The Japan Foundation Center for Cultural Exchange in Vietnam
"Next song is the theme song from the radio version of animation titled "07-GHOST". I hope you enjoy this." When the voice actress Mitsuki Saiga introduced the song and an interpreter said the title of animation program "07-GHOST", many cries were heard from the audience. Although "07-GHOST" has not been broadcast in Vietnam yet, some people in the audience (many of them were college or high school girls) knew precisely and in detail that the actress provides the voice of Teito Klein, the leading character of the story.
The Japan Foundation Center for Cultural Exchange in Vietnam hosted Mitsuki Saiga feat.JUST Talk & Mini Live Show as a related event of "Japanese Animation Film Festival - Discover! The Excitement of Japanese Animation -" (at National Cinema Center in Hanoi from January 12 to 16, 2011) which was initiated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs in Japan as a Japanese film screening project in Asia. In addition to introducing anime films, this event aimed at presenting the attractions of voice actors/actress who are indispensable in such films through a talk and live show.
"I ask my friends studying in Singapore and Japan to send me DVDs and manga books," said a working woman in her late 20s with a new book on Japanese manga delivered from Singapore in her hand. She and her friends traveled 1,800 km from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi to see Ms. Saiga's talk and mini live show, taking days off from their offices. They were just like traveling devotees of Japanese pop idols. A man from another group of fans was a Vietnamese costume player, and he gave Ms. Saiga a bouquet in the costume of Wolfram (Ms. Saiga's voice role) from "Kyo kara Maoh!". He made this new costume for this special occasion.
Vietnamese fans were very hot for Japanese manga and anime, which were usually regarded overseas as representatives of "Cool Japan". While the degree of popularity of Cool Japan contents varies from country to country, from region to region, we found "hot" fans of Japanese manga and anime in Vietnam with the look of adoration in their eyes. It was not enough for them to refer Japanese anime as something cool, and they were just honest about their passion and love for Japanese anime and manga. When tickets for Japanese Animation Film Festival including Ms. Saiga's talk and mini live show were distributed for free, over a thousand young people came in droves during the first day. Receiving the tickets, they looked so happy and showed their tickets to each other.
"'Japan' and 'anime' are the most powerful combination of country name and genre title. No other combination is as influential as Japanese anime in attracting young audience," said a Vietnamese staff of National Cinema Center. This image of Japanese anime had already been established before we knew, and the "hot" and devoted anime fans played the role of catalyst to reinforce and propagate the image to the wider public.
"The last one is our theme song. Please make a "J" sign for JUST with your left hand at the hook line and sing along with us."
Encouraged by the enthusiasm of "hot" and devoted fans of Ms. Saiga, the audience raised their hand in "J" sign one by one. A Vietnamese woman in a black beret (an animator in her 40s) was indeed one of "hot" and devoted fans. She sang along with the band from the beginning to the end, showing "J" sign to Ms. Saiga with a serious look.
Ms. Saiga's talk and mini live show was broadcasted in news programs of several TV stations. Ms Saiga said, "I would be delighted if this event made people interested in voice actor/actress as a vocation and increased the number of Vietnamese people who want to be voice actors or actresses." Her message was delivered not only to the audience at the show but also to the viewers of news programs.
In Vietnam, animation films and programs were usually dubbed plainly by one narrator. In recent years, however, Ho Chi Minh TV and other media were making attempts to assign different voices to each character in programs. In the program "Draemon" that has been broadcast since December 2009 on Ho Chi Minh TV, different voice actors and actresses were dubbing characters of Draemon, Nobita, Shizuka and others, unlike "Doraemon" that had been broadcast in this country. On the website of the program, the viewers started posting their comments on the voices of characters; for example, some said that they liked the voice of Draemon while the others said that they thought Shizuka's voice was not cute enough.
The largest Internet community of manga and anime fans in Vietnam ACC (Animation & Comic Community) has over 800,000 members. The group of working women mentioned above who came all the way from Ho Chi Minh to this event was also the members of this community, and they said that they have been holding lectures on Japanese anime and voice actors/actresses regularly at off-line meetings in their city. Attempts of Ho Chi Minh TV, activities of ACC members, and other efforts may result in the establishment of voice actors/actresses as a profession in Vietnam in the near future.