Voice actors, also known as seiyū, play a key role in bringing fan-favorite characters to life. Like English voice artists, Japanese voice artists are immensely talented. There's a lot of pressure placed on these specific performers, as they're the ones giving their character an initial voice. It's their decisions that shape how the character is introduced to the world.
Voice acting has existed in Japan since the advent of radio. It was only in the 1970s that the term seiyū became popular due to the anime Space Battleship Yamato - giving the word 'seiyū' instant recognition. Elderly voice actors resent being called seiyū because, during their time, the term had a different and minimizing connotation.
20 Kana Hanazawa
This former idol is simply huge in the world of anime. Kana Hanazawa is one of the best and most popular seiyuu out there. Chances are you’ve already heard her voice in several different anime as she’s the voice of many of the cutest and most charming anime ladies. Kana is known to possess one of the sweetest and most captivating voices ever.
19 Maaya Uchida
When she was in elementary school, she had a strong interest in gaming. When she entered middle school, she joined the Theater Club and realized she wanted to voice game characters after discovering the voice actor profession. She went online and read magazines to decide on which university for voice acting she was going to enter and decided to join the Japan Narration Acting Institute.
18 Nana Mizuki
Mizuki was trained as an enka singer and made her debut as a voice actress in 1997. Her prominent roles include Hinata Hyūga in the long-running ninja series Naruto, Fate Testarossa in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Tsubasa Kazanari in Symphogear, Moka Akashiya in Rosario + Vampire, Cure Blossom in Heartcatch Precure! and Ann Takamaki in Persona 5.
17 Haruka Tomatsu
Tomatsu made her voice acting debut in 2007, voicing a student in the anime television series Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight!. That same year, she played her first starring role as Corticarte Apa Lagranges in the anime television series Shinkyoku Sōkai Polyphonica. Tomatsu moved to Tokyo in 2008 to attend university and continue her voice acting career. She received the Rookie of the Year Award at the 3rd Seiyu Awards in 2009.
16 Marina Inoue
Inoue made her debut as a voice actress and singer after she was chosen out of 2,000 people from the "Gonna be a star" auditions, hosted by Sony Music Entertainment Japan, for the title role in the OVA Le Portrait de Petit Cossette. She was signed onto Sony Music until 2007. As for her voice acting career, she is employed by Sigma Seven.
15 Manami Numakura
Numakura decided to become a voice actress while in high school after listening to a drama CD lent to her by a friend who liked anime; she also became a fan of the Gundam franchise during this time and has cited this as another reason she decided to become a voice actress. Her best-known role is in The Idolmaster video game franchise. She made her solo music debut in 2016.
14 Ai Kayano
Before Mimori's acting career began, she was active in stage musicals under her real name Suzuko Kurokawa. Mimori met with the president of Bushiroad, Takaaki Kidani, during one of her stage musicals which led to her being offered a chance to become a voice actress and auditioning for her first role in 2008. Mimori was known as Suzy when she was a member of the singing group Cutie Pai.
13 Suzuko Mimori
Prior to becoming a voice actress, Kayano worked in the beauty industry. She became interested in anime after watching the anime series Aria on television after coming home from work and decided she wanted to become a voice actress. While attending a voice acting school, she continued to work in the beauty industry in order to pay for her tuition
12 Miyuki Sawashiro
She participated in voice actor auditions of Di Gi Charat in 1999 and won the Special Jury Prize. She voiced Puchiko in the English dubbed release of Leave it to Piyoko, making her the first and one of the few Japanese voice actors to have reprised a role in English. During high school, she stayed in Pennsylvania, where she participated in a homestay program to learn English.
11 Aya Hirano
Beginning in the entertainment industry as a child actor performing in television commercials, she played her first voice acting role in 2001 in the anime television series Angel Tales. She released her first single "Breakthrough" in 2006, and she released her first album Riot Girl in 2008. In 2011, she temporarily ceased accepting new roles to recover from a pituitary gland tumor. She resumed voice acting activities later that year.
10 Saori Hayami
Born in Tokyo, Hayami's interest in becoming a voice actress began when she was in elementary school. In 2004, when she was in middle school, she attended junior voice actor classes of Nihon Narration Engi Kenkyūjo, a voice acting training school. Her career began when she passed an audition for I'm Enterprise in 2006, at the end of her second year in training school.
9 Mamiko Noto
Noto was born in Ishikawa Prefecture. She's voiced several prominent anime characters and was nominated in the 1st Seiyu Awards for her work as Yakumo Tsukamoto in School Rumble and as Masane Amaha in Witchblade. She has released several character songs and albums which have charted in Oricon and was a guest at the Otakon and Anime Expo conventions held in the United States.
8 Yoko Hikasa
Hikasa aspired to become a voice actress after watching Sailor Moon and later attended Nihon Narration Engi Kenkyūjo, a voice actor training school. She is a member of the five-girl pop music group Ro-Kyu-Bu!, along with Kana Hanazawa, Yuka Iguchi, Rina Hidaka, and Yui Ogura. The group takes its name from the anime series Ro-Kyu-Bu!; the five members voice main characters in the series.
7 Eri Kitamura
When she was a child she went by the name Okamura Eri. Eri Kitamura is now a freelancer. She is known for voicing prominent roles in anime such as Karen Araragi in Bakemonogatari, Ami Kawashima in Toradora!, Saya Takagi in Highschool of the Dead, Sayaka Miki in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Vocaloid CUL-REBIRTH. She is known to be an amateur manga artist in her spare time.
6 Yui Ogura
In addition to being the voice behind several video game and anime characters, Yui is one of four members in Team Dekaris along with Kaori Ishihara, Arisa Noto, and Maho Matsunaga. She is one half of J-Pop duo YuiKaori, along with Kaori Ishihara. She is also a former member of the seiyuu group StylipS, which was composed of the same members of Team Dekaris.
5 Rie Tanaka
Rie is widely known for her V greeting sign whenever she's in front of a camera. She is an avid fan of one of her characters - Suigintou from Rozen Maiden - and has even done a cosplay of the character. Some of her characters dress in Gothic Lolita style. She is a member of the Steel Angels, a singing trio composed of the three lead seiyuu of Steel Angel Kurumi.
4 Chiaki Takahashi
Chiaki Takahashi is a Japanese voice actress, singer and gravure idol. Her hometown is Yokohama, Japan. On October 10, 2000, she changed the kanji lettering of her name, though the pronunciation remains the same. She was a member of the J-pop group Aice5 along with Yui Horie, Akemi Kanda, Masumi Asano, Madoka Kimura. In 2011, she made her solo musical debut.
3 Minako Kotobuki
Minako Kotobuki is a Japanese actress, voice actress, and singer. She is best known for her role as Tsumugi Kotobuki in the anime series K-On! about a high school girl band. The show launched her music career as she performed the opening and ending themes and joined three other voice actresses as the music group Sphere.
2 Shoko Nakagawa
Shoko Nakagawa is the daughter of Katsuhiko Nakagawa, a celebrity in Japan in the 1980s, and was raised by her mother in Nakano. She is a Japanese idol, actress, seiyuu (voice actor), illustrator and singer. Also known by her nickname Shokotan, she is perhaps best known as the presenter of Pokémon Sunday.
1 Aoi Yuuki
When not working, Aoi enjoys her hobbies - writing books and drawing. During winter she enjoys skiing and snowboarding. She won Best Main Female Seiyuu Award at the 6th Annual Seiyuu Awards. Her specialties are reading aloud and tongue twisters. She also forms the duo Petit Milady with Ayana Taketatsu and has released a couple of albums.
Sources: Crunchyroll, My Anime List