What is it like to be the heroine of a romantic drama? Do you want to feel the heart-fluttering excitement of a blossoming relationship without the effort and commitment?
From within the sea of anime-related media, voice situation CDs have emerged as a popular and commercially successful business in Japan. A “situation CD” is an original audio adaptation of a specific circumstance and is heavily reliant on the listener’s active participation. In other words, these CDs purposely break the fourth wall and pull the listener into the story. YOU are the main character. For example, the listener might be placed in the role of a princess who is protected by a loyal and handsome knight. But just as the name suggests, a situation CD is less concerned about the story and more focused on enacting certain situations.
Would you like to have your blood sucked by a sadistic vampire? Do you want to spend a romantic night with a fictional boyfriend? Or perhaps you’re into tsundere maids? Voice situation CDs have covered nearly every desire. You name it, it’s probably been done. In Japan, especially with the female fanbase, this stuff sells. Some series have become popular enough to spawn game and anime adaptations.
The commercial success of situation CDs have also triggered advances in recording technology. One major step, the “dummy head mic”, was introduced to allow a closer, more personal experience. This specialized device is used to generate binaural recordings: a 3-D stereo sound sensation intended to make the listener feel as though they are actually in the room with the performers. It basically tricks your brain. Voice situation CDs are implementing this amazing technique, allowing listeners to feel like they are truly part of the story and communing with the characters.
There are two possible explanations for why these seemingly niche CDs are selling so well. First, voice-actors in Japan are incredibly popular and treated like idols. When a situation CD is released, the cover art always includes the name of the voice-actor in large font. Obviously, this is to attract the attention of their fans. Most consumers tend to purchase situation CDs mainly because their favorite seiyuu is voicing the dashing prince or blushing schoolgirl. The specific circumstance, story, or character appearance comes second. Fans just want to hear Sakurai Takahiro whisper words of eternal devotion in their ear. Another cause for success may be associated with the diminishing appeal in real-life relationships amongst the younger generations. Multiple studies have shown that, for various reasons, young Japanese adults are showing less interest with dating and getting married. It’s possible that voice situation CDs are catering to such people – people who are finding satisfaction in fictional relationships. Like I mentioned before, you don’t need any commitment or effort to have a CD lover. You just need to put in your earphones and press play.
(Post by Gina)