Manga Spotlight: Voice Over! Seiyu Academy

Voice Over! Seiyu Academy is a manga series by Maki Minami and is published in North America by VIZ Media’s Shojo Beat imprint.

Voice Over! Seiyu Academy
Written by: Maki Minami
Publisher: Hakusensha, Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Dates: October 1, 2013-August 4, 2015

The main character of the series is a high school student named Hime Kino. When she was a little girl, she received help from voice actress Sakura Aoyama, who provided the original voice for a character named Lovely Blazer. Hime’s dream is to become a famous voice actress, so she enrolls in the prestigious Holly Academy High School, which has a voice acting department.

But it turns out Hime has a problem: she has a gruff voice that doesn’t seem to work well for female voice acting roles. In addition, she gets on the bad side of her classmate, Senri Aoyama, who turns out to be Sakura Aoyama’s son. He’s already got professional credits and looks down on the other students as simply competition to crush.

Unfortunately, Hime quickly finds herself in the Voice Acting Department stragglers group alongside Tsukino Todoroki (who speaks too softly), Sho Takayanahi (he can’t read kanji and is short-tempered), and Mitchel Zaizen (who goes by Mitchy, and has an accent as well as being full of himself). One day, the first-year stragglers group has a run-in with the second-years and are challenged to a voice drama challenge; whichever group gets the most votes from the student body wins.

But things start going wrong on the day of the challenge, but the first-year stragglers get some surprising help from Senri. And through her performance in the drama, Hime is “scouted” to be part of a recording session; unfortunately, that doesn’t go well. She also manages to raise the ire of Shuuma Kawai, a professional male idol who attends Holly Academy.

Poor Hime. Not only does she have her voice going against her, but she has to deal Senri and other students putting her down, getting punished for her failure at the voice recording session, not to mention some grief and bullying she has to deal with from Shuuma and his fangirls near the end of Volume One. Fortunately, Hime doesn’t let these obstacles get her down, due to her usually positive attitude. I also found myself chuckling a little bit at Hime’s name; Hime is Japanese for “princess,” while “Kino is German for “movie.” Princess Movie seems like an appropriate name for a female character who wants to get into voice acting!

But Yamada P., the one who scouts Hime for the voice acting role, doesn’t give up on her. He’s rough and tough, though. And to top it off, Yamada insists that for voice acting, Hime take on the persona of a boy named Shiro. She’s clumsy as Shiro at first, but Mizuki, a member of AQUA who knows Hime’s secret, encourages her along the way and gives her support. And along the way, Shiro becomes friends with Senri Kudo, and Hime has to hide the fact that Shiro is actually her from Senri.

Over the course of the series, a love triangle develops. Hime is in love with Senri, but he doesn’t seem to feel anything for her… until after he befriends Shiro (and he is confused as to why he would be interested in who he thinks is a boy). Mizuki, meanwhile, seems to develop feelings for Hime, and becomes jealous when Hime is around Senri. Of course, this is part of what makes Voice Over! Seiyu Academy a shojo manga title.

For me, personally, the concept of the main character taking on a secret identity and not revealing this to the person they’re interested in kind of reminds me of the 1980’s cartoon, Jem (except for the fact that these characters are in high school, and that there’s no holographic technology used to disguise the main character).

But the relationship that develops between Senri and Hime (as Shiro) doesn’t feel forced and comes across as convincing to the reader. In some respects, the ending is a predictable and maybe a little on the cliché side, but it works for the story that Minami developed over the course of the 12 volumes. But I think that adding the element of voice acting does help makes this series feel a little less like a typical high school shojo manga story.

Art-wise, there’s a lot of a typical shojo look to the characters and backgrounds, such as cute-looking characters, and sparkly and flowery screentones. However, in order to depict Hime’s rough voice, Minami is having to utilize a look and aesthetic that looks more like it should be a shonen manga that also tends to look rougher than the rest of the series does. Mixing these two aesthetics helps to give Voice Over! Seiyu Academy a more “unique” look in comparison to its shojo manga contemporaries.

I think readers who are fans of shojo manga will be able to appreciate Voice Over! Seiyu Academy.

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