By Cathy Michaels
First off, my apologies for the length of this whole
thing. I didn't know how long it would be because I
have so much to say on the subject but after reading
and re-reading this piece, this was my final result
onto all I felt necessary to say. I should also note
that I don't participate in chat rooms and message boards
so if the subject's already been touched upon in these
places, I do apologize. Here I go...
Acting is one of the most fun experience you can ever
go through in life. It's also extremely hard work. But
with enough heart, it's worth all the effort. Most DBZ
fans are aware of the Dallas Observer article and the
jolt it sent through several fans. While I agreed with
people on several points made throughout various editorials,
one thing stands out that I wish to clarify for DBZ
fans. At first people complained that FUNimation had
the nerve to hire a librarian for an actor's job. Then
this librarian corresponded with the likes of VegettoEX
and Steve Harmon and we found that she was indeed professionally
trained. Most people cooled off on that matter but there's
something that still bothers me about this. If you're
going to complain to FUNimation for not hiring professionally
trained actors, you should complain to anyone who has
ever hired an actor period. In the acting industry,
when you audition, the people hiring you do not look
at your training so much as they do your capabilities.
That holds true for just about every production. It
doesn't matter how much training you've had, if there's
another actor more suited for the part, that actor gets
the role. It's not done like several other careers.
To be a doctor, you go through intense learning and
several years of school before you can ever actually
be a doctor. But for an actor, it doesn't matter how
much school or what school you went to; you have to
show if all that schooling actually did any good. And
if it didn't then this person who is trying out the
acting bit for fun and is better at it than you will
get the part.
I tried to point this out to a fellow DBZ fan (the
webmaster of Ide Yo Doragon) and went into a few details
about my experiences in acting which mostly consist
of stage acting. That person gave me this rebuttal:
"You see, the acting you're referring to is a different
kind of acting as well. In the acting you're referring
to, you use your whole body. People see your facial
expressions, your body movements, and they hear your
voice. It's a wonderous mixture of art. VA's on the
other hand, only use their voice, and thus, train it
well. That's the only thing they can use to convey their
message to an audience. Nothing else. So if you ask
me, they should train that extra. But I must admit,
you're starting to convince me. They really don't need
to go to years of school, do they?"
I will admit that stage acting and voice acting are
entirely different forms but told this person that I
seriously disagreed that VAs are limited to their voice
and only their voice. You see when you're acting and
you do it right, you basically have to learn to become
an entirely different person. Your mind body and soul
are no longer yours but your character's. You need to
be thinking what they are thinking. Some actors can
get away with thinking in the back of their mind, "What's
my next line?" but this terribly weakens the performance
and the actor should have the inner monologue of the
character he/she is portraying. As for the body, this
might be hard for me to explain because movement was
a major weakness of mine in stage acting. Let's say
as a person that I'm not very expressive with my body.
I mostly fold my arms or hang them to my side but don't
use them much otherwise. Now let's say for the heck
of it I have to be Bulma. Bulma's extremely expressive
with her body. She waves her arms frantically, she bonks
people on the head, she jumps up and down in a fit,
etc. If you've seen her, you know what I mean. Even
though the audience won't see me wave my arms frantically,
if Bulma's doing it in the show, it will help me as
an actor to do it as well. The actor is given several
tools to use. In stage acting, your tools are your body,
voice, and sometimes your face if people sit close enough.
In film acting, your eyes and face are valuable tools.
And in voice acting, it's obviously your voice. But
out of all three, your most valuable tool throughout
acting of any nature is your heart. By heart, I mean
your soul is no longer yours but you've given it to
the character and your audience. If it's in Bulma's
heart to wave her arms crazily, it should be in my heart
to do the same. Maybe I can explain why professional
training isn't quite necessary by explaining what it
really takes to be a good actor to begin with.
These are in no particular order of importance:
(1) acting is more or less re-acting. Every action
that a character ever does is in reaction to something
that's already happened. You need to know what it is
that you're reacting too. People are like icebergs.
You have a small white tip on the surface for the world
to see but underneath there's a lot more going on. Memories
of what once was. Thoughts on the way things are. Fears
of what's to come. Experiences you've been through.
All this stuff is buried inside and it's up to the actor
to understand what's below the surface.
