Last year, we interviewed American anime industry veteran Patrick Seitz about his experiences working on shows like Monster, Hetalia and more (you can read that interview here).
Well, it’s one year later, and we had the opportunity to deluge Patrick with another round of questions concerning his work in the world of anime voice acting, ADR and script adaptation. What was it like to work on the English-language script for Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children? Does absolute power corrupt absolutely when doing ADR work for Blazblue? And most importantly, what would the Patrick Seitz vocaloid look like?
All these questions and more, answered… now.
You were in charge of all of the ADR work for Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend…
Yeah, that was fun.
How did you end up in that role? Up to that point, different people had been handling that position for the franchise in North America, right?
There was one particular individual who had been involved before on the previous iterations of Blazblue, and the Japanese side went to him and said “hey, you’ve been involved with this from the beginning, can we keep you around as the through-line on this?” And then he went to me and (likewise) said “hey, you’ve been with this thing from the beginning, you’re familiar with it. you direct and do scripts. You interested?”
And I said “yes! Yes I am. I like to work. Working is good!” It also gave me an unfair advantage when I went in to record my lines for Ragna. “I know everything that’s going on, and I wrote my own dialogue. Let’s do this.” So that was pretty awesome.
How often does that happen, where you are completely autonomous and have complete authority over the entire process on something like that?
Well, that individual I mentioned was still there as the client. I don’t want to make it sound like I was Captain Ahab, just pursuing every mad whim that came to mind, but, um…
But… were you?
Well, to a certain extent, I suppose. Usually if I’m directing something it’s not a continuation of a franchise that I was a main character in prior. This was really just a perfect storm of circumstances coming together to let me have my Ahab moment. But it was a good experience. That franchise has been very good to me, and God bless it for having a story mode.
Like I’ve mentioned before at panels and the like, I went into the very first one knowing nothing, and they handed me this gargantuan script in a 3-ring binder. It was a moment of cognitive dissonance, because I’m thinking “this is a fighting game, but… there’s an enormous script for it.” But I ain’t complaining.
So for Extend, that was a what… a version 1.5 addendum kind of expansion to a previous game?
It was more of a 2.5, but yeah.
Was it mostly new content to you? How big was the 3-ring binder for that game’s script?
That one was… were we paperless by then? I’m trying to remember. It might have been a file on my computer. It was chunky. It was a goodly amount of stuff, because they had the new characters, and all the story mode stuff for all of them.
There was a question I’ve heard asked about that one, where they redid one of the characters’ voices — Hakumen’s, right? They applied a different filter to it? Did you have anything to do with that?
Yeah, I think that was on the Japan side. We record our stuff dry, and whatever sorta post-effect they want to deal with is done on their end. We give them the dry, straight-up legit files and then they can alter them as they will. I’m not quite sure why that decision was made, but it was out of my hands. Again, I was busy being Ahab on the writing. (laughs)
So you’re coming in and working on a franchise like Blazblue that’s already had multiple installments, each with just an insane amount of dialogue, I can’t even imagine the workload for the translators and editors on a game of that size… for Extend, what did you get up front, and what kind of wherewithal did you have to work with what they gave you?
Luckily for Extend the translator was also the producer, and he’s been involved since the beginning. So everything kind of had his stamp on it, and his translations were really tight, so it was just a matter of sweetening stuff, giving it that extra characterization. When you’re handed something that’s already in really good shape as a translation, it makes that adaptation process much easier, much quicker. And really you just get to focus on the nuances. It already functions as it should on its base level, so.
Especially for something like Blazblue that is so intricate and convoluted storyline-wise, I was never tempted to go too far off the rails. I mean, the only place where I just sorta did my own thing was the gag reels, which is basically extra content. Everything else was too frightening, because if you change something too much you can really bite yourself in the ass later on in a future installment.
A lot of times things are going on in that game story-wise, and they’re not really explaining them all right there in front of you.
They sure aren’t.
(laughs) If you make an assumption about what’s going on, you could really paint yourself into a corner later on.
Has that ever happened? Have you ever run into that at any point in your script-writing career?
Nothing’s jumping out at me, but I mean, there’s always been the fear of that when I’m directing. Back in the day when I directed the dub for Monster, I ended up having to go to the fansubs just to watch the whole thing before I started.
Because I mean, I figured for a show like that, I cannot take the chance that some random dude’s lines in episode 15 are going to come around 30 episodes later and make it all whoa, he’s the primary antagonist. I need to know these things when I’m casting people, so for that one I bent my ethical rules a little bit for the sake of the dub. You have to know. You can’t assume anything.
