If you’ve met voice actors at an event, you may have asked them to say some lines in character for yourself or a friend — and more often than not, they’ll do so without hesitation. (Especially if you’re talking to Solid Snake voice actor David Hayter.) But it seems that some seiyuu in Japan are dead set against the idea, to the point of considering it disrespectful.
The topic was raised by voice actress Narumi Shinohara, who appears as both Gridley and Shiratsuyu in ship girl mobile game Azur Lane. Shinohara addressed the question in a recent Twitter thread. She tells fans that, while she is flattered that they want to hear her say things in-character, she does not consider this to be something voice actors are allowed to do.
“I never speak as the characters I play without official supervision and permission,” Shinohara says. “I can’t do informal things.” Her pinned tweet is an example of this, featuring a #StayHome message of encouragement voiced by Shinohara as her Girls’ Frontline character M1895. The tweet notes that she received permission from Sunborn Japan to make the video.
— 篠原なるみ (@narumi_Shino) April 30, 2020
Some fans expressed distress not because they wanted personalized messages, but because they wished Shinohara could use her character portrayals for personal profit — or, if nothing else, for fun.
While this may seem odd to some, there are a handful of creators who really do want this level of control over their characters’ renditions. For example, Kellen Goff does not do Funtime Freddy lines without explicit permission from Five Nights at Freddy’s creator Scott Cawthon. Voice actors from children’s shows may be under the same restrictions. But by and large, this appears to be less of an issue in the US.
Does that mean the embargo on character voices is primarily a Japanese thing? Rie Tanaka doesn’t seem to think so. Here she is as Kiara from Fate/Grand Order, doing a Valentine’s Day skit to show off her impressive new cosplay:
— 田中理恵 (@tanakarie) February 13, 2020
Shinohara’s standards with regards to her voice acting are admirable… and, all things considered, probably the least risky approach. But if you catch one of your favorite voice actors riffing on one of their roles without approval, it’s not necessarily a sign of disrespect. Lots of actors are using their most popular roles to have fun and bring joy to their fans — and isn’t that really what it’s all about in the end?