Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category
Special thanks to Amy Elder for serving as translator for this interview.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. So, to get the easy part out of the way, how did you feel the premiere went?
Nishimura: I saw the Trigun premiere on Friday and I was lucky to see the reaction of American fans in real life for the first time. Until now I’d heard that Trigun enjoyed a lot of popularity in the US but I wondered if that was really the case. I was kind of worried about it but I was able to see the fan reaction on Friday.
Premiering the movie in the US seemed like a… I don’t want to say risky but different way of premiering it. What did you think of fans in America getting to see the new movie before the fans in Japan were even able?
It can certainly be seen as a strange decision. The reason why this movie was made was because the American support and American calls for a movie were so strong that the production company responded to these strong calls and decided to go ahead with this plan to make a movie. And so it was in response to that that the Trigun premiere was held in the US.
Speaking about the audience a little bit more, were you aiming to bring in a new generation of Trigun fans with this movie or was this more something to reward fans who had already been wanting this for so long?
Both of them. I wanted to create content that old fans would recognize however I also created it for those who were seeing it for the first time who might think ‘Oh what’s Trigun? Let’s try watching that,’ so I created it for both of them.
Based on your personal observations, how the fans in the US and more specifically, Seattle, different from the fans you meet in Japan?
I feel that the fans in Seattle are quite polite and it’s easy to spend time around them and in fact it’s often the Japanese fans that can seem rather selfish. It seems to me that the fans in Seattle are following the rules and also seeming to be enjoying themselves very much.
In the case of Japanese fans, perhaps because I understand Japanese myself, I can see the unattractive parts in their personality and so sometimes I think ‘enough already!’ with these kinds of fans and this kind of attitude.
When you first got the call to return to the Trigun series after such a long absence, what was your initial idea to coming back and reviving it?
Well to be honest, my first reaction was to be very surprised. My own feelings about the series haven’t changed very much after 10 years. But in terms of the fan reaction, I was worried about how the movie would be received after a 10 year period. But since the ball was in my court I felt it had to be returned.
So, there was some initial hesitation and worry that the series and characters might not have the same drawing power that they once had when they were first premiering as opposed to today?
Well, you’d have to ask the decision makers about that however among the people who were watching the film and the staff members it was as though they’d traveled back in time to 10 years before.
When you came back to the series, were you trying to maintain the same attitude and mindset that you had when you worked on it originally or did having a gap provide you with a new perspective or ways to approach it that you hadn’t had before?
I wouldn’t say that my feelings or perspective towards the work had changed however this is the series that helped me make my living for the last 10 years so I felt that I was paying something back to the series.
Can you cite any ideas that yourself and the production staff wanted to get into the movie but couldn’t because of story, plot, etc?
thinks for a few seconds In the case of the last scene, there was a battle with Gasbat and Vash and that was not in the original plan. They changed what they put into the movie and we wanted to include a scene in which the police were chasing Gasbat.
So, who’s your favorite character from the movie?
I don’t usually think about which characters I like the best however I do feel a lot of empathy for and like the way Wolfwood thinks. Also if I could live like Gasbat… well, I do have to take responsibility for my actions in my own life. However I’m a bit jealous of the way that he lives.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me! I hope that you’ve enjoyed your time in Seattle.
I am Sandgolem, a humble guy that just found he loves being behind a microphone, I set out about 2 and a half years ago to create a radio station and it finally happened with 91.8 The Fan. 91.8 The Fan is the first contemporary anime radio station. Basically, we all used to listen to anime radio stations that were all music all the time. We thought where is the talk show with interviews? Where are the fun hosts and cool contests? So we set out to bring that to the fans. Basically a site where you can see something new posted everyday and a radio station that has round the clock DJ’s and entertainment.
I’ve seen you mention that the station has been two and a half years in the making. Where did the idea for a streaming anime radio station first start?
It basically started with a podcast we used to do called “Into The Rough” which was a gaming podcast that Kanashimi, Kibs, and myself all undertook. From there I discovered my love for broadcasting and the adrenaline rush I got when facing a microphone knowing that thousands are listening to your every word! Since that day we have been working towards launch non-stop!
What has your daily life become now as opposed to a few months ago when the station was still growing and finding its legs?
My daily life? Well… basically the station has become my life (laughs). I’ve discovered that most days sleep can be optional. Though it’s really a labor of love, every day I log in and see all the people that enjoy our work and love hearing their favorite DJ. And it just causes me to work harder on the site and radio station even more!
What were some of the biggest challenges in getting the streaming station off the ground? Anything along the way that ended up being a much bigger challenge than you initially thought?
Not so much a challenge since everyone on the staff always understood how tough a job it was going to be from day one. I suppose if I had to say anything I would say finding and organizing the volunteers for start-up was hard. However, that being said as long as you’re willing to work hard and focus in on the station then things generally go smoothly. There are of course always hiccups in live radio such as last minute guest reschedules, and technical glitches but that comes with the territory.
What kinds of things can fans look forward to in 2010 for 91.8?
Fans can look forward to a TON of new stuff! One of our big announcements includes the re-launch of our anime directory. Our anime directory is a bit different than your typical one though, ours lists all the places you can find all the legal and free anime to stream online. What’s great about it is that it will really depend on users to survive, so it is another way for our visitors to get involved.
Then we have the live call in board going up soon on the station, which basically allows users to call into the show for free anywhere in the world to request songs, ask guests questions, and generally be a part of our show!
Lastly, the big thing on our site that is looking to launch as soon as possible is our Musical Database Interface on the site. Where you can see all the info about each song that is playing right down to the lyrics, can put in request via this system for the DJ to play it, rate as well as be led to all the places you can buy it legally online.
