Samurai Editorial: Stirring The Voice Acting Gumbo Pot

[Hey guys, Samurai here, and for this new year, I decided that I would start doing, in addition to my reviews,  editorial pieces about whatever happens to be on my mind anime related. I wanna go back to doing what I established this blog for in the first place–lending my voice to the anime community and hopefully the Samurai Editorials will help with that. Enjoy! ]

Asuna getting tentacle raped by Tamaki--I mean Goemon--I mean Aoba--I mean Edward Elric...
Asuna getting tentacle raped by Tamaki–I mean Goemon–I mean Aoba–I mean Edward Elric…

Late Saturday night/Early Sunday Morning, I was up as per usual watching Toonami, and Sword Art Online came on the tube. [And yes, before you ask and laugh hysterically, I still have a CRT or “tube” TV, and I love it to pieces–got a problem?] Tonight’s episode was the infamous episode when our once strong and courageous female lead, “Lightning Flash” Asuna, gets tentacle raped by what can only be described as a giant pink slug. I swear, Japan, you really know how to insert Tentacle Rape into the most unusual of places [nyuk, nyuk, nyuk].

In any case, I’m watching the episode, wondering which writer was inspired by their fever dream to write this absurdity, when one of the slug creatures opened its mouth to speak. And that’s when my jaw hit the floor.

The slug in question was voiced by Vic Mignogna. Yes, THAT Vic Mignogna. Mr. “I’m Taking Over The World of Anime and Star Trek One Fan Girl At A Time”.

studio_vocal_boothUpon hearing his voice, the first thing that went through my mind was “Why in the heck was Vic’s voice in this anime AGAIN?” Observant viewers and listeners will recall that Mr. Mignogna’s voice was heard several times throughout the series as bit one-time characters. My question is “Why”? Were there not any other voice actors around at the time of recording that could’ve played this small role? The higher ups just had to give these bit parts to a major V/A like Vic? Dude, did you need the money that badly?  To me, that’s like having Drew Brees from the New Orleans Saints play all four quarters of a Pre-Season football Game…against the Houston Texans. Sure, you’re guaranteed a victory, and a substantial one at that, but really, did one of the best QB’s in the NFL really need to stay in for all four quarters? Couldn’t you give the backup QB, Luke McCown a chance? Did you really need to have Vic, a high-end and easily identifiable V/A play a low-end role like Slug Creature B? Couldn’t you give that role to someone else; perhaps someone who is just trying to break into the world of voice acting and needs to add some tracks to their resume? Why you gotta be hogging the mike, Vic?

Calm down, calm down! Samurai-San is not a hater!
Calm down, calm down! Samurai-San is not a hater!

Now, before you start throwing tomatoes and other random foodstuffs at me [or at your monitors], please note that I mean no kind of disrespect to Vic or any other voice actor/actress I may mention in this editorial. I’m not a dub hater by any means; I believe that dubbed anime is just another way to enjoy the medium, and dub haters are just too close minded to broaden their horizons. And I am not against actors or actresses trying to make a living by taking available roles, however small. Heck, we all need money in this day and age, and if that’s what gets you the mean, mean green, then by all means, do so and God bless you for doing it. And finally, don’t get the idea that I’m only just picking on Mr. Mignogna…because OTHER actors are just as guilty. I just picked him because he was the last actor I just so happened to hear in a recently released anime.

The point I’m making is that sometimes voice actors or actresses can be OVERUSED in the industry. In many cases, a company will use the same voice actor for back to back projects. Funimation, thankfully, doesn’t do it as often as they used to with their dubbed products, but ADV Films Sentai Filmworks and other companies are notorious for using the same V/A’s over and over again. Granted, nowadays, many companies aren’t anywhere as big as Funimation, but it has gotten to the point where you can guess who is going to be used as a voice actor or actress in an anime just by looking at the director, and because we’ve heard the same voice over and over again, by the time the anime project goes live, the viewing audience is more stuck on WHO is voicing the character rather than the character itself.

CTF KirinoAnd I know what you’re thinking: “Samurai-San, the Japanese reuse anime V/A’s all the time…and probably more than the US!” And my answer to that is, yes, I know that the Japanese tend to reuse actors and actresses too, but, at least for me anyway, it’s harder to tell the Japanese V/A’s apart from one another, and that’s not meant to be an insult or racist by any means. It’s just inherently difficult to tell different voices apart when you don’t understand the language. I’ve made it clear that I don’t know Japanese, so for me, it’s EXTREMELY difficult to tell one actor or actress from another in the Japanese, especially when they play roles opposite their gender, like when females play adolescent male roles. Here in the US, V/A recycling is pretty obvious to me and to many other fans because we know the language and the different dialects and speaking patterns. You know when you hear a character with a squeaky-raspy voice with a slight southern accent in a Sentai Filmworks production, it’s Greg Ayres, or when you hear a character with a soft spoken gentle voice in a Bang Zoom production, it’s Stephanie Shea. There’s just no mistaking American V/A’s because, to me at least, their voices are so distinct and they rarely change, for better or worse.

So what’s the solution? Perhaps we can find the answer in the most unexpected of places–Louisiana Creole cuisine… or to be specific; seafood gumbo.

