Be me, circa early 2000’s. Young teenager, staying up late on a school night, keeping my television as low as possible so my mom doesn’t come in and yell at me to go to sleep. We’re through all the preliminary adult animated cartoons that I saw on Fox, like, a year ago at that point. And then it’s time. The introductory bars of “Ready, Steady, Go” or “I Am” or “Tank” or “Dream Island Obsessional Park” or the opening of whatever show or season was first in the lineup at the moment. Anime. This weird, Japan-based form of animation that, for a long time, I could not get some people I knew to understand past Pokemon or Speed Racer.
“Okay, so they’re alchemists, alright? And they’re brothers and one of them had his soul bound to a suit of armor…are you following?”
And I was in that weird sweet spot of anime fan. Too poor and lacking in the right social connections to import, so I hadn’t memorized all of Final Fantasy: Advent Children like one of my friends in band. Stuck with dial-up way later than everyone else kept my access to online communities limited. Pre-YouTube meant fansubs and video sharing as a whole were more…complicated. But I had Adult Swim. I had Toonami.
And they beamed that sick anime goodness right into my impressionable eyeballs.
As the years went on, the fascination faded. That time that was previously set aside for watching was transformed into studying and marathoning Super Smash Brothers as I aged into college. Then, on my own, I couldn’t afford cable, and the new anime I had access to eventually shifted to the very new Netflix streaming service or whatever I could find broken into pieces on YouTube. By the time Crunchyroll and Funimation streaming arrived, I was an adult. Like…a real one. The kind of adult that has so many adult things to do just to survive that keeping up with new anime gets harder and harder.
Then an incredible thing happened in January of 2019.
I walked into a studio in north Texas and recorded my first ever line as an English dub voice actor for an anime. Now, this wasn’t some overnight thing. I had been busting my butt in indie games and web animation for a handful of years, at that point. I wasn’t even specifically looking to get into anime when I had started voice work, but moved it into my goalposts as I realized it might actually be accessible to me. But that moment? That instant of old and new, past and present and future coalescing? Completely incomparable.
Then something else would happen within the next year. I had started working in earnest, getting my punches in with bit parts and crowds, the essential background matter of anime. I get called in for this new show I had never heard of. First episode. Just some adult women fussing over the main character, explaining his terrible, horrible backstory. Great stuff. The usual. Was happy to be there working with amazing people.
Fire Force would go on to have a a huge premiere event at Anime Expo. Oh wow! Cool!
Coming this summer to Toonami: Fire Force!
Oh…OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT?!
Has something ever happened to you where you didn’t realize it had always secretly been dream of yours until it actually happened?
But you see…then it gets…weirder.
A year later, middle of 2020. I get called in for a “dub from home,” the thing that’s kept simul-dubbed anime going through the pandemic. It’s Fire Force, again.
What would proceed to occur over the next couple of hours was one of the most physically demanding voice acting sessions I had had at the time.
That episode would stream on Funimation’s site a few weeks later.
That episode would go on to air on Toonami a few months later.
So, there’s exactly one thing weirder (so far) than suddenly finding out your voice is going to be on Toonami. That your dulcet tones will appear on Cartoon Network, a channel you were basically raised on.
And that’s when a character you voice appears on that selfsame channel getting the ever loving crap beat out of him for three minutes straight and watching the reactions to it in real time on Twitter.
Now I’m most assuredly in the “do the work” part of the anime aspect of my voice acting career. I’ve been very lucky to get a few great parts and do some really great work. And I generally don’t freak out about it. It’s a job. A job I love doing every single day I get to do it and take very very seriously but a job nonetheless.
But then there’s that twelve year old.
That twelve year old that tuned in every week to see what would happen to Inuyasha and Kagome.
And I think about who that’s going to be in fifteen to twenty years. Who that kid is now.
And I hope whoever that kid is, that when the time comes they will also call every single one of their friends to find out who has cable so that they can get a picture of their name in the credits.