Top Ten Actors of 2003 (Mania.com)
Date: Thursday, January 22, 2004
It's kind of boring when a columnist says something like "2003 proved to be the year of the great dubs!" What happens when 2004 proves that statement wrong? Ignoring all that, 2003 did prove to be a spectacular year for dub fans with many studios putting out some of the best stuff ever seen. While the actual engineering is something to behold in the creation of these soundtracks, you can't forget the most important element; the performer. A solid performance can make or break a soundtrack. A good performance can even save a show that's truly bad. And of course, there's more to just reading a line that makes for a good performance. There's the matter of actually becoming the character, and saying the line just like the character that makes it all worth it in the end.
So with little fanfare, and quite a bit of research, I present my list of the top ten voice performers for the year 2003. When I started this endeavor, I planned to present this list in a ranked order. In the end, I figured my list would be controversial enough without a ranking, so each performer is listed in alphabetical order. Many of you will read this list, and wonder what that heck was I thinking? As we all look for different things in a good performance, this list is strictly my own opinion. I gathered a bit of feedback from the forum users of DubReview, but this list is solely my own.
How did I choose this list? I looked at the number of dubs a performer appeared in, the types of roles they worked in, the quality of their work, the range of different types of roles and the impact any one role had on the audience. I also took in how available to the fans many of these performers are, as any good popularity contest relies on them actually interacting with the community.
Without any further ado, here are the top ten performers of 2003 in alphabetical order.
Laura Bailey - It turns out that 2003 was the year of the cat, as Laura Bailey stunned many fans with her wonderful performance of Honda Tohru in FUNimation's release of Fruits Basket. Laura has been a staple of the FUNimation studio scene for a while, with a strong performance as Marlene in Blue Gender. Laura's performance made Tohru the empathetic rock for the entire cast of Fruits Basket. Fans laughed and cried with Tohru, making Fruits Basket one of the most stirring stories of 2003.
Steve Blum - Sometimes viewed as the voice heard on Cartoon Network, Steve made a name for himself this year with his performance as Spike Spiegel in the release of the Cowboy Bebop movie as well as returning to the role of Roger Smith in Big O II. While many argue that Steve comes across as a one trick pony, his performances as Spike and Roger define both of those great series.
Luci Christian - One of only two relative newcomers to the list, Luci broke out in the anime scene with her performance of Kaname Chidori, playing quite well against ADV's bad boy in training, Chris Patton. Luci brings the right type of emotion to a show that wavers between a high-tech mecha show and a runaway school comedy. Not to be outdone, Luci follows up that great performance with the role of Ran Kotobuki, the lynchpin of SuperGALs. Playing Ran over the top, while managing to keep Ran real, Luci shows a strong range of acting skill. And just to prove her flexibility, Luci ends the year with the role of Satoshi in Abenobashi. Sure, she can play the girly girls, but she doesn't make a half bad perverted boy either!
Crispin Freeman - Vying for the title of hardest working voice in anime, Crispin managed to sneak into every California dub produced in 2003 by Pioneer/Geneon and Bandai. Ok, that's a slight exaggeration, but Crispin really remained busy by appearing in top titles like Chobits, Hellsing, Big O II, Witch Hunter Robin and .hack//SIGN. As if that wasn't enough, Crispin also did a little bit of ADR script writing as well as directing a few shows like I! My! Me! Strawberry Eggs. While a few may complain that Crispin is a bit overexposed, he remains a solid rock of experience in the world of anime voice acting. He also has a solid knack for getting himself involved in some of the top series of the year. Get used to him, cause he ain't going anywhere!
Wendee Lee - Ok, if Crispin is the rock, then Wendee is the other rock. Ok, bad analogy and transition, but Wendee Lee remains a prominent figure in the scene of California voice acting. She's everywhere, and proves to be flexible enough that you might not even know she was there. Her voice managed to show up in Cardcaptor Sakura Movie 2, Ai Yori Aoshi, Great Teacher Onizuka, Cowboy Bebop the Movie, Mahoromatic, Digimon and too many others to list in a quickie paragraph. Wendee also broke out the directing chops by taking on Risky Safety and Mao-chan.
Chris Patton - I tease Chris about his bad boy moniker, but when it comes down to it, Chris has built a solid reputation playing the angst-ridden teenage protagonist. His big roles for 2003 proved to be Sousuke Sagura in Full Metal Panic and the widely acclaimed part of Ayato Kamina in RahXephon. While many will say he's basically playing the same role with Ayato and Sousuke, the true magic comes in the subtle differences seen between them. Sousuke is a by the book military fanatic, hardly showing any emotion, while Ayato is constantly tearing at the reality around him. While the voice is the same, Chris creates truly unique performances for each character. And just to prove the angst-ridden teenager thing is a crock; Chris snuck in a very upbeat performance as Ohjiro in Angelic Layer and teased the girls a bit as Rei in SuperGALs.