Thanks again for taking the time to answer some questions! Good luck to you and 91.8 in the coming year!
Thanks! I loved stopping by to chat with you!
From assassins in Kite: Liberator to mercenaries in Mezzo and now space pirates in Cobra, Mariko Kusuhara has worked hard to put together memorable programs. A producer with Happinet, Kusuhara is partially responsible for bringing together the cast and crew for the winter space epic, Cobra the Animation. Recently announced as a Crunchyroll winter simulcast, Cobra the Animation will be made available to fans for free starting tomorrow morning with episode 1. Recently, Crunchyroll arranged an interview between me and Kusuhara to discuss the new series and what it’s like to work on a series that has such a long history.
Otaku Review: How did you become involved in the 30th anniversary of the manga series? Were you a fan of the series yourself at any point in your youth?
Kusuhara: ”Ever since the end of the previous TV series, there has been a great demand for another anime to be made, and now separated even by 30 years we are fulfilling that request. And personally, I’ve been a COBRA fan since I was a kid.”
Not counting last year’s OVAs it’s been 27 years since the last Cobra TV series. Why did you decide to revive the TV series?
“This conversation (about the previous work), well, it never really had an end, and with all the discussions about there never being another production to follow it up, we wanted to make it look like a continuation.”
What can you tell audiences about the story? Has it been updated at all from the original?
“Cobra, since he’s a free-spirited space pirate and all, please look forward to all the drama that will come from the characters he meets! He can go anywhere, from deep underground to the bottom of the ocean, to even beyond our planet and to the stars.”
When putting together a crew for a title that was originally published so long ago, are there things that you had to do differently or new things you had to consider from other series you’ve produced?
“Animation is not just a static picture, and the music especially is an important aspect. This time around, we wanted to really emphasize a deep sound that really captured the essence of Cobra. That’s why we actually had a live orchestra for the soundtrack.”
“He was involved in the scenario meetings with the team and we worked closely together. He has also highly involved in checking the character designs.”
What do you hope fans around the world who are discovering this series for the first time take away from it?
“All of you, who have watched COBRA so far, thank you. I believe that COBRA has the kind of universally understandable adventure and action that the whole world can enjoy. As you enter the rich world of COBRA, please enjoy the adventures to come.”
Everyone sees the public figures attached to each series such as the voice actors and directors. But when you spend all day every day writing about all of those series, it’s the PR and marketing people who become your life line! Over the years on Otaku Review, I’ve gotten to interview some great guests but for once I wanted to turn the spotlight to the backstage area to some of the people who help keep all of us informed of what’s hot and new on our local store shelves; Jackie Smith from Funimation and Alison Roberts from Right Stuf.
So, as promised, here is the interview that I conducted with Funimation voice actor J. Michael Tatum at SakuraCon. In the interview, Michael talked to me about the premieres of both ‘Heroic Age‘ and ‘Romeo x Juliet‘, some of his previous roles and the challenges he faced as a writer, actor and director in both series.
~ So I’m sitting here with voice actor J. Michael Tatum at SakuraCon 2009, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me. So have you been enjoying yourself so far? This is your first SakuraCon isn’t it?
J. Michael Tatum (JMT): This is my first SakuraCon. It’s actually my first time in Seattle and I am having a great time! I came to this con with Joel McDonald, who’s done a lot of great stuff, and this is his first con. And it’s so much fun to be with him while he’s taking it all in because he’s just so impressed with everything. This is a party; this doesn’t feel like work at all.
With the birth of Anime Midstream earlier this month and the announcement of their first license, I was fortunate enough to be able to ask a few questions of the US executive producer for ‘Raijin-Oh’ Jimmy Taylor via email regarding the birth of the company, their first license and some of their plans for the coming year.
Oh and just in case you’re wondering, that’s not him in the image to the right. ^_^
~ Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some of my questions today. The first question is the easy one, so how was Anime Midstream born?
Jimmy Taylor (JT): We’re excited about our company and the buzz that’s been going around. We honestly didn’t think we’d make this much news so it’s a little new to us but we’re very happy about it. Anime Midstream was born by fans for fans. I’ve been a fan of Japanese animation for over 20 years.
The company started as an idea. Seeing all the anime titles being released today, the industry seems to have shifted focus to only licensing brand new or currently released titles found in Japan. Anime series from the 1970s to 1990′s feel like they have been forgotten and we want to let the fans enjoy them as much as we’ve enjoyed them. Anime Midstream was born from that idea and it’s our vision to bring a wide range of titles, those same titles that have greatly influenced the series we see today, to the American audience.
~ With the global economy taking a slide for the worse, why did you feel that now was the right time to form a new company within the US market?
JT: I know some people may think it is a little odd to start a company now with the economy the way it is. But we’re here because we love anime. We love the art and we want to give the fans the quality they deserve. As far as the economy, we feel that the fans support the industry in good times and in bad as long as they can see that a company is giving them what they want. And we believe we can meet those wants.
~ What can you tell us about Anime Midstream’s plans for your first license, ‘Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh’? Have you already decided on a release format?
JT: We will be releasing them as single disc releases. Each DVD will include English and Japanese audio, and of course English subtitles. Plans for a box set release will be in the future. We are also planning on doing something special on the 20th anniversary of the Eldoran series.
~ A notice on your website notes that you will be looking for voice actors soon, is the current plan to dub all or even most of your releases or are dubs going to be rarer?
JT: We are planning to dub all of our releases in English as well as keep the Japanese audio. All of our releases will be a dual audio format with English subtitles.
~ What are some of the primary goals that the company has for 2009?
JT: We are mostly going to be keeping our focus on ‘Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh’ through 2009. We want to make sure that it is done right and well received by fans everywhere. But we are already considering future titles to license.
