SIFF 2019: An Interview with David Shields

During SIFF 2019, I saw a screener of the film Lynch: A History after a mutual friend put me in touch with the director/writer/producer, David Shields. Experimental films and I don’t have a good track record, so I was surprised when I enjoyed the film, which builds a narrative entirely out of already-existing media. The viewing also left me with questions, so I emailed them to David a couple days later. I received his replies the following day, but time constraints have prevented me from posting them until now. And if you missed the film during the festival, there’s some good news for you at the end of this interview.

1.) The book on which you loosely based this movie (Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season) deals with the NBA. Why did you decide to change your focus to the NFL and Marshawn Lynch in particular?

I tried various iterations of the basketball version, and it just didn’t work. The book felt dated; so, too, there wasn’t an NBA team anymore in Seattle, and my interest was in the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch. Every issue I tried to get to in Black Planet I could get to more powerfully via Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks.

I decided to focus on Marshawn Lynch because I was drawn to his use of silence as a form of protest: 1) the source of that silence in a history of Oakland—its legacy of troublemakers who often use brilliantly symbolic means to question society; 2) the deepening of that silence in Buffalo; 3) the silence going viral in Seattle; 4) then the silence becoming politicized later in Seattle and weaponized, in the best possible sense, back in Oakland; 5) and finally that silence being passed on as legacy on to the next generation of black athletes.

I’m also very interested in Marshawn Lynch being someone who tries to be true to himself in a capitalist, racist society that he’s trying to both exploit and oppose. As Albert Camus says, “The only way to deal with an unjust world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” No one is absolutely free, but Marshawn Lynch is thrillingly close.

2.) Why did you decide to make a film using only archival material, as opposed to a documentary that mixes archival with new material?

We approached Marshawn Lynch, and he declined to participate; he also said, via his representatives, that he would not impede the film, either. A lot of my previous books use the principle of appropriation/remix/transformation/free use as a generating strategy. This approach struck me as the best MO for this film, since the last thing we wanted for this film was a standard talking heads film. We wanted the film to feel like YouTube folk art, and in that way we thought the film would feel congruent with Marshawn Lynch’s ethos. So, too, we wanted the film to feel like a zigzag touchdown run, and the 700 clips—edited to within an inch of their life—gave us that compression, concision, velocity, violence.

3.) Did you have an idea of where the narrative would go before you looked at the clips, or did the clips dictate the direction the narrative went?

Yes, the film has very definite beats, and it even has—dare I say it?—a classical narrative structure. It’s the Prodgial Son Returneth. The film starts in Oakland, where Lynch is “made,” in many ways; in Buffalo, he tries to conform, but he finds himself treated poorly by the media; in Seattle he finds a resurrection of sorts, for at least a while, before that curdles on him. Finally, back in Oakland, he seems to have found a way to continue his legacy.

See, too, my answer to the first question: the film is really about Lynch’s use of silence as a form of protest, resistance, and defiance. And that silence goes through five unmistakable phases: origin, deepening, popularizing, politicization, legacy. That is the core of the film.

4.) Who found and compiled all these clips?

I worked with several people to find the clips. Primarily, Christian Palmer, James Nugent, and I found the clips. A few other people helped as well.

5.) How many editors did it take to stitch these clips together into a cohesive narrative? What sort of guidance (if any) did you give them? How long did this process take?

James Nugent and Christian Palmer and I are the main editors. It took us four years. I worked very closely with both of them on a frame by frame and day by day basis. I can’t overemphasize enough the massive work that James Nugent did on this film. He came onto the film after about a year, and he did everything from musical production to lead editor to tech guru to everything else.

6.) Did you have any rights or permissions issues in obtaining these clips or including them in the film? Are you able to show the film outside of film festivals, or do rights issues prevent you?

See my earlier answer. My copyright attorney is Robert Clarida, who advised me every step of the way. The principle of fair use/transformation guided our every decision: taking as brief a clip as possible, being sure to make a commentary via our juxtaposition, and making that commentary legible to the “average viewer.” The film has passed through all legal vetting and will be shown widely in theaters and via a streaming service.

My thanks again to David Shields for taking the time to answer my questions.

Interview with Aaron Dismuke, Part Three

Photo by @nattiedoes

Where we talk about Aaron’s personality and his love of gaming, among other things.

G: Which character have you done that’s the most like you?

A: Urushihara [aka] Lucifer in [TheDevil Is a Part-Timer! He starts out like, really sadistic, and that’s not like me, really. Yeah, I got a streak, but not as strong as his. Then again I can’t shoot lasers from my hands. That changes a man, I think.

He was really fun. So he starts out, like, [a] sadistic villain and this is a trend in my life. I’ve always wanted to be a real villain, and every time I do it they start out seeming like a villain, and then like (sighs), somebody beats them up, and then they just, turn over on their bellies like a little puppy and they’re like, “Oh, I’ll be your friend instead. C’mon!”

So he did that, only like, not really. He was like, “Yeah, screw it. I guess I’ll stay at your house, eat your food. Buy me a computer? Cool. Yeah, we’re good.”

So yeah, we’re very similar in that…if it weren’t for the fact that I, nepotistically ended up getting into FUNimation I think I would probably be as much of a [nerd] as him. I’d spend most of my spare time on my computer or gaming, or yeah, looking stuff up.

G: What games do you like to play?

A: Undertale. I’m really into that. I’m trying to beat up a certain skeleton. (Sighs) I’ve put 30 hours into this game. At least fifteen of them have been on him. (Sighs) He’s a real…I started out feeling bad and I don’t anymore. I don’t feel bad about massacring all of these sweet people I was so close to anymore. I’m just pissed off that it’s this difficult.

So yeah, I guess I am like Lucifer.

G: Which character have you played that’s the least like you?

A: Alphonse.

G & A: (Laugh)

A: Okay, I’m gonna bring that back into Undertale. I spent so long really pissed off at Alphonse for all the times that he would say, “Revenge is wrong. Don’t kill this person.” It made me so mad as a kid. As I was recording it, I was like, “Don’t kill the mass murderer because revenge is wrong? I’mma let this guy go free — like he’s actually, he’s an escaped convict, describing how much murder he plans to do, and Al’s like, ‘Revenge is never right.'” And he’s like, “Don’t do it, Marla*!” And then, Kimblee gets away, and then what does Kimblee do? He mass murders Ishbal and so many of them! If you could, like, put all the blood in this room it would be FULL. Because Al wants to feel good in that moment. What a little, self-righteous, stupid turd nugget! That’s how I felt. 

And then, I’m playing through Undertale. And, I’m just gonna spoil it. You can decide if you want to mark it if you even end up using this. 

**WARNING: UNDERTALE SPOILERS AHEAD**

I’m playing through it and I’ve done my neutral run, it’s my first time playing it and I accidentally kill Goat Mom. I didn’t even know, but I stuck with my choices. And then all the characters, they were like, popping up and talking to me as I go through the house of Goat Mom. And they’re like, “Yeah. Y’know, we’ve been stuck down here a long time and the king, his son, had a friend, a little human friend, and the human friend got sick and died, and he took him out, and the humans killed him because they thought that he was the one who killed the human son, the little boy, but he didn’t do it, and he didn’t fight back, and he dies through his wounds” and stuff, and it was so sad.

