Singing, acting and voice acting. They seem to use the same kind of talents, or at least that is what the media would have us believe.
I was listening to some nice Oricon hits today. There was “Answer” by flumpool that is a new release this week, as well as “Destiny” by Kitamura Eri. Now we all know Kitamura Eri is a voice actress (think Sayaka Miki in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Yui in Angel Beats and Rimi of Chaos;Head) but she has recently become quite a hit in the music industry too, with songs meant for anime productions that also make a dent in the charts. And when we think of successful voice-actresses-turned-singers, our minds will turn to none other than Mizuki Nana, the worldwide hit enka singer now who also brought us Tsugumi Shibata from Jigoku Shoujo, Misaki Kirihara from Darker Than Black and Hinata Hyuga from Naruto Shippuuden.
And now it feels like every other voice actor out there has done some singing role in one way or another too. It is now fashionable for anime to have character theme songs, so we hear what people like Eguchi Takuya and Miyano Mamoru would sound like in song. Some seiyuu celebrities sing exclusively for anime openings and endings, sometimes releasing one-shot albums that can either be a hit or a miss. That makes sense, you surmise. Voice actors and singers both use their voices, right?
Well then what about acting?
It has been years, even decades, that singers have taken a stint at acting as well. Even the likes of Andy Lau and Justin Timberlake are singer-actors (and other hyphenates). And then we have actors who start to voice as well. I mean, look at the cast of Shrek. Do people like Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz ring a bell? And in a way, ever since the advent of music videos, singers have been expected to act as well. You have to know how to channel that vocal quality into facial emotion to convince audiences you are really sincere about your love for them.
But the point, I think, that I want to make is, is it really the same talent? Can they take on all these roles equally well?
And I think, for most cases, the answer is no.
Perhaps Mizuki Nana really made it big with her enka training, but my favourite singers are still, without a doubt, people like UVERworld and Flow and Misato Aki and Hoshimura Mai. People who do only singing. Heck, UVERworld music videos are getting increasingly drama-free, even. Takuya merely sings. He does not need to make fancy dance moves (I’m looking at you, Korean groups) or act out the story in his songs. He did it for Koishikute before, in a way, and it was fantastic, but I am sure a professional actor would have done it better nonetheless. And people like Fukuyama Jun and Hanazawa Kana, while being marvellous marvellous voice actors who garner the adoration of fans worldwide, are only mediocre when it comes to comparison in the singing market. They can pass for character theme songs (because anime characters are not supposed to know how to sing) but not when they try to be competitive.
In the same vein, no, I do not appreciate hearing Jack Black talking behind the facade of a panda bear or Angelina Jolie as a fish. My favourite voice actors when it comes to animated movies are people like Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Edward Asner (Simba and Carl Frederiksen from Lion King and UP respectively), people that you or I don’t really know. These are the people who do not have to look good for the camera or be multi-talented celebrities. They focus their attention and energies on the one thing they do best, and they do it.
And so, nope. Singing, acting, voice-acting, directing, setting up a business and modelling are all completely different talents. No doubt a professional trainer can mould and shape a person into anything, but sometimes passion is also a key factor. I’m sure people like Suzumura Kenichi and Irino Miyu had been passionate for voice acting and voice acting alone, not voice acting + a whole lot of other strange pastimes just because they happen to be fashionable at the time. And without passion, you can never be really all that good.