I started doing a review of all my drafts in this blog
up to the Super Gals draft in Fall 2009 and just a few days ago, I posted one for the Ah My Goddess
draft in the spring. And now, I am writing a review for the Aria draft that just concluded with The Great Bear winning the draft. So a big congrats to those who made the podium. This one will go into much greater depth than the previous reviews that I wrote.
Before I get into the review, I will say that I find fall drafts to be more challenging than blind drafts and that's not just because of my first round losing streak that currently stands at 4. There is little room for error in a fall draft whereas there is some room for error in the spring draft and how well you can cover it up is what makes the difference. My usual drafting strategy gives me the best chance at producing a high-quality cast list. In addition, the NFL term "copycat league" applies to the spring draft. I can see what others are doing to make adjustments to my cast list accordingly for the spring draft (it helped me find a place for VA's that I had a hard time trying to find a character for), but in the fall draft, everything is pretty much set in stone when the copycat factor comes into play during the spring draft with not much room for adjustments. And so, after my debacle in the Super Gals draft where my Magical Knights theme failed like a end-around reverse where the ball was bobbled on the second handoff, I decided to give the fall draft another try, mostly because there is a chance I might be too busy to participate in next year's draft.
For this blog, I will make a pick-by-pick assessment and explain what was going through my mind when making these picks.
Aria (Fall 2010)
Akari Mizunashi - Veronica Taylor
Alicia Florence - Bridget Hoffman
Aika S. Granzcheta - Larissa Wolcott
Alice Carroll - Brenna O'Brien
Akatsuki Izumo - Vic Mignogna
President Aria - Julie Ann Taylor
Ai - Chelsea Curto
Akira E. Ferrari - Janyse Jaud
Athena Glory - Julie Ann Taylor
Grandma - Marcy Bannor
Al - Mike Sinterniklaas
Woody - Quinton Flynn
Anna - Deborah Sale Butler
Maa - Larissa Wolcott
In hopes of ending my losing streak in fall drafts, I made some pretty big changes to my strategy. I still made a tiered list of possible VA's for each mandatory character to determine which characters need immediate attention. But this time, I also gave the same treatment to all important optional characters (Group 1 and 2 in this case). The main motivation for doing this came from the Super Gals draft where I could have taken Leah Clark for Mami in round 2 and get Joel McDonald (my #4 Yuya that I really liked) much later instead of Todd Haberkorn. I ended up putting her off because she was an optional character and there was always the option of snubbing her. But when I realized I needed to cast for her in order to make my connections work that I ended up having to scramble for one and ended up settling for Kelli Cousins as my pick. The gap between Clark and Cousins was much wider than between Haberkorn and McDonald, and thus, I took that in perspective when organizing my strategy. It was through this that I identified who to go after early based on a combination of importance (Akari), difficulty (Athena), and low supply of high-quality VA's (Alicia). So these three characters, and Aika, which had all three aspects though not to the level of the respective characters, needed early attention. Although Athena is optional, I had every intention of casting her seeing that all Prima-trainee pairs needed to be complete to stand any chance. So learning from that, I made getting Julie Ann Taylor (first choice was Caitlin Glass, but I probably had no chance at her unless I took her in round 1, which I had no intention of doing) for my Athena an early priority considering that the gap between her and next VA on my list was big. Under my old strategy, I probably would have scrambled to come up with a VA for Athena in round 6 and the pick was most likely going to be Carol-Anne Day.
My second big change is that after that stage, my next picks were to be dictated by which casting decision would have the biggest "WOW!" factor rather than filling my mandatory characters whose list is thinning out and then going after the optionals. With all those lost opportunities and lack of standouts that it lacked a reason for voters to say "Oh, yes. (VA name) is absolutely perfect for (character name), so I have to vote for this cast." Instead, my previous strategy sends the message "OK. (VA name) gets the job done for (character name). Next." So thinking about this, I had opted to fill my cast list with standouts at the risk of having to use lower-tiered VA's for some mandatory character instead of having mid-tiered VA's for all those roles, which is what has been the biggest problem with my fall cast lists. This explains my selections of Mignogna (big name recognition) and Bannor (popular amongst the players and perfect for Grandma).
