Jenya Davidyuk. Source: Ivan Shapovalov
RBTH: How did you end up in Japan?
Jenya Davidyuk: It all began when I was 16 and watched Sailor Moon (a popular anime series). In Russia, such programs are not dubbed. They are voice-overed in Russian, so you can hear original language beneath Russian lines. That was the first time I heard the Japanese language being spoken. This was a novelty for me, because until then all the cartoons I had seen were in English.
That was the time when the Internet was beginning to develop, around 1997. Later, through the Internet, I found like-minded people and became the president of an Anime club at our local Japanese center.
I then set up my own website, since I was studying information systems at university. I posted my cover versions of Japanese songs and my articles about the Kawaii culture in anime. Then I made an English-language version of my website and it was through the site that people in Japan found me. I got my first Japanese fans in 1999.
RBTH: Did the fans motivate you to go to Japan?
J. D.: Not quite. Even before that, my friends and I had been trying to produce music and do voiceovers. But the fact that Japanese fans contacted me did speed things up: I got an invitation from a Japanese television station and my fans helped me raise money for the trip.
I came here for the first time with my father for a week in 2001. We had a planned itinerary, and naturally, Akihabara (a shopping hub for video games, manga, anime and computer products) featured pretty heavily on our schedule.
We also visited the studio to see how real seiyuus work… It was like a dream. I loved it and I did not want to go back!
RBTH: So was it after that trip that you decided to make sure you returned to Japan?
J. D.: Yes. At the time I was already studying Japanese, at our Siberia-Hokkaido Japanese Center. After that week in Japan, I realized that if I really wanted to achieve anything, I had to study Japanese properly and I had to take singing lessons.
One of my main mottos is: ‘If you want something to be done well, do it yourself.’
Usually, I try to do everything myself. The same applies to the seiyuu industry. An agency can get you an audition, but really everything is achieved through connections that you build and develop yourself. It was my contacts that supported me, offered me parts. That was how it happened with Evangelion (one of the most popular anime series in the world). I got to do the Russian language consultation and also, I was lucky to get a little role through people I worked together before.
RBTH: You have been here for 10 years. Are there still things about Russia that you miss?
J. D.: At first, naturally, I often thought of places I wanted to go back to, of the food I missed. But the longer you live here, the fewer favorite places or foods you have back home. Now, when I return, I buy pickled mushrooms, herring, and go to eat the Russian salad. Clearly, you can eat Russian food in Tokyo's restaurant too. And of course visiting my parents and friends is the most important for me.
Jenya Davidyuk. Source: Twitter/ jenya_jp
RBTH: Do you have a favorite character or part that you voiced over?
J. D.: In fact, I didn’t really have that many big parts. Usually, there were some small parts. I spent more time working as a Russian language consultant. Recently, I had a large part, although it was a villain called Lady Doubt in the anime titled Mystic Joker.
I got that part when I had almost given up hope of landing a decent role and was thinking of finding a clerical job.
To be honest, to work as a seiyuu is like winning the lottery. Many people buy a lottery ticket, but very few win.
RBTH: You have tens of thousands followers on social networks. How popular do you think you are? Has this popularity gotten to your head?
J. D.: Well, I don’t know. Sometimes people on the street say, ‘Oh, you are the Jenya who teaches Russian on NHK, aren’t you?’ Those who are interested in Russia, they recognize me, yes. Frankly, I don’t know how
popular I am … I would probably like to be more popular! (laughs).
You can’t come to Japan and instantly become a star. That’s not how it works. From my own experience, I know that it is important to gradually move forward, building on one success after another. Things in Japan don’t happen fast. I would say that even making friends takes a while. The same is true at work: ‘They think she has been working here for 10 years, she has been trying to get a break, shall we perhaps give her a job, after all she has been trying hard!’ My whole journey in Japan has been driven by sheer enthusiasm. There wasn’t anyone who would invest much money in me. That is why it has taken me so long.
RBTH: Do you see yourself landing a major role for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
J. D.: Tokyo 2020 is a big goal for me. By then, I would like to become more famous in Japan. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll direct my enthusiasm to getting a clerical job! (laughs)
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