I have a few friends (who I am leaving anonymous) who hate anime dubbing. I, personally, have never had a strong opinion either way. I am a “Casual” anime watcher. I will watch an anime if I find one that has an interesting plot, a story that sucks me in, or has really good art. When an anime draws me in enough to watch it, I will typically watch it first in English with the subtitles. On subsequent viewings, I will watch it with the original audio with the English subtitles. I enjoy it either way.
The big arguments against dubbing is that some things are ‘lost in the translation’ between Japanese and English. Some puns don’t make sense, rhymes don’t work, something is ‘different’ about the story or the anti-dub person feels robbed by the dubbing.
During Space City Con, I had the chance to meet a few pretty amazing English Anime voice actors: Lia Sargent, Andrew Love, and Charles Campbell. Each one of these voice actors has an amazing repitoire of dubbing. Lia Sargent was Shion in the Xenosaga Series, R. Dorothy Wayneright in The Big O, Judy in Cowboy Bebop, and Chun Li in the Animated Streetfighter Series. Andrew Love, a Houston-born actor, was Fujimaki in Angel Beats!, Colonel Hades in Appleseed and Jerso in Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood. Charles Campbell was Old Man Owl in Sonic The Hedgehog, the Movie, Edison in Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, and Kilowog in DC Universe online.
During the convention, these three actors were on a panel about dubbing in voice acting. The panel opened with a video showing how voice dubbing is done. The film is made in Japan. At some point afterwards, the Japanese producers and American producers go through the process to select a voice actor to dub the English voice. The script is translated from the Japanese into English, and the American actors then go, one at a time, into the recording booth to record the voices.
The voice actors listen to the original audio track to hear how it is presented, and must adapt the English script to fit both the mouth flaps of the animation and the meaning of the words. This means the American voice actors must have an extensive English vocabulary in addition to the ability to do differing voices. What word will fit three “mouth flaps” and mean the same as “Car.” ? These Voice actors must know that kind of thing.
This is much harder than it sounds.
One thing the voice actors mentioned is that sometimes the Japanese producers have a very strong voice in the dubbing process. They will often want a “certain actor” to be in a role. Or, the Japanese producer will want the American voice to sound either identical to or NOTHING like the Japanese voice. Sometimes, this means the actor the Japanese producer wants is an excellent Screen actor, but horrible at making the jump as a voice dubber. (A specific actor was mentioned; I won’t mention the name, but he was pretty famous.)
Men have much more limited capabilities in voice acting, mostly because of the pitch of their voices. Men have trouble playing kids and, sometimes, young men. Women often fill not only females, but children (both boys and girls) and young men. When a voice role involves singing, it is often expected the American voice actor will do the singing.
Another interesting thing we learned in the Voice Acting panel is that Texas is a good place to be in order to break into voice acting. A lot of Texas studios are doing amazing dub work. “You are taking business from us” Lia told Charles and Andrew, who both work out of Texas.
A few hints to those who get an audition for voice acting:
1) Don’t be a jerk to the director. That gets around. Voice acting is a rather small community.
2.) Audition for multiple roles if you can help it, showing range. You have a better chance at getting a role if you try out for two or three drastically different roles.
3.) Acquire a professional Vocal Demo of your voice- showing your range and quality. It can help producers hear the quality of your voice. (The link provided is Lia Sargent’s Vocal demo.)
4). It helps, but is not required, to have a theater background. Plus, bilingual with other language than English a MAJOR plus.
Watching this panel, listening to these three amazing people, was awe-inspiring. The three actors spoke with one another, complimented each other’s work, and even expressed desires to work together in the future. Lia Sargent even mentioned that her favorite anime will be Andrew Love’s upcoming project. (the name escapes me but will be added when I remember.)
The passion these three have for their work is amazing.