Post number two: The VA's panel.

And so came the question and answer session from Amecon’s two big guests. They managed to get not just Erica Mendez, but Lucien Dodge as well. Erica has a pretty hefty resume:

  • Sailor Uranus (Sailor Moon)
  • Ryuko Matoi (Kill La Kill)
  • Nico Yazawa (Love Live! School Idol Project)
  • Tsubaki Sawabe (Your Lie in April)
  • Inko Amifumi (Aldnoah.Zero)
  • Akari Shiodome (A Lull in the Sea)

…while Lucien has just as big a one:

  • Zoisite (Sailor Moon)
  • Yukio (Bleach)
  • Takumu Mayuzumi (Accel World)
  • Norba Shino (Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans)
  • Waver Velvet (Fate/Zero)
  • Hifumi Takada (Danganponpa: Trigger Happy Havoc)

I’m slowly growing to English dubs now (I have been quite the advocate for subtitles, you see), so this was a cool chance to hear what they had to say not only about the roles they played, but on the industry itself.

I did mean to upload an audio of the full panel, but after playback, it wasn’t as good a quality as I had hoped…sound outside of the room, people whispering, tapping on tablets and phones…Sorry.

What were the shows that made you want to get into voice acting?

Lucien: For me, it would be Slayers. I just thought Zelgadis was so cool. The voice actor for him, Crispin Freeman, influenced me a lot as it was the first performance that I’d heard like that in an animation.

Erica: I watched Speed Racer a lot with my dad as a kid, along with Voltron and Astro Boy, before I even realized it was “anime.” But the series though that sold me was Fruits Basket, and it’s still one of my favorites to this day. As for getting into voice acting, it would be around the Playstation 2-era, when games were voiced for the first time; Final Fantasy X especially got me interested.

Lucien: It’s interesting you say that. Final Fantasy X introduced me indirectly to Corey Burton, who has, over the years, become my mentor. I met him through James Arnold Taylor (Tidus’ VA) who looked up to him a lot, directed me to his website where I could contact him and get some advice as a voice actor; all of which I found, and still find, very useful. I believe he is one of the best in the business.

Do you have any particular methods you use when you play roles, like researching into the characters?

Erica: Well usually nowadays, the recordings we do takes place nearer the time of the original airing in Japan, and also the sources are already available to us, so we don’t usually need to go on-the-fly. But I do like to research and watch the original episodes, to get a feel of what kind of character and voice to do.

Lucien: I like to get enough information available too, so that I can form a character in my mind, and get an idea of what my take would be. But I prefer to leave a certain amount to interpretation, in case I ever get things wrong, or if the director has a different vision of how the character wants to be.

Have you ever been able to meet any of your Japanese counterparts?

Erica: I was very fortunate enough to meet my counterpart for Ryuko Matoi, Ami Koshimizu, when the Kill La Kill English dub was premiering at Anime Expo 2014. I was in the Dealer’s Hall when the English dub director said to me that Koshimizu was here, taking pictures with some fans. At the time, I was wearing the skull jacket Ryuko wears (I immediately bought it when recording was done), and then she turns around and sees the jacket and comes straight up to me…and here’s me going “Okay……keep it cool!”. She then discovers who I am (through the producer and her translator), and she just fangirls over me!! One thing I remember she said was that she was happy that there was someone to ‘share her pain’ (through all the yelling in the show!).

Which dubbing recording method do you find better to work with: pre-lay or ADR (Automated Digital Replacement)?

Lucien: There are things I enjoy about dubbing. It’s challenging because you do have more technical restraints, so acting can be a little more difficult, but when you get it to work well, it’s very rewarding. Even though it’s something I’ve rarely done, I enjoy recording ensemble with other actors in a pre-lay situation more. It’s so much more fun as you get to bounce off of each other more.

Erica: There’s definitely pros and cons for each. I think it depends on the project. For ADR, you tend to work separate from the other VAs, and sometimes only get to meet him at conventions and industry events. For instance, I only got to meet David Vincent (Senketsu, Kill La Kill) for the first time at an event. I like pre-lay because I get to work alongside my friends, and also VAs I look up to as well.

Trigger announced at the end of Space Patrol Luluco that Little Witch Academia was to return as a show. Do you see yourself returning as Akko?

Erica: If they’ll have me, I’ll be more than happy to come back! I haven’t finished watching Luluco yet, but I only recently found out the news that Little Witch Academia was to come back. I really loved playing Akko, but since the show’s only just been announced, I can’t say for certain that the studio behind the dub will be casting me again, but I really hope they do!

In the very first dub of Sailor Moon [by DiC/Cloverway], the characters all had Western names, and Sailor Uranus and Neptune were not portrayed as lovers, but cousins. What’s your opinion on studios and companies in the West who intentionally “dumb down” shows for children to watch?

Erica: Well I think around that time, people in the West weren’t entirely ready to see homosexual relationships, not just in animations, but in all forms of media. While I don’t agree with the edits, and I’m very glad that the Viz Media dubs have it uncut, I think DiC did it to bring Sailor Moon to America as soon as they could, and thought heavily censoring it to cater it for children was the only way they could do it. But I heard a rumor that when the DiC dubbed shows had all finished, the directors hated the work they had been a part of. So it’s great that we’re getting this second chance at doing Sailor Moon properly.

Lucien: I have this annoyance with the mentality that, as children, we have to dumb it all down because they can’t understand it, or are too scared of such topics. Kids are not given enough credit nowadays. Back in the day with 4Kids Entertainment, who were very notorious for dumbing down shows, they were only following instructions that Japanese studios gave them; they allowed them to bring their shows to the West and let them do whatever they wanted with them.

Erica: Yeah, Netflix are still doing that with Glitter Force. But I don’t think they should be doing it at this point, but they wouldn’t have brought it here otherwise because PreCure has been around for over 20 years and it’s now only just arrived in the West.

Have there ever been times where you have had to inform the director on how your roles ought to be played?

Lucien: When I did my very first anime gig (Chili, Pokemon Black & White), back when I was a young man with great dreams as a voice actor, the director wanted my voice to sound more “cartoony.” I disagreed greatly, but eventually we came to a middle-ground where I heightened the energy of the character whilst delivering a more genuine-sounding tone. So we were both happy in that I got to use the voice I wanted without going all fake B-grade voice acting, while he got a voice he was happy to work with. Any time where I find myself pushed into doing a voice that sounds mediocre, I just cringe, and I really fight hard to please both myself and the director. I like to think that I’m very easy to work with, but there are times where I feel like the quality is suffering and we’re not hitting the mark, I just don’t get happy at all. If needs be, I’m willing to push as much as I can to get a voice I’m happy with.

Who’s more fun to play: heroes or villains?

Lucien: Villains are definitely more interesting. Heroes have to be the all-reliable kind of person. As I play a lot of roles in video games, I know a lot of heroes there have to be rather “vanilla.” Villains, meanwhile, get to break the rules, and their storylines can go in different directions that the heroes can’t do. They tend to be more fun for that reason. The best heroes, in my eyes, are the ones that aren’t completely virtuous.

Erica: I haven’t actually played too many villains, but the pseudo-villains I have played have been very interesting. As long as they’re not the “cookie-cutter” type, I like being the good guy more.

But my thing with villains is that I’m super-intimidated when I do have to play them, because there usually comes an evil laugh, and I’m just awful at that!!

Thanks go out to Erica Mendez and Lucien Dodge for taking the time to come to the UK for Amecon. I hope they had fun here.

Erica currently plays Kenya Kobayashi in Erased, and Lucien has recently completed Norba Shino in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans.