As a new agency, AiRBLUE’s roster consists of voice actresses with absolutely no experience. Expecting to hone their skills and build courage at a gradual pace, the girls are taken aback when the head of their agency, Masaki Ootori, announces that they will be partaking in an audition for Bloomball—a popular sports manga receiving an anime adaptation. Despite all odds being stacked against them, each of the girls is now presented with a momentous chance to make their debut in the unrelenting world of voice acting.
Hello everyone, it’s Kiko here, and Cue! explores multiple facets of voice acting in thought-provoking fashion. First off, it presents the foundations of a skilled voice acting performance. You need to get a feel for the character you’re portraying while making an informed decision about their personality. You also have to not let first impressions take control of you. And even if you aren’t Henry Cavill who lived and breathed the universe of The Witcher before starring as Geralt, you need to do it regardless. It’s still better to know a character beforehand, but the process of getting into an unknown character might reveal your true abilities. You need a combination of knowledge and skill to do that. There’s no strictly correct way of performing either, but a skilled performance is also a balancing act. You have some creative freedom, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be tense, for your performance will be carefully judged. To get cast for any character, you’ll need to impress, otherwise you won’t get anywhere in the industry. You must consider these factors, but you must also instil a unique part of yourself into your performance. This will create a particular effect and may just land you that job. Act 3 Scene 1 of the Shakespeare play Hamlet is how Cue! demonstrates this principle. Haruna breaks the status quo by portraying Hamlet more effeminately. Not only that, but the audience is interpreting the tone of Hamlet and Ophelia’s argument differently than one might expect. They imagine Haruna and Maika wearing atypical outfits and Maika even does a fist bump to Haruna’s back. The difference between this blooming portrayal and one that’s more by-the-book is evident. In these scenes, the actors successfully project a unique world that the audience can live in.
However, it’s not just a new world in the present that you can project through voice acting. You can also project a new world where your future and the future of your character overlap. This applies at different stages of growth: it could be nervously entering the rehearsal room for the first time and also at a point of higher confidence that you really can work with the team you’re in towards a shared goal. Through this framing, you’re polishing both of your identities and affirming that they can become more independent. By voice acting, you learn to fly on your own. You become someone else and transform. In the process you bring a character to life and develop a bond with them.
But things can go wrong. Cue! comedically presents what happens when you mistakenly break the illusion and snap back to reality. This could be by physically hitting the microphone or by coughing, and your character will feel it as well. These demonstrate the variety of mistakes that you may have also made yourself, and the visuals are funny and refreshing to boot.
Cue! showing us these mistakes also plays a part in how Cue! encourages positive thinking despite potential mishaps. Cue! explores it in one way through the internal and external expression of doubt. For an internal expression, Haruna still nervously monologues even after receiving a radiant affirmation from Maika that she shouldn’t run away, but at least Haruna can do her best. For external expressions, the actors ask for each other’s opinions on their audition and Haruna apologises to the anime staff about her seemingly subpar performance. Nervousness is also shown through small details like Haruna completely crumpling her script. But in the end, they are encouraged to get over doubt and nervousness, or at least deal with it. You have to do your best and win those roles, and this needs to be remembered as even with experience, these feelings will never go away.
Even if you do land a role, that doesn’t mean everything is perfect. You might feel that you could’ve done better. Shiho even says that she got lucky, which is exactly something I’ve thought about some of my accomplishments. Furthermore, after you finish your voice work there’s also the future projects and how you can improve, so there’s always something to learn. At least you can feel that you’re making progress, and it doesn’t have to be because you are superior to others, but because you’re personally fulfilled. But there may be cases where this can’t happen. Cue! uses an industry truth to emphasise the idea that not everything is smooth with how there’s no certainty that Project Vogel will even succeed. Even after the casting reveal, the project is still just over half-way funded. On one hand, if such a project doesn’t succeed in the end, you may have better spent your efforts elsewhere. On the other hand, even if it does find success and for example gets loads of original songs, if you’re hoping to star in an anime, there’s no guarantee that each episode will even be 24 minutes long. You don’t need to look outside of anime airing in the same season to see an example of this. That could be disappointing. In the end, however, it’s up to you if you want to take the risk, and risks are plentiful in the industry. This is important because you must decide by yourself the path you wish to take. The path may be something you weren’t really expecting. Starring in an idol group before an anime might not be your ideal path, but just as there’s no right or wrong way to act, there’s no right or wrong way to make progress in the industry either.
Making progress is good. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you have to be satisfied with the route that progress is taking. This may be true if you feel that you can’t give 100% due to creative limitations. Shiho is always saying the same kind of line with the same kind of voice, and she isn’t pleased with it. She doesn’t really have anything to worry about because she’s performing well, but the situation is a bad sign because she isn’t taking any risks which stifles her professional development. What it takes is the belief of her teammates that she has the skill to pull off something more effective. In these situations, you can be sure that you have at least some of it, or else you wouldn’t have been cast in the first place. Risk increases the opportunity to learn, and by sticking to a particular voice direction, Shiho learned from the experience.