(2) don't indicate acting. This is where you fake it.
You're not really the character but an actor trying
to act like the character. You can fool some of the
audience some of the time but you'll never be able to
fool all of them any of the time if you do this.
(3) know your character's motivation. What is it that
you're character wants and hopes to accomplish by what
(4) have an inner monologue. Know not only what you're
character is saying but what are they thinking before
and as they're saying it
(5) know specifics. This is by far one of the biggest
helps any actor could ever ask for. Example: one time,
we did as a play the book of poems called Spoon River
Anthology. If you don't know what that is, I'll briefly
explain. It's a collection of poems of voices of people
speaking from beyond the grave. Each person tells his/her
story. The book is basically put in a play format. I
portrayed a woman named Pauline Barrett. She had to
have an operation to where she could no longer have
children otherwise she would have died. But she lived
in a time period of a double standard for women. It
was her purpose in life to be a good wife and a good
mother. Yet she wondered to herself, if she could not
give birth, what was the point of her living? On her
tenth wedding anniversary, nearly a year after this
operation, she committed suicide in the guilt she felt
over her operation. My role was to have Pauline tell
her story to the audience. It was by far my greatest
moment as an actress ever. Looking at the script, I
saw the amazing potential this scene had. Here was a
time when I could totally let go of myself. It was the
prime poem for a build-to-climax speech which I refer
to later in this editorial. My teacher/director and
fellow students were impressed and I never had so many
compliments as I did for that role. Well, as fun as
it was, this role was a lot of hard work too. So what
does this have to do with specifics? On my own time,
I improvised some of the stuff that happened that same
night before Pauline committed suicide. She and her
husband had gone for a walk and he'd picked flowers
for her. I improv'd that since my character has a flashback
of this scene during her speech. I also improv'd the
scene where she's actually looking in the mirror and
does the deed. Thanks to my knowing exactly what she
went through with these events, I managed to convince
my audience that's what happened to her. People would
tell me that I gave them chills when I rehearsed/performed
this. Knowing specifics will bring you deeper into the
character you are playing.
(6) rehearse! rehearse! rehearse! This is where you
learn the most about your character.
(7) I'll end it here even though I'm sure I could go
on. If you understand this next concept, I give you
a massive congrats because it took me 2-3 years to figure
it out and I'm not the only one who had trouble with
it. If you don't understand, I'll do my best to explain.
Here it is. Though I can't speak for other actors, this
is what helped me the most: The audience is more important
than the actor. Explanation: Several actors are weakened
by stage fright. They fear all the possible mistakes
to make might happen. They wonder if they'll get this
line right and what the audience will think of the actor
as a person after the role's said and done. This is
when the actor unintentionally thinks of himself/herself
as more important than the audience. When they're wondering
"will they still like me at the curtain call?"
they should be wondering "what is the best possible
way I can portray this character to the audience. How
can I make this scene to where the audience will look
on in awe at my work?"
Let's step back and look at what I said before all
of this. You don't need professional training to be
good actor. Now, how do the above acting tips relate
to my previous statement? You don't need to go to a
school to learn how to be angry. You don't need a voice
trainer to tell you what an enraged person sounds like.
You need to be angry become enraged and then the line
and feeling should fall into place. No one will ever
teach you how to put your heart into acting. It's something
you have to teach yourself. Though training may tell
you and any and all of the acting tips I listed, you'll
never really know what they mean until you do it yourself.
What training usually does is provide you with something
most actors can do on their own: practice a.k.a. (and
more commonly so) as rehearsal.
To help me incorporate this long bit on acting and
tie it in with the dub I took one episode and decided
to break it down and analyze it studying the voice-acting
on both versions. I never liked critiquing in theatre
but it's something we were forced to learn and once
you get the hang of it, you feel more free to express
your thoughts, especially when you realize that it's
OK for people to have a different view on the scene
than you did. After that, critiques are a major help
to both you as an audience and you as an actor because
you learn so much from watching what other people do
both right and wrong. I should also note that critiques
are tricky because they are a combination of both objective
and subjective observation by critics. What works for
one person may not cut it for another. Yet if there's
a general agreement amongst the audience, you can usually
tell what was done right and what was done wrong. By
breaking it down like this I hope to accomplish a few
things. One is that several people say the dubbed VAs
"suck" and don't go much further than that.