And at the end, I finally get past Asgore, and then Flowey pops up. I don’t remember if that was the neutral pass, but Flowey, I’ve beaten him, and he’s like, “Go on. Finish it. Kill me.” And I’m like, “Oh buddy. I can’t do that.” And this is after the Al thing, and I’m like, “Spare,” and he’s like, “Why? Why won’t you” — and at first I’m doing it because I’m sure that he’ll turn good. And he’s like, “If you don’t, I will come back. I will kill you.” And I’m like, “Spare.” And he’s like, “I’ll kill everyone you love.” And I’m like….”I won’t do it. I won’t! Spare!”

G: (Laughs)

A: (hits the table three times in rhythm to the words) No! It’s bad! Don’t! Even if it makes sense to. It does make sense to kill him, but I couldn’t, and I finally understood Al. Ten years later. I…I got it! I can’t go down to that level. I’ve gotta be good.

G: Seguing into Al, if you were Al –and I asked [a similar question] of Vic — would you have done anything differently in the quest to find your body?

A: Nope. Not anymore.

G: (Laughs)

A: There was a time. (Chuckles) I would’ve not tried to bring my mom back to life.

G: Yeah, that would’ve made sense.

A: (Laughs) I’m trying to think if there’s anything else. [Pause] Yeah, I still would’ve killed Kimblee. I mean, I wouldn’t have done it. I would’ve let Marla* do it. I would’ve been like, “Ahhh, are you sure about this, Marla*?” Like I would’ve talked to her, but I wouldn’t have physically stopped her, y’know?

G: Right.

A: So my conscience is clean? That’s what matters.

G: Yeah. “Oh, she did it.”

A: Yes (Laughs) That choice just ends in Marla* getting blown up, doesn’t it? It’s a bad choice.

G: If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what type of career would you be doing?

A: Weeping. I don’t know. I’d probably like, work at a restaurant as a waiter. I hope as a waiter. Maybe fast food. (Chuckles) No. I was thinking about doing law school whenever I first got out of college. So I guess I’d be like, y’know, try to help people get out of parking tickets. Negotiating down..

G: [N] could use help with that.

A: Yeah? 

N: Yeah.

A: It seems like a bad city to park in.

G: Last question: What are you working on now?

A: The show that I’m about to start directing and writing I don’t think has been announced yet, so I can’t say that**, but I just finished Nanbaka, which I was a small character in, wrote it, directed it. That’s still coming out, so it’s fairly current.

I just finished recording Fuuka for Caitlyn Glass, she’s directing that. It’s like a romance, mixed with some comedy, mixed with “they’re starting a band?” Light on the romance, honestly. It’s a major theme, but…it actually doesn’t beat around the bush as much as a lot of anime does. There end up being couples in it. People actually date. It features a kiss, so, y’know, be advised. Don’t let the youngins, y’know, hush them out of the room…before you start.

I’ve done a little recording for the next season of RWBY [pronounced “Ruby”]. We’re still in the process on that. I’ve really enjoyed that cuz it’s my first pre-lay work. Normally, y’know, I’m trying to match flaps, and in this, they’re drawing to what I do, which is so cool.

Also, I was in A-C-C-A [ACCA], which is a Chris Bevins show. He directed Drifters. He’s a cool guy. Aaand, that’s about it, right now.

* I think he’s referring to Marta, though he clearly says “Marla” on the recording.

**He’s most likely referring to Radiant, which has since been released.

Interview with Aaron Dismuke, Part Two

Photo by @nattiedoes

The cousin referred to is Justin Cook, who was a director, line producer, and actor on Fruits Basket and got Aaron an acting gig on that show –his first ever.

G: Besides having a cousin who directs anime, what advice would you have–

A: He produces now.

G: Does he produce now? Awesome! What advice would you have for someone trying to break into the industry, either as a voice actor or screenplay adapter or director?

A: So, I can only give advice for the voice acting. Because I don’t really do much live action. I’ve done like one live action thing and it was directly anime-related.

My advice is…okay, if you want to skip the thing that I should say, like eat your vitamins, drink your tomato juice, beets are good for you…act, go to a community theater, get out there, take acting classes or something, regardless of what else is going on, you need to be ready to spend money.

So, do that, and then the cheap way, if you want to just skip all that, if you’re like, “Nah, I’m pretty sure I got this,” just blind, you either find somebody who has a studio that can record you or you buy a nice microphone. You can get a microphone, a preamp that’ll go into your computer directly, you download Audacity, you can make a one-minute voice reel. Ideally, you would want to have a studio do it because they can impose background stuff and make it sound like it’s from something, y’know? Like, it’s all well and good to be like [imitates an impassioned voice reel], “You’re gonna get through this. You’re gonna be okay, baby.” But, if you have that, and it’s making little ER beeps behind it, and it’s playing sad violin music, then that’s gonna help you out when somebody’s listening to it. Helps put ’em in the scene.

So you want a one-minute voice reel. Once you have that, I know plenty of people who have actually managed to make money off of, like, voices.com [pay-to-play] type sites. I’m not gonna advocate one site in particular because I’ve never used them, but I’m interested in doing it. I might at some point. Those sites are a good way to try and see if anybody likes your auditions because…you can do it from anywhere. It’s like the writing thing. You can record off of that mic you just bought or at that studio. So that’s a good option to have, and a good way to start.

And then, after that you need to move to L.A., DFW [Dallas-Fort Worth], maybe Houston, maybe Toronto. I think New York might have a little bit, too. They’re not that many cities where it’s a possibility, where it exists as an industry. If you want to move past the voices[.com] phase, you need to move to one of those towns. And, for FUNimation specifically, you can send that demo reel to Tara, who is our acting coordinator. You can find an email address just by looking up “Audition, FUNimation.” Do not look up “voice actor, FUNimation.” “Audition, FUNimation.” And then if you send that voice reel and a resume that has acting credits, she will forward that to other directors. I have used people off of that.

There’s also an open audition list on FUNimation. That has like a six-month delay. So if you want to skip all of that stuff, just look up “audition FUNimation,” get on the open audition list and we’ll be in touch in about…six months to two years.

G: (Laughs)

A: It’s a long list.

Photo by @nattiedoes

G: Do you ever watch the dubs that you’ve done after you’ve finished [a] show?

A: Oh yeah. Almost always.

G: Is there one in particular that you’re proud of?

A: I’m very proud of Blood Blockade Battlefront. I’m also very proud of Escaflowne. We did a redub of that, and I went to some extremes in that, and that was right after I’d done the year of having four leads. So I felt, I dunno, I felt a lot more confident in my abilities.

