A Look Back at my VA Draft Classes
Posted 11-02-2009 at 08:30 PM by Buckeye
Updated 11-02-2009 at 09:47 PM by Buckeye
With the conclusion of the 10th incarnation of the AoD VA Draft, it is time I looked back at my draft classes. This was the fifth time that I participated in this event and I am still trying to figure out how to outplay the likes of the power players such as Ancar, Arcturus, Emperor Brandon, Super Rats, and Mr. Nail Bat. Considering that they have a number of supporters who are drawn into their styles of play that it leaves me at a disadvantage since I have no such support. And there are those who will always have their vote no matter how their draft list turns out. Anyway, I am still trying very hard to at least make it to the final four. It is time I take a critical look of my own draft classes as opinions change over time seeing how some VA's you understand much better in hindsight. In making my criticisms, I use a more neutral word when there was a casting decision that was a real head-scratcher in questionable instead of bad. Without further ado, here are my VA draft classes.
Negima (Fall 2007)
Negi Springfield - Johnny Yong Bosch, Los Angeles, Round 3
Asuna Kagurazaka - Kari Wahlgren, Los Angeles, Round 1
Albert Chamomile - Quinton Flynn, Los Angeles, Round 12
Konoka Konoe - Sasha Paysinger, Houston, Round 2
Evangeline A.K. McDowell - Mela Lee, Los Angeles, Round 4
Sayo Aisaka - Allison Sumrall, Houston, Round 5
Kazumi Asakura - Leslie Tesh, Houston, Round 11
Setsuna Sakurazaki - Sofia Mendez, Houston, Round 6
Mana Tatsumiya - Tara Platt, Los Angeles, Round 9
Lingshen Chao - Alexandra Carter, Vancouver, Round 7
Chachamaru - Siobhan Flynn, Los Angeles, Round 8
Satomi Hakase - Melanie Risdon, Calgary, Round 10
Strategy: In my first VA draft, I had a pretty grassroots strategy. I listed out 10 VA’s I like for a mandatory character, without considering tiering or taking casting difficulty into consideration, and without taking their flexibility into consideration. So with that, I ended up taking Wahlgren first because I love her and is a perfect fit for Asuna. Then Paysinger since I wanted the cutest voice out there, then JYB and Mela Lee in rounds 3 & 4 to be cast as two more mandatory characters. Since female VA’s were at a premium, that Chamo is an easy character to cast having a long list of possible VA’s, and that a previously undrafted VA that is not known for anime roles was my top choice for him that my VA for Chamo was saved for the final round. Sumrall was taken for the purpose of being able to easily switch between groups when deciding on my twosomes. With that selection, I had the option of taking Sumrall for flexibility purposes or to take Cristina Valenzuela and commit to the Baka Rangers. Initially, I was going to cast Sumrall as Mana after committing to the Robotics Club as my threesome until the draft got extended and then I thought of a better VA for Mana in Platt. Things then veered way off course after round 5 from the original plan seeing how my next choices were all taken. I got caught in the spur of the moment and took Mendez because she voiced a character I really loved.
Overall Assessment: This was my debut draft class and I made a ton of rookie mistakes that forced me to rethink my strategy in future drafts. On the surface, this is an alright cast list, but with much room for improvement. There were very few weak links, but at the same time, not many standouts, as in the VA's get the job done, but there is just something missing. While I loved having Wahlgren as Asuna and Paysinger as Konoka, they could have been better utilized. In Wahlgren's case, I drafted her and pegged her into the role of Asuna, but needed to also consider using her flexibility for other roles such as Evangeline or Konoka, and in Paysinger's case, she would have been better served as Nodoka, but that would have been an extremely risky move since that commits me to casting the library club threesome. I had a hard time coming up with a good VA for Haruna, and because of that the Library Club was out of the picture. Hits include Wahlgren as Asuna, Paysinger as Konoka, Sumrall as Sayo, and Carter as Lingshen. Questionable casting decisions include Bosch as Negi (because he would be using a voice rarely heard), Tesh as Kazumi (known for only a couple of support roles), Mendez as Setsuna (only one role of importance), and S. Flynn as Chachamaru (Was the British accent really necessary?).