~ Once again, thank you for your time and I wish you much success in the coming months.
JT: Thank you for giving us an opportunity to talk about the company and we hope to talk to you again in a few months.
I recently had the chance to ask a few questions to Todd Haberkorn about the series Ghost Hunt from Funimation. In the series, Haberkorn plays the roles of Naru. A 17 year old professional ghost hunter. Along with his assistants Lin and Mai as well as a host of supporting ghost hunters to help him tackle the tough cases, they expel ghosts and hauntings. With the second half of season one being released later this month, Todd answers questions about the role, his initial thoughts on the series and challenges faced.
~ Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me Todd, so what was your first impression of Ghost Hunt when you first saw it?
When I first saw Ghost Hunt during the audition process, I was intrigued by the supernatural element. It was different that most shows involving the occult like vampires or magical powers – it went for the creepy. And not just that, but it toys with the viewer; keeping you guessing as to whether or not the conflict is man-made or really supernatural.
~ During the auditioning stage, did you have your eye on Naru as a character you’d like to play from the beginning or was there another character that you were hoping to get a chance at?
I definitely had my eye on Naru. The way I wanted to play him made me feel that it’s the closest thing to a
batman type role I’ll ever get. Also, it’s a lead part so there’s a lot of room for growing with the series, which is good.
~ Naru is such a dynamic change from some of the other roles that audiences have heard from you this year. What appealed to you about this character the most early on? Did you encounter any early challenges with this character that you had to overcome?
The appealing aspect of the role is stuff from the previous question, but also because it was a different role. I really like the ability to branch out of the normal roles that directors might pigeonhole me into and show them that I can do other things besides the roles I get cast in commonly. I was certainly grateful for the opportunity to demonstrate that point. I had to overcome breath support! There are a lot of times when Naru goes on these four or five paragraph rants and I need a lot of air to get through them properly in regards to flap matching. Also keeping the reads clean and clear of any vocal flaws…because if there are any – the engineer has quite a clean-up job on his hands.
~ With the second half of the series coming out 11/18, is there anything coming up that you are particularly interested in hearing feedback from fans on? Without spoiling anything of course. ^_^
I’m interested in hearing what the fans think about the multi-episode arch storylines. I think it’s really cool that there are a lot of cliffhangers that make you want to keep watching for what happens next. And keep watching guys because the show gets even scarier :)
~ Finally, what did you dress up as for Halloween?
I was a big banana. If you check out my MySpace page – you’ll see the horror that is my banana outfit.
Thanks again to Todd for taking the time out of his schedule to talk with me. Be sure to check him out as Naru in the second half of Ghost Hunt Season 1 available 11/18.
|In Part II of my interview with Karen Strassman, the conversation moved further away from her past and got more into her present and future. In this final section of the interview, Karen talked with me about some of her favorite roles, Buso Renkin, Lucky Star, When They Cry, being irritating in the voice booth and much more.|
~ But alright, so I want to go ahead and start talking about some of the more specific series that you’ve been in. Last year in particular you were in two series that were never really given their chance: Fate/Stay Night and When They Cry. So, the first one I’d like to ask you about is When They Cry where you play one of the supporting roles Miyo Takano.
Karen: Uh yeah. Creepy, that whole series was so creepy.
~ When you started to get further into the series and you started to see more of the character and what kind of role she really had in everything that was going on. How does that change your performance when the character shifts like that and you have to deal with these new nuances?
K: Um, I think you just have more information to play with. Like, and in a way it’s good that I didn’t know everything. In the beginning because then my performance is real ambiguous, because I wasn’t sure either. So in a way I didn’t have to risk giving anything away because it was more ambiguous because even I didn’t know. And as I got more and more information and everything, I just had more specifics to play with. And I had more information behind me and more kind of subtext. But still my character you never really knew that clearly what her story was. And I have some questions like you know, I was like well… is she a bad guy? Did she do it? Or is she just obsessed with this? Or does she just love freaking people out? Or is she just sick? laughs
~ Alright, with May coming to a close 2008 has been a fairly good year for you so far anime wise. Last month it was Buso Renkin, Code Geass, this month it was Lucky Star. With Buso Renkin, Mahiro Muto is so sweet that she could send someone into diabetic shock. I’m mentioning this to highlight to how many different types of characters that you play. And so, with that many varieties of characters, do you have a different characterization process you go through for your different characters or is it pretty much the same process no matter what you’ve playing?
K: Well, at the beginning of the series when you’re kind of creating the character. Usually for anime, it usually is a combination of what was done in Japanese and there some are series where they us to come as close to the Japanese as possible and there are some series where is some leeway and we kind of work to create the character that works the best in English that doesn’t have to completely match the Japanese.
And that’s just depends on the series, what the client wants. And then it’s just depends on what they look like, depends on the Japanese and we just kind of with the director we just kind of work, usually it takes just the first session and we develop the character together. And then as you move on through the series, I just kind of sink into the character and get to know them better and better and get more and more comfortable with them.
I’ll say something else, for each character there is often kind of a theme to them. Like the scenes for Mahiro, Rene (Veilleux, ADR Director) and I would always joke that when she was just really annoyingly cute then we knew it was right on. When we would play it back and sort of cringe and laugh at the same time, then we’d be like “That’s it! Alright, next loop.”
For example, a character that I’m doing for Lucky Star (Miyuki Takara) right now is so cute but she’s so cute in such a different way. She’s not like annoyingly cute, she’s like, you know, Ooh you just wanna hug her cute. She’s just so sweet and innocent. And you know with her glasses and her pink hair, and that’s just a really different kind of cute. We looked for the most sweetest, endearing kind of cute for her. She would never ever in a million years be annoying. So that’s just a whole different country of cute.
