Adventures in Voice Acting
Asked a girl what she wanted to be, and she said, "Baby, can't you see? I wanna be famous, a star of the screen. Preferably voice acting the crazy characters of my favorite hobby, anime!" "Well," I said, "You should do something in between." "No, I'm not driving your car, Bradley." "I was gonna say you should watch this DVD. But that's a valid option as well."
I am not a dub guy. I never really was. I've been avoiding them ever since I realized I preferred watching my bootleg InuYasha DVDs with Engrish subtitles rather than sit through that dub one more time. And the dubs that were coming out of the industry at that time were uniformly weak and did nothing to change my mind. The delivery was rarely convincing, actors never played off of each other, and conversations rarely sounded natural. It also didn't help that these actors were hobbled by a script that had them deliver lines like, "I'm going to beat you with my new special move!" Some of my reasons for being a sub fan have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of English dubs, but with the exception of a handful of series, it has been harder for me to enjoy listening to anime in English than when I'm just reading it.
Judging by the immense popularity of voice actor's panels at local cons compared to, well, almost everything else, that puts me in a minority. There are a lot of people who not only enjoy dubs, they also keep tabs on their favorite voice actors, and even dream of one day doing voice acting for anime as well. This DVD was made for that person. In 130 minutes, it offers a complete crash course on what it takes to be a voice actor and how to make it in the industry straight from the actors themselves. And for people like me, it is still an enlightening watch. By the end of it, I had come to appreciate the hard work the voice actors put into a dub. The results are rarely palatable, but that has more to do with the extreme limitations the job puts on them than any lack of talent.
One of the things that becomes clear when you watch this DVD is that the industry is desperate to get dubs on their anime, and are willing to pay extreme prices and force their ADR staff to jump through a lot of holes to get it. Consider this: anime companies have to juggle their voice actresses crazy schedules to get them in the studio in a timely manner. Voice actors deliver their lines in an empty room with only a video screen, a script, and their director to guide them. Because the actors record alone, they can't play off of each other's vocal cues, which is one reason why even the best anime dubs have conversations that ring hollow. The roles themselves rarely help: what man can play a gruff, thirteen year old ninja, or what twentysomething can accurately nail the part of a cutesy schoolgirl? Then there's the challenge of match words to lipflaps, writing a good script in a short time, and many other little things. And that's before any potential crises hit. Roger Ebert once wrote that every movie is a small miracle, and the same holds true for anime dubs, even the bad ones. Though the bad ones are a different kind of miracle.
The production for this documentary is consummately professional, straightforward, and with no frills. It's essentially a series of talking heads answering six or seven different questions every section, and with over a hundred voice actors and staff in this DVD, it's an editorial feat that the message never feels muddled. It depends heavily on the charm of these people to get by, and the most charming ones are the most memorable. I may be the first otaku to like Crispin Freeman not for his performance in dubs like Hellsing, but for his frank talk in a documentary. The documentary may have benefited from cutting down on the number of voice actors by about, oh fifty or so, and adding more directors, since they can give the audience the big picture. Their views are relegated to only one of the five sections- more of them would have been welcome.
One final note: the fandom and the industry has changed immensely since this DVD was released- and it was only released last year! There are a lot fewer dubs being recorded now, and fewer of those are being recorded in United States. I suspect many of these voice actors haven't found an anime-related gig beyond guest appearances at cons in a long time, and won't for a long time to come. ADV's absence is feels strong when you watch this DVD- most of the actors work with Bang Zoom, and most of ADV's dubs used Bang Zoom actors. This was probably filmed in 2007, but it already feels like another dated piece from a different, more optimistic time. But it is still relevant, and anyone who holds out hope on voice acting for the next Big Anime Series in 2025, or anyone who thinks they will still be watching anime in 2025, should watch this.
Lots of information without any frills. Voice actors should just hand out copies of this DVD every time someone asks them, "How can I be a voice actor?' — Bradley Meek
Recommended Audience: Back of the box says 13+, which probably has more to do with that's the age range for people who would be interested in voice acting than anything else.
Version(s) Viewed: DVD courtesy of Jason Huff of The Anime Review
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Adventures in Voice Acting © 2008-2009 Spotlight Entertainment LLC
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