Fullmetal Alchemist actor lands new role with AI assistance

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (TV Series 2009–2010) - IMDb

In today’s world, the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly polarizing. This rapidly advancing technology holds the potential to revolutionize various aspects of life for the better, but it also carries the risk of potential disasters. As AI continues to evolve, many workers fear that their roles may become obsolete, and individuals in the entertainment industry are particularly anxious about the implications of AI’s rise. Adding fuel to these concerns is a recent report confirming some of these fears, as a late actor is now being resurrected by AI for a new project.

The latest update comes from Sony Music Entertainment, which has launched a new audiobook app in Japan called YOMIBITO Plus. This innovative app offers a collection of classic titles narrated using AI technology that blends together the voices of three well-known voice actors, one of whom is the late Kenji Utsumi.

The development of this technology was led by CoeFont, a company that specializes in creating vocal fonts from audio samples. With their AI-powered system, CoeFont can transform just 15 minutes of audio recordings into a vocal font that can then be used to read any text. This is precisely how YOMIBITO Plus is utilizing the technology to bring its extensive catalog of works to life. CoeFont has even shared positive feedback from Kenji Utsumi’s son regarding the replication of his father’s voice, indicating that the late actor’s family supports this unique project.

According to the YOMIBITO Plus audiobook app, Utsumi’s AI-replicated voice can be heard in various works. For example, he narrates “Be Not Defeated by Rain” by Kenji Miyazawa, as well as a short story by Natsume Soseki. Additionally, other notable actors such as Katsuyuki Konishi (known for his role as Tengen in Demon Slayer) and Shuichiro Umeda (known for his role as Izumi in Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie) are also participating in the app, further enriching the audio experience for users.

Unsurprisingly, this intriguing blend of technology and storytelling has sparked widespread debate online. While this audiobook project represents just one of several instances where AI is being utilized in the entertainment industry, it has drawn particular attention due to its implications for voice acting. Not too long ago, the anime industry faced backlash when Netflix announced its collaboration with Wit Studio to create a short film that employed AI to generate scenery shots and backgrounds. The resulting film, Dog and Boy, received sharp criticism. Now, the AI debate is encroaching upon the realm of voice acting, and Kenji Utsumi’s legacy stands as one of the first to be directly impacted by this emerging technology.

As the boundaries of AI continue to expand, society must grapple with the ethical and creative dilemmas it presents. While the use of AI in entertainment offers intriguing possibilities and opens new avenues for storytelling, it also raises questions about the authenticity and human element of artistic expression. The journey of AI in the entertainment industry has only just begun, and it remains to be seen how these advancements will shape the future of creative endeavors and the individuals involved.

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