~ Do you have a favorite type of character to play? And is there anything that you’d really like to be able to play but just haven’t had a chance to try it?
K: Sexy and evil characters are really fun. I enjoy those a lot. I had a lot of fun as Shinanora in Gun Frontier.
Have you seen Gun Frontier?
~ Um… no, not yet.
K: Aww, you’re no fun. She was just this sexy dripping character. All the men were just falling all over her. And that’s the show with Tahiro.
~ So there hasn’t been any thing that you haven’t been able to really just challenge yourself with or is it one of those roles that you’ll know when you see it?
K: I guess when I see it I’ll know it. But I will say that one of the things that I love about anime too is that I get the opportunity to do stuff that’s more realistic. Like I just got cast in Monster! And it’s just a really realistic show and I love that. I really love realistic drama. And I love that. I also really loved this show that I did a really long time ago, Habane Renmei.
~ Oh yeah, that’s a classic.
K: And I loved that show. There was just something very surreal and real about it at that same time. You know, it wasn’t cartoony and it was kind of dark. I really enjoyed that. I start to look back on the work that I’ve done and I just have so much affection for so many things. So many things that I’ve done. And there’s one show that I can’t remember the name of, and I was a drunk mother. And she took absolutely terrible care of her kid and was just drunk all the time. And she was a drama queen. And I just loved that role. And one of the fans will probably be able to identify the role if you write about this in your interview and will write it up.
~ I really want to ask you about Hitomi in Appleseed. If you look up on my website, my reviews of Appleseed aren’t great but despite that Hitomi was a really interesting character. When it comes to something like this where it’s very futuristic and your character is a bioroid, what kind of thought do you put into your characterization?
K: Hitomi was really moving to me. She was really endearing. She’s one of those characters who wanted to be human. And you know underneath it all, whether or not she talked about it, all she wanted to know was what it would be like to feel. That’s how I played her anyway. I played her as a machine and she is but she’s not supposed to have a soul or be human but she does. And she wants to be human underneath it. And one of the tricks for me playing a character is that I fall in love with them. For who they are.
~ Appleseed was a fairly big project and the sequel was pretty huge. Lucky Star this month has a pretty huge following behind it. Are you still at the point now where being in a project that has a bit more of a following behind it makes it a bit more fun or exciting? Or is every job just a job no matter how big it is?
K: It’s fun when there’s hype around it. Of course it is. And it’s fun when I walk into the studio for Lucky Star and Alex (Von David, ADR Director/Writer) is reporting on what all the fans are saying, it’s added fun. It is fun. But I think what makes me like a show or love a show is more about loving the show, loving my character and loving the people I work with. And I’m so lucky; Alex for Lucky Star is an awesome director. And a lot of the time I’m looking forward to getting to the studio and working with the people I get to work with. But of course! When it’s getting a lot of hype, its fun!
~ So at this point what I’d like to do is ask you about a few of my favorite roles that you’ve done. What I’d like for you to do is tell me not only what you liked most and least about the character but also most and least about performing them in the booth.
~ Miyo Takano from When They Cry:
K: What I liked best about the character was how creepy she was. What I liked least I guess wanted her to have a bigger role. And what I liked best about working with her was working with Kristy (Reed). Kristy an awesome director and awesome human being and it is always a pleasure to work with her.
~ Mahiro Muto from Buso Renkin:
K: What I loved about recording Mahiro Muto was making her as irritatingly cute as possible. And what I disliked the most about Mahiro Muto was how irritiating she was. And what I loved best about working on her in the booth was getting to work Rene Veilleux. Rene is an awesome director. He’s so much fun to work with. And we just had so much fun on that series together. So I was got a call and I got to go yay, I get to play with Rene. And I get to be cute and obnoxious.
~ 1st Lt. Su-Ming from Flag:
K: What I loved about that character and that show was how realistic it was. And whenever Tony (Oliver, ADR Director) was directing me he’d constantly say ‘Play it down, make it more real, make it flatter,’ we were just going for really simple. Makin it real, ya know? And I love that, as I mentioned before I just love the realistic stuff too. It just harkens to features and cinema and I like that a lot. And she was just very very smart. Very smart, very controlled, very… you know she had a mission, she was on target. There was nothing else, she was very single focused my character. I enjoyed the challenge of doing that, ya know?
I think what I like least about it is again I would have liked for her to have been a bigger character. And I would’ve liked to have spent more time recording her. And I know that this might sound redundant but what I liked best about recording her was getting to work with Tony. Tony is just another director that has years and years of experience. And knows his stuff and is a fabulous human being too.
~ Petit Charat from Di Gi Charat:
K: Aww, I think what I liked best about that was… *laughs* it was just so cute and weird. And what I think was sometimes the most challenging for me was that there was a lot that was just surreal and out there. And a lot of it I just really didn’t understand so I guess I just had to really let go of understanding it. You know because I like to understand things and sometimes it was just so out there and abstract and weird. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I’d ask and try to figure it out. And the director, Fusako Shiotani, was someone that I don’t get to work with often. But she is great.
I’ve worked with her on a couple of projects but she loved the show and really got the show. Like in ways that I couldn’t even begin to get it. She was really able to translate to me what she wanted. So that was just super fun.
~ Miyuki Takara from Lucky Star:
K: I love Miyuki. One of the things I love about Miyuki, she is so sweet. And so caring and so… she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. And she is very unpretentious and unassuming and she just wants to help people. And there’s one episode there’s something wrong and she’s lost her glasses and she couldn’t see the board and she had to ask somebody for their homework. And I forget but she asks one of the girls who lent her their homework or notes or something. But their notes were so bad that she couldn’t read them and they weren’t useful. But she pretended that they were useful and she gave them back because she didn’t want to hurt her feelings and then she went and got the notes from somebody else but made that girl promise not to tell anyone that she was using her notes.
