[Serialization] Monthly TV Guide 2021/4 Edition – Saito Soma no “Tsukurikata”. 02

(no scans because it’s still a recent release)

Released: 2021/2/24

Saito Soma
Nakao Ryusei

※Part 2 of the discussion with Nakao Ryusei.

Part 1: https://saitosoma.kouhi.me/2021/01/22/serialization-monthly-tv-guide-2021-3-edition-saito-soma-no-tsukurikata-01/

Saito Soma and his respected former teacher discuss “Voice Actor Training School” (Part 2)

—Why did Nakao-san start teaching at a training school?

Nakao: I actually didn’t want to be a teacher *laughs*. At first, it was a study group. They told me to “look after the youngsters” and I thought, “I’m not old enough to be doing that!” I was just under 30 at the time.

Saito: I’m 29, so for you to be asked that at around this age… Wow!

Nakao: The number of people in the study group grew, and they decided to turn it into a proper training school. In the early days, I’d even get questions like, “I have an audition tomorrow; how should I read this?”…

Saito: Whoa!

Nakao: I learned acting through self-study, so it was embarrassing to be called “Sensei,” to the point where I felt bad about it. But I think that when you’re teaching people something, it shouldn’t be what you digested and applied for yourself. When I became a lecturer, I started reading books about acting. The content was complicated, but I realized that it was all things I’d already been doing.

Saito: That’s amazing.

Nakao: The best part was studying with trainees who had much better sensibilities than me. It was stimulating and educational because we had completely different perspectives.

—In the past, voice acting training schools didn’t exist to begin with, after all.

Nakao: Yes, in a way, it’s good to be taught. But things that are simply taught are also simply forgotten. Besides, nowadays you can easily look up answers on your phone, although whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on the person. Back in my day, we would go all the way to the National Diet Library to research things. No one would teach us, so we often embarrassed ourselves at work. At training school, we teach various things so that students can avoid that situation, but in the end, you learn more from actually doing the job.

Saito: Without experience, you slip up. Even if you know in your head what to do, it doesn’t manifest at the recording unless you’ve fully grasped it.

Nakao: In these thirty-plus years, 81 Produce’s training school went from a three-year format to two, then one. Instead of leisurely studying the art, people want to become an immediate asset. The trainees are so serious that I wish I could tell them that they don’t have to stress so much about it. After all, I didn’t take acting that seriously in my life.

Saito: In my class, there were a lot of people who were truly amazing, and I was grateful to be able to study with them. Their personalities were diverse, but I think a lot of them were hungry for knowledge and progression.

Nakao: Your class really was diverse.

Saito: At the time, I was the type to think through everything, so I was extremely scared of making mistakes.

Nakao: There are people like you, and there are people who don’t plan anything. With the latter, I enjoy seeing what they’ll show in the future. There’s no correct answer, after all.

Saito: Thinking about it now, back then I was overly complacent with my knowledge and assumptions.

Nakao: You were quick to evolve when you were told to do a retake. Conversely, it means that you were too serious. At times like that, seniors tend to say “Go wild with it!”, but then it becomes, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Saito: I really wondered that *laughs*. Actually, I probably still don’t know for sure what it means…

Nakao: They’re just trying to say, “Don’t conform to the norm.” The idea is that if you’re given the number “10” and you give a compact formula like “5 x 2”, they’re telling you to instead answer with something like “10000 – 9990.” But that way of thinking isn’t really something you can just do. In fact, people who always give answers like that get told, “Come up with a normal formula!” *laughs*

Saito: Since people start with their own values as the baseline, everyone has unique traits. But Nakao-san, you give off the impression that you’ll accept any approach people take.

Nakao: That’s the only way we can phrase it. But I knew that everyone in your class was thinking deeply in their own ways, so I didn’t say much. The only thing we can teach you is formulaic approaches. We just want you to be more versatile.

Saito: I don’t think the focus of the lessons was on techniques—you taught us more fundamental things. It felt like you were saying, “If that’s the method you choose, then explore it thoroughly.” There’s logical thinking vs. acting through feeling, and you didn’t guide us towards one approach over the other. I’m really thankful for that now. At training school, I got stuck a lot while thinking things through, but before long, I started thinking, “Dialogues are really fun!” I feel like I’m leaning more towards the “feeling” side as the years go by. As I walk the path of an actor, the way I perceive the world continues to change. At training school, I learned how to get started with the fascination of voice acting.

