N.B.: For full disclosure, I backed this game on Kickstarter several years ago.
Seiyuu Danshi is my favorite time management sim of 2018. Honestly that’s about all I want to write, specifically because keeping this review short would allow me to jump right back into playing it, but I suppose some elaboration is in order here.
Seiyuu Danshi follows a year in the life of an up-and-coming voice actor Haato, who I named Block. Block was picked up by a voice acting agency the previous year, whereupon he basically made no money for the company by not only refusing to look for work but also failing to attend VA school to improve his skills. Block is now given an ultimatum; turn his career around so sharply that he wins the prestigious Seiyuu Award (literally “voice actor” award) in December, or get kicked out of the agency and fend for himself. Thus begins the game.
The developers clearly put the majority of their effort into the time management aspect of Seiyuu Danshi. I’ve played a number of time management sims that can be broken on the second on third playthough because you know how to game your activities and character interactions in order to far exceed whatever minimum stats are required for endgame success. Winter Wolves VNs are particularly bad about this; Pastry Lovers did it better, and 1931: Scheherazade was a constant challenge. Seiyuu Danshi manages to strike this perfect balance of letting the player feel as though they can succeed and forever grappling to stay ahead of what comes next. Being a successful voice actor in the world of Seiyuu Danshi is difficult on its own; gaining the number of fans necessary to win the award (and thereby get the best endings on multiple routes) is nigh on impossible if you aren’t constantly working at it.
At this point the gameplay and goals sound pretty standard: you need to voice act your heart out for rent money, and good luck if you fail. But in Seiyuu Danshi you don’t actually need to succeed in your voice acting career to keep Block’s head above the water financially. There are plenty of side jobs that you could pick up around town to pay the bills and take your date out somewhere nice(ish) on the weekends. In theory, you could just skip around doing a few voice acting jobs here and there, attend extra voice acting classes at your school just once in a blue moon, and you’d still be ok. You just wouldn’t be the best, and you wouldn’t last in the VA field long-term, but you could manage.
Seiyuu Danshi makes you decide whether or not you truly want to be an outstanding voice actor, and then work for every inch you get in either your career or your personal relationships. If you want to make it big then you better be fighting to take every job you can get and supplement your normal school days with extra courses besides. I cannot tell you how many times giving up a Thursday afternoon for extra classes on characterization made the difference between me getting to try out for a gig and having to just give up on the job. Your every waking moment needs to be spent working towards this goal of getting the Seiyuu Award, because you’re here to excel in your field.
Even if you manage to level up your base stats enough to audition you still have to successfully navigate the tryout. Each audition follows a set pattern: you are told what kind of character you’re trying out for, you’re given a scene to read for, and you have to pick the correct emotion to go with each line that you’re delivering. Most of the characters are pretty standard anime archetypes like the happy-go-lucky best friend, the oblivious protagonist with a yandere girlfriend, or a hard-boiled teenage boy with a tragic past. Because of this the tryouts weren’t too difficult, since after a certain point in anime viewing you can predict how these kinds of characters will react to a given situation. You usually have around ten lines to emotionally parse out, and I tended to only miss two or three on my first run of the audition (I say first run because I absolutely save scummed before every single one). Depending on how well you do you’ll earn a one to five star rating and either get the role or fail. Landing as many jobs as you possibly can is paramount to your success, because each new gig means a few more devoted fans following your career, making you more famous and more likely to win the Seiyuu Award.
There was something so viscerally satisfying about watching the number of fans increase from no one in January to hundreds and hundreds by the end of the year. It inspired this feeling that you weren’t just completing these auditions in order to earn payment for rent (and other more risque interests), but were also actively building up a career for yourself. The fan club that starts following you around is frankly adorable and added to this idea that Block is actually becoming a somebody in his field, little by little, with every job he completes.
At the same time putting too many of your turns into voice acting hinders or outright halts how you can advance your romance options. This is a BL game with a total of seven guys to romance, and all of them are frankly adorable. I loved getting drag Toshiyuki around to different restaurants on Sunday dates or watch Toru flub his way through romance with his idol. Some of the romances were a little less appealing to me than others, but there wasn’t a single guy that I outright hated. Romancing them was fun. That said, dear god these men are hard to get in bed.
On my first playthrough I put so much time into developing my career that I wasn’t able to get into a romantic relationship until the end of October, by which point in time I wouldn’t have been able to completely fill my romance meter. Romances in Seiyuu Danshi involve you maxing out a heart meter (filled by calling your chosen beau on the phone, going on dates, or just spending time with them) as well as an encounter meter that only increases when you have a cutscene with them, based on spending time with them in a certain place. It’s a little frustrating to have maxed out the heart meter but still struggle to fill the other because you don’t know where you’re supposed to meet with your boy to get the next scene. The entire game is a delicate balance between trying to do enough work with your characterization, technique, or singing lessons to become a successful voice actor, and give your target man enough attention that you can take him to bed and play a mini-game to arouse and eventually bone him.
I will admit that this game isn’t perfect. Seiyuu Danshi had some bugs where occasionally the CG for the scene I’d just finished would reload, and more than a few times it froze on me (though never outright crashed). The dialogue at the start of the game frankly needs a bit more editing because lord it is clunky. Also Seiyuu Danshi hasn’t been able to get the voice acting patched in yet, and frankly it’s incredibly odd to play a voice acting sim that is utterly devoid of any kind of voice acting. Lastly, there are sex scenes in the game, but although we do have some 2D CGs for a few of them, most of the sex scenes use chibis, which is a little much at times.
Overall though, nothing really diminished my enjoyment of Seiyuu Danshi enough to stop playing. The voice acting auditions are fun to puzzle through. The nights you spend at a love hotel with your boyfriend are delightful to navigate as you attempt to figure out what each boy does or doesn’t like to do in bed. Running around town and getting little glimpses into the lives of the people who spend their days in the bookstore or at the mall are precious. This game isn’t going to change your world or offer any meaningful insight into deep philosophical questions, but oh my goodness it is the most fun I’ve had in ages. This is a game I was eager to start up as soon as I got off work and then play until 1 a.m. because surely just one more turn won’t hurt.
Seiyuu Danshi is available for purchase on itch.io. I strongly encourage you to get it if you’re at all a fan of time management dating sims.