You can also pick your own direction and in the process choose your own destiny. If Love Live! Sunshine!! has anything to say about destiny, it’s that a shared destiny is formed through an invisible power – the common feelings that ultimately bring people together. In Cue!, everyone has slightly different reasons for being where they are, but a lot of them feel like they have no choice but to chase a specific kind of dream that has fostered since childhood. This is even shown from the first scene of the series where Haruna practises acting in what feels like a classic anime movie, a movie you might have seen yourself as a kid. This dream is also more important than anything else, like with Yuuki’s resolve to fulfil it despite what her father might think. However it’s also brought to light in the scene with the red balloon. It’s a trigger for the radio group to reminisce about their past. In The Red Balloon from 1956, the balloon represents happiness as well as innocent but firm beliefs, like the kid believing that the balloon understands his words and that he will find happiness in a dreary Paris. When you’re older, holding onto a starch belief that you will achieve some abstract dream may be harder, so you have to put an effort into reclaiming it. That will lead to destiny being enforced, for destiny is something you create. This is what Masaki, the president of AiRBLUE, tells the Vogel cast.
Masaki uses dreams and destiny to instil hype and eagerness in the girls. She uses Airi’s perspective to extract the word “destiny” from her by suggesting that the girls meeting is a coincidence. She then suggests later on that the radio group’s meeting was inevitable. This provides a dramatic drive for the dramatic profession that is voice acting, which could apply to other performing arts as well. Masaki also overrides Rio by saying that the choice of Project Vogel characters can come sooner rather than later. She doesn’t tell the Vogel members which characters to pick, since she must let them choose their own destiny. The giving of agency is also demonstrated when she lets Yuuki make her decision for whether she should accept the role. These are all conscious considerations. In addition, Masaki digging into Yuuki’s background is very appropriate given her position, and her successfully doing so complements how straightforward the scene is. Masaki’s further questioning of the other Vogel members is good for both our understanding of them and the characters’ understanding of each other. This is important if they’re going to work together. Masaki’s eagerness and flexibility also reflects in her character outside of her role as a mentor. She shows this when she allows the others to decide for themselves whether or not Haruna can keep her pet turtle in the dorm.
Masaki is also someone who inspires Haruna, both in the past and in the present. For example, Haruna didn’t fully internalise the message of the first lesson, and it’s with a reminder from Masaki that she thinks about it harder. Haruna also feels more confident that she can get more roles after Masaki reinforces that only one person can get a certain role. This boosts Haruna’s belief that she can succeed. Thankfully, she has ample opportunity to prove that she can do so as a show regular with many minor roles in a single anime. This does happen in real life [see Chika Anzai in Chihayafuru]. The confirmation of her ability is not only in just that she’s good. She and Maika break ground by causing the creation of a spin-off manga. This co-creation of a story through adaptation and skill is stimulating. It’s developed even further by the manga author Keiko’s enthusiasm being passed onto Haruna and Maika later on. This breaks a barrier between the voice actors and the author. It also raises the question of how manga authors’ perception of their work changes after an adaptation, especially after the addition of voice acting and soundtrack.
This is all the result of a small scene that also demonstrates how acting can contain subtle meaning. Haruna shows that she’s more skilled than meets the eye. I believe that Haruna at least subconsciously used Tsubaki’s smile as a cue to be more emotive. This makes me wonder more about how she will develop as the series progresses. It’s also slightly curious that she’s interrupted just as she’s about to say what her dream is, but I digress.
Haruna’s performance births intrigue in the anime staff as well. They also might not have a full grasp of the characters either until Keiko points it out to them. Voice acting is linked with other aspects of the production and it’s a complicated process. Cue! shows the bureaucracy and technicalities of the industry both inside and outside the audition booth and the details are appreciated. The casting decisions have a scene to themselves, which comes along not with simply showing agreements and disagreements, but also some rationale for their picks. This provides some insight as to how staff might think. Keiko’s notes guide their decisions as well, although she isn’t present because of an upcoming deadline. Keiko also pulls an all-nighter before the audition. This doesn’t seem so fun when compared to Yuzuha thinking that Haruna playing all those different roles is fun. It’s a health sacrifice that doesn’t need to happen in the manga industry. These little hints reminding us of reality mixed in with everything else are pretty neat.