Nakao: I’m glad to hear that. It’s just that it’s hard for trainees to think of it that way, because everyone is in a rush to become pros. Knowing that, I say these things in hope that the meaning will reach them someday in the future. I also teach them, “It’s okay if you don’t have a sense for it.” If you don’t, then you can succeed by being aware of the fact that you don’t.

Saito: You also said, “There’s nothing you can do about how nice everyone else’s voices are.”

Nakao: Even a weird voice like mine is fine, after all.

Saito: What are you saying *laughs*. You taught us that it’s good to look at things from different angles and perspectives.

—Can the teachers tell which trainees are improving?

Nakao: We don’t expect them to be skilled when they’re still in training school, but as we’re teaching, we can sense which ones are probably going to be ready to work soon.

Saito: How can you tell?

Nakao: It’s their acting spirit—whether they’re geared towards acting and creating as a group. With animation dubbing, once you’ve done it three times, you can match up with anyone. So the people who move on to become voice actors are those who can do the acting properly.

Saito: The way I think of it is that when you’re performing a dialogue, it feels like your brains are connected.

Nakao: It’s like playing catch.

Saito: For me, what’s important when acting is essentially the “conversation” aspect, with the other actors, the story, and myself. It’s exactly like how we’re talking right now. Instead of deciding everything in advance, taking in what’s said and reacting to it. It’s something you do without thinking, but actors who really enjoy it have radiant acting that draws you in.

Nakao: I think everyone has desires, like wanting to be famous or make money. But there are a lot of things you can accomplish even if you don’t achieve those. Just because you aren’t famous or you don’t make a lot of money doesn’t mean you aren’t a good actor. Although, I can only say this because of my age—young people might not be able to think this way. When I was your age, Soma, I was hopelessly cocky. And I thought, “Will I be able to do better acting when I’m 30?”…

Saito: …I also vaguely assumed that something will change when I turn 30. *laughs*

Nakao: When I turned 30, I thought, “I guess it’s not enough, maybe it has to be 40.” When I turned 50, I thought, “Hmm, maybe it’s 60.” This year I finally turned 70, and all I can think is, “Huh, I always sucked.” But even though I sucked, I still made it this far. When I was young, I was obsessed with getting better.

Saito: Being reckless in your own way, thinking, “I think I just grasped something,” only to become unsure the next moment…

Nakao: It’s an endless repeat of that process.

Saito: Even though I didn’t fully understand what I was taught at training school at the time, as I’m working, there are times when I realize, “So this is what they meant.” One example is your story about the time when you were busy with both work and personal matters. You were standing in front of the mic, and once you thought, “This isn’t the right state of mind for acting,” you were easily able to give a good performance. I also had a time when I got stuck because I was thinking too hard, and I thought, “I don’t get it! I’m going to clear away the jumbled mess in my mind for a second!”, and it felt like my field of vision opened up a bit. I immediately understood what you told us back then.

Nakao: The hardest thing for rookie voice actors to learn on the job is mic work (switching in and out with other voice actors due to the limited number of mics). Right now, due to COVID-19, everyone has their own mic… but I think rookies will have a hard time with it when the pandemic is over.

Saito: Even I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do it anymore…

Nakao: You’ll be just fine *laughs*. A long time ago, a rookie voice actor was gently instructed by his senior, “Come over here.” The rookie answered, “I’m fine right here,” and the senior scolded him, “If you stay there, the mic rotation won’t work!” Rookies should listen to what their seniors say.

Saito: Speaking of what happens at the studio, there’s one thing I want to tell you here, Ryusei-san.

Nakao: What is it? *laughs*

Saito: You taught us that, “At the studio, rookies sit close to the door and open/close it during breaks,” and I put that into practice. Then, much later, when I had the opportunity to work with you again, I was all motivated to sit next to the door… but when I arrived, you were already sitting in the chair closest to the door.

Nakao: I’m really sorry *laughs*. I’ve always been timid, so I feel the most relaxed next to the door. And I get scolded by the rookies, who say, “There’s nowhere for us to sit now.”

Saito: It made me anxious, like “Huh?!” *laughs* I’m obviously joking, but I really do feel nervous when we’re at the same recording. But like you said at training school, “If we meet at the recording studio…”

Nakao: “We’re already fellow actors.”