I am aware that there are DBZ fans who do it take it
a step further by saying the actors lack feeling or
are expressing no emotion, etc. yet I feel they still
need to dig deeper. Why isn't this actor having any
feeling? What are/is the mistake(s) blocking this person
from succeeding where the original VAs did (on a side
note, I personally don't think DBZ should be dubbed
to begin with but...well, it's pretty obvious I don't
have much choice in the matter). As an actor, I may
say to myself. "OK, so you don't believe me as
I play this character. Why? Where am I going wrong?"
because there's plenty of room for error. "Is it
that my inner monologue is off? I'm thinking this whereas
the character should be thinking this?-am I lacking
an inner monologue? Am I playing this character with
too much anger when she should be more sad? Was the
tone in my voice of? My inflection not quite right?
Would my character have delivered the line with subtle
anger or screamed it out instead? Did I focus too much
on one emotion rather than putting in everything my
character felt?" I could go on forever. Another
thing I hope to accomplish is to get through anyone
involved in acting-if my words are taken in with an
open mind, whatever actor reads this can probably improve.
I chose the US episode "Explosion of Anger"
and its equivalent is "Anger Explosion Goku Gets
Revenge for His Friends" in the Japanese version
for various reasons. It's my favorite (of what I've
seen so far), it's one of the few tapes I have in my
rather small fansub collection (a large portion of the
original DBZ I watch are borrowed tapes) and it contains
a few noteworthy voices that people tend to focus on.
This is the episode right after Goku's turned Super
Saiyan for the first time. If you've never seen the
episode, I'll tell you what's going on as I go. And
if you have, simply take note of what I'm describing
and focus more on the actual critique of the acting.
Let's start with the opening. In the original version,
we're usually greeted with some music, clips of the
last episode, and then the narrator says his thing and
the episode starts. In the US version, the narrator
is the first thing to greet you. He then states things
that most people could probably figure out on their
own by simply watching the clips. Anyway, here's the
difference: the narrator VA for the Japanese version
tells the audience what happened in the last episode
and sets the tone for this one; the dubbed narrator
goes overboard. Not only does he tell you what happened
but he bangs you over the head with the fact that Piccolo
was willing to sacrifice himself for Goku. He exaggerates
the previous events setting up an all-too-obvious-over-dramatic
stage for what's to come. On a side note, Kulilin sounds
more helpless as he cries out "Goku" right
before his death in the original version than when he
says "Help me" in the dubbed version. Why?
Not only does the calling out of his best friends name
have a stronger impact on Goku, but the original VA
sounds more desperate as well. My guess is this: the
original VA knew Kulilin was about to die and thus,
so did Kulilin. The poor bald character already knew
he was a victim before he was imploded. He screams out
desperately for his best friend to save him knowing
that Goku is his only, if any, hope . In the dub, all
Krillen knew was that Frieza had control of his body
and Krillen had no choice but to cry out for help. He
didn't know for sure what was going to happen. I could
be wrong but that's what came across to me as a viewer.
Now the actual episode begins. We get to hear Goku,
Gohan, and Freezer. Goku is fuming with rage. But he's
not mad at his son; he's mad at Freezer. However, people
tend to get mad at the world when they're mad at one
person and Goku shows himself to be no exception. Goku
tells Gohan to take Piccolo and leave. The Japanese
VA says this with a calm bitterness as Goku looks on
at his actual enemy. The US VA simply tells Gohan what
to do but lacks the subtle fury the original VA had.
When Gohan resists, both VAs show that Gohan's pushing
Goku's anger further as Goku yells at his son. Gohan
sounds much younger in the original version. I think
he's supposed to be around 5 or 6 years old at this
time and, originally, he sounds it. In the US version,
he sounds more around 8 or 9 to me. And then of course
there's the infamous Frieza who so many DBZ fans have
grown to hate. Occasionally, you'll read an editorial
actually defending this voice saying it matches Freezer's
androgynous appearance. I've heard Freezer in English,
Spanish, and Japanese and I can assure you the English
voice does not do Freezer justice. The Japanese and
Spanish version of Freezer's voice contain a certain
deep evil that simply does not come through with the
rather effeminate US version. At the beginning of this
episode, Freezer remarks to himself in shock and wonders
at the unusual transformation that he's just seen. In
the original version Freezer sounds genuinely surprised.
