Voice Over! Seiyu Academy Vol. 1 by Maki Minami
This was a book that I thought I wouldn’t like very much, but as I read through the entire volume I found myself begrudgingly enjoying it more than I expected. I ordinarily enjoy manga set in the world of show business. Here, the setting here of a specialized voice over training high school had the potential to both be a bit interesting due to the possibility of learning more about this specialized acting niche in Japan but it could also be somewhat infuriating if the plot devolved into the arcane hierarchical clique hijinks that tend to plague many a shoujo title. Also, in terms of the plots that I tend to enjoy over and over again, I will happily read multiple manga about office ladies forced to marry their harsh yet irresistibly handsome bosses, but high school clique wars tend to make my eyes glaze over unless I’m distracted by other plot elements like space aliens, juvenile delinquency, or magical powers. As I was reading Voice Over, I did think it would have strong appeal to younger teen readers.
Hime’s idol is a famous voice over actress on the anime Lovely Blazers named Sakura Aoyama. Hime’s accepted into a special voice acting school, but she has to fight against her natural tendencies towards emoting in a deep raspy voice. She’s quickly singled out and placed in the “stragglers” group that makes up the bottom students in her class. To add to Hime’s stress, Senri, the son of her idol is in her class and he is both incredibly gifted and a grouchy snob.
Hime is as plucky and determined as you would expect a shoujo heroine in her situation to be, even though she is promptly nicknamed Gorilla Princess by her classmates due to her deep voice. Hime’s motley crew of stragglers includes the super adorable Tsukino who can’t project her voice, an ex-juvenile delinquent named Sho, and boy with horrible nerves and an unfortunate accent named Mitchel. Hime’s initial overtures to Senri are met with determined rudeness. There is a voice over battle (isn’t there always) between the stragglers and their more high-class competition. Hime ends up using her deep voice to surprising effect when she subs in for Mitchel and ends up doing a superb job as the prince in a Snow White play. Hime and Senri keep running into each other, and she gradually sees his more human side. I found Senri’s habit of adoring kittens contrasted with his horrible manners to be lacking a bit of nuance. But I was very amused by some of the visual techniques Minami uses to portray the voice over acting of the cast. Little old ladies and old men appear in the background of the panels whenever Hime acts, providing an amusing way of showing how mismatched Hime’s voice is with the lines she’s speaking. I also enjoyed the glimpse of the almost too close to each other male idol duo at school with their legion of female fans who want to ward off any girl from getting close to them so they can continue to get their yaoi fix.
As I was nearing the end of the volume, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, simply because all the elements of humor were almost enough to distract me from a plot that I’m not particularly interested in. This manga doesn’t have the manic energy of an Oresama Teacher that makes the plot almost irrelevant though. If future volumes lean more on the high school clique fighting and less on wacky voice over antics, I expect I’ll be less entertained. I do think that readers less jaded than me would enjoy this manga quite a bit.
Review copy provided by the publisher.