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Japanese Voice Acting Dichotomy

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Most of us as gamers are familiar with or have probably heard of how Japanese voice actors are supposed to be better. Someone suggested to me though, with some frustration over this commonly accepted view, that they really aren't better at all, claiming that the reason we think so is because we simply can't tell when they're voice acting badly anymore.

It kind of makes sense on one hand, but on the on the other, the emotion Japanese voice actors put in their voice-overs is pretty convincing. I'm curious what your thoughts are on this. Do we really like the Japanese voice-overs more because we just can't understand when they're acting poorly?

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Most of us as gamers are familiar with or have probably heard of how Japanese voice actors are supposed to be better. Someone suggested to me though, with some frustration over this commonly accepted view, that they really aren't better at all, claiming that the reason we think so is because we simply can't tell when they're voice acting badly anymore.

It kind of makes sense on one hand, but on the on the other, the emotion Japanese voice actors put in their voice-overs is pretty convincing. I'm curious what your thoughts are on this. Do we really like the Japanese voice-overs more because we just can't understand when they're acting poorly?

Yes, for the most part. Watch and listen to a ton of Japanese stuff and after a while you'll be able to tell when the acting is actually good or bad.

For most people, setting the voices to Japanese is just a way to stop yourself from getting distracted by bad acting. It's easier to gloss over when it's not in a language you understand.

Keep in mind though that Japan has a pretty big VA community because of all the animation and games they produce, so maybe the baseline quality is a little higher, but that doesn't automatically make it better.

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It's an interesting discussion that I've found to have gone full circle in certains section of the internet.

For instance, it's difficult to point out that the voice acting *is* actually better in a particular series in the original Japanese without someone just calling you a hater or a weeabo.

I do try to point out that, it's not just the quality of the acting that can ruin a dub. It's as much down to lifeless translations, a lack of input from the original director, or bad overdubbing/audio mixing that makes the voices sound completely out of place (eg no acoustics in a big room, lack of muffling due to weather conditions).

An example of a voice that is *Acted* better for me is the Japanese Byakuya from Bleach. The Japanese VA just sounds brilliant, his depiction of a man from a noble family is spot on. When he talks it almost sounds as if he's disgusted he even has to explain things to other people.

The dubs I've heard of films like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are superb though.

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Well, that's because Pixar is in charge of those dubs.

I don't really like subtitles in general, since I get too focused on reading them and don't watch any of the action. And dubs can be awful too, you know! I remember watching Gundam Seed and the phrase: "Even at a time such as this!" was said more times than I could possible count.

On top of that, japanese voice actors are just annoying. Real people speaking japanese sound fine and even cool, but in animes all you have are squeely high pitched highschool girls going "nyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" and detached low-pitched highschool boys who lose their temper and scream "GYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" and then your sister insists that Japanese is better than english and then the rest of your family starts watching more annoying highschool drama animes than anything else and come to think of it all animes are highschool now aren't they!?!? I mean characters like Spongebob and Patrick have annoying voices too but they aren't human! Who's to say what a starfish sounds like!? But in animes they all look awfully human to me, don't they!?! BUT THEY CERTAINLY DON'T TALK LIKE HUMANS WHY AM I IN THIS HORRIBLE WORLD OF SCREAMING HIGHSCHOOL STUDENTS GGYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRFFFFGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh.

I'm sorry. I just really had to get that off my chest.

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I thought this was going to be about the dichotomy between male characters (who generally sound good) and female characters (who are generally unbearable except for the select few who sound like Kuroneko of Onmyouza rather than the usual SQUEEEEEEEE, but I think that's more of a problem with Japanese female character design than voice-acting itself).

EDIT: Also, after having watched loads of American animated productions throughout my life, I know there are good English voice-actors out there. The problem is that the gaming industry seems to keep drawing on the same group of people who do anime dubs, which is definitly NOT where most of the good actors congregate.

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Which is why I like subtitles. Not that I really watch any anime, but the stuff (whether anime or vg or... well, whatever) that's done poorly in the original language is still better than when done poorly in a dub. Then again, I tend not to react to bad acting much, I'm more bothered by ill-fitting voice for a character and inconsistencies in implied language culture.

