Interveiw with the Prince

Author’s note: This piece and the the previous one were both originaly ment for a the Toonami Fan site but the site creator never put them up so I decided to post them here.

Derek Stephen Prince is an American voice actor from California. Some of the roles he is know for are Ken, Veemon, Impmon and DemiDevimon from Digimon, George Tatsunami in S-CRY-ed, Ichiro/Kikaider in Kikaider, Keitaro from Love Hina, Suguru from Mahoromatic, and Uryu in Bleach.

In the world of Toonami he has been in several of animes: Phantom in MAR, Dr. Root and Multi-Card Monty in Dual Masters 2.0, Yoichi Hiruma in Eyeshield 21, Shino in Naruto, Beshimi and Cho Sawegejou in Kenshin, and Dr. Gaia in Cyborg 009.

I was able to meet him at an anime con a few months back now. I was able to get a hold of him recently through his website to do a little interview about the Toonami shows he’s been on and anime in general.

Could you tell me about about the Eyeshield 21 dub and what happened with it?
DSP: Okay, here’s the lowdown on EyeShield. It was NOT a cost effective way to do a show. Normally when Viz does a show, they’ll collaborate with a productions company like Bang Zoom or Studiopolis and commit to X number of episodes. On this one, because NFL Entertainment wanted to start getting into the mix, they decided to commit to do only the first 8 episodes. 8, I say? Well, yeah, technically it was supposed to be 8, but NFL thought that parts of the show could be cut out due to violence and football expository that most Americans already know about. So they made 8 into 5. Well, that’s time consuming right there. But what’s even more so is now splitting up each episode into 5 minute webisodes. And when you have someone like Tony Oliver at the helm directing and organizing it, Tony is extremely good at what he does and does not come cheap.  So they wound up losing way to much money for it to continue. Viz tried something and it just didn’t work.

Can you tell us a little about working on Naruto as Shino and your thoughts on the show?
DSP: I’ve always been a little on edge with the times they chose to show it. I’m really not certain that it’s meant to be seen before 10 or 11 at night. Yet I’ve seen it air as early as 8 or earlier, like when they have a Naruto marathon. Well, I have two boys-10 and 5-and they saw one episode that was really violent. My youngest had some nightmares. I think it’s a great show for anime viewers, however, and they do well at combining a lot of themes-love, hate, finding yourself, trusting teammates, etc. It’s also different from some other animes I’ve seen . It can have one mood then swing 360 degrees around and have a completely different mood. Like when characters start on a mission and it’s really slow paced. Then they get into a fight and it’s action-action-action.

As for the Shino-man, I LOVE him. I love his mystery and body chemistry being made up with bugs. One director-Sam Reigel-once told me during a recording that if Shino were real, he’d never want to meet him in a dark alley. I agree. He’s cool, collected and slightly spooky. Next time he’s on an episode, try closing your eyes and picturing who I may have modeled the voice after. If you’re thinking a cop from the 70’s played by Clint Eastwood, you’re on the right track.

Many people feel that American dubs of anime do horrible hack jobs on them. From changing the plot, cutting stuff, bad dubbing, and all kind things. What are your feelings on this and how do you feel dubs match up to the original works?
DSP: Okay NOW you’ve hit a nerve! I’m gonna stand on my soapbox a second here. First and foremost, people have GOT to understand that the Americans are NOT entirely responsible for the product that is aired here! Guys, this is anime. This is coming from Japan. Do you honestly think that they relinquish all control of the project once it’s shipped here? If you answered yes, then you truly don’t know how this industry works. They are not only responsible for the episodes that they ship to us, they have final say on who gets cast and what gets cut! Shocked, well then it’s about time you wake up and smell the coffee if you thought otherwise.  Now, it’s true that in the translation of dialog, we may change the meaning of some words, but that’s only because sometimes you have to do that so that the audience as a whole understand what’s going on in the plot. Do we do horrible “hack jobs” on projects? Only if the Japanese LET us, because an idea a director had they thought might work. Not everything that is anime is awesome, but where we can, we try and help so it may gain a following out here.