I do not sound as pretty as Kirby Morrow, though. He was really pretty. I mean, he was good, but also pretty-sounding. But yeah, I’m very proud of the work I did on that. I feel I screamed out something that I will never be able to scream out again. Like, my throat gave in a way that I am no longer capable of giving (laughs). You can hear a little blood in some of those battle cries.

Remember the “I will protect her, I will protect her” bits whenever he’s like, in that giant battlefield. He ends up fighting against, uh…oh geez what’s his character? Sonny Strait plays him in my version. Okay, y’know the guy who likes Hitomi, too? What’s his name?

G: Allen.

A: Allen! Before me and Allen end up fighting, the buildup to that, I had some…crazy screams in that. And Caitlin Glass does SO good as Hitomi. I’m also really proud of the movie, where we all sound like, more adult. I think it worked for all of us.

G: Speaking of the Escaflowne redub, you mentioned that Kirby sounds “pretty” [in the original dub]. Did you take any acting cues from him or did you try to put a new spin on the character?

A: I listened to him, and I liked what he did. Okay, so what happened was, maybe I would’ve. It was a weird thing that went down because we recorded the movie first, which means we went in the opposite order of how the progression went for Japan and for uh, the [original] dub. So I auditioned for this…young, cute, teenage dude. Dude’s got a sword and he’s like, spunky. And it starts with this twenty-six-year-old looking savage, who’s like, “I’ll kill anyone who gets in my–” he’s just, really brutal, like, slaughtering about thirty soldiers right off the bat, then screaming about how this dragon armor is all his and laughing like a maniac.

Then he meets Hitomi. The dragon armor disappears and he blames her. He’s like, “I’ll kill you!” So I had to adapt and go in a way manlier direction to start. And then I enjoyed doing that so much, that I was like, “Young Von wants to be a man, too.” So, that was the big difference I’d say. Especially after his homeland’s destroyed, I took him in a direction where he wants to look stronger than he is. There are times where I show the chinks in that armor. That was the choice with Von: to show how badly he’s failing at being strong.

N: I like your take on it.

A: Thank you.

G: Our mutual friend gave to the Kickstarter campaign. Although she’s an Allen fan.

A: So it goes. I mean, neither of us get her. That was the other thing. There’s that whole scene where he’s like, “Oh no, go back. Go back to the Mystic Moon. I’m sure…I’ll always be with you.” I made the actor choice, I was like, “I’m just saying this to make her feel better. I don’t buy it.” This is to put a romantic bow [on it] so that we don’t both cry here. Obviously, we’re gonna be apart. I wouldn’t want to be with her, to be mentally with her as she finds someone else and moves on. That would be agonizing and vice-versa. And the alternative would be I’m mentally with her but not physically with her, and…we never move on? That’s just as depressing. So yeah, no.

G: We’ll listen for it.

A: (Laughs) Yeah! See if you can catch that subtext.

Interview with Aaron Dismuke, Part One

Aaron Mitchell Dismuke was born on October 13, 1992 in Tarrant County, Texas. His first voice acting gig was at age 9, playing Hiro Sohma in Fruits Basket. At age 12, he played the role of Alphonse Elric in Full Metal Alchemist, the “little brother” to Vic Mignogna’s Edward Elric. In 2016, he participated in the new dub of Escaflowne for FUNimation. Besides voice acting, he also directs and writes. He was assistant director on Ninja Slayer and Fairy Tale, director on Shomin Sample and Nanbaka, and adapted the scripts for Fairy Tale, Ninja Slayer, Nanbaka, and Tokyo Ghoul.

This interview took place on April 15, 2017 at Sakura-Con. Other than Sakura-Con staff, my partner and I were the only ones in the room with him while the interview was being conducted, which is why it ended up being 30+ minutes long. Because of this, I’ve split it into three parts. Some of the answers have been edited for clarity and relevance (we went off on some tangents). When we entered, Aaron was busy making paper airplanes. He made several before we finished.

G=Greg, A=Aaron, N=Nat (@nattiedoes)

Photo by @nattiedoes

G: Looking at the guest list, [I noticed] there are a lot of people here from Full Metal Alchemist. Have you had any chance to hang out during this convention?

A: Oh yeah, we always do. We were hanging out earlier, on the top floor. Typically, at a convention (I shouldn’t be telling you this, this is the insider scoop), but typically on the top floor of wherever hotel they’re keeping the guests in, they have some sort of, like, presidential suite. It’s just a nice big room where people can hang out after the Con events are over. So yeah, they’re all up there. Saw Caitlin [Glass] and Vic [Mignogna] and Chris [Sabat]. Caitlin’s mom is here, which is fun. That reminds me, I need to try and bring my mother up to a Con sometime. Back when I was a teenager, my mom would take me to every Con I went to until I was finally out of high school. So she has all these Con friends, she’s friends with all of these actors, too, and they just haven’t gotten to see her cuz I’m like, “Ah, well I don’t need you anymore. Shoo.” (laughs)

G: Speaking of Vic, I [read] that he had a memorable first encounter [with you] because you guys didn’t really meet while doing [Full Metal Alchemist].

A: Yeah. We met like in passing, maybe, like a handshake, not very meaningful until we understood how important the show was, y’know? I guess I was going to a Con — not as a guest, just visiting — in Dallas. And my mom, one of her work friends’s daughters was into the Con scene. I remember her emailing me this dossier of how to behave at Cons and what to expect and stuff. Y’know, like, cosplay, Pocky, all sorts of stuff like that. The little dance thing that was popular back then? They would have that one song going, on a boom box? That should be really good for your recording.

So I go, we’re hanging out, and he was like, “Aaron!” He finds me, and he’s, surrounded by all of these girls, pulls me in, and he’s like, clearly looking to get a diversion going, he’s like, “Do you ladies know who this is?” because we’d all just been announced for FMA, and so they’re like, “No,” and he’s like, “This is my little brother from Full Metal Alchemist,” and they’re like, “Aaahh!!” and they’re like, “We gotta call our friend,” and so they call their friend and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, she’ll be so excited,” and it’s really amped up and then I hear, it was, really weird, like…the sound a whale would make when pulled out of water. If you could still hear it. It was an eerie and terrifying sound. And she was very large and in full Sailor Moon cosplay — and when I say large, I mean Amazonian style — she’s like, seven feet [tall]…I’m exaggerating. I was twelve, thirteen at the time. She was very tall and she starts, just, running at me, and I run away. I came back about two, three minutes later, and she’d calmed down a little, and it was good after that.

Yeah, Vic pretty much taught me how to do Cons then. Showed me through example how to treat fans. He taught me how to sign an autograph. I used to do it in cursive, like I used to be like, “A……..” — like the loopy ‘A’ — “A…R..” And it was an act of kindness, certainly, but it was also an act of necessity, because we were next to each other in autograph lines so often, and I was slowing it waaay down. He’s doing the Zorro mark, and I’m like, “D….I.. So[ry]- I can’t talk. I can’t do both of these at the same time. This is really…I’m just learning cursive.” He taught me how to expedite the signature process because it’s less about having an identifiable signature than it’s about actually communicating with people.

