The cute electric mouse Pokémon Pikachu may have captured the hearts of the world but what do you actually know about the person who voices the little Poké mascot?
Well, you may be shocked to learn that Ash’s Pikachu is actually played by a woman, specifically the 50-year-old Ikue Ōtan, who’s lent her vocal talents to a number of other popular anime shows.
In fact, female voice actors, or seiyū to use the Japanese term, quite often play male leads and a number of anime fan favourites including Goku (Dragon Ball) Naruto (Naruto) and Luffy (One Piece) are all voiced by women.
The reason is because often these characters start off quite young and it’s difficult for male voice actors to raise their voices to sound prepubescent, making women, who have a naturally higher register, more suitable to play younger characters.
Ikue Otan’s most famous role is, in fact, as the male doctor Tony Chopper in One Piece – he’s a talking reindeer to be accurate but the point still stands (don’t ask, One Piece is weird) – but she’s played a number of male roles in a lot of anime.
Of course, having a sufficient level of self esteem, I can proudly admit to watching anime because the stereotype of the basement dwelling otaku is about as outdated as the original 151 Pokemon.
Women voicing young men is actually quite common in the west as well, with the 58-year-old Nancy Cartwright voicing Bart Simpson, while Pokémon’s own Ash Ketchum’s previous voice actor in the U.S. dubbed version was Veronica Taylor, who played the perpetual ten-year-old for eight seasons.
So there you have it – all your favourite cartoon characters are actually women. Gasp shock horror!