She just wants to help people and she doesn’t want to hurt anybody. And she’s just very very sweet. And she never yells. And being an anime voice over actor where we come into the booth a lot and we spend a lot of time yelling or being hysterical. There’s something very relaxing about coming into a session and knowing ‘I probably don’t have to yell’ *laughs*
Um, what I don’t like about Miyuki? It’s really hard not to like Miyuki. I can’t think of anything right now that I don’t like about her. She’s just so likeable and sweet, you can’t not like her. And I gotta go back to answering the same way I’ve answered before; I love working with Alex. Alex is awesome and he’s really knowledgeable about the shows and he really loves the show. And we just have so much fun together, we just laugh and laugh. I just really look forward to working with him.
~ I’d like to jump back just a bit because I forgot to ask this when we talked about it. You mentioned that one of the things you liked least about recording Mahiro is that she’s so irritating.
K: But it’s also the thing I like best about her.
~ This is true. Have you ever had a character that was so irritating to you that recording them was a chore?
K: I’ve never had that. And for Mahiro, recording her was never a chore. You love to be irritating; it’s fun to be irritating. It’s wonderful to be that bratty little sister. But when he would play it back and I’d hear it I’d go ‘Oooh, that’s irritating. I didn’t know I could be that irritating. That’s scary.’ But I loved doing it.
~ If you were stranded on a deserted island with all your basic needs met. What three luxury items would you take with you?
K: I don’t know if this is cheating but I would want to take my computer. I’d want to have the luxury of having wi-fi. To write letters with all my friends since those are the people that fill my life. My most important things to me are my computer and my phone. *laughs* I think that’s all I need and maybe some music.
~ What are you looking forward to most this year that’s anime related?
K: I’m looking forward to continuing to do Lucky Star and just continuing that. I’m looking forward to Monster, I just think that it’s going to be a really interesting series.
~ Speaking of, are there any other projects that you can reveal at the moment?
K: Yes, I’ve just started a new show with Tony Oliver. You’ll have to look it up. It’s with Bang-Zoom. It’s under the name Karen Strassman. But I can’t reveal the title.
~ And finally, the question that I ask in every interview… do you have any parting words that you’d like to leave with your fans?
K: Yeah, first of all I just want to thank them for all of their support. And I guess this is kind of cliché but I just want to put the message out there to everybody to do what you love and to do it with care for all the people you’re working with and integrity and enjoy.
~ Good message to part on.
K: It’s a little cliché but to me it’s true and to me. And if I can add onto those as an addendum, so much of my success has been because of the wonderful human relationships I’ve had with people. And it’s because people have helped me and I’ve helped them. And we really enjoy working together. I mean I know I have a certain amount of talent but I think talent mixed with putting things in perspective. Anime is great but it’s not brain surgery, we’re not saving lives here. It’s just we just want to throw some good energy out at people so that people can take a break and be entertained.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Karen Strassman. Unfortunately, my life started to take drastic turns almost immediately after the interview was conducted and thus the interview remained unedited and untranscribed until now. So with that in mind, Karen Strassman isn’t a name that anime fans may recognize right away but a quick scan of her resume over the last few years may jog your memory. Rider (Fate/Stay Night), Petit Charat (Digi Charat), Miyuki Takara (Lucky Star), Kallen Stadtfeld (Code Geass), Hitomi (Appleseed), Miyo Takano (When They Cry) and many many more.
In the hour that I got to speak with Karen, we hit on a wide range of topics including her start in France, her new start in anime and some of her most memorable roles. In part I, Karen talks about the early career, some of the differences between recording in Europe and America and her first anime role.
~ So I’ m speaking with voice actress Karen Strassman. Thanks so much for taking time out of your hectic schedule to talk to me today. So before we start, how was skydiving a couple of days ago? Did you have fun?
Karen: It was such a bummer! California, where it’s beautiful everyday, it rained.
~ Oh that sucks!
K: We spent most of the day waiting to jump and they kept saying let’s wait two hours, let’s wait two hours. And we spent the whole day waiting because the weather wasn’t good enough. So I will be going back tomorrow.
~ Oh sounds fun.
K: I’m so excited, I can’t wait.
~ So alright, when did you first discover voice acting?
K: I first discovered voice acting when I was a student living in France. I was working there and I was studying there. I was teaching children how to speak English through acting. And myself and this other guy, we would be teaching classes all day long. And we’d kind of run workshops and animate them. And just help kids learn to speak English through little scenes. And, this was before the CD was born, and people were listening to cassettes. So this dates me a little bit.
But some French magazine editors came into our classroom and said they wanted to watch us work and we said fine. And afterwards they said we have a new French magazine called Hi Kids and it’s going to be for French children learning to speak English and we want to hire you both to do all kinds of characters for this magazine. And we went into the studio, you know, once a week or you know a couple of times a month or whatever. And they had us record all kinds of different types of characters that would go onto the cassette that would be sold with the magazine. And that’s where I first started to do voice over.
~ And so that’s where you got all of your training? Just sort of jumping in head first?
K: Just jumping in head first. And after that, I started dubbing French films into English in France. And I dubbed all kinds of French films into English. All different kinds of French stars I’ve dubbed their voices into English. So very often I would have friends travel on airplanes and watch French films and hear my voice. And then, there’s a tremendous amount of animation in France. And a lot of it they will do in English because it’s easiest to sell in that language.
And I just became a very successful voice over artist in France. And it just sort of happened. I was very lucky and my case is very different from a lot of people I know. But I never trained for it, I just learned while doing it.