G: He gets pretty big lines. I saw his line today, and it’s —

A: Yeah, he does. These days, we just do separate lines, because…yeah. [But] he’s got the balance down [between moving the line quickly and interacting with each fan].

G: Staying with Vic, he calls you the little brother he’s never had. So is he the older brother you’ve never had?

A: Yeah, sure. I’ve got a little brother. I try to learn from Vic’s example towards me in behaving and acting towards Jake. So y’know, I prank him a lot, throw snowballs at him…Just kidding. There’s good stuff, too.

G: (Laughs) It’s all good. So one last thing that I thought was kinda funny. According to your IMDB profiles, Vic is five feet eight-and-a-half inches tall*, and you’re six feet four and three-quarter inches tall.

A: Six foot three and three-quarter inches tall. They got it wrong.

G: They got a few things wrong.

A: This is slander!

G: (Laughs)

A: I’m not six-four. I’m afraid of being six-four. I’m probably six-four, but I go with six-three and three-quarters. Because I’m afraid of being too much taller.

G: Considering the roles you play in Full Metal Alchemist, do you ever kid him about life imitating art like this?

A: Oh yeah. Certainly. Those jokes flow like wine. That’s a really common one. The other one is people like to drop “arm-and-a-leg” references a lot. I think everybody has that thing, that meme that your name has been turned into or something about you has been turned into. Something that whenever you meet someone, you just need to accept that they’re gonna say this. When I meet a random stranger and I’m like, “My name’s Aaron,” they’re like, “A-A-Ron!” because of the Key & Peele [episode], y’know? So for us, we got the tall and short. We got the, “Y’know this cosplay cost me an arm-and-a-leg.” I really dislike the one where it’s an awesome Al cosplay, it says ‘but this cosplay costs you an arm and a leg’ and it’s like, “No, it didn’t! It cost me–

G & A: –my entire body!”

A: Get it straight! Don’t you trivialize my suffering in the name of your meme (laughs).

G: Since you started voice acting so young, has your approach to the characters you play changed?

A: Oh yeah. I was a good reader, but I don’t see myself as having gotten any good at acting until I was twenty. When I was twenty, I got three leads: Blood Blockade Battlefront, The Heroic Legend of Arslan, and Terror in Resonance. And Dragonar Academy, so four, actually. It was all in the same year. And after that I was able to call myself an actor. Before that, no, not really.  I was just a good reader. I could speak clearly without stumbling. And if you literally fed me a read, I could nail that. I was very good at parroting. But my choices were pretty hit and miss. With Al, I gradually learned how to act and it really helped that I wasn’t looking at flaps at all because his mouth isn’t there. So those were good training wheels that allowed me to act a little bit more freely. But a lot of it is the director speaking through my mouth. 

They did a great job with that. I mean clearly, from the way that people react to it they really sold me, because otherwise I would’ve been hot trash.

Photo by @nattiedoes

G: I noticed besides voice acting, you also do writing and directing.

A: Yes. I do.

G: Which one, if any, do you prefer?

A: Gee, that’s tough. So, writing is really fun but you make your own schedule. I enjoy the creative aspect [of it]. Like, the Japanese, they repeat a concept often enough, and you’re like, “Okay, people get it.” That gives me a place of freedom. I can instead post some analysis into the concept. Or, if they make a reference to something like yokai, it’s like, alright, that’s not necessarily a phrase that has meaning, so I can either contextualize it, like, “Is that a yokai or a spirit?” I can do that, or I can figure out what a good equivalent is for the Japanese. And that’s a fun, problem-solving exercise.

There’s something really satisfying about directing and writing the same shows. Nanbaka is the show I just wrapped. I adapted the scripts and then I proceeded to direct the people. It’s really cool to watch it go most of the steps from [Japanese] to what it is in English. And it’s really satisfying to write a joke and then have your actor laugh at it. That does something for me. Writing if I’m not [directing] is kind of weird because it’s like, “Am I good? Do you like me? Why’d you rewrite that? Why’d you rewrite that?!” So it can be a little nerve-wracking if you’re just doing writing. Doing both is really fun.

Acting is probably still my favorite because it takes a lot of the pressures off, I feel like. Maybe it’s just cuz it’s second-nature….third nature, let’s go third nature…but I’ve been doing it long enough to where I feel very comfortable in a FUNimation voice acting booth.

G: Right.

A: But…it’s a whole other story. You try to put me in a theater, I’m nervous as heck. Like, I’m…shaking. But in a FUNimation voice acting booth, I feel pretty at home, so I can just try to be another character, and it’s, like, totally stress-free at this point for me, whereas directing and writing, they still have some pressures like, the possibility of failure, and you got to meet your deadlines. So, acting favorite, directing and writing for me are like, married at the hip right now, so……yeah. 

I think that I might keep writing longer just because I can do the writing gig from anywhere. So if I ever wanted to move to L.A. or spend a month in England…not that I have plans to do that, but y’know, if I ever did…then I could keep writing. I couldn’t keep directing or do those [kind of] things, so writing is sort of the gig that affords more freedom.

*currently listed as being 5’10” tall, which is still shorter than Aaron

Interview with Vic Mignogna, Part Two: Star Trek, Fans, and Fan Conventions

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Photo by Natalia

In the second part of my interview with Vic, we talk about fans, fan conventions, and his first love — Star TrekYou can find part one of the interview here.

G: Since you’re a big fan of Star Trek, and you’re in a [Star Trek] web series, have you ever gone to their conventions and have you ever met the other people —

V: Oh dude —

G: –who played Kirk?

V: Seriously?

G: (laughs)

V: When I was a little boy, I made my own uniforms and went to Star Trek conventions. There weren’t anime conventions. We’re talking, I mean, I don’t want to scare anybody, we’re talking forty years ago. Forty. Years ago. In fact, I don’t even know if you know this, but comicons [comic cons] began as Star Trek conventions. Star Trek started the whole idea of fan conventions.

I went and I met these actors, and I was like — y’know — I was wide-eyed and so enamored that I was actually shaking hands with Dr. McCoy. I was actually standing in front of Scottie and there’s Sulu and Uhura and.. I couldn’t believe it. Chekov. The only person I never met, he never did a convention that I was able to attend, was Bill Shatner. So imagine my elation when I was asked to be represented by the man who represents William Shatner at the events that he does, like an event manager. Books you into comicons. So he started booking me into events with Bill. And he and I have now done many events together, we’ve had dinner together, we’ve hung out together, we went sightseeing in Dubai together. I can honestly say he’s a friend, and the little boy in me is over the moon that these people that made such a big impression on me and literally determined, in many cases, the — y’know — the trajectory of my life I now know, personally.

Everytime I see Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura, she says, “Hey, baby, c’mere. Gimme a hug, gimme a kiss.” She’ll hug me and give me a kiss. And George Takei and Walter both know me — Walter Koenig who played Chekov — both know me on a first-name basis. Bill [Shatner]. I had the privilege of introducing Leonard Nimoy at Phoenix Comicon a few years ago. So it’s really, it’s really a thrill to…to have come full circle, so to speak.

