Tag Archive for AniMAY

The Tao of Gantz

Gantz is a hyper-violent anime, adapted from an even more outrageous manga, that posits a very unusual interpretation of the afterlife. Imagine if you didn’t actually die at the exact moment your body dies. Instead of being done with the mortal life, your spirit is transported into an artificial copy of your body. You wake up, pixel by pixel, inside a strange room with a large glowing orb. When the room is filled, you’re instructed that you have one hour to kill an alien with bizarre weaponry and black skin-tight suits or you lose. Instead of passing on, you’ve been temporarily delayed in a cryptic game show with real life or death stakes.

taoofgantzgametime The Tao of Gantz

The game generates your new body in Gantz

If you lose, your spirit goes back with your actual body at the moment of death and your life is over; if you win, you get to walk away in your new, blemish-free body and keep on living until the next session of the game. Win enough times and you can earn your own life back without any more violent games. Lose once and your finished.

Gantz is best known for the violence and overt sexuality of the series. It’s a seinen manga, targeted at men ages 18-30, and it’s filled with perverted sexual encounters and even sexual assault. The images, animated in all too loving detail for the anime, are intentionally over the top and offensive. For me, they’re a huge blemish on a very well-conceived dark sci-fi universe exploring the mysteries of life and death.

Because of the graphic content, Gantz is often dismissed as just that series with x, y, or z. There is a lot more to dig into, though, because of the direction of the anime.

Hiroya Oku’s now 380 chapter and growing manga is not a hopeful piece of literature. The philosophy of the ball’s twisted game is almost nihilistic. The ball radically changes the rules if a contestant is doing too well and attempts to drive the player insane.

By the time they earn 100 points and can free themselves, they’re offered three prizes. The first is freedom, including the elimination of all memories of ever participating in the game. This is, more often than not, the goal of the player.

The second is the total wild card. The player will be gifted a super powerful weapon that will make their time in the game much easier. The ball is counting on the player developing a combination of bloodlust and Stockholm syndrome. Whoever or whatever is watching just wants the body count and they will manipulate the game to get those results.

taoofgantzcompetitors The Tao of Gantz

The competitors in Gantz never know what they’re up against

The third is what Oku hinged his interpretation of the story on. If you get 100 points, you can resurrect a dead competitor. Kei Kurono, one of the protagonists in the series, becomes obsessed with this option. He makes it his life goal to bring back everyone he can no matter how many times he has to reenter the game. This pushes the manga into a fight for redemption, resurrection, and teamwork against insurmountable odds. Much like the game pushes the players to go for more blood, the game punishes the players for trying to play hero and save everyone.

The anime adaptation by Gonzo pushes the story in a completely different direction. The first season is as faithful as it can be with TV censorship standards. The second season is a different situation entirely.

One of the more upsetting missions in the early chapters of the manga is the battle against the temple statues. The competitors have 90 minutes to destroy all the living statues in a sprawling Buddhist temple. It doesn’t end well for anyone.

Both the anime and the manga have a Buddhist priest has entered the game and is convinced prayer is the only way to survive the ordeal. When he begins to chant in front of an altar, the giant statues stop moving and just stare at him. They no longer attack the competitors. The priest stops praying long enough to admonish his fellow competitors for resorting to violence. Unfortunately in the anime, before he can pray again, a large living statue crushes him.

In the manga, the outcome is the same but the timing is different. There are panels that clearly show the priest fully chanting again and the statues disregard his efforts. They kill him in cold blood even as he praises them in his final moments on earth. The manga does not follow or uphold any earthly doctrines.

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How Anime is Dubbed (Quinni-Con 2013)

At Quinni-Con 2013, voice actor/director Chris Cason ran a lot of panel about how anime is dubbed and released in the US. He works full time for Funimation, one of my favorite distributors. The panel I was able to catch was all about voice acting from casting to syncing and it was pretty eye-opening.

dubbinganimefunimation How Anime is Dubbed (Quinni Con 2013)When Funimation secures a license for a new show, they put together their in-house creative team. As many as seven separate shows are being worked on in different studios at a time with an regular work schedule of 10AM to 6PM. The director is given the translated scripts, character descriptions, and images from the show. However, they’re in charge of researching the show and influences to figure out the crux of the series. They plan for as long as the production schedule allows them so they can figure out the right tone and approach for the translated program.

After research is complete, casting begins. Notebooks are prepared with the title of the show, a description of the show, character descriptions with images, and auditions sides. About 150 people are called in to audition in a mix of scheduled audition slots and cattle calls. The scheduled auditions go off every 15 minutes for three days for a single show.

The voice actors arrive and are instructed to choose three characters they believe they can do the best on the show. They perform the sides and are given direction to see how well they can work with the director. This is a standard tactic in any performance situation. It always freaks my students out when they prepare for an audition and we ask them, on the fly, to go in a different direction. If the director has worked with you before, they probably don’t need to do this part. It’s meant to gauge what the working relationship will be like when the show goes into production.

dubbinganimechriscason How Anime is Dubbed (Quinni Con 2013)

Chris Cason

The casting process is hard. It’s not because of a lack of talent. Chris Cason estimates about 5% of voice actors nail everything they’re asked to do in a given audition; an even smaller percentage fail. The rest all do well enough to potentially be cast in the show in some way. It comes down to the blend of the voices. You hopefully get to choose your leads out of the 5% and then fill in the rest with complimentary actors who also gave fine auditions.

Once the cast is set and the contracts are signed, it’s time to actually record the show. It’s a much slower process than you would think. Cason says, working one on one with a voice actor, they usually get through 30 scripted lines and 35 reactions–screams, laughs, cries, grunts, etc.–each hour. The sessions with an individual actor usually last three to four hours. It takes about a week to record each episode in an anime series.

Actually directing the show is a challenge. Because of the tight time constraints, the actors are usually working cold. They’re given the script and have to go with it on the day of the recording session.

Once in the booth, the voice actors have to contend with two screens. The script for the show is on the left. The video of the scenes is on the right. We’re not talking about fan parodies on YouTube (that’s another post); the lip flaps have to match for licensed dubbed anime to work. Chris Cason equated it to acting with math. You have to sound good and sync up with a limited amount of time.

dubbinganimebooth How Anime is Dubbed (Quinni Con 2013)

Two screens at once for anime dubbing

The trick with actually directing anime is the style. Anime tends to be a pretty melodramatic form. With the exaggerated psychology that has evolved from manga art, the reactions by the actors have to be large enough to match the action onscreen. You can’t just whimper and sniffle when a character has seemingly unhinged their jaw and began gushing gallons of tears out of their eyes. The same applies to body-shifting anger and fear. If you go really realistic on an anime dub, it’s probably not going to turn out well. There’s a reason the young protagonists in a shonen series tend to scream all the time; they’re drawn that way.

Once a series has wrapped and the voices are ready to be mixed, it will be months before the cast and creative team can talk about the new show. They sign weighty NDAs threatening bad things if they talk about what they were working on before they’re allowed to. It’s a timing issue with the actual anime license and the distribution deal with the TV network. What it means is that, by the time a new anime dub airs on TV, the cast and creative team have probably recorded another series already that they can’t talk about. It’s a long road from license to release and one that is far more challenging than you might have imagined.

Thoughts on the anime dubbing practice in America? Sound off below.