Welcome, seekers of knowledge. You are here to find truth; I am here to dispense it. I have been an anime fan for 25 years now. I have seen this industry grow and have collected the wealth of wisdom that comes from seeing history unfold. For many years I have shared my views with the Internet collective in the hopes of making us all better, truer fans of this medium. Let me share my experience with you.
Question: How do I become a voice actor for English anime dubs?
Answer: Ah, a traditional, time-honored question. It’s a simple story of the American dream: You work hard and good things will happen. Practice every day. Strengthen your vocal cords so that you can speak for long periods of time. Strengthen your voice so that you can go as low or deep as required. Develop voices. See what works for you and what doesn’t. When you have a voice down, practice different emotions. Get a feel for that voice and its character. When you’re confident that you can believably convey a series of emotions with your voice, then it’s time to hit the pavement and put yourself out there. Have demo reels prepared. Contact as many companies as you can. Make a good impression. It may take a while, but eventually, someone will notice you and decide to give you a shot. All it takes is that one opportunity — you have to seize it and knock ‘em day.
Ha. That’s really what you want to hear, isn’t it? I’m sad to say that cold reality isn’t so glamorous. We don’t live in a world where hard work is always paid off with success. There are things you can try a million times and still never take a step forward.
Here’s the truth: The world of voice acting is horribly insular. How often have you listened to anime dubs and heard the same few actors in every series? Occasionally you’ll hear a new voice, but that is only because they have ingratiated themselves to the in crowd and got their foot in the door. Being a sycophant takes you a long way in this business.
For those who are unwilling to compromise their morals for a chance in the spotlight, it’s a nearly impassable wall. Unfortunately for the rest of you, this pack of jackals and hyenas are only too willing to prey on the weak. Have you seen how many voice actors offer lessons and critique online through Skype for money? If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it absolutely is. They’re suckering you. They give critique under the guise of being well-meaning, but having talent is not the way to get work in this cesspool of an industry. The way to get work is to know the correct people. Perhaps the actor is now aware of you; however, the actor will jealously guard his job and make certain anyone who matters will never know who you are. You continue to rot in obscurity while the actor keeps his work — and his pockets are lined with some extra money. He wins, you lose.
My advice: give up on the dream while it’s still fresh. It will sting much less than it would if the soulless monsters of the entertainment industry stomped all over your naive heart.
Q: Why do some anime look way worse than others?
A: Budget. Budget budget budget. If you want an answer to anything on the production side of anime, the answer is always budget. Money is king. The more money you have, the more you can afford to do. It’s that simple. If an anime looks like crap, then that’s because they didn’t have the necessary capital to hire the necessary talent to make the show look good. Shows with no money hire crap talent; shows with money hire superior talent. It’s as simple as that.
It really is the way of the world. Most problems can be solved with money. You need to grease the wheels to get things done. It’s why the rich rule and everyone else gets the short shaft. You either cling helplessly to survival or dedicate every molecule of your being to climbing the economic ladder and becoming one of the people on top instead of one of those they step on along the way. Anime is not immune to this thinking. In fact, anime itself is often the stepping stone for something else — novels or manga or games or whatever else those who provide the money actually want to sell. It’s a means to an end. If they can get away with cheaping out on the anime to boost the sales of some other product, they’re going to do it. That’s just how the world works.
You get ahead when you can take advantage of that thinking.