This background isn’t usually seen by the voice actors. But they also take notice of Haruna’s delivery of the line that inspires Keiko. Maika is included in that group. This is important because as the manga author’s perception of their characters’ relationship grows, so does the relationship of the two people who are voicing those characters. Haruna and Maika practise together, sweat together, and in the end, they are proud to have created art with each other even if it’s not perfect. Cue! explores this through Project Vogel as well. Kirika is absolutely in the right to be dissatisfied with the team overall. Airi is not as good as the others, but it’s not just words that will help her. Every member should be trying to improve the team in other ways, and change begins by first realising what you yourself can do to solve the problem. That is when concrete action can take place. Yuuki takes the initiative by using her cooking background, which is what her unique self brings to the table for the benefit of her team. This idea is also of course inspired by Haruna. Airi also not only helps with the cooking, but is guided by Yuuki through it, which helps give her feelings of accomplishment and comfort even through a simple task. It’s also due to Airi herself asking if she can help. Airi’s larger capabilities are thus slowly unlocked. What’s also developed is the overall team’s confidence that they can accomplish what they need to do together. The encouragement also invigorates the feeling that they’re there for a shared purpose and share a destiny. It’s through this that everyone grows and they’re also more capable of withstanding the hot and physical pain that also stress can cause. Ideally, the unity of a team can also be noticed by those around them. It might inspire those people to think about how their own team is progressing.
Miharu understands the importance of this teamwork. She acknowledges that the radio group’s humorous cat incident was important for them. This is because it got them to not only understand each other better but also reveal their hidden traits and abilities. These include Aya’s caring nature and Mahoro, one of my favourite characters so far, considering other peoples’ feelings and redirecting acknowledgement of their efforts back to them. Cue! could’ve considered this in other ways, but the experience being a cute story between the podcast hosts not only enforces how it’s like listening to a friend group, but also how it’s part of the fun of podcasting. They sometimes contain these fun diversions and tangents. Whether you enjoy those, much like anything, is up to taste, but I usually welcome them. The perspective of the story itself might also be intentionally dramatised, as Aya is not just the main person involved but also someone who overcame a challenge. This slightly raises the quirky drama and accentuates the fun. All the technical details surrounding the recording are important too, such as the soundboard, the original songs and Mahoro pointing out that time is running out. The episode’s half-time break also starts right as the podcast gets its break. Cue! incorporating all these details is great. They even plan for a future episode, and Cue! shows the beginnings of that plan in the next episode. What’s more is that by the end of the group’s story, Cue! reminded me of the fun podcasts I’ve listened to and the ones I’ve participated in, which charmed me. The group recording their podcast in their room may also have brought it closer to home. Being able to do it at home is also a relatively new reality facing the industry, much like how Project Vogel is crowdfunded. This asserts Cue!’s perceived relevancy and makes me believe that the other industry details are still relevant as well.
What’s also appealing about the podcast is how the group has someone in particular in mind when they’re recording it. That person is the owner of the cat who does indeed go on to listen to it. She enjoyed it, and I’m sure everyone who’s made a podcast hopes the audience, hosts and guests did too.
The concept of doing something for someone in particular is likewise reflected in Rinne. Her dream is pretty specific in that she wants to be sort of a big sister who sings to kids. Her focus works wonders on the kids at the playground, and the kids’ passion propels them to involve the other members of the group as well. The attempted flaring of inner passion is sort of like how other voice actors inspired Riko to do a podcast. The efforts of one generation affect the next one. But Rinne’s dream might be infeasible, for after all, voice actors can’t pick exactly what they will work on. This industry truth is even reinforced by Satori who confirms that she’s sure of it. However, Cue! performs yet another turnaround by demonstrating how Rinne is a force to be reckoned with. Her motivation is blinding. She is the sun that lights the moon, with the moon representing the other three characters who are in the shadows and self-deprecating their lack of any roles. But the moon shines bright at night because there’s sunlight. By viewing the situation from an extremely positive angle, Rinne actualises this role.
Rinne’s extremely positive thought process also isn’t normal at all. That’s saying something, because the other characters aren’t normal either. For example, another one of my favourite characters — Rie — is an 18-year-old chuunibyou. Be that as it may, Rio breaking down her cover and Rie admitting that she really doesn’t drink demon blood may attest to how it’s easier to accept reality when you’re older. That doesn’t stop Rie from being hurt though when she’s called normal. Satori on the other hand might seem to be the most normal one out of their group, but then she starts ranting about something as banal as the order of characters in the name of a ship. It’s also funny how the characters are confused about the abnormalities of others despite their own. Outside of Rie’s group is Chisa, who exclaims how the others’ reasons for joining Vogel are so weird. Then she says with determination it’s because she’s had her dream since she was a child and then the others think it’s a bit vague. At least Yuzuha takes being called a monster as a compliment. Yuzuha and Rie would agree that being normal is worse than not being normal. Rie suggests that they take advantage of their own individuality to stand out, but unfortunately this doesn’t pan out. She can’t cope with it and so she imitates Rio while rising from the floor. This moment and Chisa’s specific outburst to Airi are also examples of how the character interactions overall can be pretty entertaining. The activities of the radio group also allow them to more freely make fun of each other and crack jokes, which also develops even more of a podcast story in itself as their relationship deepens.
