The classic Gundam titles are getting re-dubbed, and at Otakon Stephanie Sheh explains why it could be for the best.
Stephanie Sheh on Re-Dubbing Gundam SEED, SEED Destiny
The new voice of Lacus Clyne, Stephanie Sheh

When Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny arrive sometime soon, chances are you’re not going to hear the old cast.

Announced over Otakon weekend, both of those Gundam titles will be re-dubbed by NYAV Post. For Gundam fans that name is most likely familiar — they’ve dubbed the Universal Century titles (Unicorn, Origin, Thunderbolt), but in this case, they’re dubbing a title that had a dub already.

Prolific voice actor Stephanie Sheh, who will be voicing Lacus Clyne in the forthcoming Gundam SEED dub, explains the reasons why, while also answering a few other questions involving the anime industry.

TheOASG: Obviously you believe it’s important to support the anime industry and have fans support them. What do you think of Amazon and Netflix essentially breaking into the industry and bringing over anime?

Stephanie Sheh: You know what? I think it’s awesome. I think that it will open anime to more audiences and let things grow.

The only thing I would be concerned about is I really really hope that Netflix, Amazon, Sony, or anybody who’s joining the game have respect for the people who’ve been working in anime for a long time. I’ve seen lots of times where a bigger player comes into the scene and they’re like, “oh, we don’t wanna do it like anime. I mean we want the popularity of anime, we wanna work on anime, but we don’t wanna dub and do things like they have been doing it. We want to bring in the Hollywood types to do it!” And I think lots of times it bites them in the butt.

Because look, we’ve been working in the anime industry for a while. I would never presume to be like I would know how to make a big Hollywood movie because I haven’t worked in that field. We’ve honed our skills dubbing and doing this. Is there room for improvement? Yes, sure, definitely. Is there room for new blood? Yes definitely. But to not respect that history and the fact that we’ve gone through and made all of our mistakes…dubbing has evolved a lot. If you’ve been a fan of anime like I have been for almost 20 years, you’ll see the quality of dubs have really changed. A lot of things have really changed over the years.

So I think it’s great, I just hope that whoever these bigger players are do respect the industry and respect the fact that we’ve been doing it for a while. And know what we’re doing! *laughs*

On that dubbing note, especially now that FUNimation’s dubbing titles really fast, how important has simuldubs been? Like being able to dub these types of titles that air in Japan but then two or three weeks later, “Oh, here’s a dub.”

I think it’s really important because for the longest time I’ve been speaking out about combating piracy and…look, it’s just fallen on deaf ears. A lot of fans have been really great — they’ll go buy the DVD and they’ll do things, but I get it. Lots of times they don’t have the money and sometimes they’re just not aware. They don’t know that the streaming site that they’re watching it from is an illegal site.

Like I just worked on your name. which was an amazing film. I can’t tell you how many message boards and posts I’ve gone on to and [see stuff like], “When is this gonna be on myanime dot net” or whatever and I’m like, “uhhhhhh, it’s not out yet. It’s still playing in theaters in Japan. So if you’re watching it that way, it is not a legal version.”

And what ends up happening is you’re cutting into the profits of the original creators. Even if you don’t like the dub version and you want the subtitled version, I get it. But don’t illegally watch it because you know what happens is when it comes out in English and you’re paying money to an American company that’s distributing it — some of that money goes to the original creator. So they’re making money off of that as well. But what they don’t make money off of is when you watch it on an illegal streaming site. So I do think it’s important in combating piracy to do these types of things.

I will say on the production end, what’s a little bit frustrating is often times they want it done faster but they still want it to be good — but they don’t want to pay you anything extra. That’s the struggle right now. There are very few companies that can produce simultaneous dubs at that quality and speed. I still think that it’s great that it’s out there, but I do think it’s a little bit tough as in most cases the quality suffers or something suffers. Hopefully it’s doing really well. If they are making money from these simultaneous releases, they will recognize that and then give the production companies a little bit more of a budget to do that so the quality of dubs don’t go down as a result of it.

So Gundam Seed and Seed Destiny are getting a HD remastered dub. Can you actually speak to the significance of that?

I think that at NYAV Post we first did Gundam Unicorn — that was a really big deal for Gundam fans because for the longest time there was no Universal Century Gundam in a really long time. So we were lucky to be able to work on that. I think that because Gundam is so old and the dubs are also really old, there’s this idea that Gundam dubs are cheesy. And a little bit silly. Gundam is epic and it can get a little melodramatic. But it should never be cheesy.

So that was our approach to Unicorn which was also a simultaneous release. It got such a great response that Sunrise decided to do more, and I think for Sunrise, Gundam is a huge property for them, but it never really achieved as great of an audience as they have internationally and in Japan. So with Unicorn they started releasing other things that were Universal Century, like Gundam the Origin, a prequel to Mobile Suit Gundam the Original series, and then Gundam Thunderbolt which is a spinoff show. So there have been more and more Gundams being released and they’re doing it in a way that’s both like a simultaneous, international release, like the English dub is on the international release disc. They produced Iron Blooded Orphans as well.

So I think with SEED they’re looking at some older titles that were fan favorites, and when they did the Canadian dub in the past, Sunrise didn’t have much input on the script, casting, acting, etc. So since Unicorn, Sunrise has had a lot more input on the dub process and they like that. So they wanted to do that again with this re-dub of SEED. With SEED there’s new materials, they couldn’t just release the old English language dub, so they did have to redo it and luckily they decided it was the way they wanted to do it.

What would you say would be the toughest thing about doing a re-dub?

I think the toughest thing about is working on SEED and watching it — you know, it stands up. It doesn’t feel that dated, it barely feels dated, and the remaster, the visuals, they look really good. It’s an older title, but it doesn’t feel super super old. So I think it has a lot going on and it looks beautiful.

I think the toughest thing is for people who are fans of the show, if they were fans of the dub to hopefully have an open mind because I get it. You get really attached to some of the voices, but I think you saw with the Sailor Moon re-dub, it’s a similar thing. Japanese companies now get to have more of a say in the English language dub, and I think that’s a good thing. So you’re seeing these re-dubs of these classic shows because when they were dubbed in the beginning they were kind of given to American companies who maybe back then didn’t know as much about anime, didn’t know about Japanese culture, and they didn’t have any feedback from Japan so they just did whatever they wanted to. And I’m not blaming them, it was a different time. So now they get a chance to bring these really classic shows to this growing audience.

Considering as you alluded to that there are fans that bought the original dub and enjoyed it, how should they view the redubbing of these two titles?

I think that they should just keep an open mind. I don’t know when the release is but I’m sure there will be a subtitled track so if they prefer that they can watch that. I actually don’t think it would be a bad idea if there was the original Canadian dub on it as well. I think it might be fun! You know, for people to compare or watch one version or another *laughs*. I just think that for them to keep an open mind and I’m sure in the beginning it will feel weird if you’re used to a certain voice. I think it will feel weird but I think after a while they’ll hopefully get used to it.