How to Get Into Anime Voice Acting

by Johnny Kilhefner
Voice actors don't simply voice a character -- they become the character.

Voice actors don't simply voice a character -- they become the character.

The expressive eyes of anime characters are given life through the actors that voice them. Voice actors are usually classically trained actors and most have performed in theater, television or film in addition to anime. Anime is a Japanese form of animation, but anime production is on the decline due to the Japanese bubble economy bursting in the early '90s, which makes it harder for new voice actors to break into the genre.

Learn the Craft

Voice actors, and actors in general, do not need a formal education to succeed. Aspiring anime actors should familiarize themselves with anime, especially the genres they are interested in auditioning for. With that said, receiving formal training from an acting conservatory or a university program in drama, theater arts or another related degree program in film can prepare actors for their careers. Voicing a character is more than just providing a voice -- the actor must become the character just as film actors do. Traditional training provides voice actors with the skills they need to give full-body performances that enliven the voices behind the anime. Each role is different, however, so actors should continue to train and learn, and develop new skills along the way.

Develop Your Voice

Voice actors must focus on vocal skills. It's often that an actor will voice multiple characters in one show, and to do this they must prepare voices with different dialects, accents, cadence, etc. Developing new voices comes from studying character tropes and finding a balance between the character expectations and an original portrayal. For example, a witch has a distinctive voice for most people, but a touch of originality is needed for the actor to "own" the voice.

Find Representation

Anime acting is tough to break into, so aspiring actors should have representation or casting directors most likely will not consider them. Prepare a demo tape that showcases your skills as a voice actor. Your tape should play like short scenes from anime -- totaling two to three minutes -- with several different voices to demonstrate your range. Living where the jobs are is necessary to find representation, especially for actors unknown in the business. Los Angeles is where many studios cast and record actors, though it isn't the only place. Houston, for example, is home to ADV Films, a prominent anime production studio that holds auditions for several roles.


Auditioning is the difficult part and actors may become discouraged by the repeated rejections. The key to an audition in anime voice acting is to demonstrate your individuality and unique skill set as well as a mature understanding of audience expectations in anime voice styles. When auditioning, an actor stands out if she demonstrates a knowledge of the rules and insight into subverting the rules. The voice actor for Megatron in the "Transformers", for example, refused to interpret the script's exclamation points as direction to shout, but instead used the Laban method and experimented with different vocal "weights."

About the Author

Johnny Kilhefner is a writer with a focus on technology, design and marketing. Writing for more than five years, he has contributed to Writer's Weekly, PopMatters, Bridged Design and APMP, among many other outlets.

Photo Credits

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