~ So when you were first going into the booth with no training and no real idea, was it really intimidating or did you adapt really quickly to doing it in a professional environment?
K: Well, when I started it was just so much fun. It just wasn’t intimidating because it was this magazine that we were recording. And it was just fun! I just got to make up all these different voices. And it wasn’t like I was walking into Warner Bros. It was just a small little company and we were doing all these different voices for them.
The stakes didn’t seem high enough that it should seem intimidating. And then when I started to go into the bigger studios to start dubbing the films and everything, by then I was comfortable enough with everything that I was doing that… I felt a little clumsy with technique sometimes especially when you dub something or when you do ADR, there’s a lot of technique involved. But I was also very young and I think that I’m a very positive person and I tend to be pleasant to be around so people like me and I was young and sweet and so everyone happened to be very patient with me and teach me the technique. I was just a student; I was very young at the time.
~ So you’ve done a lot of work in Europe, you’ve done a lot of work over here in the states. So, besides the language differences, what are the most significant differences between how a project comes together in Europe as opposed to how a project would come together here that you’ve noticed?
K: In terms of ADR, or dubbing, you walk into a studio in America, and there’s a script in front of you. On the stand in front of the mic. And you record very small pieces of dialogue. So in America, you walk into a studio and look at a loop number. And the director will say ‘ok, let’s do loop number 31’ and you find loop number 31 and then they preview it. So you preview it and, say in Japanese if we’re talking about anime, and then you look at your sentence and then you would record it in English. And to record it, you would hear three beeps *beep, beep, beep* and then you start talking on the fourth imaginary beep. And you’re looking at the character’s mouth as you’re talking to make sure that the syllables and the expression and everything you’re doing suits, not only the mouth movements but everything like that.
In France, there have a very different technique. They have what they call a band rthymo. And in France what they do is you’re not really reading a script. So you walk in the studio and not only are you in a group with other actors, because in America you are the only person in the booth. And you record your lines one by one. Alone, without anyone else in the studio, except for the director and the engineer and everything.
In France, they get all the actors who were doing the scenes together and everybody stands up at the mic together and there is a line, which is the band rthymo, that is sequestered in the television or in the screen. So when you look up at the screen, you see a line of scripted text underneath it. And then there is on the screen a bar, and as the movie or the cartoon or the anime, as you’re watching it the words are scrolling along at the bottom of the screen and they pass by the bar.
And so what you need to do is read the word when it hits the bar on the screen. And that will correspond with when the word is in the character’s mouth. So you’re actually just reading the words right off the screen at the same time that you’re checking out the character’s mouth and what they’re doing on the screen. And you don’t memorize it ahead of time like you do in America and there are longer portions. The loops are much longer. And there might be five people standing up at the mic with you. You’re all reading your text off of the screen as you were recording it. So it’s very different. It was a very different technique
~ Did you have a system that was preferable to you or do you find either one perfectly fine?
K: I really enjoyed them both and I think each of them has its pros and cons. For one in Europe, it’s really fun because, first of all it’s like a party. There are four or five other actors in the room with you, and it’s a social event. It’s fun. And you all get to pool off each other in real life. So you’re all standing there and you know if the actor before you is really sad, you know, he reads his life really sad and I’m supposed to be empathetic or sad too I get to play off of him.
Whereas in America, a lot of the times you go to the studio and nobody else has recorded their lines yet. So you have no idea how they’re going to ask you a question. So in your head, you just have to imagine hearing them asking the question and answer it the way you think they might ask it to you. So in America you just have to imagine that they’re there with you. Whereas in France while I was working, they were right there so you get to play off each other. The other thing that’s fun about France while I was working there is you get to do longer portions. So you’re doing a much longer portion of the scene so you really get to play it out a little bit more. Which is just fun.
The advantage to the American ADR system is you can really perfect a line. Because it’s a very short portion, the loops are very small. And you can memorize your text and just really stare into that character and really perfect it because you’re not you trying to read the line off the screen at the same time as you’re trying to look at the character. So it’s a much smaller piece and you can really do much more detailed work in that way.
~ That makes complete sense actually. You are a highly accomplished voice actress and according to my research, you have been in 87 anime titles since 2002.
K: Wow! I’m impressed with that. *laughs* I didn’t even know that.
~ So do you remember back in 2002 when you did your first anime project?
K: Um… do you know what project that was?
~ It was the third season of Rurouni Kenshin.
K: Yes it was! I do remember that! I really liked the character I played (Itsuko Katsu). She was very moving to me. And the series was very moving to me. And all the traditional Japanese culture that was inserted into the series was, that’s what I particularly liked about it.
~ Do you remember what the audition was like for that?
K: I don’t. I don’t remember at all. I remember it was for BangZoom. And I remember I was just so new to everything in Los Angeles. You know, you come here and everyone knows each other and everybody knows the anime world. It’s all kind of a blur to me because I was so new. I just remember he (Eric Sherman) gave me a whole bunch of different things to read and I remember it was fun because I was an unknown quantity here and because in France, I worked so much because there is just such a small pool of voice over actors in France, in English. And so I was hired constantly and I would get all the lead roles and I would get to do all kinds of different roles because there weren’t that many of us. So we really got to cut our teeth on all kinds of different stuff.
Whereas in America they tend to kind of pigeon hole you a little bit because there’s so many people who can do so many things so they don’t ask you to do as much. And I remember I came in to audition and he just kept throwing things at me and I was like “Oh I can do that,”, “Oh I can do that,” and I remember people seemed to be very impressed and I didn’t quite know why because it was normal to me that I would be doing all different kinds of roles. But I guess there are some people here who just specialize in different things. There is a heck of a lot of voice over actors who have an amazing range here. It’s not like I’m rare in that way. I think it just seemed to be that I was a newcomer and they were kind of surprised that a newcomer would be able to do all those things.