The first thing I ever directed back in the day was Girl’s Bravo, and that show’s just… “yay! Silly T&A romp!” That was okay to watch 4 episodes at a time. Looking back, if I was doing it now I’d have watched the whole thing ahead of time, and I think the culture now is such that companies will get the materials in advance. But back in the day, it was “you’re gonna get what you’re gonna get when you get it,” and there was no Hulu and there was no Netflix. Yeah. Suck it up soldier, suck it up.
Something else you mentioned recently that I kind of wasn’t aware of — prior to being cast as Ragna in Blazblue you weren’t really known for playing that kind of leading man main character role. How did you end up there?
Yeah, it came together somewhat serendipitously for me. That’s not somewhere I’m usually placed, vocally. I can do it — and that’s true of all of us, I don’t think all of us are cast to our vocal limit all the time, all of us can do more stuff than we get cast as.
Until your throat bleeds.
Yeah! I understand the reasoning. You’re gonna hire the people for whatever’s in their wheelhouse so you can bust it out quickly and efficiently. You’re not gonna go “well, maybe we can hire him or her to do such and such and maybe it’ll work out.” If someone else can already do it, there’s no reason to tie everyone up in knots over it. But I’m glad it came together the way it did, especially since that’s a title where they didn’t have open auditions. They just did the casting internally, and nothing I could have done would have changed where I ended up
Do you get the impression people now think of you as being a different kind of voice actor than you were 5 years ago? Like your wheelhouse has shifted? Rolled down the hill?
I’d like to think that the longer I do this the more sense there is with individual directors and companies that “oh, hey, he can do more than I thought he could.” I mean, when I started I was doing more of the heavies, the bad guys, and really wasn’t doing anything comedic. I feel like that’s something that started when Funimation brought me onboard. Partially because, having never hired me before, they didn’t have a pre-set notion of “oh, this is what he does.” So suddenly I’m doing stuff like Nekozawa in Ouran High School Host Club, which was a younger character, and silly, and not at all what I was used to.
Basically, I started with the heavies, then people started giving me chances to do zanier, more comedic stuff, and that segued into me doing more accents, that sort of thing, which was helpful. So I feel like… I dunno, I think I’m probably more a character actor who can be used as the straight man hero type, but usually not. Again, in these sort of shows and games, it’s usually the plucky young 15 to 20-year-old who’s off to save the world from encroaching evil…
“Somebody get Johnny Yong Bosch on the line.”
Exactly! I’m usually the encroaching evil. But I like the characters I play. I like the villains, I like the monsters, I like the character bits. Heroes are fine, but it seems like Heroes are usually running around trying to stay two steps behind whatever the villain is doing, y’know?
Last year I asked you about Hetalia, which at the time seemed like an unstoppable juggernaut. Has that died down at all, in your estimation? Am I just oblivious to that fan base, or has Sword Art Online and Attack On Titan just kind of overwhelmed everything at this point, fandom-wise?
Those two have definitely taken the lion’s share of the excitement at the moment, but I think Hetalia love is — and I mean this in the best way — like tuberculosis. Once you have it, you always have it. It’s not always manifesting itself, you’re not always woozy and coughing up blood. But it’s always in your soul, somewhere. You know what I mean?
I think that’s the truth of a lot of fandoms, where you really get into it, and then it dies down a little bit. It’s not that you like it any less. The communities might be perpetuating it a little less than they used to, sure. But it’s there, and it’s ready, and when you get the call for that one last Hetalia heist, where they’re like “show up with your ski mask, your gun, and your Prussia cosplay,” you’re ready. It’s like riding a bike.
That might be the best thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about Hetalia.
I feel like I had a deep serious question about you and that game, but…
…But it really gets condensed down to “boobs.”
It really does. Is that conversation just done at this point? You worked on it, you were the voice of the Fighter. Did that reach you at all, that minor controversy?
When I saw the artwork, I thought “wow, this is beautiful, it’s very stylized, she’s got a gigantic rack, she’s got some junk in the trunk. My character’s all upper-body, I’ve got chihuahua legs, but…” It’s okay. It’s stylized.
So I mean… I suppose it was a little overblown. Bear in mind that I’m fully aware I’m saying that as a white male, member of the patriarchy, wielder of the dreaded male gaze. But it didn’t seem like so much of an issue, honestly. I played the game, I’ve seen it from stem to stern, and I don’t remember wringing my hands, or being shocked or throwing my controller down in disgust.
So on that note, Sword Art Online. How has that been treating you?
