PETALING JAYA: Those born in the 1980s and 90s are no strangers to the popular Japanese animated series Doraemon, which tells the story of a robot cat from the future and his friend Nobita.
First broadcasted in Malaysia in 1988 and still shown today, many do not know the artistes behind the cute voices are Ruhaiyah Ibrahim, 56, and Azizah Mat Jais, 74, because of a lack of exposure.
However, they are being noticed now, as Ruhaiyah and Azizah have also voiced characters from other popular anime and cartoon series such as Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, SpongeBob, Detective Conan, Naruto, Crayon Shin-chan, Robocar Poli, Avatar, CatDog, and Tom & Jerry.
They have also lent their voices for dramas from Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Turkey.
“Now that we are old, we are being recognised. We are grateful that people know of our existence. All this while, we thought we were not popular,” Azizah, who voices Nobita, joked during an interview with FMT.
The two women admitted to loving Doraemon and Nobita as they have voiced the characters since 1998.
Ruhaiyah said her compatibility with Azizah improved when they switched characters. Ruhaiyah initially voiced Nobita.
“I auditioned for Doraemon at the last minute because the production company needed to fill the quota before they could send it to the TV station. At the time, there were eight people who tried, but they chose me,” Ruhaiyah said.
She said the voice-over process now is starkly different from the past when it was done in a family-oriented atmosphere as all the artistes had to be together during the recording.
“In the past, we would sit at one long table and there would be (those who voiced) Nobita, his mum and dad, Doraemon, Sinyu, Giant and Shizuka. If one person made a mistake, we would have to re-record it.
“Now, technology is so advanced that we have separate schedules and we can do our own voice-overs. But there is a lack of emotion, how does one fight with themselves?” the mother of five asked.
For Azizah, her age is not a hindrance to her work, nor does it affect the end-product. She also provides the voice-over for popular Japanese series Oshin.
Azizah said to be a voice actor, one has to have at least three “tones” and must focus on looking at the screen, listening, and reading a script.
“We also have to be creative, for example in voicing how a fish or a bird would talk. So, being a voice actor is not easy,” she said.