“Possibilities of Voice Acting: On Voice Actresses Playing Boys Roles"

Presented By: Minori Ishida, Niigata University

In the very first TV anime series, Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy, 1963–-1966), a 26-year-old theatre actress, Mari Shimizu, played the robot boy, Astro Boy. Thereafter, many boy characters performed by voice actresses appeared, ranging from anime for the whole family to anime specifically targeted to otaku fans, and including Nobita in Doraemon voiced by Yoshiko Ōta in 1973, Noriko Ōhara from 1979 to 2005, and Megumi Ōhara since 2005; Son Gokū voiced by Masako Nozawa in the Dragon Ball series (1986-–2018); Luffy by Mayumi Tanaka in One Piece (since 1999); and Loran by Romi Park in Turn A Gundam (1999–2000). Recently, Japanese academic interests in voice acting and voice actors are increasing in anime studies, and more than a few anime scholars are discussing voice in anime. Shō Kobayashi (2015) and Ryōta Fujitsu (2018) describe general histories of voice actors, pointing out the differences from actors in radio, TV drama, and cinema. However, in their arguments, the convention of casting female voice actresses for boy characters is completely missed. Although voice actresses playing boys' roles in anime have not been discussed until now, this issue inevitably relates to the historical, social, and cultural processes for shaping anime as one of the representative popular cultures in contemporary Japan, too. Moreover, taking the voice acting of voice actresses playing boys' roles into serious consideration leads us to rethink anime as an audio-visual medium and distinguish voice acting for anime from that of radio, TV drama, and cinema. This presentation will discuss the multilayered reception of voice acting of voice actresses playing boys' roles and indicate the possibilities of voice in anime that go beyond a simple realism that lays emphasis on matching actors and characters in terms of sex and age.