How it Fared: When all was said and done, I was placed in the toughest division in the first round of voting and as expected considering how much perfection was needed, didn't stand a chance. This was the last draft before the switchover to the current software system and because of that, it was the last time formal character polls were conducted and this cast list did decently in those.
How I Could Have Done Better: The biggest mistake was taking Paysinger in round 2 with the reason being that my list of 10 VA's for Konoka was down to only 3 whereas all the other lists were still strong. I could have easily come up with more VA's for her, but seeing how the thought of getting my 7th best Konoka didn't sit too well with me that I pulled the wrong trigger. I did not consider how tough it was going to be to cast Negi and Evangeline, and I made a list that was too shallow and untiered. Further magnifying this mistake was my unlucky draw in round 3 and in the process, lost my top choice for Negi (Aaron Dismuke) and Evangline (Karen Strassman) in round 3, with them being substantially better than who I ended up taking. If I could go back to that fateful moment, I would have taken Dismuke in round 2, then Sherry Lynn for my Konoka in round 3 and Mela Lee would have been fine for Evangeline. The other big mistake I made was that I was being hesitant about the choice of groups. I took Sumrall in round 5 with the intention of searching for the right group to cast her in based on the available VA's with the next pick. Only problem is that this deprived me of getting the best VA's for certain optional characters. While she worked well as Sayo, she would have been best utilized as Minamoto, who I didn't cast for because I went with the Robotics Club for my trio rather than the Teachers.
Revolutionary Girl Utena (Blind, Spring 2008)
Director - Steven Foster, Houston, Round 8
Utena Tenjou - Michelle Ruff, Los Angeles, Round 1
Anthy Himemiya - Tiffany Terrell, Houston, Round 6
Akio Ohtori - Steve Blum, Los Angeles, Round 4
Juri Arisugawa - Christine Auten, Houston/Fort Worth, Round 3
Miki Kaoru - Chris Patton, Houston/Fort Worth, Round 2
Touga Kiryuu - Sam Regal, Los Angeles/New York, Round 5
Nanami Kiryuu - Philece Sampler, Los Angeles, Round 7
Wakaba Shinohara - Trina Nishimura, Fort Worth, Round 12
Kyoichi Saionji - Quinton Flynn, Los Angeles, Round 11
Souji Mikage - David Kaye, Vancouver, Round 10
Chu-Chu - Kether Fernandez, New York, Round 9
Overall Assessment: I felt this draft class was the most successful of all of my draft classes. When Utena was revealed as the anime we were casting for, I just felt that most of the pieces fell into place and I had the feeling like I was drafting knowing that Utena was the series that was going to be selected. Ruff was perhaps the perfect choice for Utena, Auten made the best Juri IMO, Terrell had a character that utilizes her talents in Anthy, Patton would make a killer Miki, Regal had that princely edge to be the best Touga, and Blum was exactly the character that I wanted for Akio. And then there is the director in the first ever draft with a director as this is the type of anime Foster is known for directing, making this cast list stand out. So overall, hits include Ruff as Utena, Auten as Juri, Regal as Touga, and Patton as Miki. Questionable casting decisions include Nishimura as Wakaba (better utilized elsewhere), Fernandez as Chu-Chu (was a result of my safe casting philosophy and a waste of a perfectly fine VA), and Kaye as Mikage (probably too old for the role, but the lack of grown up men pretty much left me with only this guy).
How it Fared: This cast list advanced to the semis as the runner-up to the eventual champion Emperor Brandon. Then it an extremely tight race in my division in the semis, it lost out by a single vote to Super Rats and The Great Bear.
How I Could Have Done Better: The only thing different I would have done during the draft was to take Jessica Calvello instead of Fernandez. The rationale at that moment was that I had the choice to take a hothead or cutie and I opted for the cutie since Sampler has my hotheaded character covered. Then I would cast Calvello as Nanami. If I had done that instead, I had the option of casting Sampler as Wakaba, and Nishimura as Shiori, or Nishimura as Wakaba and Sampler as Tsuwabuki. In both cases, they would make my cast list better. Back then, I believed in safe casting and tried to minimize miscasting (the next blind draft changed my mindset forever), which might have been the difference in the semis. What I should have done was put Fernandez as Wakaba (I was very unsure about this, but listening to more of her roles after the draft convinced me that she could pull it off) and Nishimura as Shiori. The decision to put Fernandez as Chu-Chu was widely frowned upon as the rules would change in future drafts to prevent this from happening. Still, EB's cast list was in a league of its own, but this modified list would quite possibly be better than everybody's cast list except for EB's cast list.