But I don’t remember reading for the specific role. I just remember going in there and getting to read all these different types of roles and saying I can try that, I can try that.
~ So it was just mostly an open call audition that you remember?
K: It wasn’t an open call. I remember Mona Marshall is just such a generous wonderful human being. And she barely knew me but she got a sense of I guess my talent and a sense of who I am and she was the one who gave my name to Eric at BangZoom and she also gave me quite a number of other contacts. And she, you know, said tell them I sent you. And because of Mona Marshall I started working a lot in anime and in the voice over world she’s not just a talented actor but she’s also the most generous and wise human being. And if I may just sort of branch off to another subject if that’s ok.
~ Oh yeah, go for it.
K: But I wanted to say one thing about the circle of actors who do anime and the circle of voice over artists at least in Los Angeles that I know, is that people are just generally such lovely people. Because people love what they do, but they don’t necessarily feel the need to take themselves too seriously. And there’s generally just this sense of comradely and a sense of family and community and caring about each other and helping each other that exists in this community. And it’s one of the things that needs to be said and one of the things I love about it and it’s one of the things that I’m very grateful for. And Mona Marshall is part of that!
~ Maybe it’s just our inner geeks calling out to each other.
K: *laughs* Yeah yeah. So it wasn’t an open call, Mona Marshall had gotten me in there. I’ll tell you when I started walking in the door; people were right away so nice to me. There just isn’t that type of cutthroat competition that you might expect to find in other show biz so I feel so very lucky to be part of the community.
~ So you hit on this earlier and this time I’m actually going to ask you the question. So, you haven’t attended any conventions yet despite all the credits on your resume. Have you thought about putting out some feelings to see about being a con guest sometime?
K: Um… I might be, maybe. I don’t know I might start showing up occasionally. I don’t know.
Part II of the interview with Karen will cover much more including her current anime roles, some of her favorites, being annoying in the booth, a series that personally creeped her out and much more.
After missing out on my chance to interview Brina at SakuraCon face to face, it became a priority of this website to get an interview with this up and coming voice actor out of Texas. During the interview I had the chance to ask her about some of her previous work, acting in and directing School Rumble, playing Ai Enma in Hell Girl and much more.
~ Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some of my questions. I was disappointed that I didn’t get a chance to talk with you at SakuraCon this year. I’d like to start with going back a bit though. You studied classical music in college and have found yourself in the voice acting booth. When did you first decide that acting was the right path for you?
It was never really a conscious decision. I’ve always enjoyed both acting and music. I chose to get my degree in music versus theatre because I enjoyed music theory so much. I got very lucky with the anime industry, and had a lot of opportunities presented to me that I couldn’t pass up. I still do music. I still sing. I still write. I just don’t get paid for it.
~ You’ve been having kind of a whirlwind ride over the last couple of years starting with Fullmetal Alchemist in 2004 and now you’re directing and landing choice roles such as Ai Emma (from Hell Girl). Has it managed to become overwhelming yet?
I have been very lucky and blessed to get so many opportunities in this business. It can get very overwhelming at times, trying to balance my schedule with directing and voice acting. I know all of us at Funimation have been extremely busy since we moved into the new studios, but we all love our job. The stress is worth it.
~ You were in some Illumitoon releases last year, what was the atmosphere there in those early recording sessions? Was there any sort of excitement at seeing a new anime company starting?
It was exciting for me as a voice actor to have new opportunities with a new company so close to home. The studios were very nice as well.
~ At SakuraCon this year, you took part in a ‘Guests Uncensored’ panel which had you and two other guests taking questions from fans that were normally off limits. Without revealing anything that is actually said at these panels, do you enjoy doing these types of panels where you can be slightly more relaxed about filtering your comments?
I love uncensored panels. In my day to day life I curse like a sailor. It’s a comfort to me to be able to drop the F-bomb. I feel much more relaxed.
~ During Beck, you recorded the song ‘Follow Me’ with Greg Ayres. You mentioned that both of you recorded your parts separately. Did you record first and not have the second voice to work with or did you have his part to work with while you recorded? Was it difficult to not have the second part there working live on it together?
I recorded first, so I didn’t have anything to go off of. I already knew the song really well. Chris Bevins had given us all the Japanese soundtrack to practice with in advance. So it wasn’t very difficult to do. It would have been more fun to record it with Greg, though.
~ With a credit on your resume as a composer for the 2005 film ‘Bachelor 37’ to go along with your Funimation singing credits such as the closing themes from Beck and Shin-chan. Are there any music projects coming up that fans should listen for?
I am currently writing some songs with a friend of mine. I have the intention of making an album eventually, but I don’t know when that will be.
~ Ok so let’s talk about that… any chance you can give fans an idea of what kind of sound and song writing your fans are going to get to hear on your eventual album?
It’s sort of pop-folk, and each song will be a story told in the third person.
~ Along with your music and voice acting credits, like many other voice actors, you’re also an experienced theater performer with roles in ‘Suessical’ and others. What challenges and rewards do you get from voice acting that you don’t find with theater?
Wow! I’m shocked you even know about that. I miss doing theatre. The biggest difference between theatre and voice acting, to me, is being able to play off of another person. We never read with the other characters in anime. It’s a fun challenge in theatre to work with the energy of another person. It’s also a fun challenge in anime trying to guess what the other person in the scene will do. As a director, that’s one thing you always have to think about.
~ In 2007 you took a seat in the ADR Director chair with School Rumble, what made you decide that it was time to take that new step in your career?
