Wow, I think we can all agree that I have reached new levels of post naming perfection! Really do I need to even write anymore, that title is so incisive and intricate, it can just stand on it’s own. And maybe it should cause the rest of the post ain’t getting any deeper.
I used confused anime character images so often that I made a collage!
So what am I talking about today? Everybody already knows that voice acting is acting. It’s in the actual name. But well, I had a sort of epiphany of sorts. I was talking to a friend about voice acting both in anime and in other mediums (western animation, games, dubbing…). This friend, like about 98% of the people I know (myself included) want to be a voice actor and we were discussing some of our favourites. They remarked that a lot of the voice actors I really like, always sort of sound the same. As in, you can always recognize their voices in pretty much every role they take on. If you want to be mean about it, you could say they have very limited vocal range, the optimistic take is that they’re distinctive.
In any case, after thinking about it, I agree. Most of the voice actors I really enjoy don’t tend to do a lot of different voices. They aren’t likely to be voicing several characters in the same series unless those characters are supposed to sound similar and I can usually tell it’s them by their pitch and intonation as they don’t necessarily have tons of variability. This is by no means an absolute, as there are voice actors I love who are barely recognizable from one role to the next and play various ages and genders but it does happen often enough.
I know that when I was first introduced to voice acting as an actual job people had, I thought it was mostly about , well, their voice. One of the base qualities of a voice actor, I figures, was a good clear voice with great enunciation and the capacity to control and modify that voice to suit a wide variety of characters. It actually took me some time to realize that although those can be an asset and are very admirable skills, they are not in fact requirements to be a voice actor, or even to be a great voice actor. What can I say, I’m a little slow sometimes.
The more important part of being a voice actor, is the actor part and not the voice part. A voice actor has to sell a role with only their voice. That takes some major acting chops. And a voice actor that can modulate to create a lot of different voices may have more ease getting different jobs, but at the end of the day if they cannot get the emotion across or embody the character, it generally doesn’t matter how great they sound. For the most part, audiences seem to prefer a better actor with a less impressive voice to the opposite, if given the choice.
In my specific case, this become particularly true because of my voice acting preferences. I really like deadpan and naturalistic performances. I don’t even mind when people mumble. Since I watch anime subtitled it sort of doesn’t matter how easy the actor is to understand and that’s probably very different for people who don’t. With that consideration out of the way, I listen to voice acting in a different way then people who are actually listening to dialogue and following the story along.
I listen to the sounds more, and what they convey. This makes the acting part of the performance even more important to me than it would otherwise. I know this because I take in the voice acting in dubbed anime differently. Since I’m combining understanding and following the narrative with the interpretation of the voice acting, I don’t pay as much attention to the subtleties of inflection and I don’t read into voice performances as much. I take them more on face value. I wonder if it’s the same for fans across the world. I figure everyone takes in voice acting differently when they are experiencing a dub versus a sub.
Add to that the fact that I tend to enjoy understated and naturalistic voice acting and you basically have a fan that is almost indifferent to the voice part of voice acting. That’s an exaggeration. Some people have super yummy voices and I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy listening to them. But I have and do enjoy a lot of voice actors who sound like perfectly average people. You know, the type of voice you wouldn’t really notice if they were asking if you were paying cash or credit. That’s a super specific example. I mean a voice that doesn’t stand out in any way. As long as I believe it’s the character speaking and not some person in a studio, then that’s a performance I can get behind. And if they make me believe and animated person is real even for just a moment, then I’m going to call them a great voice actor even if they can only do one type of role.
Of course, this is based on my preferences and experiences. They differ a lot from viewer to viewer. I’m sure some people care a lot more than I do about the quality, pitch, timber, register (I don’t actually know what the words are to define the quality of a human voice…calibre?). But I’m willing to bet that the acting part is still important even if it may not be more important.
What I’m saying is that I have to give up my dream of voice acting, because I’m a really bad actor. Like painfully bad. Maybe I could get hired specifically for productions that are aiming for the so bad it’s good sort of thing but even then, I might not be talented enough for that. I’m good at other things. For instance, most studios would be lucky to have me as a PA. I would be the awesomest PA. I gave myself a pep talk. That was weird but it just goes to show how great a PA I would be.
What do you look for in a voice acting performance? Do you now or have you ever wanted to be a voice actor? If you still do, do you need an agent. Cause I think I would probably be pretty good at that too….