Kaleido Star (Fall 2008)
Sora Naegino - Brittney Karbowski, Houston/Fort Worth, Round 1
Layla Hamilton - Shelley Calene-Black, Houston, Round 8
Fool - Paul Dobson, Vancouver, Round 7
Mia Guillem - Hunter Austin, Los Angeles, Round 3
Anna Heart - Julie Ann Taylor, Los Angeles, Round 2
Ken Robbins - Steve Staley, Los Angeles, Round 5
Jonathan the Seal - Julie Ann Taylor, Los Angeles, Round 2
Kalos Eido - Robert Kraft, Austin/Houston, Round 10
Leon Oswald - John Burgmeier, Fort Worth, Round 4
Marion Benigni - Daveigh Chase, Los Angeles, Round 11
May Wong - Kelley Huston, Austin, Round 9
Sarah Dupont - Jennifer Earhart, Houston, Round 6
Sophie Oswald - Melanie Risdon, Calgary, Round 12
Strategy: Learning from my mistakes from the Negima draft, I went after the characters with the right combination of strong importance and tough to cast. By tough to cast, I mean that there is a considerable drop in the quality of VA’s after the few that are in the top tier and they are all early round prospects. Those were Anna and Mia. While Fool was hard to cast, there were a few midround options that I liked in my pick of Dobson, David Lodge, and Kim Strauss. Layla and Ken were the easiest characters to cast, so they were low priorities. Sora was in the middle, but since she is the main character that she was a high priority. As for optional characters, I wanted to build my group around Leon since I think that Burgmeier is the perfect VA for him and for me given that I had taken only one Fort Worth VA in the prior two drafts (though two more were through multiple regions), so that means May and Sophie became priorities. Karbowski was by far my top choice for Sora because she is one of the best at voicing energetic characters. Seeing how my options were quite limited for Anna and Mia and the fact I really liked Taylor and Austin for their respective roles that they went with my next two picks. This was the only cast list in which Quinton Flynn was not a part of because Splitter was sleepwalking in round 4 when he took him. He was going to be my Yuri using a voice similar to the one used for Raiden. From round 7 onward, I got everybody that I wanted to fill in the remaining spots with the exception of Mandy Clark.
Overall Assessment: Another solid draft class considering that the 24-player event meant I had to really dig deep. It was a fairly strong cast list as evidenced by the post-draft character evaluations. It has a strong cast for mandatory characters, but was probably dragged down by a bunch of questionable hit-or-miss decisions for the optional characters. Karbowski, Taylor, and Austin make one of the best main trios from that draft. Hits include Karbowski as Sora, Taylor as Anna, Austin as Mia, and Huston as May. Questionable decisions include Earhart as Sarah (probably too young for her), Kraft as Kalos (voice matches very well from my limited experience, but not somebody that everyone has heard from), and Risdon as Sophie (I did this to accomplish two things: to cast a partner for Leon and to take somebody I drafted before).
How it Fared: In the voting round, I was placed in a pretty tough division (though I would say it was the second toughest since two of the final four came from that division) where I failed to advance by a single vote. But it was not for a lack of trying. Considering the amount of players that liked my casting decisions, this cast list had the potential.
How I Could Have Done Better: If I had one mistake I would have liked to fix, it was taking Staley in round 5 since I was so attached to him. I would have been fine with Orion Pitts or Jason Griffith as my Ken (both went undrafted), but I would have been way better off taking Bridget Hoffman in round 5 for my Sarah and I went that route because I needed to start taking some guys after going with three females with my first three picks.