He's not sure what just happened. He knew that Saiyans
turned into apes...but what was this? My problem with
the US version is that as Frieza remarks on how he's
never seen anything like this before, I'm not believing
a word he says. It sounds like he's acting shocked whereas
it should sound like he's shocked.
When Gohan starts to leave, Freezer laughs, points
his finger, and is about to blast the young half-Saiyan
right before Goku steps in. To be honest, I thought
both VAs did a good job on the laughing part. Yet where
Freezer says he won't let the kid escape (actually the
line is different in both translations but I'm studying
the acting here so bear with me), the Japanese VA sounds
like he has every intention of killing Gohan where the
US VA sounds like he's just trying to keep Gohan from
leaving the scene. Then when Goku steps in, I'm still
having trouble believing that the US Frieza is totally
shocked by Goku's newfound power.
As Gohan's flying carrying Piccolo over his shoulder,
the young half-Saiyan remarks to himself in pride over
his father. The Japanese VA conveys the youthful beaming
admiration Gohan has for his father. In the dub, the
actor blurs the line between acting and believability
on this part. Maybe this person is halfway into the
There's a clip to Earth including the voices of Dr.
Briefs, Chi-Chi, Kamesennin/Roshi, and Yajirobe. For
Dr. Briefs, I liked the voice equally in both versions.
In the Japanese version, Chi-Chi sounds like an angry
mother anxious to get to her son. In the US version,
she sounds like an angry woman anxious to bitch someone
out. Here's the part where specifics become important.
Chi-Chi's motivation is to get to Gohan. She's terribly
worried about him and willing to do anything to find
her son. This makes her angry that Dr. Briefs is taking
so long fixing the ship (there's even more I'm sure
but hopefully this will be enough to get my point across).
The Japanese VA probably understood this and therefore
portrayed Chi-Chi this way. The way the US VA does it
sounds like all the actor knew was this: Chi-Chi's angry
that it's taking Dr. Briefs so long to fix the ship.
See the difference? I hope so. Then we hear the voices
of Kamesennin and Yajirobe. Kamesennin sounds like an
old man who has known and trained Goku and understands
that something's going on over at Planet Namek. Though
Yajirobe's voice is different in both versions he sounds
like the same character to me. Does that make sense
to anyone? But Roshi, the US version puts the turtle
hermit to shame. I'm not sure how to describe it but
it's simply not an old man. It's more like a person
trying hard and failing terribly to sound like an older
person. For starters, it's too high-pitched and secondly,
I wonder if this actor knows how to portray someone
with age. Playing older characters is really hard, especially
for younger actors. The reason for this is that you've
got a massive hole to fill with all those years of experience
that character has had. If the character is older than
you are, the iceberg for everything that character has
been through is much larger than your own. Somehow the
Japanese VA pulls it off but the US VA fails.
We are then taken back to Namek as Goku looks on angrily
at his enemy. In the fansub, the line goes something
like, "I'm really...I'm really...I'M REALLY PISSED
AT YOU FREEZER!" In the dub, the line is like,
"No more...no more...NOW YOU WILL KNOW THE HORROR
FRIEZA! [and there's an echo]" While some people
may not like the "horror" line, I personally
like it more than the "pissed" line. Guess
that one's debatable. Either way, both VAs are given
one really sweet line and if you don't know what I mean,
I'll be happy to explain: this line is perfect for a
build-to-a-climax delivery [which is the most fun kind
I might add]. The first phrase you can say rather quiet
and low, the second one you can say again but take it
up a step and the third one you can totally let go of
yourself. Both VAs almost did this. See, although these
lines are perfect for the climax-build an actor always
runs the risk of taking it too far. Both actors realized
that the final phrase could be easily taken overboard.
The Japanese VA did the first two perfectly. One was
calm and low, the second was a dash angrier and then
the third she probably could have screamed and said
at a much greater volume than she did but she didn't
want to give us too much so she didn't. Though I can't
speak for other viewers, I would have liked to hear
her go all-out. For the dub, the first "no more"
was angrier than the second and it should have been
vice versa-would have had a much more profound impact.
