What They Say:
Based on the doujinshi by accomplished voice actress, Masumi Asano, comes a fun but revealing look into the world of voice actors. And fun cameos from famous voice actors! Being a professional voice actor is more than having a great voice. Rookie seiyu Futaba Ichinose must learn about the hard work, determination, and heart that goes into being the voice behind beloved characters. The work is far from easy and nothing hurts more than the dreaded rejection call, but Futaba works through it to achieve her dream of becoming a big-time seiyu-except she only has two years to prove to her agency that she’s good enough to be one. Luckily, she’s not alone! Ichigo Moesaki, a self-claimed princess from Planet Strawberry, and Rin Kohana, a seasoned professional since the age of five, will be at her side when they form the seiyu unit, Earphones. But even being in a unit won’t be enough to guarantee Futaba’s success if she can’t land more roles. Follow these three girls and learn just what it takes to be a professional voice actor. Join the girls in a celebration with the Special Episode: A Small After-Party! An OVA never before seen in North America.
The audio presentation for the series brings us the original Japanese language track only which is in stereo and encoded at 192kbps. The show is one that works a largely dialogue oriented approach with little in the way of splashy scenes along the way, even in the few imagined acting sequences that we get. But it does handle the dialogue well as a whole with some good placement as needed from time to time and depth as well when we have multiple characters on screen. The series handles the highs and lows pretty well too and that’s important in some scenes as we get shifting pitches and the like. It’s not going to be a hugely dynamic show in general, a lossless presentation wouldn’t change this much, and what we get here does a solid job.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series and OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The fourteen episodes are spread evenly across two discs with seven each. Animated by Gonzo, the show has a pretty pleasing and light look about it with soothing colors and mellow designs that make it easy to engage with. There are some nice detail elements to be had in the backgrounds and set designs as we get into familiar territory for the animation studio and all those involved in it, so it works well and doesn’t feel like it’s phoned in. The colors largely maintain a solid feeling about them with little to no noise for the most part and we only had a few areas of line noise during various panning sequences from time to time, such as the bridge of glasses and the like.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized clear DVD case that holds the two discs inside on a hinge. The o-card for the set mirrors the packaging on the case and it looks nice as we get the main trio together in the recording studio on the front with their designs made clear and the color style as well. The back cover works a soft white background and lets Futaba have a side to herself with a bit of a skip and a bounce while the right breaks down a very lengthy summary of the premise. The features are listed clearly and we get a nice selection of shots from the show along the bottom. The technical grid is minimal as usual with a DVD release but it lists everything clear enough, just in a very small font. With the case itself mirroring this, the big different is the artwork on the reverse side that brings more of the Japanese pieces with one panel having the girls at a web radio recording session and the other having them in the recording booth after a session.
The menu design for this release is kept simple but effective as we get the state image from the cover as the main piece of artwork, which is colorful and full of a bit more pop in this form. With a grid background given to it to break it up a bit, there’s a lot of white space but it lets all the attention fall on the character artwork. The logo is kept to the right above the navigation with a clean and appealing look with its colors and the navigation itself is smooth and problem free as it uses a larger more bouncy kind of font. Submenus load quickly and with little here beyond the show setup is easy and quick.
The extras for this release are kept simple as we just get the clean versions of the main opening and closing sequences and the various trailers for this and other shows.
Originally airing as part of the summer 2015 anime season, Seiyu’s Life is a project with an interesting background. It comes from the manga that kicked off in 2011 written by voice actress Masumi Asano with artwork from Kenjiro Hata, the man behind Hayate the Combat Butler. It’s not a big project as it’s a four-panel series but it’s got the kind of warmth and authenticity behind it to work. Animated by Gonzo, the show was one that had a decent simulcast run but never generated a lot of discussion and was just kind of there. Thankfully, Funimation did exercise an option to bring it out on home video so that we’re not stuck with the whims of streaming and what we get is a decent little DVD release about the early stages of becoming a voice actor in Japan.
The show works a few different arcs across it and it spreads them out between the three main characters that we get here, though Futaba feels like our primary character for the most part. Futaba’s the rookie that has decided to jump into this as finding a job is hard in general and she’s always dreamed of this so going with the hardest career of all just made sense to her. Her story is a solid enough one as she works her first auditions that falls through and ends up discovering doing some voiceover work for live-action films and specials as well. She’s a pretty nice character that leaves you wanting to spend more time with her outside of the work environment, but that can be said about all three of them. The show wants to keep to the voice acting and industry side and that ends up keeping them from feeling like fully realized characters outside of nods to some of the non-industry work they do to earn a living.
Also followed here is Ichigo, the bubbly and outgoing type that has labeled herself the Strawberry Princess in order to become more memorable to casting directors and audiences. She’s always got some form of strawberry on her and she’s the type to go all in and just do it, even when she’s suffering from an injury as we see later in the season as she tries to hide it. Ichigo’s arc takes her to a few different places as well, including part-time work, but she also gets to work with some really big talent such as Yui Horie. That’s a fun bit in itself as we see the “real” Yui compared to the done up and famous Yui, which is something that Ichigo really struggles with when she realizes who she is.
The third main character is that of Rin, a fifteen year old girl who is definitely a natural at voice acting but has to contend with being in middle school at the same time. She’s the softer of the main characters in a way and the kind of bridge builder when things get tough, but she’s also the least realized of the characters overall. You can like Rin easily enough as she has that “moe” kind of aura about her, but other than some time with friends in school and highlighting that aspect of her life, which is minimal, there’s not a lot to sink your teeth into with her and her story.
With a number of shows looking at different parts of the anime and music industry in the last few years, Seiyu’s Life is one that feels very middle of the road. It’s like the creators don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them and I get that. We see the struggles the girls have, not getting jobs, dealing with being a three-person unit known as EARPHONES and then struggling to add new material and build an audience while dealing with the small turnout they get, and the fun of the web radio shows and more. There are a good mix of ups and downs that we get here that showcases some of the harder sides of things, including doing auditions where nobody is actually paying you much mind, but it’s not like the show wants to indict the industry for its worst practices. Those don’t come up here and there’s no seedy underbelly here, which is a little problematic because it creates a whole pie in the sky kind of feeling about it. There are natural lows the characters deal with and it’s handled well but it also feels like it could have delved in just a bit more.
The season as a whole works well to showcase their progress as they come in at slightly different stages and move forward, together and apart, while also forming a new unit. Seiyu’s Life has some really nice designs to it and some fun characters that really could have been expanded more and could have dealt with a few harsher elements to being in the industry to give it a little more weight. But it wants to be something that plays to the middle instead, highlighting perseverance and hard work. It is, in the end, a kind of harmless show that’s fun with what it does and enjoys itself without becoming too self indulgent. Fans of this particular slice of the storytelling world of anime will definitely like it and Funimation put together a solid enough DVD-only release so that it can be owned and watched whenever, wherever, without having to worry about streaming rights.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening Song ”Seiyu’s Life!”, Textless Ending Song ”Plug in! To Your Ears”, U.S. Trailer, Trailers
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: December 6th, 2016
Running Time: 340 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.