I didn’t really decide it – my producer, Colleen Clinkenbeard, decided for me. I hadn’t expressed any interest in directing at all, and Colleen asked me out of the blue if I would like to be her assistant director on Tsubasa. After getting over the initial shock of how random it was that she would ask me of all people, I said yes. I then went on to direct episodes 21-26 of Moon Phase, and then started School Rumble.
~ Do you think that having a couple of years experience in the booth as an actor has helped you when you’re directing and doing casting for a new series?
It’s definitely helpful to already have an idea of what the overall process is like. Having done it for that long, I also had a good idea of who other voice actor’s were and their experience – which was helpful in the casting process.
~ Did you find it difficult to juggle directing and performing your role as Mikoto?
Directing yourself is a very difficult thing to do. It was extremely hard at first. I almost recast myself, but Colleen assured me that wasn’t necessary. It’s gotten easier, but it’s still a challenge for me.
~ Are you able to judge your performances critically or do you find it easier to have a second person listen in for feedback?
I tend to judge myself too critically. My engineers are helpful in letting me know that I’m being too hard on myself. Also, Colleen reviews and approves all of my episodes, so she sometimes gives me feedback on whether or not Mikoto is going in the right direction.
~ Along another vein, you also did the lead role of Ai Emma in the amazingly dark series, Hell Girl. What were your initial reactions to it when you first started to learn about the series and its characters?
When I heard what the series was about and saw the artwork, I fell in love. I’m a huge horror movie fan, so anything creepy and dark like Hell Girl is guaranteed to make me happy. I was ecstatic when I heard I got the part.
~ After the first few sessions when you got to know the character a bit more, how did you get into the proper mindset to play the role?
For some reason it was a lot easier for me to record that character with my eyes closed. I don’t know if it was the need for darkness or what, but the first few episodes were done almost completely with my eyes closed. I would have to open them to see the mouth movements and what kind of timing each line had, but when we would actually record the line, my eyes were closed.
~ At this point, I’d like to ask you about a few characters that you’ve played and I’d like for you to tell me what you liked most and least not only about the character but performing them in the booth:
~ Eve in Black Cat:
The coolest thing about Eve was getting to do scenes with Brandon Potter. We have been friends for 9 years (since high school), and that was his first role at Funimation. I was super proud of him and I loved Sven and Eve’s relationship. Having Brandon voice Sven made it extra special for me. The only thing lame about Eve was that she never talked, so I wasn’t in the booth very much at all.
~ Mikoto Suo in School Rumble:
Having to direct myself was waaaay lame, but I learned a lot from it. I really love Mikoto because she’s a very real and down to earth character, but can still be extremely goofy when she’s with her friends.
~ Ralph in Glass Fleet:
Ralph was the most complicated character I have ever played – emotionally speaking, and that is what made him so much fun. His relationship with Vetti was so messed up and so sad. It was really fun to do a British accent, too.
~ Ai Emma in Hell Girl:
She’s creepy which is always cool, but she had the same problem as Eve. She never talks, so I wasn’t in the booth very much.
~ Honoka Sakurai from Suzuka:
It was really fun to play Leah Clark’s (who played Suzuka) rival. She’s my best friend in real life and we played best friends in Negima, so it was cool to play enemies.
~ Finally I’d like to close with some simple questions that have nothing to do with anime. If you were any fruit or vegetable, what would you be and why?
I’d be a star fruit ‘cause they’re pretty.
~ If you were stranded on a desert island and you had all basic needs taken care of (food, water, and shelter), what three things would you want to take with you?
A boat, captain of the boat, and search and rescue squad.
~ What would you consider the best performance in an anime ever done that wasn’t done by you?
Cripsin Freeman as Alucard in Hellsing. Huge fan.
~ On that note, what’s your all time favorite anime?
~ What are you most looking forward to that’s anime related this year?
Finishing the second season of School Rumble.
~ Speaking of, what is your favorite anime related memory?
When I found out I got the part of Maho in Beck. Anytime I audition for an anime I typically don’t care what part I get. I just want to be in it. That wasn’t the case with Maho. I have never wanted any part so badly not even since then.
I was on a road trip from Seattle, down the West coast, back down to Texas. We were somewhere in Oregon. It was about 7 or 8 in the morning. We hadn’t slept. We’d been driving forever. I desperately needed to go to the bathroom, but all we could fund was a port-o-potty that was covered in fecal matter. I was hungry, but everywhere we went had crappy vegetarian options. It had been raining nonstop for a few days. I was ridiculously cranky when I got a call from Funimation.
They said they needed to schedule me for some time for Beck. Anytime Bevins auditioned me for a show and didn’t cast me (which was almost all of them to this point), I would be one of the first people he called in for a WALLA session (which is just bit parts and crowd scenes).
Being in the cranky mood I was I said, “Oh, for WALLA, I guess.” “No, it looks like you have a part.” My heart starts to beat faster, “Wait, what? What part?” “Um, I don’t know let me check.” Long pause. Papers shuffling around. My heart pounds faster. “Here it is. It looks like your playing the part ooof…Maho?” “Wait, wait, wait. Are you sure? It says I’m playing Maho?” “That’s what it looks like.” I proceeded to freak out and yell multiple profanities. Needless to say, my day was much better after that.
~ What’s next for you in terms of projects that you can reveal?
There are a couple of things coming up, but I can only talk about one. I’m currently working on directing the 2nd season of School Rumble. Its uber fun and I’m happy to be working with the cast again.
~ Finally the obligatory question that I end every interview with, do you have any words that you’d like to share with your legions of fans?
Thank you guys for being so awesome and supportive. You guys give our job meaning.
Thanks again to Brina for taking the time out of her schedule to answer my questions. If you’d like to keep up to date with Brina, you can check out her MySpace page.