G: What’s the most memorable fan encounter or interaction you’ve had?

V: If you had asked me that ten years ago, I might’ve have one, but I’ve had too many. I’ve had too many significant, moving, impactful fan interactions. I’ve done several Make-A-Wish Foundation [events] with fans. I’ve had the privilege to talk with fans who have gone through horrific loss and tragedy that…shared with me that my work was somehow able to make an impact on them or encouraged them through a difficult time in their lives. Those moments will never be lost on me. I will always be humbled and really really overwhelmed by the fact that something that I’ve done has meant something to people.

I have had several fans come up to me in the course of an autograph session and…lean over the table and look at me and say, “I know how much this is going to mean to you when I say what I’m about to say. You are my William Shatner.” And I just, I just almost tear up. The thought — you know what I mean — that my work could mean anywhere near to somebody what he and Star Trek meant to me when I was young is a blessing beyond what I would ever have imagined.

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Photo by Natalia

G: As was mentioned [by a previous interviewer], it is Sakura-Con’s 20th anniversary. What are some of your favorite things about this convention?

V: Well, I’ve done so many shows that were poorly organized and poorly executed, poorly planned, that I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for shows that are well-executed and well-planned and well-organized. Sakura-Con is definitely one of the best I’ve been to, and considering how big it is, that makes it even more of an accomplishment: that it would be this big, and they still are just so on top of things.

I sat in opening ceremonies this morning, and watched that drum performance, and I’m just sitting there in the front row, looking at the lights, looking at the camerawork on the screen — the image mag on the screen — looking at the fog machines, and thinking, “These people know how to put on a show. This is fantastic.”

So that’s one element of it. The other element of it is the kindness of the fans. It’s just such a wonderful fandom. I mean, fans, wherever I go, are awesome, but I can truly say that my experience at Sakura-Con is, in its entirety, every element of the convention experience is…stellar. It’s as good as it could be.

Next time: The final part of my interview with Vic Mignogna, where we get into his love of music and more!

Interview with Vic Mignogna, Part One: Acting, Voice Acting, and Caller ID

Back in April, I had the chance to interview Vic Mignogna (last name pronounced Min-YAH-nah) for Sakura-Con 2017. The interview was a panel-style interview, where each member of the press went in turn. Out of five press groups, I went third. Helping me with the interview was my photographer, Natalia (Nat), who took all the photos you see here, as well as most of the photos during the Con.

Because the interview lasted about 20 minutes, I’ve split the interview into three parts. All questions asked in the first part are presented in their original order, except for the third question, which came in the second part of our interview, but I felt made more sense to include here.

G=Greg, V=Vic, N=Nat

G: We’ll start at the beginning. What first got you interested in voice acting?

V: I never set out to be a voice acting. I just loved acting. And what started me on my love of acting, to be quite honest, was Star Trek. When I was nine, ten, eleven, my parents had just divorced, and my mom and I were living in a little apartment in Monroeville, Pa. I came home one day from school and turned on the television — this little black and white 19 inch television — laid down on the floor in front of it, and here was this TV show, Star Trek. I watched it and I loved it. So the next day I watched the next episode and I became obsessed with it. I loved the stories they told, I loved the characters, I loved the characters relationships to each other, I loved the imagination of it all…and it made me want to do what they were doing.

So I found myself going back to school and auditioning for school plays, and then taking acting classes and going to acting camps: summer camps for acting, drama, theater. That took me into high school and college, continued acting, continued auditioning for things, performing any chance I got. And…that took me into my adult life, auditioning for community theater, and church programs, anything, again, to just…act. Do something I love doing.

And one day somebody said to me, “Hey, you should try auditioning for this place in town here in Houston. They dub Japanese anime and they need actors.” Well, all I heard was, “They need actors.” And I went and auditioned. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I had no idea where it would ever go or what would ever become of it. To me it was another opportunity to act, which was something I fell in love with when I was nine and ten years old. And that’s how I got into the industry, and….I never set out to be a voice actor. I just wanted to act. And voice acting gave me the opportunity to do it.

G: Who were some important mentors for you, and how did they help you with acting or voice acting?

V: Well, I never had any voice acting mentors because I’m kind of the old guy in the industry it seems now. I dunno how that happened. How did that ever happen?! But, y’know, I’ve been doing it for almost twenty years now.

As far as acting is concerned, I’ve always enjoyed the work of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy. The people that were in Star Trek made a big impression on me. I don’t really follow any particular actors except I have such nostalgic affection and feelings for the Star Trek actors. But as far as voice acting is concerned, I didn’t know anybody. I mean, everybody talks about Mel Blanc, who was the voice of Porky Pig and…Donald Duck, and Bugs Bunny, and all that. He was amazing. But that’s not anime. You don’t really do voices like that in anime. Anime is a little more grounded in reality, in more real people kind of thing. So, I didn’t really know anybody in the voice acting world when I started doing it, didn’t have any mentors.

G: Who are some voice actors you admire now and why?

V: [Thinks about it] Laura Bailey, Caitlin Glass, Steve Bloom. People that I know personally and that I’ve done a lot of shows with and I have an enormous amount of respect for their abilities.

G: When you’re doing an English dub for an anime, do you take any acting cues from the original Japanese performance, or do you create your performance separate from the original?

V: No absolutely. Absolutely. There are three factors in a voice actor’s performance. The first factor is what the director wants. He’s ultimately responsible for the dub, right? So his ideas and his thoughts on what he wants you to do with the character, how he wants you to perform a certain thing, that’s one of the factors.

Another contributing factor is the actor himself. My ideas about how I want to do something. A good director will hire a good actor and then let the actor do what he does. Not try to control him and puppet him and make him imitate [the director], “Okay, do it just like I do it,” but let the actor do what he does. And hopefully the actor will bring some interesting things and some fresh ideas and some good performances [to the table].

So what the actor brings to the table is one factor, what the director brings to the table is another factor, and thirdly, what you mentioned: the original Japanese. Sometimes, the original Japanese is spot-on. Like, you don’t even have to hear the original Japanese to have the same instinct to do exactly what they did. But then there are other times when what the Japanese guy did does not really work in an English setting. Sometimes a reaction might be bigger or wackier than you think it should be. Sometimes he’ll make some interesting sound and you want to do something equivalent, but not the same thing. Or sometimes he’ll have a line of dialog that may not make any sense in English.

So, sometimes the Japanese actor will have some really good ideas, emotional cues and performance ideas and you’ll hear it and be like, “Oh I love that. That’s what we should do.” But then sometimes you’ll have different ideas and sometimes the director will have different ideas. So those are the three different factors.

G: So switching to kind of a…not as serious question.

V: Okay…

G: Do you ever call up your friends and leave them messages as different characters?

