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Voice acting is one of the many things that can make an anime movie, OVA or TV series successful or not, and some seiyuu gain their own followings or are treated like idols.

What happens if, say, a major character's seiyuu has an accident, dies or quits before the production is finished?

Has this ever happened, and if so, what were the consequences, measures taken, and reaction from fans to those measures?

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This happens occasionally. The most recent example that I can think of is when Kawaragi Shiho, the seiyuu of Nishizono Mio from Little Busters!, got pregnant. In fact, this is very recent, as she just gave birth last Friday (December 7th). Of course Mio isn't the main character, but she's not a minor character either.

In this case, they just replaced her (with Tatsumi Yuiko). That's about the only real option they have most of the time. Unless the problem is only for a very short duration, the entire show is not going to be delayed for one seiyuu. If it happens well in advance and the character is pretty important, they can probably work around it. Gotou Yuuko (seiyuu for Hiro from Hidamari Sketch), who was on hiatus for a while this year for health reasons but is back now in Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb, is a good example of this. However, this is a pretty atypical situation, and the other shows she was in mostly got replacements.

In the end, unless the character is crucially important, it's very likely that they'll get a replacement, since it's pretty much the only realistic option. If something like this happens for a popular character in the off-season, it can also affect the possibility of sequels (e.g. most shows with Aya Hirano leads probably aren't in the sequel market). It usually doesn't hurt the seiyuu's career too much if it occurs for good reasons e.g. health, but some impact is inevitable.

  • Aya Hirano really is a good example, considering popular shows such as Suzumiya Haruhi and Lucky Star. It may be relevant to note the fan reaction to cases like hers, where she mostly abandons her career (I'm not comenting on that topic since I'm really not sure, but it seems to be that her career as a seiyuu is over). – Camilo Martin Dec 11 '12 at 22:43
  • ^ I certainly hope not. She performs some awesome voicing, and why would that incident surprise anybody anyways; we all know that stuff happens. – ACrazyOldMan Dec 12 '12 at 1:36
  • The seiyuu for Soi Fon (Bleach) was replaced after the original seiyuu died. – 絢瀬絵里 Apr 5 '17 at 15:57

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