm not interested in defending Japan, but those are factually deficient statements...

    Avatar of TransistorGlamor
    Comment by ToastCrust
    16:43 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    In addition to Artefact's sarcastic comment, you also have to keep in mind that voice acting is not solely something used for anime. There are still things like drama CD's and video games, and probably a lot more that I'm not thinking of right now. Then there's dbubing foreign shows and movies, and also hentai lol. And voice work for VN's.

    Avatar of Icy-nee-san
    Comment by Icy-nee-san
    14:11 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    The smexy picture made me unable to read it

    Comment by Phuong
    14:29 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Wasn't this issue explored in REC?

    Avatar of Chris
    Comment by Chris
    14:42 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    REC is the first thing I thought of when I saw this post

    Avatar of shockerz
    Comment by Tommy
    23:07 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Same here. When I finish reading the first thing come to my mind is REC the anime.

    Avatar of acesofthesky
    Comment by Ace
    23:24 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Ah REC. I guess not every jobs we know aren't as good as we think.


    All she need is to find a salaryman, ;P

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:00 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    This article reminds me of REC

    Avatar of stewie
    Comment by stewie
    13:48 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Oh yeah, i read this over at jimones blog a couple of days ago. Sounds kinda sad for the up and comers though. I guess only the truly establish seiyuu can make a good living and the others do struggle a bit.

    Avatar of Piroko
    Comment by Piroko
    13:45 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'm really saddened to read this.
    From my POV, these seiyuu really work hard to bring us what shows we watch today. And to see that they don't get paid enough makes me worry about the anime industry.
    And hell, some of these seiyuu do their jobs because they love acting, not because of the money. :V

    Avatar of theandysan
    Comment by TheAndySan
    15:15 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yeah man, I agree.

    But I wonder what kind of part-time work they do?

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:05 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'm not exactly following...competition is bad? As the article said, the anime industry is able to keep costs low if there was a large selection of seiyuus to choose from- and the auditioning ensures (to an extent) that those who get the part can play it well.

    Consider the possibility of the opposite, ie. english dubs. Comparatively I'm sure that English voice actors are in higher demand as well as payment levels because there are so few talents that can play so many parts...and we all know how that turns out.

    Comment by Spoony Bard
    13:28 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Wow, I was just reading about this on that site a few minutes ago. Are you spying on me?

    Avatar of Artefact
    Comment by Artefact

    I was going to write it up a few days ago, but other articles intervened...

    Avatar of blazefreak
    Comment by mark
    13:37 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I never would have thought of it... kinda sad =(

    Comment by Kev
    13:39 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Halfway down the article I was thinking: "Where's the Hirano Aya jab?"

    Sure enough you delivered.

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:59 13/01/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Same here... I was like "Arte will not let this chance slip away."

    Avatar of jinstevens
    Comment by Jin Stevens
    13:45 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    It definitely makes sense that the seiyuu business in Japan is as rough as any other acting field. I bet the numbers are roughly comparable percentage wise if you look at the acting field here in the US or any other country with a sizeable entertainment industry.

    What I'd like to know is there any really well known seiyuu working at some combini in order to make things meet. Imagine buying a bento from say Rie Tanaka.

    Avatar of TransistorGlamor
    Comment by ToastCrust
    16:39 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well, you do have to wonder why she took that role in the Touhou anime from Maikaze.

    Comment by Ichigo69
    00:49 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Actually, that was probably to seal their roles if and when a major production company, say SHAFT (hint, hint), decides to do Touhou.

    Avatar of dmil666
    Comment by dmil666
    15:43 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'm sorry to hear that the seiyuu are having such a tough time. The quality of Japan's seiyuu work is greatly superior to their US and Canadian counterparts. So much so that I never watch an anime and listen to the english sound track.

    Comment by Zelgadis4tw
    09:08 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Same, sad thing though it's no different from actors all around the world, as for quality of US seiyuu, for the most part I agree, but ADV and Funimation's eng dubs are about the only dubs I would watch in English consistently. Although there are good dubs here and there from other dub studios from time to time (eg. Ranma 1/2) for the most part they don't measure up to Japanese seiyuu.

    Avatar of kazaza2
    Comment by kazaza2
    23:02 14/05/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    I absolutely agree with you. Off the top of my head I can only think of three anime where I prefer the English dub over the Japanese sub. Those being "Cowboy Bebop" "Black Lagoon" and "RahXephon".
    I think it might just be the complacency of American voice actors in their interpretation. That it's "just a cartoon" and it's good enough.

    Sorry to hear about the problems experienced seiyuu are having in Japan. Not surprising with the beating the industry is taking in this bad economy. Hope thing get better soon for all our sakes.

    Avatar of Shuu
    Comment by Shuu
    22:11 09/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Delicious Tanaka Rie is delicious. The thought that she might have done this only because she really needed money leaves a bad aftertaste though.

    Comment by Ichigo69
    00:54 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Hey! I-It's not because she likes you or a-anything!!!

    Avatar of Shuu
    Comment by Shuu
    02:36 10/01/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well it would have been nice if she did it for fun. But that probably is wishful thinking...

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