This time around, we take a look at the process of creating voice acting for anime. We will appreciate the importance of translation and voice work, as the two essential building blocks for bringing anime to audiences outside Japan. We will also see how to put together the talent for such a project.
Basic Definitions in Anime Voice Acting
Before jumping into the anime voice acting creation process, we must understand some basic definitions:
Anime is hand-drawn and computer-generated animation from Japan.
Manga are Japanese comics and graphic novels. They are a major influence in anime.
Dubbing is replacing a voice completely. Anime is originally voiced in Japanese and so its voices must be replaced entirely in other markets.
History of Anime
Anime appeared as early as 1917 in Japan. It began to acquire the characteristics it is known for in the 1960’s, with the works of Osamu Tezuka. By the end of the 20th century, it had spread globally.
Today, anime has a very high level of graphic art, cinematography, and editing. There are more than 430 anime production studios in Japan. The most well-known studios are Studio Ghibli, Gainax and Toei Animation, amongst others.
Genres in Anime
Anime has many different genres, sub-genres, and amalgamations including: action, adventure, comedy, drama, fantasy, historical, horror, martial arts, school life, sci-fi, romance, supernatural.
Genre dictates much of how a script is written. It is important that a client understands what sort of anime they are trying to translate and dub. Most importantly, the translator of the script and the voice talent hired should know these genres. It is always best if the translator, at least, is a veritable fan of anime. This will benefit the quality of any anime voice acting endeavor.
Translating the Anime Script
Western fans are evermore avid for anime and thus the problem of translation and dubbing comes into the spotlight. We will try to create a template, which will serve as a blueprint for clients who need to dub such projects. This process begins with the script.
Understanding the Script
It is important to understand scripts, and particularly, to understand anime scripts. Traditionally, screenplay format follows certain principles, common to anime:
The first act usually introduces the characters and situations and ends with a first turning point. The second act is the longest and features all the twists and turns in the plot and ends with a second turning point. This leads to the third and final act, which culminates in a resolution of the situation.
Traditional screenwriting features an active protagonist, who desires something and sets out to achieve it. For the most part, there is only one protagonist. Ensemble casts, with no discernible single protagonist, seem to be the exception that proves the rule (or, better said, the principle).
One thing leads to the next and so on and so forth. Coincidence or ‘deus ex machina’ are avoided, for the most part.
Conflict is the bread-and-butter of the screenplay and the main way in which the action moves forward. This is particularly important in the long second act. Some Western movies (and particularly television series) have protagonists with more internal conflict, which in turn, move the plot forward. Such internal conflict is not only exclusive to Western content; anime features characters with internal strife as well.
Screenplays usually feature a singular linear timeline. There are exceptions to this, obviously, but most of them adhere to such a principle. Anime adheres to this principle too, although there are anime movies which also feature disrupted time-lines such as ‘Paprika’.
Endings are usually closed in traditional screenwriting. Audiences are typically able to understand what happened. Sometimes, endings are left to the interpretation of the viewer, though this seems to be the exception.
Naturally, this is a simplification of a screenplay. When setting out on an anime voice acting project, a client will profit from learning as much screenplay structure as possible.
Understanding scenes is very important since that is what talent will be using to audition for a project. To understand a scene, we must view it as part of a larger work and break down its main components:
- Who are the characters in the scene?
- What do the characters want?
- Where is the conflict in the scene?
- Are there particular traits to the characters that should be represented vocally (ie: a particular accent, tone etc)?
When the script has been understood, in relation to anime in general and as a story in itself, it is necessary to translate it.
When translating anime, a good translator should try to make the dialogue crispy, sure, but primarily very accurate. Including turning points and crucial information that the audience needs is very important.
To Localize or Not to Localize
Localization is essentially adapting content to a local audience. In the case of anime, this would mean translating and then dubbing the anime for particular markets.
If the language is English, then we would create one product for the UK, another one for Australia, another one for the United States and so on and so forth. This is obviously too costly and cumbersome. The best alternative is simply to translate and later dub in a standard neutral English.
Voice Acting in Anime Project
Ok, so we have a translated anime script that we want to dub. Now what? Anime voice acting requires proper casting. Some important tips are:
When voice actors audition it is always best to direct them. It is useful to tell them what is expected and see if they can muster that type of performance. It is also vital to make sure that the talent understands the scene which they are reading.
Auditioning People Together:
Having actors audition together is beneficial. This is a good idea when the characters are paired together in the anime itself. It is always useful to see what sort of chemistry the actors may have and how well this would show in the anime.
When auditioning talent, it is important not to expect that talent will be found on the first round of auditions. Callbacks are therefore useful. Essentially, they are about bringing back talent and giving them another go, usually with different scenes and material.
Callbacks may show another side of voice actors, to judge if they will be the right choice. Moreover, an actor may seem right for one particular role but a callback may show that this voice talent may be more suited for a different role in that same project.
Using a Casting Director:
A casting director may be helpful when putting together very large anime voice acting projects. These professionals are able to undertake such an assignment, which could overwhelm an inexperienced person.
Alternatives for Casting Anime Voice Acting Projects
The following are the main ways of casting an anime voice acting project:
Acquiring Japanese talent in Japan, is probably the first idea that comes to mind when confronting an anime project in the original Japanese.
Japan is obviously the main hub for Japanese anime voice actors. Some of the most famous anime voice actors are Hiroshi Kamiya, Daisuke Ono, Mamoru Miyano, Kaji Yuki, and Kenichi Suzumura.
This is a costly proposition, however, and one that is challenging for clients living in other countries.
In case the project is not in Japanese, but rather is about dubbing anime, a client may look into several markets.
If the project is in English, clients may look for talent in big hubs (London, New York, Los Angeles, Texas) that are able to dub anime.
Some important anime voice actors (dubbing into English) are Justin Briner, Kira Buckland, Ian Sinclair, Vic Mignogna, Matthew Mercer, and Laura Bailey.
There is definitely a trend towards online voice auditions. This has changed the game completely. Before, voice talent had to be found physically and the process was costly and time-consuming.
Nowadays, there is a plethora of ways of finding voice talent remotely and there is a large online offer of voice talent. The problem is that many such systems may still be too clunky when putting together a very large anime voice acting project.
Indeed, when it comes to anime voice acting, we are talking usually about voicing or dubbing entire movies. This is a hefty situation that many online providers are not yet ready to handle.
The greatest trend today, is towards online marketplaces which are able to provide tailor-made and large-scale solutions. This is where online outsourcing marketplaces like Bunny Studio can help.
Bunny Studio can tackle projects of great complexity. They can translate entire anime scripts from Japanese into many other languages. They can also put together a cast to voice anime in the original Japanese or a cast that is capable of dubbing anime for audiences in other countries.
The first step towards tackling an anime voice acting project is translating the script. It is important to understand the building blocks of the script and of scenes.
It is crucial that the translator be a fan of anime as such. Translations should be accurate and written in a standard neutral English.
When casting anime voice acting projects, it is important to direct talent, audition people together, do callbacks and consider using a casting director.
Original Japanese voices may be found in Japan and English voices may be located in Los Angeles, New York, London or Texas. Alternatively, online voice auditions may be held, though this may perhaps prove ineffective for a very large project.
The best solution is to reach out to an online outsourcing marketplace. Bunny Studio, for one, is capable of crafting complex anime voice acting projects. They can translate anime scripts from Japanese into many other languages. They can also put together a cast to voice anime in the original Japanese or a cast capable of dubbing anime for audiences worldwide.