When Ash goes on vacation, you can expect the whole series to go on vacation too.

A lot of industries are slowing down during the coronavirus pandemic, and that includes the anime sector as well. For example, on Friday, voice actress Rika Matsumoto sent out a tweet saying that she’s got no recording sessions scheduled for the immediate future, and so she’ll be taking an extended time off.

“I’ve got no work, so I decided to take a long vacation,” Matsumoto says. However, the announcement is especially surprising because Matsumoto has arguably more job security than anyone else in the industry, since she voices Satoshi, a.k.a. Ash Ketchum, the main character of the Pokémon anime.

Since its franchise premiere on April 1, 1997, Pokémon has been a fixture on Japanese TV, airing new episodes every week, with one re-titled arc of the series blending seamlessly into the next, and each one featuring Satoshi/Ash. A prolonged absence for the Poké-protagonist is improbable, and with anime TV series usually being produced on a tight schedule, it’s unlikely that there’s a huge stockpile of ready-to-air episodes with their voice recording work already done, so it sounds like the Pokémon anime itself is going to be going on hiatus.

The decision would be keeping with the declared state of emergency in Tokyo, where the vast majority of anime production studios, as well as Pokémon’s primary broadcaster, TV Tokyo, are based. While the city is yet to be placed on official lockdown, the government is calling for extra caution, and the collaborative nature of anime voice recording, which takes place in small, confined facilities, presents a high level of risk not only to performers, but to support staff and sound engineers.

On the bright side, Matsumoto, likely thanks to having had a steady gig for the last 23 years, doesn’t seem to be in the dire financial straits some of her voice acting colleagues are these days. Describing her current lifestyle, she says “I don’t even know what time I should wake up or go to bed. I’m surprised at how bad I am at managing my time. Yesterday I was watching movies, and before I realized it it was 6 in the morning. It’s like I have jetlag…” She finishes up with “Gotta snap out of this,” but her liberal use of emoji suggests she’s not really all that worried.

As of this writing, the Pokémon anime’s producers are yet to officially announce any suspension of production, but that’s really the only logical scenario that fits with Matsumoto’s tweet. Given the circumstances, though, such a decision would be tough to argue with, and at least or fans who really need to hear Matsumoto’s voice, there are over 1,100 already existing Pokémon episodes to rewatch, many available for free online (with availability extended to the end of the month)…

…plus this video of Matsumoto singing the Pokémon anime’s original Japanese theme song.

Source: Twitter/@rica_matsumoto3
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