Wait, I know That Voice

Before I go into explaining my title further, please allow me to explain exactly why this essay came to mind. On a particular forum, which shall remain nameless to protect identities, the subject of Howl's Moving Castle came up - to be exact, that act of seeing it for the first time and basically the excitement that occurred during viewing. What is it about Howl's Moving Castle that appealed to this particular otaku? Was it a love of the original novel or a particular interest in the works of Studio Ghibli? You’d be foolish to think so, for the reason of this film's appeal was…and I quote “I had to watch it when I knew Christian Bale did the voice of Howl.”

I am not going to criticise this person for seeing the film based on the fact that Christian Bale took a role in the dub (just on the off chance one of you reading this did exactly the same thing). The point was it took one celebrity's voice to make a film appeal enough to someone for him or her to seek it out.

Now some actors were born to voice certain characters and often the characters are designed or finalised after the actor has been chosen. For the moment I shall talk about Western films as I feel a wider range of readers will know the examples. Let’s look at Abe Sapien from Hellboy; if you have ever seen Frasier there was no mistaking that Abe was voiced by David Hyde Pierce but Pierce asked not to be credited based on respect for Doug Jones who he believed brought the character to life. I am using Abe as an example as his face meant very little when it came to casting but his voice was clearly important. Was it easy to forget that Pierce had no input into the actions of the character at all? Of course, Pierce now has nothing to do with Abe at all, but Jones has voiced animated Abe all along anyway.

Disney has used some of the most famous Hollywood actors to voice some of it’s characters, but I ask for you to dig into your Disney memories. Take Little John from Robin Hood, Baloo the bear from The Jungle Book and Thomas O’Malley from the Aristocats. You will likely know straight off the same person voices them all, the wonderful Phil Harris, but can you put a face to the name? Granted this is well before your time (in most cases) but I would assume very few of you can bring to mind his face even though you know that voice so well.

I can only speculate what changed at Disney to make them ‘need’ Hollywood actors and actresses to take part. Animated movies were such a rarity that the public would flock to see them for the sheer delight of seeing a cartoon. If I think back in my lifetime, the first big Hollywood actor to voice a Disney character would be Robin Williams, who brought to life the blue Genie from Aladdin. Could you see anyone else take on the part quite as well? Williams character comes through in his voice as much as it does his face so when you hear he is voicing an animated character, you automatically get an impression of that character before you see anything. Carrying on with Disney, when creating Phil the Fawn from Hercules, could many actors have been picked to play the stubborn, short and chubby character? Probably not; Danny DeVito was the ideal choice. Speaking of famous heights, had DeVito voiced Lord Farquaad in Shrek the irony would have been lost. Picking John Lithgow, who is tall, added to the humour of the diminutive Lord Farquaad.

There is also picking an actor based solely on the name of the actor. Much as I am a fan of Tim Burton, he seems ever more determined to narrow down his actors and actresses. That’s fine when they are actually acting, but do voices make much of a difference? Corpse Bride was packed with famous ‘faces’, but Johnny Depp hardly stood out as ‘Johnny Depp’. What I mean to say is that someone else, though Depp voiced him beautifully, could have voiced the character of Victor. Unless you knew already would you have known the same woman who voiced Lady Tottington from Wallis and Gromit voiced Emily? (i.e. Helena Bonham Carter)

So back to the point I began with, do dub voice actors have the same pull as Western animations voice actors? Unlike Disney, the characters have not been written with a Hollywood actors voice in mind. The best that can be expected is that either the same pitch in voice can be found, or the right actor can be matched to the right character. That is if the dubbers are concerned with matching the right face to the right voice or pulling in the crowds thanks to a name (we know it worked at least once.)