V: [Big laugh] Y’know what, I used to do that until the dawn of caller ID. I literally used to do it for fun until caller ID came up and then your friends knew who was calling, so it kind of defeats the purpose.

I called a friend once and I left him a message and I thought it was the funniest thing ever. I was like the landlord of some building and made up this huge story. I thought it was the funniest thing ever. And he called me back and goes, “Thanks for the message,” and I’m like, “What?” He goes “Caller ID, dude. I knew it was you.” And I’m like [bangs the table with his fist].

G: Which characters did you used to do?

V: Oh it wasn’t even a specific anime character. It was just some weird…some weird, y’know, hic. [does a Southern accent] Texas. Y’know. Kinda guy. I’m calling from so-and-so. Come on down to the office. [normal voice] Whatever. Just making stuff up. Again, it was funny until they knew it was you, and then, like, what’s the point?

N: Y’know you can put star 67 before the number and then it blocks caller ID.

V: I have heard that. Yes. I have heard that. I should do that.

WOMAN’S VOICE (Sakura-Con employee): Don’t encourage him.

N: Sorry.

Next time: My interview with Vic Mignogna continues!

Sakura-Con 2015: The Quickening–Day One (which includes panels, a lost item, and an interview with Sumi Shimamoto)

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Back in 2005, I went with a friend to Anime Boston.  We went for the first day only, with him driving back that evening as my contacts sucked all the moisture out of my eyes.  Digital photography had been out for a few years, but I still had a film camera, and I filled a roll.  That was the first anime convention I attended.

Two years ago, I went — also for the first day — to Sakura-Con.  This time, I took photos with a point-and-shoot digital camera and wrote about my experience on this blog, while mentioning my experience in Boston.  Sadly, Sakura-Con has since gotten rid of day passes, so the only passes available to the public are weekend passes.

My Sakura-Con 2015 journey began when I found out I could apply for a press pass as a blogger, and did.  Even better, I scored an interview with Sumi Shimamoto, who has done voice acting for as long as I’ve been alive (I’m not speaking metaphorically; her career started the same year I was born).  So, with one bag carrying my laptop and a notebook, and another bag carrying my DSLR camera, I was ready for Friday’s festivities.

10-11 am, Opening Ceremonies (Main Stage, 4A)

I was a bit late to the opening ceremonies, due to a delayed bus and technical difficulties with one of the computers used to register press and industry representatives (i.e. it died).  Still, I was able to catch part of the opening performance…

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…including the opening video, despite technical difficulties (they played it again at the closing ceremonies, glitch-free), before heading to my first panel.

Note: all the information provided during the panels was provided by the panelist(s), unless included in brackets or otherwise noted.

10:30-11:30, Manga Translation 101 (Panels 4, 4C-4)

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This panel was conducted by my friend, Zack Davisson.  He is a translator for Dark Horse (Satoshi Kon) and Drawn & Quarterly (Shigeru Mizuki).  After opening in Japanese and finding another convention goer who could speak it well enough to converse with him, he switched to English and provided a brief chronology:

1983: reads his first translated manga (I Saw It)

1988: takes Japanese as only one of two junior high school students in the class (he memorized phrases, but didn’t really learn them)

2000: moves to Japan as part of the JET program (this is when he really learned Japanese)

2005: receives MA in Japanese while in Japan, with a focus on Edo period ghost stories

2007: starts his website, Hyakumonogatari (literally, “100 stories”)

2011: translates his first manga (Showa: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki, with the fourth and final part scheduled to come out on July 21)

2014: nominated for the Japan-US Friendship Commission Translation Prize

He then gave his three tips for being a manga translator:

1. Learn Japanese

2. Learn More Japanese

3. Learn English

Rei, Asuka, and Shinji running away ;-)

Rei, Asuka, and Shinji running away 😉

But what does the word “manga” mean?  It comes from the artist Hokusai, an artist during the Edo period, who wanted to separate his serious work from his doodles (man=frivolous, ga=pictures).  There are four different ways to translate manga:

1. direct translation (manga=frivolous pictures): sucks as translation

2. usage translation (manga=comics): a bit better

3. interpretive translation (manga=Japanese comics): the best and most common kind of translation

4. no translation (manga=manga)

Because interpretive translation is the most common kind, a writer is usually attached to one translator, so that there’s continuity between the translations.

Rules of Manga Translation:

1. Everything goes in the box.

The speech balloons are certain sizes, and while the translator can request horizontal or vertical balloons, all the words in the speech bubble must stay in the bubble.

2. Translation shouldn’t sound like a translation.

This is often the difference between a fan translation and a professional one.

3. Everyone shouldn’t sound the same.

One must pay attention to voice, tone, and character.  The reason this is a bigger problem with Japanese than with other languages is that English is a low context language (the meaning is in the words) while Japanese is a high context one (the meaning is in the situation).

After these rules, Davisson threw up a few pages from Satoshi Kon’s Opus in the original Japanese with direct translations, to see how we would translate the work, keeping in mind the rules above.  There are other issues.  In Japanese, there aren’t swear words; instead, they use personal pronouns to denote how they feel about others.  In some cases, words don’t translate well (oftentimes, you can toss out those words).  Japanese manga also includes sound effects for everything.  The most difficult one to translate is “shin,” which means “silence.”  Davisson usually translates it as ….  He then showed us his translated panels to see how we did.

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Gogo Yubari, Kill Bill Volume 1

Before answering questions from the audience, he gave us some advice:

1. Practice!

To get good at something, you need to speed about 10,000 hours on it, or at least six years of Japanese.  A great way to practice is to buy a Japanese manga that’s been translated into English, translate the original, and then compare your translation to the professional one.

2. No scans!

In other words, don’t do fan translations.  “I’m not judging you if you do them,” Davisson said, “but if you are, stop now.”  Fan translations make it difficult for companies to do professional ones, since the Japanese companies look on those kinds of translations as stealing.  When American companies hire translators, they will do a background check to see if the translator has done fan translations.  If so, that person will be blacklisted.

3. Good luck!

While practice, networking, and face time are important, it ultimately comes down to luck.  And, unlike other languages, one can’t use CAT (computer aided translation) to help translate manga because of the difficulties in translating a high context language to a low context one.  Davisson recommended going on proz.com, which offers freelance translation work, for practice and for building up a portfolio.

During the Q&A, someone asked if Davisson had met Mizuki.  He did briefly, but he said that manga artists in Japan are considered untouchable and are kept away from the public.  Usually, one has to go through their agents.

For people interested in manga translation as a career, he warned that translating doesn’t pay much; you usually need a second job to support yourself.  Another problem is how to get out of the manga bubble.  With Showa: A History of Japan, Davisson fought for the word “manga” to be excluded from the title, as that would limit their audience (there’s a bigger audience for WWII history than there is for manga).  Still, with the success of Attack on Titan, he’s hopeful that the increased audience will mean more leverage to translate more manga, since the U.S. lags behind the foreign markets of China, Korea, Spain, France, and a few other countries in manga sales outside Japan.