Tsukuyomi Moon Phase (Blind, Spring 2009)
Hazuki - Kari Wahlgren, Los Angeles, Round 1
Kouhei Morioka - Blake Shepard, Houston, Round 11
Ryuhei Midou - Jason Douglas, Houston/Fort Worth, Round 4
Seiji Midou - Jason Liebrecht, Fort Worth/Austin, Round 2
Hiromi Anzai - Lia Sargent, Los Angeles, Round 3
Elfriede - Allison Sumrall, Houston, Round 9
Haiji - Samantha Inoue-Harte, Austin/Houston/Fort Worth, Round 12
Hikaru Midou - Cynthia Martinez, Houston, Round 7
Kaoru Midou - Samantha Inoue-Harte, Austin/Houston/Fort Worth, Round 12
Count Kinkell - Quinton Flynn, Los Angeles, Round 8
Vargas - Robert McCollum, Fort Worth, Round 10
Jeda - Eric Stuart, New York, Round 6
Selene - Cathy Weseluck, Vancouver, Round 5
Overall Assessment: This draft was an interesting challenge. The female characters were strong as Wahlgren is perhaps one of the best at tsundere characters, Sargent has the right mindset for Hiromi, Sumrall has the maturity to voice Elfriede, Martinez is the perfect fit for a hothead girl that age in Hikaru, Inoue-Harte has the right cute streak to be Kaoru, and one of many Weseluck’s talents include mothers such as Selene. The male characters were an entirely different story. Seeing that Liebrecht could not voice Kouhei that meant Shepard was locked into the role of Kouhei since he was the best of the other VA's for the role. Douglas was the only VA that has done old men before, so he was cast as Ryuhei. Seeing how Liebrecht is versatile and that he does a lot of cool guys that he was given the role of Seiji. That left Flynn, McCollum, and Stuart for the optional characters. Seeing how Jeda's Japanese seiyuu had a young voice and that Stuart was convincingly evil as Kaiba that I cast him as Jeda. Flynn, being as versatile as he is, was then cast as Kinkell since he does have that rarely-heard deep voice in his arsenal. That left McCollum and he was cast as Vargas since I wanted to pair him up with Jeda and that this was a character that reminds me of a certain someone who McCollum voices. So overall, hits include Wahlgren as Hazuki, Shepard as Kouhei, Martinez as Hikaru, and Weseluck as Selene. Questionable decisions include Flynn as Kinkel (not thought of as the villainous, old type), McCollum as Vargas (can do deep voice, but not necessarily the right one), and Stuart as Jeda (too young for the role, but at least the Japanese seiyuu sounded young and so it could work out).
How it Fared: Considering most other players did not have the proper male personnel, that leveled the playing field. I was in a highly competitive division, but in IMO, there was not one cast list that stood out way over the others, which meant that it was anybody's to win and as it turned out, Arcturus won convincingly with me edging out two others by a single vote for the runner-up. In the semis, it finished third to the eventual champion Fencedude and third place winner Super Rats, and I only received a few votes.
How I Could Have Done Better: I had my cast list with too much of an emphasis on younger sounding VA’s that I should learn next time to have a better balance. The five male VA’s I took in the Utena draft are a perfect example of the proper balance that I need, and trying to replicate that, I needed to figure out who the sixth male VA should be. I should have taken David Kaye instead of Blake Shepard as my final male VA. That would have given me far more flexibility so that I could use either him or Douglas as my Ryuhei. Then instead of Shepard as Kouhei, Flynn would voice him using his normal voice rather than Kinkel with his rarely-heard deep voice. That leaves me with McCollum, Stuart, and Kaye/Douglas for my optional characters and I would have an easier time casting.