I’m used to getting big parts in little shows and little parts in big shows. I’m just glad to be on the team, as it were. When the audition copy came down, I thought to myself, “there’s a black dude. I think I know how this is going to play out. Not meaning to be presumptuous, but I think I’m going to be Agil. That seems like a thing that might happen.” So then when it did happen I was not shocked. Interestingly enough, the same day I found out I was Agil in Sword Art Online, I also found out I was playing Bobby in Binbogami ga!
That was an interesting day. They called me and I said “this is actually not the first character of color I’ve been cast as today, believe it or not.” They may have thought I was kidding, but I wasn’t.
How do you feel about that, out of curiosity?
You know, I used to feel slightly guilty, the white male guilt, all that. But I’ve come to realize it’s one of the glories of voice acting. I can play people much older than me, I can play people younger than me, different ethnicities, I mean… if I were on camera I’d be the low-rent Seth Rogan schlubby next-door neighbor dude and that would be it.
Part of what I love about doing voice over is I can play all these different characters, so I really shouldn’t give myself grief about it, and hey — they’re having other people audition. If they choose me, who am I to second guess them?
So I sorta got over it. I used to feel bad about that, but now I just roll with it.
You’ve become completely amoral and will now accept any big bag of money with a dollar sign sloppily drawn on with a magic marker.
I’ve sold out! (laughs) Man, this is gonna be a slam piece!
Patrick Seitz: Anime’s Favorite Racist
Patrick Seitz: Purveyor of the Male Gaze.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about Berserk. You played Pippin in the recent movie adaptations. Where does Berserk fit in your life?
It’s so bloody! I mean I knew of it, it wasn’t something I had prior experience with, although I’ll tell you, my girlfriend’s been time coding the movies, and I’m seeing significantly more of them than just as Pippin. Whoa. They’re rough. They’re rough, man. That’s a rough universe.
It’s basically the dark ages, but…
…but it’s not the dark ages where oh, you cut yourself and you die of tetanus at twelve. It’s more demons, violations, demonic violations, and… yeah.
Who would name their child Guts, anyway?
Who would name their child Gu— oh. I guess it’s the same kind of person who would name their kid Pippin! We wanted him to get into musical theater, but instead he’s this giant dude with a sword. We tried.
Nature vs. nurture. I keep hearing Berserk is never going to finish because the author, Kentaro Miura, is too busy playing The Idolmaster.
To be fair, I myself killed a good half-hour playing the new… what’s it called?
(Patrick’s girlfriend yells “Hatsune Miku Project Diva F” from across the room.)
Ah, yes. A friend of ours had it and my girlfriend brings it up, I’m snickering to myself… and then she starts playing it and I realize this is the meanest game ever. This is cruelty unbound! So I’m like “lemme try, lemme try!”
And it entered my bloodstream, went right through the blood-brain barrier, and so at this point I’m all “let me try another song!” I don’t know any of the songs, but man, that game is a harsh mistress. It’s all cutesy la-la, and you can give them adorable outfits, but when it comes to actually playing the game, it will destroy you.
So I really can’t blame him for maybe, y’know, putting more time into The Idolmaster column than the Finishing Berserk column. I can’t judge. Because that would be me.
I feel like the newest rumor at this point is he’s dying, and that’s why he’ll never finish it, but…
…but really he’s playing Idolmaster.
I will admit, a single tear does roll down my cheek when I realize “so I can buy Hatsune Miku… but I can’t buy Monster?” Not to always bring it back to Monster, but there was that moment of sadness. Monster needed more vocaloids, is the lesson I’m taking from that. (laughs) Oh, God, now someone’s going to edit Monster and put in Hatsune Miku as Johan!
Well, Toyota did those commercials for the US where Miku like, went up and ordered a bacon-wrapped hotdog off the streets of L.A. or something.
Hatsune Miku? Hotdog. Hatsune Miku? Hotdog. Their names are similar. Hotdogsune Miku.
If they offered you the chance to make you into a vocaloid, would you accept?
Oh, geez… I would be a pretty pretty princess. Bright colors, a lot of colors going on. I’d like to think I wouldn’t tart it up too much. Keep it more about the talent than the T&A. Something stylish.
There are male vocaloids, if I’m not mistaken.
Yeah, but not like me, man. Not like me. I’d be the bass doo-wop vocaloid. They’d be very polite to me, but also very confused, like “where’d you come from?” It’d be fun.
Can you talk a bit about your work adapting the script for the English-language version of Wolf Children?
