Becoming an English Anime Dubber

So my friend sent me a snapchat of the Boruto dub the other day and it was… pretty bad in some places. Of course I appreciate that dubbing is no easy feat, especially since they probably don’t get much rehearsal, the lines need to be translated in a way that matches what’s on screen, and the anime style just fits better with Japanese than English. If you’ve somehow stumbled here instead of a reputable source, note that this is a blog about stupid plans/ideas, not actual advice.

Well that got me thinking… I love anime and would love to contribute to a production in one way or another. How would I land a gig? Well… most voice actors would probably call their agent and ask them to get them on an anime but getting picked up by an agent is not trivial and doing this full time is probably a good way to destroy my finances.

Though a lot of voice acting gigs could be done remotely (I do have some pretty nice sound equipment), since anime is serialized I imagine it’s still done in person meaning you’d have to live near the studio. Dubbing is done in Texas and Los Angeles. (Amazing write up on why by Justin Sevakis linked here)

Texas Based:

  1. Funimation, probably the most well known
  2. Sentai

LA Based:

  1. Studiopolis (probably responsible for the Boruto dub that inspired this)
  2. Bang Zoom
  3. NYAV Post
  4. Dubbing Brothers
  5. SDI Media
  6. and other post production studios…

Well luckily for me I’m from LA and intend to return within a few years. So all I have to do is get together a good foundation in acting before then. So what job training do I need?

Going back to our largest dubbing company, Chris Rager and Sonny Strait from Funimation host classes. Bang Zoom hosts an official class directly associated with their company. Typically these classes are done in a recording studio but are available online right now from the pandemic.

Bang Zoom hosts their own classes called “Adventures in Voice Acting”. They have multiple levels ranging from $160 at the intro level to $400 at the intermediate level. Classes range from 2 to 4 hours and the length of instruction seems to have no bearing on the cost. This could possibly be due to some classes being more in demand due to a known teacher. The reason why these courses are first is their “Intro to Voice Acting” class is designed for those with “no prior training in acting or voice over”. Yep that sounds like me, a perfect first step.

Sonny Strait’s Class, “Basic Anime Dubbing” sounds like a perfect course for us by name. This class used to record lines and create a demo for you but I don’t think they’re currently doing this due to the pandemic. I hope to attend this class if they ever bring back the sound engineer to create demos. The online class is currently $450.

Chris Rager’s class, “The Sessions: Voice Acting in Anime and Video Games” is $600 for four classes. From comments online it seems they also bring in VA guests and directors. While this seems like an amazing experience, I would hate to make a bad impression to anyone in the industry as a total newbie. So this class is going on the backburner. Chris Rager also recommends other classes on his twitter.

So this is where my plan will likely come to an end and differ from those who actually want to become voice actors. If you want to become a real VA… why are you reading this? The next step is probably to find an agent and network. The entertainment industry is pretty much always about who you know. The Voice Actors Network offers a way to do this by attending their clinics, you can see a lot of the companies I listed above being represented there. They require “at least two years of basic acting classes, at least one year of VO specific training, and professional VO demos” before attending their clinics.

I on the other hand will probably just randomly throw my hat in the ring and call it a fun experiment. Do they companies even do public casting calls? Funimation randomly does open auditions and requests resume’s/demos at though they don’t exactly check this email often. Sentai has done open auditions in the past, limiting it to the first 200 in the door but the post I saw was from five years ago. Bang Zoom does open auditions at Anime Expo, Anime Central, and probably other conventions. Though from what I’m reading online, it get’s crowded so a spot is far from guaranteed. Well, this is just a fun side hobby anyways. If I ever even audition I’d count that as a win.

So to summarize the plan:

  1. There are 2 places that dub anime, LA or Texas, move there to be near the studios.
  2. Bang Zoom has an intro class for complete acting amateurs, I’d start here.
  3. Sonny Strait’s class is anime dubbing specific and will create a pro demo for you. Chris Rager’s class seems to have a solid guest list and is recommended by others.
  4. The next realistic step is finding an agent and getting your name out there and land an audition. The voice actor’s network hosts clinics to rub shoulders with industry professionals once you’ve had enough training.

As a casual attempt, I will probably get a demo together and send it off to Funimation or attend open auditions at an Anime Convention with Bang Zoom. Putting my best foot forward in an open audition will be the goal for my journey. Practically everyone with a voice thinks they can be a VA, I’m not so disillusioned that I think I can do better than those with a real passion for the art.

Caption: The featured image is Shizuka from Shirobako. The show is about making anime and follows the production staff while they interact with the rest of the process from animation and computer graphics to scripting and directors. (Spoilers Ahead) When everything starts looking up for the other characters, things still aren’t going her way. VA is probably the most difficult job to land and while all her friends end up on the same anime production out of luck, she fails the audition. She has a day job at a restaurant, embarrasses herself on jobs / auditions, and even hushes her friend Miyamori when she attempts to network her to others in the industry when they stumbled into her restaurant. I know she’ll land a job eventually cause it’s a cute anime but they really depict her struggle well.

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