As for the third phrase, the actor decided to take the
risk of going too far. Did he? It depends on which member
of the audience you ask. If you ask me, I'd say with
hesitance "no." If you ask someone else, they
may say "yes." It's blurry. Then Goku starts
to kick major ass (^_^ I love it when that happens).
Freezer gets knocked down but raises himself up and
speaks to Goku (actually there's more to it than this
but since I'm trying to limit myself to critiquing the
voices, I hope you'll understand why I said it this
way). In both versions, he mocks Goku saying that the
Saiyans were also a bloodthirsty race who killed innocent
people. Yet there's a difference in the way these lines
are said. For the original version, Freezer sounds like
he's mocking Goku's anger whereas in the US version,
Frieza sounds more like he's criticizing Goku's anger.
By mocking rather than criticizing, the Japanese VA
is being more true to Freezer's character. Freezer tests
Goku's speed and finds that it's increased dramatically.
Then Freezer starts to do a bazillion blasts at the
Super Saiyan. Blue smoke clears and Goku's still standing
there just fine.
Gohan's carrying Piccolo when he looks back to see
a bunch of blasts are going on where the fight is. In
the original, he remarks "Dad", thinks, and
then decides to move on. In the US, they also added
an inner monologue where Gohan tells himself to not
look back. The simple murmur of "Dad" worked
in the original and summed up what the clip is about.
The US version, the actor is given a script forcing
that actor to spoonfeed the audience. The animation
is good enough to tell us what Gohan's thinking-we don't
need any help. I guess we can blame the script more
than the actor for that one. But since I'm analyzing
the acting, I do have to ask how'd this line go. Because
of its brevity, all I can tell you is that I thought
it was OK.
Freezer does virtually the same thing (a bunch of blasts)
only the blasts look different. He starts breathing
heavily as he uses up all this energy. The breathing
is good in both versions-sounded about the same to me.
I did notice something though while all of this happened.
The Japanese VA for Freezer makes an unusual sound when
furiously blasting. It sounds like an extremely short,
high-pitched yelp and is done several times at an extremely
fast pace. The US version mostly does tiny grunts. Personally,
I didn't like either VAs delivery on these sounds. I
don't like the yelps because they make Freezer sound
odd. And I don't like the grunts because...well, you'll
see...I think they should have cut the yelps and grunts
and stuck with the breathing.
Speaking of grunts, this next part surprised me when
I took this episode to the analysis level. Freezer and
Goku start punching each other-you know, the usual DBZ
punches, jabs, and kicks, that non-DBZ-fans probably
stereotype the show to be. In the US version, at first,
you notice that they're both grunting as they do this.
Then you notice that this grunting isn't real grunting
but simply acting-like-they're-grunting and then you
notice that it keeps going. And the more they grunt,
the more obvious it becomes that it's like the actors
were told to grunt and they did rather than each character
is actually feeling the impact of a hit.
After the punches in the sky, then Goku and Freezer
land on separate rocks. Freezer blasts Goku but the
Super Saiyan easily dodges it. And Freezer cannot believe
what he just saw. In the US version, the volume that
Frieza says this is impressive but lacks believability.
So that volume doesn't do any good. The actor's too
focused on projecting rather than on being amazed. And
Frieza also has a line that's something like, "Hey,
why can't I hit you?" In the fansub, the line's
more like, "If this next blast hits you, you'll
be..." To me the problem is obvious for the US
version. How in the world do you convey a line as ridiculous
as "Hey, why can't I hit you?" One could argue
that Frieza would say this as a rhetorical question
but what purpose would it serve? I could understand
him asking "Who are you?" even though he already
knows but the "hit" line just...as an actor,
I'd be lost as to how to say it. So since the VA is
given such a difficult line, it sounds retarded when
asked. Even if the VA could do it convincingly, Frieza
would simply sound stupid. In the fansub, Goku invites
Freezer to go ahead and hit him. Never mind my complaints
with the script differences, both VAs did a good job
on the smirky invitation. Freezer's blast hits Goku
because Goku lets it and his head falls back but he
comes right back up barely impacted and then he has
his lil' speech. I won't get much into how different
they are because my main complaint is the closing line.
Fansub closing line (something along the lines of):
"I am the Legendary Super Saiyan Son Goku"
Dub closing line: "Ally to good! Nightmare to you!"