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*Lunch*

I ended up having an enjoyable conversation with a gentleman while eating my overpriced personal pizza at the back of the Exhibition Hall, though I forget what was said.

12:30-1:30, An Interview with Sumi Shimamoto (Press Only, 208)

When I received permission to interview Sumi Shimamoto, the email stated that she would be doing a press conference.  Thinking I would be sharing the room with others, I only wrote down three questions.  When I arrived at the interview site, all of us discovered that we would have 10 minutes of one-on-one time with her. I had the second-to-last time slot (at 1:10), so I added more questions and milled about in the hallway until it was my turn.

As this would be my first celebrity interview (and my first interview since working for my high school newspaper as a freshman), I was nervous.  Fortunately, I made Shimamoto-san laugh on my first question, and the interview went smoothly from there, despite the fact that I had to write quickly to transcribe her answers.

You can read the full interview here.

Two interesting side notes:  I later remembered hearing her answer about The Sixth Sense when watching a Japanese show devoted to voice actors, particularly older voice actors, which means she must’ve been on that show.  Also, when I was researching her on IMDB, I came across a movie she starred in called Unico in the Island of Magic.  A few weeks earlier, I had been trying to find an anime about a unicorn who is whisked from place to place, but I couldn’t remember the title.  Looking up the plot summary of the original film (The Fantastic Adventures of Unico), I realized I had found my movie.  ありがとうございます、島本さん!

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A cosplay duo

2-3 pm, Race and Ethnicity in Anime (Panels 8, 206)

My afternoon panels started with this one, hosted by two recent female college graduates from Portland, one of whom wrote on The Last Airbender for her thesis.  Not surprisingly, the panel was very academic, which means it included interesting information sometimes delivered dryly.  One of the better parts included slides of different anime characters, during which the audience had to guess the character’s race, ethnicity, and nationality.

The panelists explained that Osamu Tezuka, the godfather of Japanese anime, was influenced by Walt Disney, and Tezuka influenced Miyazaki, which is why characters in anime often look Western or of mixed nationalities.  There are other reasons.  One is a phenomenon called mukokusei: lacking clear Japanese national, racial, or ethnic markers, culturally odorless (definition provided by researcher Dana Fennell).  This, in turn, is caused by four factors:

1. Anime as a fantasy-scape

Everything’s exaggerated (think of the “colorful hair phenomenon”).

2. Anime as cultural capital

Since the Meiji Era, and particularly since WWII, Japan has been reconstructing its cultural identity to resemble the West, and anime and manga is a 4 billion dollar industry in the U.S.

3. Lack of production funding

The basic face has to be easy enough for different people to be able to draw it, and on a limited budget.

4. Globalization of Western beauty standards

For example, lighter skin is considered prettier than darker skin.

Naruto group photo

Naruto group photo

We then discussed identifiers of race and ethnicity (for the former, things like hair and skin color, hair type, and speech patterns; for the latter, clothing patterns, language and accent, values, food, customs, etc.)  and discussed a study by Amy Shirong Lu, in which pictures of anime characters removed all clothing, color, and background signifiers and asked people to identify the character’s race.  Lu found that the race tended to match that of the person looking at the picture, with 82% of the characters picked as white, despite only a quarter of the characters qualified as consensus characters, and 205 out of 341 having a known nation of origin or race.

Finally, Japan thinks of race differently than Americans do:

1. 98.5% of the people living in Japan are Japanese (compared to America being almost 78% Caucasian).

2. The largest minorities in Japan are Asian (Chinese, Korean, Ainu, Ryukyan).

3. You can live in Japan all your life and still be considered a foreigner.

Therefore, who we consider to be minority characters in anime would not be considered minority characters by the Japanese.  As one of the panelists pointed out, how many Koreans do you see in Japanese anime?

4. Japan has radically different perceptions of race, cultural appropriation, and two-dimensional [anime] characters than the West.

When Avril Lavigne’s Hello Kitty video aired in the West, many writers thought she was culturally appropriating Japan.  Japan, on the other hand, loved it.  From their point of view, she can never be Japanese, so it’s fine to show her appreciation of all the touristy, kawaii things about Japanese culture.

(For more information on the studies included in this panel, you can search EBSCO)

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Asuka Langley from Evangelion

 3:30-6, Anime Music Video Contest (Main Stage, 4A)

I briefly checked out the AMV Contest, just long enough to lose a reusable bag while grabbing some water and to see and vote on the trailer contest, for which I picked Attack on Badassdom.

4-6pm, Ghost Without a Face: Lady Librarian Presents an Investigation of the Origins of Spirited Away’s Kaonashi (Panels 7, 3AB)

 Like the previous panel, this one was also very academic, but delivered with enough wit and fascinating information as to feel like you’d just attended the best university lecture on the subject.  For those of you who’ve only seen the English dub of the film, Kaonashi is No-Face.  And yes, Lady Librarian is a librarian.  Also, every time the mic cut out, she said, “Mononoke-e-e-e,” which is an unknown possessing spirit that traces its origins from the Heian Period in Japan, which I learned thanks to this panel.

If I were to go over all the information covered by Lady Librarian, it would take you as long to read it as it took me to witness it.  To summarize: the focus of the panel was to discover what kind of spirit Kaonashi is by discussing the different spirits and yōkai present in Japanese folklore and mythology, particularly ones that share traits with him.  What makes it difficult is that he seems to blend several spirits together, yet by combining folklore and Jungian psychology, Lady Librarian convincingly argued that Chihiro brought Kaonashi with her, and that Chihiro is a Miko, a child of the gods.  If Haku is her animus, then Kaonashi is her shadow-self, and she must resolve her connection with Kaonashi before she can resolve her connection with Haku (which she does).

You're under arrest!

You’re under arrest!

So, what led Lady Librarian to this conclusion?

1. Chihiro meets Kaonashi at the same point on the bridge as she met Haku.

2. He exhibits traits of Nō drama (his mask), a Gaki (has an enormous belly, spindly necks, and skinny arms), a Hikikomori (he pulls his mask inward, hasn’t developed a private and public persona — like a mask), and a Muenbotoke (a ghost who died without a family to take care of him or her in the afterlife), but is not completely one or the other.

3. The full title of the movie in Japanese is Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi.  Kamikakushi is a folk legend in which a god steals someone, usually from a remote mountain village.  When they are returned, they sleep for three days, after which time they either go insane or receive magical powers. In addition, a Kamikakushi parallels death and rebirth as a metaphor for the journey from childhood to adulthood.

4. Chihiro, like a Miko exorcising a demon, asks Kaonashi three questions before he goes on his rampage in the bathhouse: 1. Where are you from?  2. Who are you?  3. What do you want?  She also admonishes, purifies, and pacifies him.

5. Traditionally, someone has one name as a child in Japan, and then would claim a different name as an adult, which explains why Chihiro’s name is taken from her by Yubaba, only to be returned when she’s matured enough to claim it back.