Saito: When I greeted you, you said, “Oh, we got to meet at work!” I was happy that you remembered me.

Nakao: I’m glad to run into trainees at work. But I’m the most nervous of all—I don’t want them to think, “What? He’s nothing special after all.”

Saito: We absolutely won’t think that!

—Please give some advice for those who want to become voice actors.

Saito: I’m in no position to be giving advice, but…

Nakao: Nowadays, people are joining the training school because they want to be like you! Don’t run away. *laughs*

Saito: Sorry *laughs*. It reminds me of when I was a teenager. I was extremely cynical back then. I couldn’t really play with everyone at school festivals or hang out after school. I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m addicted to voice acting now. I can go back to being a high schooler over and over.

Nakao: I see. *laughs*

Saito: My humble opinion is that it’s definitely better to be honest and enjoy yourself right now.

Nakao: I completely agree.

Saito: The world is in a tough place right now, so I can’t say anything irresponsible, but I believe that everything you feel and experience right now in this moment will become your assets. For me, it hurts to remember my cynical days, but when I encounter a character like that, I can make use of my experiences.

Nakao: Fully take in what you’re feeling right now and enjoy the present. It’ll benefit you in the future no matter what your profession is.

Saito: Lastly, I have a brazen request… I want to do a reading with you, Ryusei-san.

Nakao: Of course! I’ve been telling everyone, “Play the main role, and invite me as a guest.” If I can appear once on everyone’s programs, I’ll have a peaceful life in old age. *laughs*

Saito: Wow! *laughs* I’ll strive towards being able to work with you again! Thank you very much for today.

[Serialization] Monthly TV Guide 2021/3 Edition – Saito Soma no “Tsukurikata”. 01

(no scans because it’s still a recent release)

Released: 2021/1/22

Saito Soma
Nakao Ryusei

Komada Wataru
Ueda Reina
Takahashi Rie

Saito Soma’s new serialization where he discusses “How It’s Made” with anime industry professionals. The first guest is Nakao Ryusei, who was Saito’s teacher at voice actor training school. Nakao was born in 1951 and debuted at the age of 5 on a radio drama. He discovered the industry in an era where “voice acting was an actor’s part-time job.” He became known for roles such as Baikinman in Anpanman and Frieza in Dragon Ball Z, and in 1985, he got involved in training the next generation at the previous iteration of 81 Produce’s training school. When Saito enrolled there, Nakao considered him “already skilled” from the very beginning. Here, they discuss what a training school teacher does and what the place means to voice actors.

Saito Soma and his respected former teacher discuss “Voice Actor Training School” (Part 1)

Saito: I went to training school more than ten years ago. There are a lot of things that I don’t remember very well, but I do still remember what happened there. For example, going to a summer festival with all of my classmates, like Komada (Wataru)-kun, Ueda (Reina)-san, and Takahashi Rie-chan. I think there were a lot of unique people in our year.

Nakao: It was a fun class with a lot of motivated people.

Saito: I feel like we also caused a lot of trouble *laughs*. I think there were a lot of really ambitious people. After class, we would always discuss what we learned that day in front of the train station.

Nakao: Wow!

Saito: I really enjoyed the debates we had. It was truly a time of adolescence, struggling and frustration included.

Nakao: 81 Produce’s training school curriculum used to be three years. You went there for one year, right? In the first semester you studied voice fundamentals and readings, the second semester was animation voicing, and the third semester was dubbing Western films. But now, animation voicing is done in the first semester.

Saito: Right off the bat?!

Nakao: Anime dialogue is caricaturized to begin with. Before you can study realistic dialogue and acting, you have to do caricaturized acting. There are also classes for fundamentals, speaking, and narration, but it’s still rather tough.

Saito: That’s demanding.

Nakao: The “Words” class that I teach is taught by two teachers in two time blocks. One teaches fundamentals while the other is for practical application like anime dubbing. We take turns teaching the blocks.

Saito: So, Ryusei-san taught me both fundamentals and practical application. We did the “Uirou-uri” (a type of kabuki prologue used for practicing articulation and enunciation) too, right? What I remember most from the lessons is “Wasshoi” which used the lyrics from Kitahara Hakushuu’s Omatsuri.

Nakao: We still do that now.