I have to confess that I liked the dubbed speech at
first but the more I listened to it, the more I disliked
it. And after seeing the original version, I think I
know why. It's extremely out of place here. In the original,
Goku's telling Freezer he's the legendary Super Saiyan.
In the dub, Goku's telling Freezer he's the savior of
the universe. While I'm happy to have Goku save the
day the focus is supposed to be on the Super Saiyan
legend. I'm not sure if anyone else noticed but in the
dub, not once does Goku ever proclaim himself as a Super
Saiyan. Because the dubbed speech is out of place, the
US VA only sounds worse and worse every time I hear
the speech. I do like how the Japanese VA conveyed her
speech though. She again is given the opportunity to
build to a climax. This time she ties it in perfectly.
She starts off calm and low taking a step up with every
word until finally she's reached a peak where anything
more would have been too much and anything less would
have left us wishing she'd gone further. Episode ends.
Just as I was about to wrap up this long piece I realized
I should probably remark on the fandub featured at Daizenshuu
EX since it also focuses on the voice-acting. My advice
to anyone reading this would be to open a new window,
view the clip, and then start reading again right here.
Sadly, there were a few fatal problems with main performance
given (the Vegeta and #19 clip). First complaint: technical
but still important. The VA has terrible enunciation.
It took me around 3 or 4 times of watching the clip
before I could hear the words clearly. This had a really
negative effect on the performance. Itsy bitsy picky
thing: too much emphasis on "I know"-it doesn't
fit. Now it's time for me to say a few things about
Vegeta's character before I go on. For me, the first
time I heard Vegeta's original VA, I was amazed. Though
several defend Brian Drummond, there was one major problem
I had with him compared to the original: The original
VA sounded like an arrogant Saiyan prince; Drummond
sounded like an evil Saiyan. The fandub VA is a cross
between the two. He's evil and has a big ego but that
ego's big because Vegeta's a Saiyan and not there because
Vegeta's a Saiyan prince. The regality the original
VA manages to convey isn't there in the fandub. Here's
something else that bothered me. I'm not sure if this
is the fault of the technical working or the actor but
the volume used for #19 is significantly lower than
Vegeta's. You can barely hear the robot. I had to turn
the volume up to hear him and I shouldn't have to do
that. Another too-much-emphasis complaint: "mere"
was overdone. This next one isn't so much a complaint
as it is a suggestion. Vegeta asks, "Can you artificial
humans feel fear too?" This is a good climax-build
line. The fandub VA says it with the definite flavor
Vegeta would have but he would have gotten an even more
delicious taste for the words if he took the build-to-a-climax
approach. He can say each word with more and more evil
joy until he reaches "fear." How he would
do "too" I'm not sure and would leave it up
to him. He could take it up another step or bring it
down a step-whichever felt more effective for him. Personally,
I'd cut the "too" since I think "fear"
would make a better closing word for the statement.
Then he makes sounds I don't know quite how to describe
(elongated grunts?) as he transforms into a Super Saiyan.
Again, I go back to the "build" idea. He actually
does this to some degree. With enough rehearsal, he
could perfect it and it is perfect right around the
end where the transformation completes. Whoever voiced
Gohan needed to be more prepared than he was. As for
Kulilin, he strikes me as a difficult character to voice
but I'll honestly say I didn't like it. He sounded too
wimpy to me. Kulilin may be human and weaker than Saiyans
but he's had his fair share of battle. I would have
aimed for something along the lines of more surprise
rather than more fear. Then we have some more Vegeta
but my critique would again be about the regality factor.
I could go on into the other samples featured but won't.
If you've read this far, I'm grateful and should anyone
reading this actually wish for me to critique the other
smaller clips I will but only on request-since I don't
know if my readers like my critiques so far. Whenever
I critique I get varying reactions. Some people agree
with me, some people disagree with me and some people
think I'm too harsh. If anyone thinks I'm being harsh
please read this knowing that I have been critiqued
in much the same manner and know how grueling it is
to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse some more in capturing
the moment just right when performing.
That wraps it up. With any luck, DBZ fans will gain
a better understanding not only to what is necessary
to be a good actor, but anyone coincidentally involved
in acting who reads this may learn a few things. THE