The character introductions are varied too. We see some of their backgrounds and at the agency, some of them show up by themselves and others arrive in a group. Then there’s also this shot outside the meeting room and then an elevator opening to reveal Shiho. It’s fun to follow. Cue! reveals some small hints of characters’ pasts as well with how everyone reacts differently to the dorm and how they bring in their own stuff.
Another important thing to point out is the age range of the main characters, which is 15 to 22. Cue! reminds us of it many times, and it’s not just their ages but also the stage of schooling they’re at and whether or not they have another job. The diversity complements how on the older side of the cast, Cue! illustrates the reclaiming of childhood beliefs in the same episode as when the generally older radio group is developed. This is because the gap between their current ages and childhood is larger.
It’s not only differences in age that have importance though, it’s also differences in status, such as how the characters feel intimidated by the more experienced actors. Yet if you get closer to them they may not really be intimidating at all. This is the same for Saita, who isn’t a voice actor but is someone whose direction the actors should follow. Shiho finds herself in an awkward situation because of this difference. She isn’t sure how her performance alteration will be received. But Saita emphasises how Shiho should voice her opinions on how she should act. It’s about making your voice heard even if you’re new. And again, it’s not like you weren’t cast for the role for no reason. There’s a belief from the staff that you have the skill to play the role too. I also like that Shiho’s approach isn’t 100% correct and so Saita provides specific advice to her. This asserts the point of learning from others as well as learning from risk. It’s all a continuous process. And even with experience, you’ll still feel nervous about these things. Everyone else auditioning feels the same way.
Speaking of auditioning and then landing roles, a lot of Cue!’s actors are voicing a main character in an anime for the first time. Still, they’ve done some concerts as part of the Cue! project beforehand. The secondary cast however has more voice acting experience. This difference is reflected in how Kirika and Masaki are teaching the others. One exception for the main cast though is the voice actor for Mahoro. In relation to Mahoro, Mahoro’s feeling of wanting to do everything by herself is an appealing trait. But this sensitivity alongside her ability to consider others’ feelings is also satisfying. In a way, Mahoro redirecting thanks back to Aya not only by emoting with her voice but also with her hands is a reveal of a hidden ability that’s directed towards the audience and it cleanly ends the podcast story. Also, Mahoro being a former child actor and having 28,000 followers is intriguing. For being a child actor, it’s because she has a little past experience. For having lots of followers, it’s because managing your presence is a useful endeavour to promote yourself and boost your reach so that you can move more people.
Besides, none of these activities are happening in a void. They are directed towards an audience and they are happening in a larger industry. Even small things like showing the billboards in Akiba is good to remind us of this larger context. It also reminds me of when I was in Akiba in 2018, and Cue! shows a store which reminds me of the Gamers store where I purchased the Dragon Quest VIII, Gravity Rush 2 and Final Fantasy X soundtracks. Cue! also has the audacity to introduce Honoka by name and then visually shows that bridge and sign I obsessed over because it was in Love Live! How amazing!
With respect to visuals, in addition to what I’ve already said, some nice little details exist. An instance of these are on display when Haruna isn’t selected for any major Bloom Ball roles. She’s rejected in three different ways. Haruna’s information sheet is first overlaid with someone else’s. Her next rejection is her name on paper being crossed out with a pen. The third one is on an electronic sheet with her name being greyed out. This brought flair to the already insightful casting decision scene.
Thankfully, Haruna eventually was cast and she’s definitely finding her experience to be worth it so far. The booth is shining just like in her dreams, almost as if it’s a sacred place that she has finally reached. This also further demonstrates the idealisation of voice actors. Rie also believes that the voice acting booth is a sacred place. She defies the projected course of episode 7’s plot by turning the group away from it, which was a pleasant surprise that simultaneously asserted the attached meaning.
Finally, being in the booth or doing other related activities is exciting and you may want to share the excitement by telling people what you’re doing. Maika certainly wants to do that, but she also knows that she can’t announce her role in the anime too early. We can see this sentiment for ourselves when voice actors finally announce a role they’ve been excited for. But until then, we need to keep our legs active and move forward along this delicate road. We can still exclaim our joy along the way. That could be elating at having the script in your hands and your name on the page or watering up when you finally realise you can be part of an anime. Putting yourself out there and striving towards your dreams is gratifying, and new adventures will follow from that process. New adventures will also manifest if you *subscribe* to the channel and hit the bell icon to be notified of any future videos. Obliterate the like button if you liked the video and tell me what you think is the best, or worst, part of Cue! and/or the video in the comments down below. You can also check out the other content I do and visit the other places I live in on the internet via the links in the description. Thank you again for watching and I’ll see you next time. Ciao!
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