Photo courtesy of Anne Yatco / Instagram.

In 2020, “Jujutsu Kaisen” took over the mainstream anime scene and had set the bar high for the shounen – or action – genre since then. The anime has taken home awards for 2021’s Anime of the Year and 2022’s Best Girl for Nobara Kugisaki, whose English voice actor is a Filipino-American.

Anne Yatco, the English dub voice actor for “JJK,” made a guest appearance at Secaucus’ annual Castle Point Anime convention this past late April. Just days ahead of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Yatco reflected on her journey to becoming a full-time voice actor and how “happy” she is to be representing Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in on-screen entertainment, which she rarely had growing up.

“Filipinos and Filipino-Americans come to my booth all the time and they’re like, ‘Thank you so much for representing us,’ and I’m so happy to be there for them because I know, when I was growing up, I gravitated towards any Filipinos I saw on screen or – frankly at that point – any Asian people that I saw on screen,” Yatco told Slice of Culture.

“I’m happy to be that for them as others have been that for me.”

Her Other Seven-Year Career

Yatco, 38, grew up in a small town in Illinois. 

She graduated with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Marquette University where she really spent most of her time at the theater department. She later got her M.F.A in Acting at the California Institute of Arts, but eventually pursued forensic science, which was her career path for seven years.

But Yatco also juggled voice acting with her full-time job because, ultimately, that’s what she wanted to do. Eventually, she had to decide if she was going to be a full-time forensic scientist or a full-time voice actor. 

After talking with her family, she made her decision. It was the latter.

“They were just worried about me – that’s where all that comes from. Parents want us to do as well, if not, better than they have been able to do for themselves… They come from a frame of mind of what can make you money, what can pay the bills?

“And for me, I thought I can do that for as long as I can, but at some point that creative spark in me is going to die if I don’t just try to be an actor,” she laughed.

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Becoming Nobara

Yatco has been a voice actor for over a decade. 

Before becoming a grade-3 jujutsu sorcerer at Jujutsu High, Yatco played Akiki Makimura in 2018’s “Devilman: Crybaby,” Bridgette in 2018’s “Violet Evergarden,” Raiden Shogun in 2020 video game “Genshin Impact” and Mia in 2020’s “Boruto: Naruto Next Generations.” 

One day, she got an email –  from a studio that she had previously worked a lot for – regarding an audition to be the English voice for Kugisaki. Initially, she didn’t know anything about “Jujutsu Kaisen,” but after watching the three English subtitled episodes that were available, she said she wanted it badly and, thankfully, they wanted her for the role too. 

“It’s wild. I never imagined that I would be on something so high-profile and… something I’m so passionate about… I fell in love with the manga and I’m fully caught up and I don’t know where it’s going now,” Yatco laughed.

From left, Yuji Itadori, Megumi Fushiguro, Gojo Satoru and Nobara Kugisaki. (Jujutsu Everyday / Twitter)

“Jujutsu Kaisen” – which translates to “Sorcery Fight – is a shounen anime that follows high school student Yuji Itadori who gets unexpectedly recruited into a secret organization of jujutsu sorcerers to help destroy a powerful curse, which he’s become the host of. He is paired with Megumi Fushiguro, Nobara Kugisaki and their teacher, Gojo Satoru. 

The anime premiered in October 2020 and is set for season two in July 2023.The English version of the manga released in December 2019 and by August 2022, it sold over 70 million copies, making it one of the best-selling manga series of all time. On TikTok, hashtags #jujutsukaisen and #jjk has around 69 billion views. 

Filipinos And Anime

Before the TikTok edits, trends and references in music, the general public wasn’t too welcoming to anime. 

Anime is hand-drawn and computer-generated animation that comes specifically from Japan. Many have argued that anime is drastically different from American animation and tends to have better art style and storytelling. Some series have managed to slip its way into American networks like “Pokemon,” “Naruto,” “Dragon Ball Z” and “Sailor Moon,” to name a few, but these usually aired late at night.

Anime had been steadily growing in popularity in America over the last few years, but it seemingly skyrocketed in 2020 when it reached a $22.6 billion market size and is now predicted to grow to $48.3 billion by 2030, according to Precedence Research. 

“Part of [the popularity] is access,” Yatco said. “I was still a kid when the internet became a mainstream thing and, at that point, I only knew ‘Sailor Moon,’ ‘Dragon Ball Z’ [and ‘Pokemon’] because that’s what was on my TV… I didn’t know where to find [anime] to watch it, but I could read about it… Nowadays, you can read about it, you can watch it, and it’s streaming everywhere.”

According to a report by Epic Dope, the Philippines is the third country that watches the most anime – right behind the U.S. at No. 2 and Japan at No. 1. “Dragon Ball Z,” “Sailor Moon,” “Slam Dunk” and “One Piece” were animated in the Philippines through Toei Animation Philippines.

“One Piece” is one of the most popular animes of all time. (Courtesy of Fancaps.net)

Despite the rise of anime, the amount of notable Filipino or Filipino-American voice actors is very few; after all, many of the English anime voice actors come from many different nationalities and ethnicities. Perhaps the most known Filipino-American voice actor is Dante Basco who plays Zuko from “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” but that series is American, not Japanese, despite many fans’ belief. 

Yatco told Slice of Culture that it’s “humbling” to be one of the few Filipino-Americans in a mainstream anime. She thanked her fans because without them she “literally would not be here if it wasn’t for the fans” and is grateful for sharing a shared love of these characters.

To her Filipino and Filipino-American fans, she said:

“Be proud of who we are and what we stand for. I know a lot of times it feels like we’re forgotten a little bit, but I think our strength is in our community… and we’re so good at building communities.”

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