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NYAF2008: Oliver, Hebert, and Blum with Bandai and Aniplex at "Gurren Lagann" Panel

Toshifumi Yoshida introduces Tony Oliver and Kyle HebertThe New York Anime Festival played host to 3 of the voice actors from the new series Gurren Lagann: Tony Oliver (who also serves as the voice director), Kyle Hebert, and Steve Blum. Also in attendance were Bandai producer Toshifumi Yoshida and Hiroe Tsukamoto of Aniplex of America. During the panel, Oliver said that they don’t record the show all together, and probably wouldn’t get any work done if they did, joking that it was probably a mistake to put them all on the same panel at once. The clowning and laughing on stage throughout the panel.

Blum was a little bit late, walking into the room as a clip from the show played at the start of the panel, and he told the extremely welcoming crowd that it was his first time in New York City. The panel really began with Yoshida saying that he would be screening a “viewer’s choice” of episodes after the panel was over, including the unaired, unedited version of episode 6. He detailed the story of the episode, saying that the animation studio managed to pass script and storyboard approval with the TV studio, and only found out there was a problem with the episode when they handed in the finished animation and someone at the station finally asked, “Why are the guys peeking in the girl’s bathroom? You can’t do that on TV!” As a result, the epsiode broadcast on TV was heavily edited and turned into a recap episode. Apparently, you get to see “curves and valleys” in the unedited version.

No I do not have pictures. I was at the Vampire Hunter D panel. Wait for the DVD, ya perv.

Afterwards, Yoshida opened the panel up to Q&A from the audience. In response to an audience member, Tsukamoto confirmed that there was a Gurren Lagann feature film being shown in Japan right now, but they haven’t decided yet when it will be imported to the United States. Bandai hopes to bring it over some time next year, though, and Yoshida said there was lots more great animation and fan service in the movie.

When the voice actors were asked what their favorite part of doing the voices was, Hebert joked that for him, it was, “Doing the voice on the show. We’re starving vultures and always happy to work.” He did say playing the role of Kamina was an absolute blast, like reliving the Gohan days in Dragon Ball Z. He’s as much of a fan of the show as he is a participant in it. They also confirmed that all principal recording was finished 3 weeks ago.

Another audience member asked what the hardest lip flap was to match. Oliver said that they were all difficult, but that the better the animation, the easier it was to match lip flaps. In response to a different question, Oliver said that the most emotional scene he recorded for the show was coming up, adding that the series gets more intricate and emotional as it goes on. He said he was wiping away tears by the later episodes, and promised the fans that they were in for a great season finish.

A question about “what happened with episode 4″ drew a groan from Yoshida, who said, “read the entry on Wikipedia and let’s leave that in the past.” He did explain the situation to the audience, closing with, “We try to please everybody, but we don’t always succeed.”

(l to r) Oliver, Hebert, and Blum When asked whether they ever talk with the original Japanese actors about their roles, Blum said, “I wish we could,” since none of them speak Japanese. However, Yoshida did say that sometimes, people working on shows get to meet their Japanese counterparts at anime conventions, which has always been fun for everyone involved.

In response to a request to “Rah Rah Fight the Power,” Yoshida did confirm that Bandai is trying to get the rights to release the Gurren Lagann soundtrack in the United States, and that they are also hoping to do Parallel Works at some point. Another question involved the fake alphabet that appears on screens in the show, and whether there would be some kind of decoder for it. Yoshida said he’d “run it by….uh, me, and see what we can do with it.”

Yoshida said that all 27 episodes of the show will air on SciFi’s AniMondays block, and that a Starz representative told him that Gurren Lagann is the most popular anime show ever aired in the block. Hebert also reminded viewers that the show is available through Xbox Live and the iTunes store, since he watches the show himself through Xbox Live. He added that he doesn’t usually have much time to watch TV shows, but that he makes time for this one, even though he’s worked on it.

The first Gurren Lagann DVDs were subtitle-only, with the dub version scheduled for release on November 18 (just in time for Thanksgiving!). Yoshida said that the limited edition version of the release will come with a cool artbox and a little light-up core drill. Yoshida explained the release schedule by saying that the series was originally scheduled for release in February this year from “another anime company.” When Bandai acquired the rights to the show in April, they decided to get the show out to fans as soon as possible, and skipping the dub for the first DVD release was the quickest way to do that. He joked that the series was his welcome to Bandai: “We just got this show. You have 3 weeks to get it ready for release. Go!” The delay in getting the dubbed versions out is a contractual issue, since all the episodes have to air on SciFi before the dub DVDs can be released. Oliver added that it was the most intense recording schedule he’s ever had to do, with only 3 weeks before the first episodes were scheduled to air on TV, when he normally has about a month to prepare for recording.

One question was whether the voice actors preferred a finite series, such as Cowboy Bebop or Gurren Lagann, or if they liked longer ones like Dragon Ball Z. Hebert said that they certainly like the job security of a long-running show, and ongoing character development is always a good thing. On the other hand, he also likes the thrill of doing a shorter show, and it’s never fun to be on a show that runs long enough to jump the shark. Blum added that there was something satisfying about taking a character through his paces from start to finish.

They ran voice actor bloopers around this point. Afterwards, someone asked Steve how he chose how to screw up a line, and he replied that, “I screw them all up” just to be sure.

The panel was asked how they developed the voices for their characters. Hebert said that some of that was obvious (make sure a 12-year old doesn’t sound like Darth Vader), and that the first recording session usually lasts a bit longer than usual to get the voice and the attitude right. Blum said that his approach was highly atypical for him, since normally his first takes are straight, but that he did a really crazy, out-there read the first time out and was surprised when he was told, “Great. Let’s use that.”

Kit R. and Spike V. as Yoko and Kamina A perennial question at any panel with voice actors is about breaking in the business, and this panel’s version came as someone asked if anime companies ever pull voice actors off the street. Oliver said that they almost never get non-professionals in the recording booth because anime recording is acting, but also has a technical aspect to match lip flaps. He added that some people sound great in real life, but fall apart in a voice-acting booth.

When asked who their favorite characters were on the show, Oliver said he liked them all, but his favorite is still Kamina, and that Yoko has made him really like cosplay (not that we’d know anything about that, of course). Hebert also liked Kamina, as well as Yuri Lowenthal’s performance as Simon. Blum said that he felt he was very, very lucky to do Leeron’s voice, and that Kamina makes him laugh and cry. When asked about their favorite roles overall, Hebert said, “Whoever he’s doing at the moment” and Blum said that his answer at the moment was Leeron, Wolverine, and the Green Goblin.

Finally, an audience member asked why some shows get imported within a year, but others don’t make it over for years. Yoshida said that his ideal situation was to have shows aired in Japan and the United States simultaneously, even if it had to be a subtitled release to make that happen. As the representative on the Japanese side, Tsukamoto said that she’d like to see this as well, but that there are often a lot of limitations placed on the Japanese side, including contractual limitations imposed by Japanese TV stations or licensors. Still, she did say that the recent trend was to try and license shows as soon as possible and leverage promotion worldwide rather than just in Japan.

Return to Toon Zone News’ Coverage of the 2008 New York Anime Festival.

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