Tower of God is one of this season’s best anime. An animated fantasy adventure like little else on television right now. The series is currently available with English subtitles. A few weeks ago, Crunchyroll announced the cast of the series’ English dub. We had the privilege of doing a Q&A with some of the cast. Keep reading to learn more about how working on Tower of God from home has been along with their overall acting process!
Jane Auman: How has working remotely changed the recording environment? Is it more challenging to get good character interactions going?
Johnny Yong Bosch (Twenty-fifth Bam): Because of my band I’ve collected pieces of music gear for over 15 yrs. I’ve been fortunate enough to now have my own dedicated home studio with a professional set up. The biggest hurdle is the occasional lag in streaming picture to match lip movements.
Chris Hackney (Aguero Khun): It costs a lot of money to get broadcast ready and I’m nowhere near that, which is another reason why I’m so grateful to the engineers who’re basically doing sound sorcery in order to make me sound good. It really makes you appreciate the studios and being there. Normally I’d go into the studio with the director and the engineer to record and there’s a certain dynamic to that which I think helps make the show better. You’ve got this chemistry in person that being on a Skype call just doesn’t give you and it’s really hard.
There was a huge learning curve at first and it’s nowhere near perfect, but we made it work as best we can. I think the fans should really show a lot of love to the engineers, especially during this time, because they’re not only recording us remotely but then having to mix the show so that we all still sound like we recorded in the same place. It’s a massive undertaking for them and one I’m incredibly grateful for.
Jeannie Tirado (Endorsi Jahad): Amazon has been my best friend. I have added more foam panels to the walls of my studio, which you can order online. I highly recommend large diaphragm condenser microphones. I’m using a walk-in closet as my studio now, and I also highly recommend a Portabooth. It just makes it that much quieter so you don’t hear my neighbor’s Elton John. You just have to work with what you got!
Kira Buckland (Yuri Jahad): I was already doing a fair amount of voiceover work from home before the pandemic happened, but dubbing from home was an entirely new challenge because we have to match the video in real-time, and nobody was really set up for that from home. So there was a learning curve in that regard, but thankfully the studios were able to come up with a system that was surprisingly efficient for recording to picture remotely. I can’t wait until we can safely return to the studio, but I’m glad we have a way to continue working in the meantime.
JA: What do you do, if anything, to get “in character” for your roles? To get into the headspace of your characters?
JYB: To get into the headspace of your characters? I first imagine myself as the character, recall the mythos of the characters world and think about where I’ve been and where I’m hoping to go. Once you have that figured out you can just ‘be in the moment’.
CH: In general, it’s always about learning what makes the character/person tick and what made them who they are. We’ve all got a backstory that got us to who we are right this moment, and it defines who we are. There are also specific body motions or positions I do with certain characters. Like Khun for example, I tend to have my hand upturned for most of the performance like I’m making a point. Like that “aha!” sort of motion.
JT: If it’s a specific voice, I’ll record a reference for myself. If it’s a character that I have based on other things, I’ll watch scenes from TV or movies to get inspired. I just used Hela from “Thor: Ragnarok” for inspiration!
KB: Since voice acting is generally “cold reading” (we’re seeing the script for the first time as we’re actually working), there are a few things I rely on. Of course we listen to the original performance for each line in Japanese and use that as a baseline for then recording the line in English. I also look at the context of the line where possible (“What am I responding to?”) and the voice director will help provide guidance as well. Because everything is generally so fast-paced, you rely a lot on instinct, which is a big part of why it’s so important to be a trained actor if you want to get into voiceover.
JA: What do you feel is the most overlooked but to you interesting aspect of voice acting performance?
JYB: I really have no idea but I can tell you that for me the most interesting aspect of voice acting is experiencing the unique world each character lives in.