Super Gals (Fall 2009)
Ran Kotobuki - Wendee Lee, Los Angeles, Round 1
Miyu Yamazaki - Julie Maddalena, Los Angeles, Round 4
Aya Hoshino - Bridget Hoffman, Los Angeles, Round 3
Rei Otohata - Jason Griffith, New York, Round 10
Yuya Aso - Todd Haberkorn, Fort Worth, Round 2
Tatsuki Kuroi - J. Shannon Weaver, Austin, Round 6
Yamato Kotobuki - Quinton Flynn, Los Angeles, Round 8
Sayo Kotobuki - Kether Donahue, New York, Round 5
Mami Honda - Kelli Cousins, Houston, Round 7
Masato Iwai - Maxey Whitehead, Fort Worth, Round 9
Towa Himejima - Willow Johnson, Vancouver, Round 11
Detective Kudoh - Kirk Thornton, Los Angeles, Round 12
Strategy: Getting a hugely unfavorable first round draw really forced me to go away from the strategy that I had originally planned. It was to go with Miyu first (Monica Rial, Stephanie Shea, Jessica Boone, and Michelle Ruff were my top choices, then a huge drop-off afterwards), then I took my Yuya and Aya as planned, then Jessica Calvello for Ran in round 4. With the way round 1 unfolded, the best course of action was to take Lee for my Ran since reaching for a Miyu was out of the question. Then in round 2 I took my top choice for Yuya, then my top choice for Aya in round 3. After taking Lee and Hoffman that it crossed my mind to complete the trio with another trio, and Maddalena would be taken to be cast as Miyu. Donahue was taken in round 5 because I had nobody better to take, then I reached for Weaver in round 6 since I can’t risk losing him without a backup plan.
Overall Assessment: While this cast list had some great casting decisions, it was filled with too many high-risk decisions that backfired. My daring selections would be Maddalena (to cast a trio with another well-known trio, although I was not so convinced she would handle Miyu's darker side), Weaver (Loved him as Ginji and thought of Tatsuki as his alter-ego, but has only one significant role from a series that has been overlooked by many, not something you want for a mandatory character), Cousins (has been out of voice acting for a long time), Whitehead (I took her without being prepared to use her properly), and Griffith (usually the recipient of a ton of backlash for his role as Sonic). Nonetheless, I achieved what I wanted to achieve in my VA selections and now that those things are not breathing down my neck in future drafts that I won't be handcuffed by it. Hits include Lee as Ran, Hoffman as Aya, Haberkorn as Yuya, and Johnson as Towa. Questionable decisions for the aforementioned reasons include Maddalena as Miyu, Griffith as Rei, Weaver as Tatsuki, and Whitehead as Masato.
How it Fared: This draft was a complete disappointment seeing how it performed in the voting round. Having received the second fewest votes overall that I know that I screwed up big time falling into the same potholes that nailed me in the Negima draft. If anything, this type of cast list would fly in a blind draft, but not in a fall draft where perfection is expected if you want to stand a chance.
How I Could Have Done Better: While there was nothing I could do about my first round Miyu, playing things straight as I usually do rather than give into the daring strategy would have given me a better chance. This would mean taking Yuri Lowenthal for Yuya instead of Haberkorn, Nancy Novotny or Melissa Fahn for Miyu instead of Maddalena (they were the best available at that point), waiting a few more rounds for my Sayo (Donahue was my top choice and because I rarely take New Yorkers that I really wanted her, but Sherry Lynn would have been just as good and she went undrafted), which would enable me to take Cathy Weseluck for my Masato instead of scrambling, taking Sean Schemmel for my Tatsuki (while I liked Weaver better, Schemmel is the bigger name), and taking somebody else for Rei. If I were not so caught up in the need to cast optional characters based on pairings, Kiyoka, Taizo, and Kasumi were those I would have considered casting be cast instead of Mami, Masato, or Kudoh. Perhaps from here on out, I should treat important optional characters as mandatory characters like Mami, Sayo, and Yamato.
So there you have it. Overall, my blind draft classes have advanced whereas my fall draft class bowed out in the first round. In other words, I am perhaps a better player in blind drafts than when the series in known ahead of time on the basis that how well you do in them determines more on how you cover any shortcomings for not having the right personnel. That will make me strongly consider sitting out the next fall draft, but that is a long time away. I am strongly thinking about drafting based on a theme in the next draft, but I will see about that. Whether or not the theme goes forward depends on how the first round shapes up before my first pick.
Finally, I would like to ask those who participate in or follow the VA drafts to tell me which of my draft classes you liked the best. But given whatever the conditions were of the draft, please be insightful (as in give a reason why this cast list stands out over the rest), and be nice when you post your comments.