English-language video sparks tweet in which she worries about pressure to “kill the person I am.”

In her Twitter profile, Mireko Endo describes herself as a “new voice actress,” though she’s seemingly yet to land a credited role in Japan’s expansive anime/video game sphere. Nevertheless, she’s already found something she doesn’t like about that corner of the show business world, and this week she sent out a series of tweets voicing her frustration.

Specifically, Endo is troubled by a female character storytelling trope examined by English-language YouTuber Pop Culture Detective, which he dubbed “born sexy yesterday.” Pop Culture Detective lists its elements as:

“A female character who’s whimsical and naive, but framed in a sexualized way.”
“[Shows] innocence of, and inexperience with, worldly things, especially when it comes to sex, romance, or basic social interaction.”
“Deliberately written to be unaware of [her] own sex appeal.”
“Often highly skilled at something men will respect, [such as] combat.”

Pop Culture Detective goes on to say that the born sexy yesterday trope is generally employed to please the type of male viewer who “either can’t find, or doesn’t want, a woman from his own world, a woman who might be his equal in matters of love and sexuality.” In other words, a viewer who would enjoy a story in which the female love interest falls in love with an unremarkable protagonist because “she’s presumably never known another man, [so] he would seem like the smartest, most amazing guy in the entire universe.”

While Pop Culture Detective’s video primarily cites examples from English-language live-action films, stretching all the way back to the 1940s, he also says “born sexy yesterday is absolutely everywhere in Japanese anime,” and he’s right in that the idea of a beautiful, inexperienced women falling in love with an everyman is one of the medium’s most time-tested go-to plot outlines. That’s led Mireko to worry that making a career out of anime voice acting is going to require her to regularly slip on a born sexy yesterday persona, and she’s not sure that’s the life she wants.

“To be honest, right now I don’t know what I should do. I want to be popular. I want to be liked. But to do that, can I really go all the way in acting born sexy yesterday? Can I go so far as to kill the person I am? Somehow, that feels wrong.”

The aspiring voice actress (who also has a dance and song recital event scheduled for next month) went on to lament the low number of responses she’d received regarding her tweets about the born sexy yesterday concept, telling her 464 followers that she’s received far more reactions related to tweets that play into the trope. Still she’s hoping that she can find success, and even an adoring fanbase, without resorting to born-sexy-yesterday-style tactics.

But really, what I want is for people to accept me as I am. I want to think clearly and directly. I might be a little impertinent, but I want to be however I want to be. Will you support an idol who doesn’t act dumb? Will you smash preconceived notions with me, and together make a new voice actress idol?”

Despite Endo’s disappointment over the amount of buzz her tweet generated, it’s still made a few ripples, with reactions including:

“The entertainment world is all about survival of the fittest. The popular actors survive, and then they make the rules.”
“I hope you can become a successful voice actress (eventually).”
“I’m cheering for you. Give it all you’ve got!”

However, multiple commenters also wondered how capable Endo is of swimming against the current without having first established any sort of professional resume or industry clout. Part of the reason this trope shows up so often in anime is because the target market is overwhelmingly young, with most series aimed almost exclusively at viewers in their mid-teens to early 20s, an age when their own sophistication or worldliness is still often in short supply. While the stereotype of anime fans as anemic losers is increasingly melting away, the medium still holds a special appeal to shy or otherwise mild-mannered youths, and though critics of the storytelling conventions being lumped together as “born sexy yesterday” would call the associated male leads “unremarkable,” fans might instead use the term “broadly relatable.”

With so much anime having the emotional goal of validating the traits and knowledge of viewers who mainstream society (and more mainstream entertainment) might write off as unimpressive, casting directors are always going to be looking for voice actresses that can, and are willing to, play female characters who admire simple nice guys. “That’s where the demand is, so are you sure you’ll succeed while passing up that kind of work?” wondered one commenter in Endo’s thread, implying that putting her foot down too firmly without first building up her reputation as a capable actress might torpedo her career before it gets a chance to start in earnest.

It’s worth pointing out that Endo herself is somewhat vague in what exactly she finds distasteful about the born-sexy-yesterday concept. While she mentions the word “acting,” she also has the above-mentioned concern about feeling pressured to send out born-sexy-yesterday-style tweets, which would fall outside the realm of portraying a specific anime character. With live appearances and direct interaction with fans through social media becoming an increasingly required part of voice acting stardom in Japan, it’s likely she’s feeling pressure imagining both potential future roles and expectations for how to present herself in interviews and meet-and-greet events, and while her laying out her apprehensions beforehand might make it harder for her to find work, hopefully it’ll also lower the probability of her getting trapped in a job she hates.

Sources: Twitter/@mireko305 via Otakomu, YouTube/Pop Culture Detective
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso

Casey wasn’t born yesterday, but you can follow him on Twitter anyway.