CH: I think two things. One is that it’s just Acting, like any other form of acting. We’re still telling stories and playing pretend like any other person on stage or screen, but you just can’t see our faces. The second is how voiceover is more than just “talking.” Like, think about some of your favorite Disney cartoons as a kid. Stuff like Lion King or Aladdin. You had some of the most memorable characters in the films that were just animals making sounds…except those weren’t animals. That was Frank Welker voice acting and creating those iconic sounds, along with all kinds of creatures. People like Frank Welker and Dee Bradley Baker have made their livings doing these incredible creature sounds that helped bring the movie or show to life for you, and it’s crazy that they’re kind of overlooked for this incredible and incredibly difficult talent.
JT: Voice acting, when you take it to your roots is just acting. You really have to go back to your roots when you hear the laundry or the loud music. As an actor, you can’t let it distract you. Doing voices and accents is fun, but that is all secondary to just acting. If you can’t enjoy the acting, don’t get into voice acting.
KB: I think a lot of people imagine that the entire cast of a project gets in a room and records together. But with most voice acting work, we record our parts individually. We’re generally not hearing what the other actors in the scene did, so we have to just take the information given and use it to create a convincing performance. Also, since we generally don’t get scripts in advance, there’s no real “study” or “rehearsal” – it’s very important to be able to think on your feet and make quick decisions.
JA: How have prior roles of yours, both in and out of anime dubbing, informed your current roles, particularly those in Tower of God?
JYB: I must admit, there is one character I’ve played in the past that is the shadow persona hovering behind my performance. Their stories are totally different but I felt the same vulnerability of both characters during the first record session of each. Both were also very original fictional worlds.
CH: I feel like I tend to inform the characters more than letting them inform each other. Every character, every aspect, every feeling has to come from a real place and finding those places in me to lend to who the character lets me learn new things about myself and how other people might think and work through those feelings. Every character is their own person, so finding the inner thought process in them as to why they’re feeling and saying a certain thing really informs me I think more than it does anything. If that makes sense?
JT: Everything that I did in the past helps inform me now. Endosi’s voice is a mix of the sweet girl next door character, plus I have done voices for military women, so I was able to draw on that. Everything I do is weaved into a future project.
KB: I guess you could say I play a lot of characters with personality types similar to Yuri. I really like playing those hot-headed characters for some reason, despite not being too much like that in real life. I just find it really fun, especially when I get to insult other characters!
JA: How does anime dub work compare to other media you’ve worked in? Does it present unique challenges?
JYB: It’s hugely different and the challenges are different every time as well. One challenge is simply being limited to your voice and having to express a range of emotions.
CH: I think dubbing/ADR is THE most challenging acting in voiceover. You’re basically trying to use the analytical & reason side of your brain to worry about timing and lip flaps while simultaneously using your creative side. It’s these two conflicting and different skills that you have to utilize at once and while it can be less freeing in a sense, it’s more exhilarating. It’s so different acting to something that already exists and trying to make it your own, versus when you work in original animation where you get to what you do and the animation team will work with you to bring something to life.
JT: Anime does present its own challenge; no other projects need you to match the timing so perfectly. In Fire Emblem, I had to match the timing but not the flaps [when the mouths of the characters move]. My computer runs the audio, my iPad shows the picture so I can watch the mouths, and then I have the script pulled up on my cellphone. Anime is very technical! You need the acting chops. It also helps if you’re into music – the timing from understanding music will help you!
KB: The main challenge when dubbing over something that’s already animated is that we have to strictly match timing. Sometimes a line might have awkward pauses or have to be slowed down or sped up, which can change the delivery and intent of the line. We obviously cannot change the animation, so we just have to roll with it and try to make it as natural as possible! But on the plus side, you get to see exactly what the scene looks like, so you can make sure that whatever you do is going to match visually (you don’t always get that in something like video games.)
And there you have it, the Tower of God talent’s side of things. What was your favorite response? Did you learn anything interesting about voice acting as an art form? I certainly did! Be sure to catch up on Tower of God on Crunchyroll!
Until next time, Tower of God fans.
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