Anime Boston 2024: HIDIVE Presents Working in the Japanese Anime Industry

Friday at Anime Boston, HIDIVE‘s Star Butler hosted a panel with two special guests from Chained Soldier, producer Yuki Watanabe and voice actor Yūya Hirose, to discuss what it’s like to work in the anime industry.

Yuya Hirose
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Hirose didn’t always want to be a voice actor. He says he didn’t watch much anime growing up, though he got into Clannad and Fairy Tail in middle school. In high school, he got into acting which led him down the path to voice acting. Watanabe’s career began in licensing for Ultraman producers, Tsubaraya Productions. SSSS.Gridman was both the first anime Watanabe produced and the first Hirose voice-acted in; Watanabe describes his time meeting Hirose on that production as “blessed,” while Hirose says Gridman‘s Hibiki is the role he’s proudest of in his career so far.

Hirose has a history of being type-cast in traditional hero roles. When asked what other parts he’d want to play, he expressed interest in playing a “dependable big brother type” or even a “final boss” (he practiced his evil laugh to the audience’s approval). He thinks sports anime like Haikyu!! deserve more attention, and if he was a producer himself, he’d want to make “romance, HOT love titles, maybe a little mature.”

When asked what being a producer is like, Watanabe answered, “There’s not that many producers in Japan, we work on a lot of different things and do a lot of different jobs in any production. Some of that can look like producing the music, for the adaptation, working with the original manga creators and director, and overseeing the entire series. Probably my most important job is creating an environment where everyone on the team is happy working together. A lot of the work I do is before the production begins. Once the production has begun, I don’t have much to do unless a problem occurs.”

Yuki Watanabe
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Watanabe said he considers himself less picky about the genre or specific marketing considerations of the projects he works on with other producers. Any manga or light novel he thinks could make a great anime is fair game. He noted that “As a career, [anime producing is] not something you can do for 20-30 years; it’s more of a 10-15-year career track.”

Though producers vary in how much they pay attention to international audiences, Watanabe was excited to attend Anime Boston because, “as a producer, you don’t get a chance to meet and talk with fans in Japan.” Hirose was impressed with the variety of anime American fans are familiar with: “Just walking around the hallway, I was flabbergasted to see cosplay for stuff that came out 20 years ago next to stuff that came out last week… The knowledge you guys have is so deep and so broad, so that’s why I’m hoping Anime Boston will continue to be successful next year and keep going into the future.”

Chained Soldier wasn’t discussed in great depth (the series had its panel later in the weekend), but when asked by an audience member what their favorite part of working on the show is, Hirose praised his co-workers while Watanabe takes pleasure in reading comments about the series on social media. Watanabe promised that the show’s second season would bring in a popular character from the manga and be “powered up, bigger and better and stronger and amazing.” The panel concluded with a teaser video for Season 2.