Saito: The line “Wasshoi, wasshoi. It’s a festival, it’s a festival!” would be repeated, and the following lines would be different things like “A hanagasa on our backs~” or “A portable shrine; it’s a portable shrine~”. We would all stand in a circle and recite the verses from memory. The person speaking goes in the middle of the circle, and when they’re done, they pick a random person to go next. So, you don’t know which part you’ll be reciting until the time comes…

Nakao: You pass the baton while keeping the rhythm.

Saito: We keep going until we make it to the end without making mistakes or breaking the rhythm. It was extremely nerve-racking voice training.

Nakao: The day’s lesson wouldn’t begin until they did it perfectly. It’s a type of theatre game (practice for developing acting ability). Even though you memorized the song, you might blank out when the time comes to say your part.

Saito: Exactly.

Nakao: It’s even more stressful for the last person. If they make a mistake, everyone has to start over from the beginning.

Saito: The pressure builds as the song progresses.

Nakao: It also acts as mental training. At an audition, “I really do have it memorized” doesn’t fly. You have to do it right then and there. We also teach the students to look at people’s eyes when choosing the next person, because you’ll be able to tell if they remember the next line or not.

Saito: You can sense if they’re sending the “I can do this one” signal.

Nakao: Then you can also tell if they’ve memorized the entire song or if they only know one part. However, that’s not always going to work either, so what do you do? We have them work on a solution together.

Saito: You have to think about multiple things at the same time. It’s like that when voice acting too.

Nakao: The workplace is no different.

Saito: If you told me to do “Wasshoi” right now, I think I’d say “Please give me a break.” *laughs*

Nakao: Then, the final part of training school is the presentation.

Saito: Each class presents a work that’ll be the culmination of what they learned that year.

Nakao: We want everyone to come together to create a single work. Even though they aren’t “eating out of the same pot,” we want them to have that foundation. It’s also on them to find a place to practice.

Saito: For our independent practice, everyone pooled money and looked for a place we could rent. Also, each class had their specialties—for example, if they had someone who was good at making arrangements, they would get a training place booked in a flash.

Nakao: The duties naturally get distributed.

Saito: The world of acting involves working together to create something, which comes with both enjoyment and difficulties. We learned about that at training school too.

Nakao: We teachers are like driving school teachers. We can drive with one hand spinning the steering wheel, but we have to teach the students fundamental driving techniques like holding onto the wheel firmly with both hands.

Saito: What I appreciated the most at training school was that on top of teaching us the basic mentalities and techniques, they also made us think for ourselves. Instead of saying, “Do it like this,” they asked questions like, “How did that feel?” or “How do you want to do this?” I’m the kind of person that likes to think. Conversely, that means I tend to be satisfied with small successes. Also, at first I had a strong desire to not make mistakes, but Ryusei-san told me, “This place exists for you to make mistakes.” He never once scolded us unfairly either.

Nakao: I did scold people.

Saito: Aren’t scolding and admonishing completely different? I consider what you did “admonishing.” When you admonished us, we really did deserve it.

Nakao: I never admonished you alone, right? But I did admonish the class as a whole.

Saito: There was a time when we got too used to your kindness.

Nakao: It wasn’t my kindness—since we always studied from the same materials, you got used to the course content. When people become competent to a degree, they let their guard down. That’s when I scolded them and said, “Don’t get used to it!”

Saito: Ryusei-san is usually really nice, but when he says, “Tighten up this part and try again with firm emotion,” it’s sharp and motivates you.

Nakao: Saying it sharply makes them perform sharply, right? And then I scold them again, saying “Why didn’t you do it before I had to tell you to?!” I just don’t like it when they can do it but they don’t. If they can’t do it, then that’s a different story. But being capable yet choosing not to do it is bad. I get a little angry when that happens.

Saito: The sound pressure went “bang!” that time. I thought, “So this is what it means to have a voice resonate through your body!” That was when I experienced a real professional’s vocal force directly instead of through a mic.

Nakao: I’m always practicing for that purpose *laughs*. If you wait until you’re told to do it, it’s too late. When you become a professional, you have to do it properly from the start.

Saito: When we first started training school, our mindset was “first, be taught.” From there, we switched gears to assembling our own performances and acclimating our bodies to those ideas. Come to think of it, I expected the “Uirou-uri” story to come up today, so I reviewed it and was astounded. I thought I’d analyzed the content and its meaning back then, but when I read it now, it’s like seeing it through a higher resolution lens. I thought I understood it back then, but my perspective was too narrow.

