Legendary voice actor Megumi Ogata recently won the Best Voice Actress award at the Seiyu Awards, an annual ceremony to recognize voice acting in Japan. At first, Ogata thought about declining the award, but decided to accept the honor to make a larger statement about gender, identity, and voice acting.
Ogata is best known for voicing Shinji Ikari in Neon Genesis Evangelion and Sailor Uranus in Sailor Moon. The voice actor also plays protagonist Yuto Okkotsu in Jujutsu Kaisen 0 the Movie.
The ensuing speech wasn’t your typical acceptance spiel. Rather, Ogata used the platform to make bigger, more important statements about the meaning and craft of voice acting. Ogata asked the crowd, “Are you sure I should be getting the Best Voice Actress award?”
“Seventy percent of the roles I’ve done are boys and I don’t really consider myself an actress,” Ogata continued (via translator Mishima Kitan). “Are you sure I should be getting Best Voice Actress? There is so much talk about being genderless nowadays, and there are voice actors in the industry who have come out [as queer].”
Ogata added that there were those who, like the famed voice actor, live their daily lives not thinking of themselves as women.
“Compared to actors who must show their faces on media, I think it’s the voice actors who can advocate to go beyond the genders and put aside labels of ‘male actors’ and ‘actresses.’” Ogata suggested removing the gendered labels for the next Seiyu Awards.
“At first I somewhat thought about declining this award, but I decided to accept this for people who have created the titles with me,” Ogata continued. “In the Japanese anime industry, actresses of my age don’t get to play the protagonists. To be in such an industry, I thought that my award acceptance can be a positive influence, so I’ve decided to accept it. I’m sorry for sounding arrogant. I truly am happy for this.”
We’re so lucky to have a talent as monumental and important as Ogata.