What resonated with me most reading this manga is the actor’s process.
The process is the way that the actor connects with their fellow actors in a production, the way they emote by drawing upon personal experience and tapping into their imagination and expressing their role with their physical body and thinking like their character.
ACT-AGE introduces the danger of embodying a character to the point where the actor can no longer distinguish reality from fiction. The story line hasn’t shown a character having difficulty separating their identity from their role. However, one supporting character represents the aftermath of a method actor who experienced an emotional mental breakdown. By consequence, she quit being an actress and decided to open a talent agency instead.
The manga follows Kei Yonagi, a young teenage girl with no acting chops, but her natural talent is exceptional. Her journey started with her joy of watching movies.
What does it mean to be happy and how do you express it? Kei watches the movie actors embodying characters living lives Kei has never known. However, the feelings they express are familiar to her. In short, she learned acting from self-study and is a method actor.
As the manga progresses, Kei’s craft evolves from merely placing herself in a situation. She learns how to step outside of her body in order to be conscious of her surroundings during a scene. She learns how to create a character and play them by interviewing and spending time with subjects similar to the role. She adopts their mannerisms and learns to understand their thought process.
I never participated in many theater productions. In the fourth grade, I played the Evil Queen in “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.”
In high school, I took some theater classes and was part of the chorus in my high school’s first musical production of “Grease.”
In university, I decided to take acting courses for non-theater majors.
For my final project in my first university-level acting class, my fellow actors and I performed pieces from “Savage/Love” by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin. “Savage/Love” is a collection of monologues about love but are written as poems.
My partner and I were assigned “First Moment” which involved a conflict between two people, ending with one side refusing the other. My partner and I interpreted the scene as a fight between someone who was cheated on and the person who cheated on them. I played the role of the cheater without ever knowing what it was like to date someone.
I imagined my character took their partner for granted. They only realized they’d lost their lover because they betrayed them by sleeping around with someone else. This realization pushes them to desperately regret their actions and plead for forgiveness.
I drew upon my own experiences of failure, shame and guilt of being someone who couldn’t do anything right no matter what they did to connect with my character. Regret is something I feel I understand pretty well. I remember bawling my tears out immediately after the first time practicing the scene. It was like having my body suddenly expelling out all the negative feelings bottled up inside of me.
It was the first time I really listened to someone who felt betrayed by my actions and allowing myself to be vulnerable in front of them. It was the first time I’d ever experienced waves of emotion followed by a sense of release. It was powerful and a bit scary, but necessary.
Nowadays, when I think back to my own acting process, I feel like I stopped improving and learning. Currently, I don’t do any acting work on stage but I participate in online voice acting as a hobby.
The two are pretty different.
Acting upon a stage requires spatial awareness, physical endurance, connection and focus on the present moment as you interact directly and indirectly with the people around you. Your entire body is an instrument.
On the other hand, voice acting is more of a solitary action in my experience of it thus far. It depends on the actor’s imagination far more than doing ensemble work on stage. Everything is expressed with the voice alone.
What it really comes down to is practice. I want to go back and do ensemble work by joining a community theater group or taking acting classes as an independent student. I find that I struggle with transforming into a different person through the sound of my voice. I always type-cast myself in roles that I’m comfortable in or do little research before jumping to audition for a role. Developing a larger vocal range is something I want to challenge myself with in order to grow as an actor.
ACT-AGE is written by Tatsuya Matsuki and illustrated by Shiro Usazaki. The manga began its serialization in Weekly Shounen Jump since January 2018.
Who’s your favourite actor? Which of their roles stand out for you and why? Let me know down in the comments!