Also, I have been too handcuffed by drafting for fit only, and I decided to step outside the box to see what else these other picks bring to the table. That explains why I selected Chelsea Curto over Serena Varghese and Mike Sinterniklaas over Shannon Emerick for their respective roles. Even though I thought the latter selections were better fits, the former would bring more intangible value to my cast list much like Populuxe's A-team theme (what it is will be explained in the pick-by-pick analysis). Those VA's would stand out whereas the ones I selected them over would get lost in the crowd. My final two picks adhered to two important rules I have followed while participating: draft a VA who has never been taken before and draft Quinton Flynn. So I will breakdown the decision process for all my picks.
1.4 Bridget Hoffman
: She was, by far, my top priority for this draft. With this pick, I needed to make a home run selection right out of the gate, and I saw Hoffman as the best bet. I believed that she, just like Alicia's service, was going to be in high demand seeing how perfect she is for Alicia and so, I took the initiative. I was also anticipating an early run of VA's for Alicia (though it did happen, it started after my second pick). I have always drafted for the lead with my first pick (although in the Super Gals draft, that was not the original plan), but the reason why I did not do so this time was because I had a long list for Akari with VA's like Cynthia Martinez and Rachel Rivera having a great chance of being available in later rounds (though I made Round 3 the absolute latest to pick my Akari).
Rachel Lillis, Kari Wahlgren
2.13 Veronica Taylor
: I was initially planning to pick Julie Ann here seeing how difficult casting Athena was and getting my Akari in round 3, but after seeing my list of possible VA's for Akari dry up quickly since my first pick that I needed to get one with this pick since she is the lead. Luckily for me, a different Taylor was still there and I absolutely love her for that role.
Julie Ann Taylor, Hillary Haag
3.1 Julie Ann Taylor
: As it turned out, my next pick was around the corner. So I went back to the plan and got the Taylor passed on last round for my next pick to be my Athena. I also considered taking my Aika here with Haag or Lee. But seeing how much I liked Wolcott as Aika that I stuck with the plan.
Hillary Haag, Wendee Lee, Larissa Wolcott
4.16 Larissa Wolcott
: This pick was going to be for Aika in continuing my plan, and Wolcott was the VA I had my eye on for her this whole draft. I have been wanting to take her for some time and now, I have a reason to do so. At the start of the draft, my first four picks were going to be for Akari, Alicia, Aika, and Athena in some order being the characters needing early attention. This pick completes phase I.
Stephanie Young, Mela Lee
5.9 Vic Mignogna
: With the start of phase II of my plan, I would make my next pick based on the highest wow factor. Thus, I identified Mignogna (best Akatsuki remaining), Young (Akira), Paysinger (Alice), Siddall (Al), and Bannor (Grandma) for that with the hope that another one of these will be there with my next pick. After some thinking, I narrowed it down to Mignogna and Young. Since Mignogna was the bigger name that I went with him. It was such a tough decision since both are VA's I have been wanting to take for a long time.
Stephanie Young, Sasha Paysinger, Brianne Siddall, Marcy Bannor
6.8 Marcy Bannor
: In the span of five picks to start off round 6, all of my potential picks were snagged (Siddall, Young, and Paysinger) except for Bannor. In continuing my strategy, Bannor made the most sense seeing how perfect she is for Grandma and highly liked she is around here.
Janyse Jaud, Brenna O'Brien, Mona Marshall
7.7 Janyse Jaud
: Since my last pick, my list for Akira was almost empty, so I had to make a move on her this round.
Brenna O'Brien, Emily Neves
8.10 Brenna O'Brien
: At this point, I had identified O'Brien as the best Alice remaining, while I still had trouble figuring out the way to go for the other optional characters that I was planning to cast. So I wanted to make sure I took her, who is someone I had wanted to pick for some time. After seeing KLAC cleaning out my Alice list like the French soccer team was after the World Cup, I was not in the mood to take any more chances. Though I also liked Jennifer Forrester (Sanya in Strike Witches) and Marian Elizabeth Spencer (Anju in Karin) for Alice, these are VA's only known for a single role from anime that I don't think everybody has seen and for mandatory characters, I opted not to do this. Also, I had a hard time deciding between personal style points and better fit, and so I let what others are doing decide that for me.