Talk about bad dubbing- one thing I HATE are fan-subs. I’m sorry guys but if any of you out there are doing this and think you’re awesome then consider this: If you dub your own version of a show and it gets a lot of attention, then who the HELL is gonna watch it when the professionals do it? If you want to be in anime so bad, then come out to one of the established cities that specializes in it and get into it legitimately. Think of all the people out there that are NOT anime fans but just catch a glimpse of one of your pieces of “masterful work” on YouTube, or some other free download. Most of the time, the humor is fan humor that a lot of regular joes don’t get, your writing sucks because the words don’t match the mouth flaps which makes it look like a bad English-dubbed Chinese movie, and you do your OWN cutting so content is lost there as well. Yes, sometimes we professionals can screw up a project, when it’s shipped here, we’re given limited time to get the sound and voices recorded and dubbed and have to throw it back out there because we’re trying to meet a schedule. Does it suck then? Absolutely. Should they have taken more time? Of course. Do the Japanese always have a budget to hire the best actors out there? Well…they probably would if people would stop downloading the original Japanese, or recently dubbed English that hasn’t even aired yet (and how the THAT happens, I don’t know, but there have got to be moles in companies for that to happen). But because there are so many that are taking advantage of those downloads without paying for them, the Japanese are LOSING money so they have to hire non-union dubbers that often don’t know how to sync or make a character truly believable. Also in regards to the fan-subs, I don’t know if you guys realize this, but by watching a non-professional version of a show, it greatly decreases a production company’s chances of getting a project in the future. People only make money when you buy the DVDs legitimately, go to a site that has downloads but is full of commercial advertising, or you WAIT for it to come on TV, because it’s the advertisers that keep the show alive. Low viewer ship=shows canceled or not being picked up for another season, even though more episodes exist in Japanese. Okay, I know I’ve probably pissed a lot of people off, but hopefully you guys who think we do terrible renditions of shows will remember two things: The end project is ONLY as good as the fans who watch it, and how they watch it. I really hope you guys walk away with this knowing that as corny as it may sound, the fate of anime is in your hands. How you chose to be a fan of it, can change the fate of future anime being shipped here as well as keeping all of us (who work really hard to make it good for you) employed.

One of the articles on Toonami Fan concerns a show you worked on, Rurouni Kenshin and it’s place on the block and what kind of show it was. Do you have thoughts on why theory didn’t do well after the Tokyo arc and do you think with the rise in ratings allowed for programing do you think it could make a revival?
DSP: I think that Makenzie really covered why Kensihin failed-the switch in storylines cut out the main target audience that became the followers in the first 27 episode. By the way, same thing happened in Bleach for Season 2, when it switched from it’s slightly casual, laid back tone to one of much more serious quality. But the show has managed to survive BECAUSE of the huge following. So in hindsight, would Kenshin do well after the Tokyo arc, given the chance with the rise in ratings? Probably.

Here’s something interesting about that show too: In the original-Samurai X-the tone of the show was non stop humor, to get the younger audience interested in it. Some of the more violent scenes were trimmed down, but had it aired instead of Kenshin, the audience that it was intended for when Kenshin aired may still have continued watching it. Very few if any fans saw it, and if you have a copy I’m gonna have to kick your but cuz you shouldn’t have it, but I have a feeling, quite honestly (given the audiences that kept it alive) that the show would have done better with that version and last longer. But when the Japanese saw what we did to it (which honestly was NOT the feel of the original), they pulled it and re-recorded everything when it became Kenshin. I was involved in both productions, playing Sano originally, and even though it wasn’t the original feel, was a better show. You die-hard Kenshin fans will probably want to throw tomatoes at me,and that fine, but that’s my opinion. This is one case where one person’s view of quality and potential viewership is also viewed as butchering the original because it did not stay 100% true.

Can you say a few words on working on both Dual Masters and Cyborg 009?
DSP: Dual Masters was the most messed up production I think I’ve ever been on. I don’t even know what happened, but that show must have gone through 2 or 3 different companies. And different casts every time. I’m not even sure why it all happened. That must have been very confusing for the fans. As fro the recording of it, it was very scattered for me. I’m not quite sure I connected with Dr. Root, but both he and Monty were fun to voice.

As for Cyborg 009, that is one show where production really plays a role in solidifying the direction they want to go. It was also the ONLY time I played a sole lead in a show. I was originally cast as 009, but after 2 or 3 episodes in the can, the production company felt I wasn’t the right voice for the show. Hey, it sucks, but it happens. Whatcha gona do?

Anything you would like to add or say to the readers?
DSP: I hope the readers don’t view me as a mean person, or harsh person, from some of my previous comments on dubbing. I’m just really passionate about my work doing dubbing. I love what I do, and I hope I get to do it for many more years to come. I just hope that enough people realize that as far as anime goes and your favorite shows coming out (either in English or Japanese) that you have the patience to wait for it to come out legitimately, rather than illegally trying to obtain it because you just can’t wait and you feel like it’s your right to do so. I’ve heard that comment from a lot of fans on this subject. Well, peeps, it isn’t your right if you didn’t put your blood, sweat, tears and hours away from your families working on it to make it what it is. You all waited for Wall*E to come out didn’t you? You all waited for Iron Man to come out, right? If you don’t have the money to buy a box set of something cuz it’s expensive but you just have to see it, then split the cost with friends and watch it together! Let’s keep this industry going for as long as we can, by funneling that money back to the Japanese so we CAN continue to see our favorite shows brought to life by many of the companies that would like to do so. It’s up to the very people who made anime popular today, to determine it’s outcome of either flourishment or demise. The power, quite literally, is in your hands. Will you accept the responsibility that goes along with it?

If you’re intereted in Derek and his work join his fan club Knights of the Dubbing Prince.

Also you can catch him each week in Bleach on Adult Swim, Naruto on Jetstream, and Gurren Lagann on Sci-Fi Channel.

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