How Pikachu’s voice actress gives every word her all

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JULY, 2016

The life of Ikue Otani must seem like an easy one. Hearing her name alone might not ring any bells, but all she would have to do to instantly gain recognition from millions of people around the world is utter one word; Pi-ka-CHU!

Otani, who has been the voice of Pikachu since 1997, was often ridiculed over how simple her job appeared to be. After all, she’s been able to make a pretty decent living off of saying different variations of the same word for almost 20 years. She argues, however, that saying ‘pika’ over and over again is not something just anyone could do.

“If you don’t have a clear understanding of what you want to say in the scene and come up with a plan for your performance, you won’t convey anything,” she says in an interview with Kotaku.com.

“If there’s the same nuance,” she goes on, “then it would just be okay to use [previously] recorded material.”

Scene from the anime Pokémon of Pikachu in bad mood

© Nintendo

In the anime, Pikachu uses different parts or variations of his name to mean different things. The way he says his name also often imparts his emotions.

Ikue Otani actually records new lines for Pikachu with every episode so Pikachu’s emotion behind the actual line is always conveyed. In a way, most other voice actors have it a lot easier. It’s more difficult to fully convey what a character who only ever says one thing is trying to say compared to a character who is able to speak in full sentences.

Many fans of the anime have actually begun to realize that Pikachu uses the three syllables of his name consistently enough to make it seem like he does in fact, have unique phrases.

The close bond between Ash & Pikachu

© Nintendo

For example, when Pikachu calls out Ash, he says “Pikapi” which resembles Ash’s Japanese name, Satoshi. When a character or pokemon is injured, he says “Pi-ka-chu,” which could mean “Are you alright?” And when introducing himself, he says “Pika Pikachu.”
You can read more about this so-called, Pikaspeak, here.

The names of certain pokemon characters differ from one country to the next. The characters known as Squirtle and Bulbasaur in the US are known as Zenigame and Fushigidane in Japan. Pikachu’s name, however, is universal and so Otani’s voice is used worldwide. Even the talking Pikachu toys and games are voiced by her.

With no one else ever having done the voice of Ash’s Pikachu, Ikue Otani’s voice is undoubtedly one of the most well recognized in the world and deservingly so, as it is clear how much she cares about her role.

She has proudly said, “I give every single word my all.”

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