The Ghibli films are probably the best example to use, especially the more recent releases. I think it is fair to say that since Spirited Away the Ghibli films have found it easier to draw in the Western crowds and thus more effort has gone in to finding voice actors with the right appeal. Interestingly enough the cast of Spirited Away were well known voices as much as faces and it was Howls Moving Castle that drew in the Hollywood stars (though in the same way, the original Spirited Away contained famous Japanese voices, Howl's characters were voiced by actors). The dub voices are done well, it is easy to accept the English voices in their Asian roles, which is not always the way. Perhaps it is just my tastes, but a couple of the dub voices in Sky Blue sounded lazy or totally unlike the character they are voicing should sound.

The round-up to this little piece of contemplating is this: Hollywood actors/actresses have a following, they are followed into the realms of voice acting even, but do animations/anime really need that added Hollywood?

Cosplayer Breeds

You're having that nightmare again. You are happily strolling around an anime convention, surrounded by your favourite voices and artists, when suddenly you feel the ground begin to quake. From across the hall the screams of fear fill your “disguised as cats'” ears so much it hurts. It is now you see the monster that is bringing all this terror to your happy time. It is a large peach bulk of a man, too overweight to fit through doors, yet who has somehow squeezed himself into a navy blue sailor uniform. Atop his sweaty head lies a cheap and tangled brown wig with crudely tied blue bows as decoration. To top off this bulging, perspiring nightmare, he carries with him a large and very real grey rat.

You wake in a cold sweat, the image of that tiny skirt that left nothing to the imagination printed on your mind's eye from now on. It haunts you, feeds on you, it will not let you go so you put theory to this creation. Clearly the beast was trying to change its gender and age, oblivious to the weight problems of wearing such a costume and holding a rat as a symbol of its undying need to stand out in a crowd. You decide to name this monstrosity: cosplay.

But look at life, if you will, from the eyes of the being. He is no monster, not in the horror movie description of things. He is simply Bob, a forty year old construction worker who's love of anime has made him the ridicule of his friends. Bob doesn't care what they think for he has many friends on his message boards. All Bob knows is that his love of Fruits Basket will never waver and he can only express his adoration of Tohru by dressing up as her. Not only that, he is an advocate for the love between Yuki and Tohru and carries a rat with him to show the world his OTP.

Cosplay in its visually most disturbing form, but with beauty in it's soul. Luckily for the world cosplay comes in many forms, in many sizes, shapes and costumes as well as many, many cosplayers. These people, who feel the desire to revert to their childhood and dress up, have many reasons why they do it. I have compiled what I believe to be an complete list.

The Accurate Cosplayer: This being puts a lot of effort into their cosplay. They know that sticking a sailor uniform on does not automatically mean you have achieved your desired character. The Accurate Cosplayer sees the beauty in getting all the smallest details correct and will heavily criticize those who do not meet their expectations. Their costumes can be very complicated with much work done, a good example being those who tackle game cosplays such as Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts characters.

The Realistic Cosplayer: Though this cosplayer may not have their costume as perfect as Accurate, they know the importance of accuracy. The Realistic picks a character who they believe they look like (as much as one can look like an overly enhanced animation). They will base their selection on age and hair/eye colour and where physically possible, weight. Thanks to their selective process, they are complimented on their cosplay. “Wow, you actually look like blank” or “if they made blank in to a live action, you could totally play blank” and the sort are often terms thrown at the Realistic. This pleases them, and some even come to find they have far more than just looks in common with their cosplay...many Realistics often move away from anime cosplaying to television and film based costumes. Anyone for another Aragorn?

The Dreamer Cosplayer: Our friend Bob. The Dreamer cares little about how much they resemble a character or about how accurate their costume is. The Dreamer cosplays for the love and the soul of the character. That is not to say others cosplayers don't have fun, but the Dreamers build a happy world around their cosplay and more enjoy the interaction cosplay brings as well as an escape from reality. The characters they pick are usually their favourites, and regardless of gender or look they want to be that character rather than just look like them. This cosplayer is usually heavily criticized for their lack of costume making skills. Such examples would be either Nana from...Nana, or Haruhi from the Melancholy of.