For more information on ghosts and yōkai, Lady Librarian recommended The Catalpa Bow by Carmen Blecker, which is the best book on Japanese mythology, and Zack Davisson, who is the resident expert on yōkai, specifically mentioning his panel on Gegege no Kitaro on Sunday.

While the slides and notes aren’t up on her website yet, you can read more interesting facts about Japan on her website: http://ladylibrarian123.blogspot.com/

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Bender from Futurama

*Dinner*

I couldn’t find Subway (it’s on the fourth floor), so I ate a delicious tuna sandwich at Goldberg’s To Go with potato salad and a pickle.  Not crazy about the pickle, but the potato salad was good.  I then went to Lost and Found, but no one had turned in my bag, so I left my contact information with them, just in case it was turned in later.

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The Joker

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And more amazing costumes!

6:15-7:15, Awesome Anime Openings (Panels 7, 3AB)

I only saw a few of these, including one called Exploding Man, which is self-descriptive.  Bizarre anime openings is more like it.

6:45-7:30, Anime Twitter Panel (Panels 4, 4C-4)

A stamp for 18+ panels

My stamp for 18+ panels

This was the only panel I needed my stamp for, and I arrived 15 minutes late.  I could’ve saved myself the trouble.  The panel is described thus in the Souvenir Program: “Are you a part of Anime Twittter?  Do you have no idea what Anime Twitter is?  Come visit us, talk about the community, make some new friends, and learn how to make great posts in 140 characters or less!”  In actuality, there was a screen filled with Tweets too small to read and a panel of three guys who didn’t do much.  One of them kept telling people to get off their phones and talk to people and then yelled at the ones who left.  I waited until he was distracted and escaped with a group of cosplayers.

7:45-8:45, Final Fantasy XIII with Rachel Robinson (Panels 2, 4C-2)

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Confession: I haven’t played Final Fantasy XIII.  I haven’t watched anyone else play Final Fantasy XIII.  And yet I went to this panel, because why not?  It ended up being the only guest panel I attended, and proved that you don’t have to have a structured panel to have a great one.   Robinson started by going into her background, which includes watching Hannah Barbara cartoons and mimicking the characters, and later taking a dialect class with Larry Moss, who can do roughly 75 different dialects (when asked about it, Robinson says she can do about 20).  Currently, she’s involved in Dragon Ball: Xenoverse.  She then opened it up to questions, which she answered until the panel ended, even taking photos with fans in the hallway after the panel was done.  Looking at her bio on IMDB, I also see that she’s a classically trained pianist and has perfect pitch.

In FFXIII, she plays a character named [Oerba Yun] Fang (Wikipedia entry).  Since Fang is from a planet “Down Under,” the writers chose to give her an Australian accent.  Robinson was super-excited to be in it, as she knew how big a deal it was, especially as Fang is one of the playable characters.  She didn’t know there would be two other games in what would form a mini-trilogy, which made her even more excited (though she only appears briefly in the second game).  While she also read for the parts of Vanille, Hope, and Lightning, she’s glad she didn’t get the part of Hope.  And, despite acting in video games, she doesn’t own a console gaming system because, if she did, she would “play for hours.”

Someone asked her about the unusual relationship between Fang and Vanille.  She said they adore each other, but it’s meant to be an unusual and ambiguous relationship, though some of her most fun interactions were with Snow [another playable character].  When asked who her favorite villain was, she said, “Cid Raines is kind of an asshole,” and prefers bad guys who hide in the background before revealing themselves [she must love Kefka from FFVI].  Also, if she could fight someone as Fang in real life, she said, “I would want to destroy Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze because oh my god awful.”

For a film on voice actors, she recommends I Know That Voice, which is a documentary, over In a World [surprisingly, both came out the same year].  From directors, she prefers “a director who trusts you to do your job,” which she had in FFXIII.  Other video games she’s done include StarCraft 2 (Blizzard) and The Elder Scrolls Online “but not Skyrim.”  She also wants to be in the Marvel universe.

When asked if she prefers working in anime or games (she played Zorin Blitz in Hellsing, among other series), she said she likes both.  As for tips when voice acting?  She tries to drink a lot of water, and there’s a miracle drink that [director Taliesin] Jaffe told her about when working on Hellsing [X] that helped, since you “scream a lot when you’re a Nazi vampire.”

Speaking of anime, I wish I’d gone to the FUNimation panel the following morning, as there was an announcement of a project that Robinson’s “been sitting on for a year.”  I’m thinking it’s this one.

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8:45-10:15, Anime Showcase of 2014 (Panels 7, 3AB)

One of the reasons I like going to conventions is to hear about the hot new shows.  This year, I knew about Attack on Titan, but not Kill la Kill nor the ones suggested by the two male panelists here.  They showed the intros for each series and then put up a slide that mentioned the genre and where it’s playing (e.g. Crunchy Roll, Hulu).  Unfortunately, I came 15 minutes late to this panel, so I missed the shows mentioned before 9. Here are the ones I did hear about:

Haikyuu (sports, comedy) — about volleyball

Barakamon (comedy, slice of life) — a city boy calligrapher is sent to a rural island as punishment

Terror in Residence (psychological thriller)  — show things from two terrorists’ point of view

Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun (comedy, romance) — a shonen (young boys) show that pokes fun at shojo (young girls) anime, which tend to be romances

The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior (comedy, romance, slice-of-life) — a sweet and funny series with great characters

Tokyo Ghoul (action, psychological thriller) — the main character is a boy who becomes a ghoul and has to adjust to ghoul life

Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works (action, fantasy) — branches off in a different direction from the original series, for the better

Space Dandy (comedy, sci-fi) — “a mix between Johnny Bravo and Cowboy Bebop,” and you don’t need to see the episodes in order

Parasyte – the maxim (action, drama, thriller) — similar to The Thing, a parasite comes to earth to murder whole families, possibly humanity in general.  In the series, a parasite takes over the main character’s hand.  Watch the first three episodes before you make a decision on it.

Rage of Bahamut: Genesis (action, adventure, fantasy) — based on a mobile game, this series uses a lot of religious figures.  And unleashing Bahamut would be a bad thing.

Your lie in April (drama, romance) — about a piano prodigy who one day loses his ability to hear music, and a female violinist.  The panelist who liked this show did so because they play actual classical music, the one who didn’t because the show kept throwing jokes in the middle of serious scenes and he wasn’t sure how he should respond.  He still recommended seeing it, though, as the ending is “one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.”

The Seven Deadly Sins (action, adventure, fantasy) — the most shonen show of 2014, and it’s ongoing

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One of the best costumes of the Con

The last panel started their Q&A around the time I had to leave to catch a bus, so it worked out well for me — except that the bus was packed, and no one from Lost and Found had left me a message about finding my bag, though my phone had overheated earlier and shut itself off.

Since the first event I wished to attend on Saturday wouldn’t start until 11, I could sleep in…a little.

Press goodie bag and badge

Press goodie bag and badge

Next post: Day Two!  In which I don’t go to as many panels, but instead to something called Cosplay Chess…