I was very, very lucky to get that opportunity. I think the mindset was, they were very happy with my script adaptation for Summer Wars, and if it ain’t broke, don’t mess with it. Mike McFarland was the director again, which is always a good thing, and when I watched it, I just… It’s such a heartbreaking movie, especially when you’re taking it in 10-second, 5-second chunks doing the adaptation. There were parts where I was just sitting at my computer and sobbing. Then I watched the line again, and just (crying) “how much *sob* can I fit *sniff* in the mouth flap? I should write some *sniff* alt lines in case they decide to go in a *sob* different direction, and— *breaks down*”
And again, when you get something like that movie which is already so good, it’s… I don’t mean to denigrate what I do, but when you’re working with something that great, it’s like all you’re doing is taking it from point A to point B without dropping it. Like, can I get the tea set from the kitchen to the table without doing a complete pratfall and throwing things everywhere.
“How did this turn into Warriors of the Wind?”
“We took it in a different direction, you guys!”
Now, I’m jealous because they showed it dubbed at Otakon, but I couldn’t watch it. I was elsewhere. But I wanted to be there watching it. Watching and crying.
I spoke to Taliesin Jaffe about the state of the anime industry, at least the Japanese side, and I believe his exact words were “death and obscurity,” but how do you see things at the end of 2013?
I feel like I don’t keep a close enough eye on how things are going on the Japan side to have an informed opinion. I mean there’s always the fear — just because what we do is so niche — that, y’know, it’s a small boat, and the waves are buffeting you around a little more. You feel the hits more, and I think there’s always the fear that the bubble will come back and burst again.
Looking at the business practices now, we’re not going to go back to there being 40 titles per month on the shelf, 4 episodes for $30 each. Like, it’s not going to get back to that, it’s not going to get back to the licensing fees for crap shows being ludicrously high. I worry about stuff like this just because it’s all so niche, but that set of circumstances aren’t going to be recreated.
I remember hearing when they finally went to the court hearings for ADV, and it coming out that they’d spent close to a million dollars for the rights to stuff like Kurau: Phantom Memory, and it’s like… what? It kind of feels like people are of the mindset now that “well, as long as Funimation doesn’t go under, or make a series of completely terrible business decisions, then the industry’s probably fine,” but…
The crazy thing is, every time I go down to Funimation I look at that big building, and I think to myself “this is full of people who are drawing a paycheck off of having convinced a niche fanbase that skews young and is getting further and further away from an inherent sense of intangible property rights every year to pay for anime. They’ve somehow convinced people to do the right thing and pay for it, even when doing the wrong thing is just a couple of keystrokes away.” It blows my mind.
Well just 5 years ago we didn’t have simulcasting, and torrents for the popular shows probably had thousands of people on them. People would be going on bit torrent to watch Attack on Titan instead of just…
…going on Crunchyroll and watching it there, yeah. I think it helps that legitimacy is meeting people halfway. At a certain point, if they’re giving you this, and they’re giving you that, they’re giving you the blu-ray/DVD combo pack, with this number of episodes and these extras… At that point, if you’re sitting there downloading it, you have to sit back and say to yourself “wow, I’m really being kind of a dick.”
As for the general industry gloom and doom, directors dying, that sort of thing… It’s always the end of the world. I was reading a book about the crusades last night, and they were talking about one of the many times when they thought it was going to be the end of the world at this particular day and time in the year 1024. The winds were going to blow and scour all life from the face of the earth.
It could’ve happened.
It could’ve happened, but it didn’t, thankfully. It’s human nature to look around and say “wow, things are pretty bad, they’re not as good as they were back then and tomorrow we’re all gonna die.” It’s human nature and it’s also I think just part of people trying not to be presumptuous and counting their chickens before they hatch. It’s easier just to assume “these chickens are the last chickens there will ever be. You cannot count any more chickens because chickens will go extinct.”
I mean, if it all disappeared tomorrow, if anime disappeared tomorrow, if my larynx fell out, I’d probably go back to school and get a PhD and teach college somewhere. I would be sad, but I’ve had that moment where I think to myself, y’know, if I’m not working in this field, in this niche where anything can happen and every job is a gift, well… you can’t sweat it too hard. You were lucky just to get it in the first place and to have the run that you had. So hopefully it endures, and I think it always will endure in some respect.
Well right, you can’t make people unwatch anime or undo the influence it’s had on pop culture, right? You can’t make Pacific Rim not happen, you can’t—
Can we make Grownups 2 not happen?
Oh, dear, uh…
I forget that I’m in this little niche world of mine until I see the opening weekend box office numbers for something like Pacific Rim and realize more people want to see Grownups 2 than that. Stuff like that makes me realize I’m the outlier here. I get it, I get it. I’ll just go see it 4 times to make up for the people who didn’t.
Thank you for your time.
Thank you for having me!