Three-on-three league for young ladies sounds like the plot of an anime series itself, but it’s a real-life sports organization.

It used to be that vocal acting ability was pretty much the only criteria for becoming an anime voice actress. But in today’s world of cross-media promotions and fan meet-and-greet events, that’s no longer the case.

Becoming a star of the industry now often requires voice actresses to be photogenic and poised in front of an audience, as their jobs have come to more closely resemble those of mainstream entertainers and media personalities. And now comes a venue asking voice actresses to display talent in a field that’s even farther removed from the core of their profession, with the formation of the SJ3 League.

SJ3 is an acronym standing for “Seiyu (the Japanese word for voice actor/actress) Junior Three-on-Three,” Japan’s newest basketball league. Officially recognized and supported by the Japan Basketball Association, the SJ3 League will consist of eight teams, with all of their players being young voice actresses working in the anime and video game fields.

▼ Introductory video for Cherubiacci, one of the league’s inaugural teams

The three-on-three format (as opposed to the traditional five-on-five) is likely due in part to the difficulty in finding professional voice actresses who can also play basketball at a competitive level. However, it’s probably also motivated by three-on-three basketball making its debut as an Olympic event at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

Seven of the eight teams (who have names like WONDER ROCKET, PuaPureParty!, and Cherubiacci) are based in Japan, with the remaining club (Bei Dou) headquartered in Shanghai. The league’s first game is scheduled for September 30 at the Minami Nagasaki Sports Center in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward, and the league plans to have tournaments in both the spring and fall. Organizers are also hoping to expand the SJ3 to anime, manga, and/or video game-related content.

In speaking of the league’s genesis, SJ3 director Dogi Minamisawa (who’s also the president of voice acting talent agency 81 Produce), said:

“We’ve had the idea of a voice actress basketball league for about two years now. The voice acting industry has been going through major changes recently. Some people may be doubtful, asking ‘Why have voice actresses play basketball?’ but this is a way for voice actresses to have two sets of skills, and not be just single-faceted. This league was born out of that idea.”

It’s an admirable goal for the fledgling sports organization, but a video from the first press event makes it a little hard to tell how committed the SJ3 League is to being a genuine showcase of athletic ability, and how willing it is to simply be a spectacle of cute girls running around a basketball court and giggling.

But given the choice between promoting themselves as basketball players or swimsuit models, some voice actresses would likely prefer the former, and for them, the SJ3 League is now here.

Source: Mainichi Shimbun via Hachima Kiko, Oricon News
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