Gumbo--delicious creole delicacy and analogy for the anime dubbing community...
Gumbo–delicious creole delicacy and analogy for the anime dubbing community…

Gumbo is an amazing dish down here in Louisiana: crabs, shrimp, crawfish tails, sausage, okra, gizzards and chicken all combined together in a delicious seafood-based roux and served over steaming hot rice. In winter time, it’s a must-have in Louisiana homes. However, when you’re serving home-made gumbo, you have to be sure to stir the pot every once in a while, to get all the good bits that might have sunk to the bottom and to evenly distribute the ingredients. Don’t stir the pot, and you might wind up not getting any shrimp, sausage or chicken, and you run the risk of burning the stuff at the bottom. Sure, you can get the big crabs at the top; after all those are easy to fish out, and everybody loves them. But the BEST part of the gumbo, at least to me anyway, are the ingredients at the bottom; the shrimp that had a chance to soak up all that delicious roux flavor, The hot Manda sausage that has been softened yet still firm enough to pick up on a saltines cracker and eat, the big chunks of chicken that have fallen off the bone waiting to be scooped up. That’s what I like to go for…the ingredients that were at the bottom that have been stirred up to the top.

Vic Mignogna, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Johnny Yong Bosch, Luci Christian, Greg Ayres, Monica Rial, Todd Habberkorn, Stephanie Shea, Crispin Freeman as represented by seafood...
Vic Mignogna, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Johnny Yong Bosch, Luci Christian, Greg Ayres, Monica Rial, Todd Habberkorn, Stephanie Shea, Crispin Freeman as represented by seafood…

In my eyes, the anime dub acting community is just like a pot of gumbo. You got your prime fat crabs at the top–Vic Mignogna, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Johnny Yong Bosch, Luci Christian, Greg Ayres, Monica Rial, Todd Habberkorn, Stephanie Shea, Crispin Freeman and the like. [Yes…I just compared the most popular voice actors and actresses in the industry to seafood. I am the CAJUN Samurai, after all…] These guys are great, no question about it, and every role they take [well, almost every role] is acted prodigiously. But you also have those undiscovered bits just waiting around the bottom, hoping for their one shot to make it big. You have voice actors and actresses just waiting to lend their talent to the community, but at times it seems like they’re consistently getting passed up for the easy-to-reach stuff at the top, and we, the consumers of your product, will eventually get tired of just settling for what’s on the top and want something different.

So, here’s my call to all the different ADR companies out there; stir the voice acting gumbo pot. Mix the ingredients around a bit. The Mignogna crabs at the top are nice, but we love shrimp too.

And for the prime crabs at the top of the pot–remember that once upon a time you were at the bottom of the pot. You were waiting for your big chance to come up to the top and be scooped up. Help out your greenhorn counterparts every once in a while. Share the limelight, if you can. The gumbo pot is big enough for everyone to simmer in.

nagi_1 (1)I’m Cajun Samurai, and that’s how I see it. Live Long and Prosper.

8 thoughts on “Samurai Editorial: Stirring The Voice Acting Gumbo Pot

  1. Enjoyable read! I don’t usually watch dubs, due to habit and availability, but I’m starting to recognize the names of English voice actors, thanks to posts like this. One of these days, I’ll have to better acquaint myself with their work.

  2. The one voice actor I’d like to see get more major parts is Brandon Potter (Sven Vollfied of Black Cat and Gai Kurusawa in Darker than Black), but he seems to have been sequestered to detective roles in anime. As you said, Funimation is pretty good at mixing up their voice actors. ADV films was perhaps the worst at sticking to the same cast. At least, it was a great cast!

    1. Yeah, I remember hearing him in “Black Cat” and I really liked his voice! I can think of several roles he would’ve been perfect in!

      Oh yeah, FYI, I did a bit of grammar and editing to the Editorial since you last read it. Nothing too big, but just giving you a heads up!

  3. Agreed. The big name voice actors are big name for good reason, but it really has gotten to the point where it’s easy to pick them out no matter what character they’re playing. That can ruin the illusion of anime just like repeatedly using famous actors can ruin the illusion of movies. Instead of seeing the character, all we see is the actor, and I’d hate for studios like Funimation to reach that point.

  4. This excuse is so recycled, so it’s hard to take it seriously. Number one, acting is more important than how many roles you undertake. You may not like typecasting, but at the end of the day, it’s what a character can do best. It’s not about having 100 million voices. Take Tara Strong for example. She has yet do give an emotional performance in anything, yet she can do 100 voices. Voice with acting is just playing at voices. 2. You must be deaf if you can’t tell certain Japanese voice actors. Rikiya Koyama, Akio Otsuka, Ryotaro Okiayu, etc are all distinct in tone. And yes, they are more overused and it’s worse, because more people watch anime in Japanese than in English. You’d never believe me if I told you that the 20 year veteran Steve Blum has less anime roles than Rie Kugimiya, but it’s the truth. 3. I’d rather have good, experienced VAs over green rookies. This is a business. It’s a fact that Stephanie Sheh is a better voice actress than most of the VAs in something like Madoka and she gets more roles than them, because she’s better than them in every inconceivable way.

    Seriously, if we had more diversity, dubs would be worse, not better.

    1. The last few statements are out of line. Sure, you give the newer VAs some minor bits in shows while they await for their breakthrough year, but they work just as hard as a veteran would because they’re giving everything they’ve got and they’re willing to make it work.

    2. I wasn’t aware that I was offering excuses. I was simply stating my own personal opinion on a topic just like you are. And with regards to your last statement, I tend to disagree. Diversity is the defining attribute in anime; Diversity in story telling, diversity in characters, diversity in genres, etc. You can have diversity in voice acting and still have a great product. Does that mean it’ll be perfect first-time? No. But for everything there’s a first time; you learn from it, and you get better. Every voice actor I mentioned in my post started from somewhere. They were greenhorns and Lord KNOWS a lot of them didn’t get it right first-time. But because someone decided to give them a shot, they wound up being the best in the industry.

      I’m well aware that this is a business. That really goes without saying. But I believe that ADR is also performance art; not all that different from being on TV or on a theater stage. And just like stage and screen, you have vets and you have greenhorns, and you never know what the greenhorns can do if you don’t give ’em a chance.

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