Monica Rial - Much like Chris, it wouldn't be a Houston ADV dub without Monica involved somewhere. When you first meet Monica, the first thing you notice is her voice. It practically screeches for attention. From that, you can understand why Monica is such a great performer. While she's gotten kind of stuck in the soft-spoken girly roles (Hyatt, Lila and Kirika) she's managed to surprise many critics with strong and mature roles like Haruka Shitow in RahXephon. Monica manages to put the right amount of emotion to convey many of the darker secrets of a show. With her performances, even the quiet girls convey more than what they are saying. Monica also has a knack for getting those lines that just stick with you (This is hard). Monica remains a staple of the ADV Houston scene and probably hasn't shown what she is truly capable of.
Michelle Ruff - In terms of range, there's nothing like working from the na´ve world of Chi in Chobits to the sex pot kitten role of Fujiko Mine. It's harder to play the cute girl, especially one that's managed to become the most overexposed image of 2003. Every where you go, it seems Chi managed to beat you there, especially in terms of cosplay. Also, the role could easily have become tiresome with Chi continuously reciting her own name over and over again in a show filled more with filler than actual plot. Michelle managed to avoid all of that though, with a great performance than managed to become more enduring with each subsequent volume. Also, as Aoi-chan in Ai Yori Aoshi, she again, avoiding monotony with a solid performance that sold the sincerity of the character each time.
Carrie Savage - Carrie started 2003 with her endearing performance of Fuko in the last volume of Strawberry Eggs. From there, Carrie went all guns blazing into the role of Rakku in Haibane Renmei. As is typical for all ABe shows, the characters exist in a very lavish world which always seems to be on the verge of swallowing them up. Carrie enters this world with a solid performance, helping Rakku stay above the details, and helping to show off what's truly important in Haibane Renmei, the characters that inhabit the world. While not as prolific as many of the others on this list, Carrie's performance made Haibane Renmei become a show that all true dub fans should watch.
Kari Wahlgren - The other relative newcomer to the world of voice acting, Kari took the world by storm with her wonderful performance of Sakura in Cardcaptor Sakura Movie 2 and the bewitching Robin, in Witch Hunter Robin. It all started as the manic Haruko in FLCL which managed to lead to quite a few other major roles. From boisterous to demure, Kari has performed well in each of her roles, and carries a lot of potential to continue to be a crowd pleaser in future roles.
And the Rest
I said top ten, and I meant top ten, but there were more performers out there who deserve a bit of credit. Some of these performers just didn't get much play this last year, lost in the world of other jobs and back up parts. While some turned in some great performances to end out the year, we can expect to see them really fly in the next year.
Greg Ayres - Greg has moved up the ranks quite quickly in the world of ADV. He started off with ADV as the creepy Mikhail in Steel Angel Kurumi and managed to start off 2004 with the equally creepy Kaori in Evangelion. He wasn't resting during 2003 either, as he made a monkey out of Goku in Saiyuki and finished second place as Yuya in SuperGALs. Greg is the perpetual young at heart poster child and brings that trait with him to each role he plays. 2004 should be a big year for Greg with big parts in Gravion and Bastof Lemon.
Joey Hood - Many people tend to glaze over the fact that ADV actually has 2 studios, the second being in Austin, Texas. While the Houston studio tends to keep the bigger titles for themselves, Monster Island has been hard at work pumping out some gems. Joey stood out in 2003 for his role as Jing in Bandit King Jing. With a solid performance, Joey made people take heed of the quiet little studio, paving the way for bigger things in 2004. Joey and the folks at Monster Island should prove to be a solid contender in years to come.
Jamie McGonnigal - For this quiet, unassuming New York actor, Jamie's last major role was that of Takeo in Magic User's Club. Since then, he's had a few secondary roles in a handful of anime but nothing really big to speak of. There was a bit of buzz that Jamie had secured the part of Ataru in AnimEigo's dubbing of Only You, but that proved to be just a rumor. This proved to be a major let down as Jamie would have brought that manic pervertedness that made Takeo so loveable to a classic series. Never fear though, Jamie has been cast as the lead in World of Narue for 2004.
Lisa Ortiz - A fan favorite, Lisa is one of the big voices out of New York. While 2003 was a quiet year for Lisa, she managed to make waves with her performance as the lead in Animation Runner Kumogi. Lisa manages to create an interesting performance for each of her characters that making each one memorable. While Lina Inverse put her on the map, Lisa has gone on to stretch her legs making a surprise appearance in FUNimation's Blue Gender release, as well as continuing to create strong performances in Pokemon and Kare Kano.
2003 proved to be a fine year for dub fans with a lot of solid performances from many of the best in the business. 2004 is already shaping up to be a nice year with titles like Last Exile and Abenobashi creating a lot of buzz already. While this list is hardly complete with the best performances of 2003, we can expect the names on this list to make a big splash in the next year!