アフレコ – Used in anime and games, it is short for after-recording, though it is usually termed as dubbing session, or simply afureko/afureco. Since a seiyuu’s primary tool is their voice, most of their work involves being inside a studio booth (ブース; būsu | スタジオブース; sutajio būsu) and doing recordings. While afureko is not exclusive to anime and games, the common usage of the term in this context makes it synonymous to them. Nowadays, other types of recordings — music, solo audio dramas, narrations, etc. — generally use shūroku instead.

Process tend to differ for all sorts of reasons but for the sake of consistency, it usually goes like this:

  • A separate script called a dubbing script (台本; daihon) is prepared which contains the lines (台詞 or セリフ; serifu | see wā-do kazu) that the actor reads (as well as indicated ad-lib sections), usually marked by name or character on the cover since they can keep them for practice, write notes on, etc. Generally, translators use a compiled version of this script for official localizations and it includes edits marked in red once everything is wrapped up.

  • When the recording takes place depends on the project. It could be several months to a few weeks before it airs since schedules need to line up and production has to be at a certain point to receive the files and do edits for animation, etc. Game recordings usually are done years (2 years according to one source) before its actual release.

  • Recording sessions for anime are scheduled as 4-5 hour blocks. The morning block generally starts at 10AM, the afternoon block at 4PM. For a 30-minute anime, dubbing is done in two parts, namely A Part (A パット; A patto) and B part (A パット; B patto). The A part refers to the beginning of the episode up to the first commercial break. The B part refers to the rest. These are done sequentially so the A part will be recorded first before the B part.

  • A few days before recording, actors are usually provided a rehearsal video. It is a complement to their script that they can use to time the dialogue with the images, look up nuances and meanings of words they’re unfamiliar with, and practice deliveries and accents (sometimes with a use of an accent reference or dictionary). This process is called 台本チェック (daihon-chekku; lit. script check)

  • On the day of recording, before actual recording takes place, the cast meets and rehearses lines together as a run-through or do line/table reads (読み合わせ; yomiawase | 顔合わせ; kaoawase) with guidance from other staff such as the director, script writer, and sound director. This is to ensure everyone is on the same page in framing and interpreting the script, build rapport between the actors, connect with their characters, relate impressions, and answer any questions the actors may have before they start recording.

  • Voices are recorded in a soundproof booth. Actors may record in separate batches or all together depending on role importance and cast size. Booths tend to have 3-4 mics and they may take turns sharing them (see micwork) based on their height as adjusting them might create noise (among other sources such as page flips) that gets picked up. They may also be organized based on cast importance since important characters interact more with others. Lines are read alongside rough artwork or storyboards.

  • Recording sessions typically take several hours. They may fit several episode recordings in one day. Actors may immediately leave one session for another once they’ve done their part. Movie and game dubs take several sessions over a period of days to finish. Since retakes are part of the process, an actor may have to stay overtime or come back at a later time. It can be because they may be inexperienced or are having trouble portraying the character or emotion needed from them.

  • For foreign dubs (see atereko) since it’s revoicing a completed work), the video of the original work will be played for the actors (who may wear headphones for audio) to follow along, which is different for anime dubbing that is normally done in a silent room with rough drafts or key frames displayed on a screen for timing reference. These typically take a shorter amount of time to finish — they may record as many as three drama episodes or one movie in one day.

  • Minor roles or mob roles don’t usually join the same batch as the main cast. Sometimes they are on different schedules altogether. That doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t interact with them and the staff as some seiyuu have shared anecdotes of reconnecting with old friends, getting along with new friends, or simply spending time with staff. In some ways, these interactions function as networking that can open up new opportunities for everyone involved.

  • Since noise is a concern, attire is important. Anything that generates noise during movement is prohibited. This includes loose accessories and squeaky shoes. If noise is picked up, the cut will have to be re-recorded. This also applies to food and drinks. Food must be consumed before entering the booth. Drinks (especially carbonated) must be of the type that won’t make any noticeable noise.

  • Recording staff operate from an adjacent room called a control room (調整ブース; chōsei-būsu) and they are responsible for all the technical aspects of recording, as well as direction if needed. Since recordings are done digitally nowadays, retakes for mistakes and awkward deliveries can be done immediately and/or separately, which makes it easier overall as opposed to when tape was used where one mistake means starting over from the very beginning. This does, however, introduce an issue of continuity because sound files can be named as anything which could lead to headaches in organization and localization.

  • Because booths are soundproof, the actor normally won’t be able to hear the control room staff during recording. However, staff are able to communicate with them via a button or switch that activates a mic on their side. This process is called トークバック (tōkubakku; talkback).

  • An actor may also record solo (抜き録りnukidori).  This is mostly done for game recordings due to the nature of their script. This is done for popular actors too, who are hired to do voice work but are unfamiliar with the dubbing process as it gives them more freedom to experiment and do retakes. It is also done for special cases where schedules just cannot line up due to sickness, personal obligations, school, etc. While this has its advantages, it can be difficult because they can only react to what had been recorded prior, or make up their own interpretation with what little context they have.

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