Why am I even in this thread...?

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The tropes of Japanese VA bothers me a lot. Women sound either like squeaky 6 year olds, or 50 year old dominatrix vixens.

And don't get me started on the "grunts" from taking damage, swinging stuff, etc.

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it can go either way, some anime or games I'd prefer dubbed and some I'd rather watch the sub. I usually watch a few episodes of an anime in both languages before deciding which to watch the rest of it in. but I think the english versions do tend to be worse overall, there's more stuff on the final fantasy X or naruto side of the spectrum of horrible voice acting and translation than metal gear solid or death note

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Something to keep in mind when comparing voice acting for anime is that, often, the actors doing the English dubs have to match the mouth movements for the animation rather than act it out and then have the animation done. Also, they usually record their lines alone, without any input from the actors working with the other characters. So it's a combination of needing to write good dialogue that matches the animation, be able to say it so that it matches, and also be able to act it out well on their own. Japanese voice actors usually don't have this problem; they act out the scenes with the full group at once, being able to bounce off each other and sometimes improv, and then the animation for the dialogue is made. If it's true that Japanese voice acting is generally a bit better in terms of not sounding stiff as a board, then those reasons are probably a big factor in why that is the case.

Now, if we're talking tropes and voice acting tendencies on both sides, I could list a dozen or so things I dislike about both the English and the Japanese voice acting.

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The dubs I've heard of films like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are superb though.

What? Gillian Anderson didn't even phone her performance in, she mailed in via over-seas low cost shipping. She did the most mono-tone, flat, deadpan lines I ever heard in a movie. To this day, it stands out as an example of how not to do voice work for animation.

Spirited Away was better, but I think that's mostly because they did a better job casting for it.

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I don't watch a ton of anime, to be honest.

BUT, one thing that drives me absolutely NUTS is how in Japan, "..." translates to "NNGHHHH". I'm pretty sure "..." means for you to just be quiet for a moment and attempt to be poignant i mean gosh is it really that hard.

No but seriously, I wonder if in Japan whenever someone is like "Dude, [some person] died" the person being spoken to starts convulsing and makes weird grunting noises.

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In regards to english VA's in games, that I've played at least, I don't think I've ever heard the Howie Scream used at all.

Correction... It plays in Starcraft & Broodwars whenever you click on the Terran Academies. :lol: Such a huge contrast with that scene in some movie where this guy just walks into the bathroom with a corn dog and yells that howie scream

Just for fun here's also the

Day9's scream

and the Starcraft II Edition

and here's still a

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What? Gillian Anderson didn't even phone her performance in, she mailed in via over-seas low cost shipping. She did the most mono-tone, flat, deadpan lines I ever heard in a movie. To this day, it stands out as an example of how not to do voice work for animation.

Hey lay off Agent Scully!

But in all seriousness, you're right.

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Princess Mononoke is light years ahead of most English anime dubbing. Billy Crudup was brilliant as Ashitaka. Every time I see Watchmen, I can't help but think of Ashitaka every time Dr. Manhattan opens his mouth.

And I will join the others in saying that the random grunts and gasps for almost any nonverbal cue are MASSIVELY annoying.

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Is the person that said this Japanese? Otherwise, how would he know?

In answer to your question; considering how ridiculously hard it is to become a voice actor in Japan, I'm going to assume they are pretty good at it.

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I would agree that Japan is usually better, but it also depends on what you're watching.

For example, I've noticed that the voice acting in dubbed anime tends to be far worse than most American cartoons. So, actually, Japan is just better at anime voice acting than we are.

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The few times I've listened to Japanese voices I have not been impressed. Probably mostly because I can't make a lick of sense out of it, except for certain words (character names, "arigato", etc).

Disgaea 1's Japanese voice work was terrible. Etna had a shrieky generic squeak voice and Laharl sounded like he was narrating his lines through a pillow case.

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Japan only has 3 voice actors per gender. On the Male side they have Shonen, High Voiced Protagonist, and Pretty Boy Voice. On the Female side they have High Voiced Character, High Voiced Hentai Actor, and Lower Voiced Hentai Actor.

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