Nakao: “Uirou-uri” has a lot of components. Accents, nasal sounds, devoicing…

Saito: Back then, I was really focused on memorizing it properly. “Uirou-uri” is about using any means possible to sell the audience on an amazing medicine. When I reviewed it, I kept thinking about how I’d want to present it. But if I did it right now, I think it’d sound extremely shady. *laughs*

Nakao: That’s brilliant. *laughs*

Saito: Since being taught by you, I’ve come to like more things. Back then, I was in my third year of university. That year, I decided that I would dedicate my whole life to walking the path of voice acting.

Nakao: Really?

Saito: I didn’t think my personality was suited for being a voice actor because I didn’t think I could take a step forward with sensitiveness or explosiveness. That was all I thought about every day. One day, I was eating in the school cafeteria, and I suddenly thought, “Wait—if my personality isn’t suited for it, does that mean that if I keep doing voice acting work for my whole life, I’ll be able to change myself over the course of my lifetime?” I called my parents right then and there and told them, “I’m not going to go job hunting.”

Nakao: So that’s when you decided.

Saito: Both of my parents are enthusiastic teachers. They said, “It’s your own life. We’re happy that you discovered what you want to do.”

Nakao: That’s kind of them.

Saito: They also said, “But since it’s your life, be responsible for it yourself.”

Nakao: I’m definitely never meeting your parents! They’d probably say, “Was it you who tricked our son?!” *laughs*

Saito: No way *laughs*. I talk to my parents about what you taught me.

Nakao: They sound like good parents. When you were taking my classes, you were always worrying.

Saito: A lot.

Nakao: And now you’re shining. You were a bit dark when you were worrying.

Saito: *laughs* Yeah.

Nakao: At the time, I thought, “He’s the type to overthink, huh?” It was a worrying time period for you.

Saito: Back then, I was intentionally narrowing my field of vision. All I thought was, “I need to show good results here so that it’ll lead to the next step!” I think that that in itself was a necessary time for me.

Nakao: What we teach at training school isn’t that grandiose, right? The first thing we talk about is always your mentality and the “wait” attitude.

Saito: Right. At training school, rather than how to be an actor, I learned a lot more about the fundamental mentality that I should have as a person who’ll be entering society.

Nakao: Our job is to wait. We have to wait until work comes. How do you spend your time waiting? “Lessons are important, but how are you going to live your life until our next class?” Since the classes continue for a year, I want the students to wait effectively. After they become professionals, this will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

Saito: Even now when I meet people from that class, we often talk about the “wait” attitude.

Nakao: Everyone’s working as hard as they can, right? Because they’re pros. But what do you do when you don’t have work? This becomes the most important thing. Waiting effectively, concentrating effectively, and putting forth your best effort. Also, don’t slack off during lessons!

Saito: I think that 2020 in particular was a time for the whole world, not just actors, to think about “waiting.”

Nakao: Everyone, yes.

Saito: I try to keep the wait attitude, but sometimes I give in and I’m just waiting, or I become too passive. We voice actors only exist because of creative works and characters, but that said, we should also be able to actively create and express something. I thought a lot about how it’s important to “wait actively.” I can’t practice in a really loud voice at home, after all. *laughs*

Nakao: I’ve been working for many years too, and this is the first time I’ve had so much time to myself. At times like this, your mentality is the most important thing. We’ve been living rather brazenly, but the young people who are starting out in their career have weaknesses in their mentality. How will they fortify those and wait until their next opportunity? It might be a good idea to think about that.

(Continued in Part 2 in Monthly TV Guide 2021/4)


“Hello, Saito Soma here! I have an interview published in Monthly TV Guide New Year XXL Edition, releasing today on December 16! There, it was announced that in the March edition releasing January 24, 2021*, I’m going to be starting a serialization in Monthly TV Guide~! I’m going to be having discussions with various professionals from the anime industry. More information will be announced later, so look forward to it!”
(*He says 1/24 in the video, but the actual release date was 1/22.)
“Hello, Saito Soma here! My serialization will be starting in Monthly TV Guide March Edition which releases on January 22. I’ll be having discussions with various professionals. For the first installment, I was given the opportunity to talk with my respected former teacher from my training school days, Nakao Ryusei-san! I really respect Ryusei-san as both an actor and a person, so I’m truly thankful for this! Please check it out!”