The Fangirl/boy Cosplayer: Probably the rarest breed of cosplayer. Their love is not so much based upon a love for the character they play, but for the character they would like to be with. This can sometimes occur when cosplaying as a pair or within a group. This breed is so rare because it is no so much based upon the love of dressing up, rather the love of showing off. That is not to put down the Fan cosplayer, for they still enjoy the interaction and the preparation, but the ultimate goal is not to bag an award, but to bag that boy/girl. Go on Misa, Light is yours for the taking.

The Roving Cosplayer: Who needs one reason to cosplay when you can have a few? Those who really take cosplaying to heart cosplay more than one character and there will be a reason for picking each. Let us meet another person; we shall call her Sakura. Now Sakura isn't a very tall person at all. She is fairly small for her age and less 'developed' than some of the other girls. Her hair is a light brown and her eyes are green. Therefore she plays that delightful little Cardcaptor as best she can, since her costumes are rather complicated. A year or two down the line Sakura has discovered a new anime and she has fallen in love with it. Naruto has everything she has come to love in an anime and even has a character with her name in it. So perhaps her hair isn't pink and she is still a little on the slim side to look like she can do martial arts, but she loves that Sakura and for a while reverts to red and white dresses. This does not last long however, for after a sudden growth spurt and a new anime to love, she is moving on. Tsubasa has brought that little Cardcaptor back in to her life but in a whole new form. With years of cosplaying behind her she throws all her effort into getting that Princess dress just right, and though she has since dyed her hair pink, she is willing to style a wig to make it all just right.

So there you have it my Otaku chums, the basics of cosplay. Though I am sure there are those of you who cosplay “just cuz” I hope others have seen themselves mentioned here. Bob may cause nausea in others, but in himself he is very happy and will cosplay for many years to come. That is what cosplay should be about above all things, you having fun (unless you're entering competitions, then accuracy helps). Nuts to those who put you down for being a brunette while playing Winry, defy those who say you aren't slim enough to be Sailor Mars, the finger to the one who pointed out the purple on your Yugi wig was the wrong shade of purple. Go out there and cosplay your little hearts out and only take it seriously if you really, really need to.

Side Note: Just as I expect you not to take this article too seriously. I have no intention of offending anyone and the views expressed above have come from years of cosplaying myself, a hobby I have now let go but one I still admire in people when it is done for the right reasons.

I Didn't Steal This Fanart

Take a moment, if you will, to browse through the fanart of your favourite anime. Look to your left, look to your right, the chances are 100% of the images you view are stolen.

No, that's not true at all, but there is a large chance something will catch your eye as you swear you have seen it before. There is something in the pose of a character or the set up of the scene that is ringing some bells. It is at that point you realise you have seen this work before, in its original state by a different artist. Usually you have come across said artwork on deviantart or on that anime's forum and there is a chance this alteration was submitted by the original artist.

More often than not though, it has not been drawn by the original artist, and certainly not approved. What is even worse though is the large amount that do not credit the original artist. They take, for example, a fanart of Riza and Roy from FMA, they copy/trace it but replace Riza with their O.C and post it here for the world to admire. They didn't create the setting, the style or the pose, but claim it all as their own work.

Is this theft? If they posted the original, claiming it as their own it is. So can the same be said for copying and altering? If the original artist is not credited the new artist is claiming that work as all their own when it is not. Such works, I see, often stay put while theft is clamped down upon, and only a few will credit the original artist when asked. You could be direct and ask the artist the credit the original, you could report them, you could even be sneaky and report them to the original artist.

So should this semi form of art theft be reported? Loving an art so much you wish to copy it is not a crime in itself, as long as you acknowledge the original artist. Many artists to not want their work copied, but others will be flattered. I have seen two fanarts this morning that have copied someone elses work and not mentioned it was not originally their idea. Sticking a different character in to another place does not make it your own, neither does adding a random O.C. Please artists, be fair to the creators of the original art, if you loved it so much, give it the credit it deserves.