The voice of Sailor Venus and Widowmaker, Shizuka Itoh, believes the best advice for someone wanting to get into the voice acting industry is to “think outside the box.”
“I don’t know about the English voice acting system, but in Japan, these days, voice actors have to do many different things other than voice acting,” she tells SBS PopAsia. “Find something you want to - and like to - do, and [when preparing for a role,] go deep into the character.”
Itoh’s comments echo Attack on Titan voice actress Shiori Mikami, who stresses the need to, “have a wide range of interests.”
Itoh, who is currently voicing roles in this season’s Knight & Magic, as well as playing minor roles in Fairy Tail, Shirobako, XXXHolic and Terra Formers, is also the Japanese voice of French sharpshooting assassin, Widowmaker, in Overwatch, Blizzard’s popular first-person shooter. Unlike the English voice acting team who are often seen interacting like close friends, the Japanese dubbing team barely see each other.
“We record one by one so we don’t really get together and talk to each other at all,” she says. “Conventions and stage events in Japan are the only times we get to meet.”
“[When recording] for an anime,” she continues, “we record as a group, often with other voice actors. The interaction is there during anime recordings but when recording for a video game, you don’t have that sort of interaction.”
Her role as Kousaka Tamaki in Studio OLM’s anime adaptation of the harem slice of life visual novel game series, To Hearts 2, is her favourite character she’s voiced so far. Having worked on a variety of anime adaptations of manga and visual novels, Itoh acknowledges the importance of appreciating the source material. According to her, learning about the world and characters prior to recording gets her more invested in the project and accentuates her performance, but she understands it isn’t for everyone.
“I want to read what an anime is based on [but] some don’t like to,” she says. “For others, [I know that by] reading what it’s based on - the manga - they’ve developed opinions of characters and their interactions [making divorcing yourself from the original story difficult].”
She says she acts very differently to the roles she plays. During her time recording lines as Sailor Venus for Toei Animation’s Sailor Moon remake, Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal, she admits to finding courage within herself that she never knew she had.
“There are a lot of things I can relate to but there’s a lot of difference [between myself and the roles I’ve played],” she says. “[Sailor Venus, Psycho-Pass’ silent enforcer, Yayoi Kunizuka, and others] are characters I admire for their resilience and strength. I don’t really have that personality so it’s really nice to play [those] role.”
According to Itoh, she is often asked to play young boys or girls, but hopes to voice more in the future. She’s not sure why she’s never asked but suspects it could be because of her experience playing strong teen women.
“I haven’t played many young girls or boys,” she says. “I don’t often get those roles because no one has an impression of me doing those types of roles, so I’m never given them.”
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