Kether Donahue, Chelsea Curto, Serena Varghese, Mona Marshall
9.14 Chelsea Curto:
This pick was going to be for Ai or Al. In the end, it was between Curto and Varghese for Ai with this pick. Although I liked Varghese better for the role, I went with Curto since Singapore VA's have done well in the draft and I was starting to watch Karin around this time. Curto would stand out more being a star in a talent pool that is notorious for bad dubbing, although it is mostly because of the low budget, rather than the lack of quality talent.
Serena Varghese, Mike Sinterniklaas, Shannon Emerick
10.3 Mike Sinterniklaas:
Like the pick before, I thought Emerick would make the better Al, but name recognition is what Sinterniklaas brings to the table that Emerick does not. Sinterniklaas is another VA that I have been wanting to take and being the great director and actor he is, I opted to have someone who is an expert director although it was not required. Sinterniklaas stands out more since he has incredible range and has traveled everywhere to do voice acting. It's all about brand name recognition here, much like the reason why the Big Ten will always have that name even though it currently have 11 members and will be expanding to 12.
11.4 Deborah Sale Butler:
Part of the fun with VA drafts is to break in new talent, and thus I have made bringing in a rookie VA a requirement for every draft I participate in. Seeing how I wanted a complete Aria Company roster that Anna would have to be cast, and a few rounds back, Cecile Croomy popped into my mind as a great fit for her. Thus I had decided on her as my newcomer and planned to do so in this round. Butler does not have many roles, but she is very talented.
12.13 Quinton Flynn:
I drafted this guy in all but one draft and I had planned to draft him as my Woody with my final pick. So I went through with it to continue my iron grip on this great VA that's commonly heard in VGs.
Sean Schemmel, Chris Hutchinson
This was perhaps my best cast list ever. Hoffman was perfect as Alicia and Bannor as Grandma. Veronica Taylor is everything you want in Akari. Julie Ann makes an interesting Athena. And then the rest of the cast list was solid and well-defended, although with some room for improvement. Questionable casting decisions include O'Brien as Alice (not everybody is familiar with her roles in Elemental Gelade), Curto as Ai (people are too quick to write off the Karin dub, and understandably so), and Wolcott as Maa (needed a better plan for my double castings).
How it Fared:
In the opening round, I was placed in a super-tough and highly competitive division where either cast list could win it and had no deadweights unlike the other divisions. Like the other players have said, me, Ancar, and Populuxe were sure bets to advance to the semis if we were all not facing each other. In my power rankings (and with my cast not part of it), Ancar and Populuxe were, respectively, #2 and #4 with not much separation between each other. Except for TGB (#1 in my power ranking and it was not even close. I knew he would win from the outset.), I probably would have voted for those two if another cast list was inserted in my place.
How I Could Have Done Better:
While these big changes brought forth a better cast list, there were still plenty of things to improve on. I fell back to my old traps during the second half of the draft that started with the selection of O'Brien in round 8. Instead, I could have taken Kether Donohue for my Ai or Mona Marshall for my Al, both would be huge upgrades for their respective characters. But indecision at that point and the unwillingness to let any more Alice's slip away made me go with my Alice and I had a feeling O'Brien would have been available later. Secondly, I should have made a better plan for my double casts. Julie Ann as Athena and Aria was planned and all good, but resorting to have another cat being the second double cast looked like a sight for sore blue eyes. I needed to follow the unwritten rule where I could not cast a traghetto undine unless I cast all three of them. But I ended up casting for Maa anyway because I wanted to make that statement on my cast defense, so that was that. What I could have done instead was take Jason Douglas to be Woody and the Caffe Florian Owner in round 10, and then take Shannon Emmerick in the final round to be Al (replacing Sinterniklaas and Flynn). Then again, being placed in the division I was in, any single series of fixes that still remain within the perimeters of my strategy would probably not have made a difference. And so, in continuing my fall draft losing streak, at least I did so putting together a great cast list as others have said about it, and doing things my way (otherwise there would be no reason to participate) by taking VA's that I have been wanting to take for some time, but the opportunity was previously not there with Wolcott, Mignogna, O'Brien, and Sinterniklaas.