"Voice Over: Seiyuu Academy," which launches in November, is a shoujo manga with all the elements that make shoujo manga great: A plucky heroine, supportive friends, love interests—and an interesting setting, in this case a school where students are training to be voice actors for anime. The creator is Maki Minami, whose name will be familiar to shoujo fans from her earlier manga "S.A." We talked to editor Pancha Diaz about what we can expect from this new series.
I know this story is no "Bakuman," but how realistically does it reflect the actual training and lives of voice actors in Japan?
Maki Minami has a team of technical advisors, so it's a pretty accurate portrayal of things like the curriculum of a training school or the set up of a voice over recording. But it's also fiction, so some things are exaggerated for dramatic effect, or timeframes get condensed to suit the plot. Basically, there are the small liberties that get taken with any story placed in a very specific setting.
This story starts with someone being kind to a little girl, and the little girl resolving to be just like that person when she grows up. That's a very common manga trope—why do you think it is so popular?
I think because it reflects our best impulses as humans. Being a hero doesn't always require super powers or super strength. Sometimes it's making a little girl smile after she's spilled ice cream on her best dress, and making her feel like she can be a princess when all her life she's been told she's not princess-like at all. And after receiving that simple, magical gift of feeling good about yourself, it's no surprise that someone wants to grow up and give it to others. And I think that's something that most readers can relate to, and even aspire to ourselves.
Was there anything particularly challenging or interesting about editing and translating this manga for American audiences?
The technical vocabulary can be a bit challenging to get right, but the translator is really great and gives me lots of notes explaining the terms. And it's a comedy, so the hardest part is getting some of the humor to come across. Visual gags usually translate well, but word play can be very tricky. I want a joke to come through in the moment, rather than requiring an end note to explain it.
I really like the cast of this story. Who is your favorite character?
Hime. She's just so indomitable. She sees setbacks as learning opportunities and has such a good attitude even though everyone makes fun of her voice and she's in the stragglers group in school. But she's not a total Pollyanna either. She gets angry and frustrated, but she just uses those fierce emotions to push herself forward. My second favorite is the producer, Yamada. He's still a bit of a mystery, and I want to know what's driving him.
As you have read further ahead in this story, what can we expect in future volumes?
There's a very interesting twist coming up in the next few volumes that ties Hime inextricably to Yamada and AQUA. It's definitely a game changer for Hime.
A lot of readers will be familiar with Maki Minami from her earlier manga, S.A. How is this one similar, and how is it different?
Both "Voice Over" and "S.A." share the same sense of humor and style of comedy. They've got elements of slapstick, with visual gags or other moments of silliness that season the drama. But while "S.A." is a story about competition with others, "Voice Over" is about competition with yourself. Hime doesn't want to beat anyone in her quest to be the best she can be. Being a great voice actor is also about being a great team player. You can't overshadow the rest of the cast. You have to be a part of the flow of the show. So "Voice Over" is also about how to shine with others rather than against them.
Is this story still running in Japan? How many more volumes are there?
It's still ongoing. There are 12 volumes out so far in Japan, and the material for volume 13 is currently being serialized in the Japanese magazine "Hana to Yume."