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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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09/11/2006 Archived Entry: "Kumoricon 2006"

Kumoricon 2006

By Tom Good

This year's Kumoricon was larger than last year, with over 2200 fans in attendance, and the new location at the Jantzen Beach Red Lion provided scenic views of the Columbia River. Guests included anime producer Toshifumi Yoshida, voice actors Tiffany Grant and Kirk Thornton, Michael Gombos and Carl Gustav Horn from Dark Horse Comics, comedy group Bakazoku, and musician Piano Squall. As always, seeing the elaborate costumes created and worn by the fans was a large part of the fun.

Dark Horse Comics

Michael Gombos and Carl Gustav Horn from Dark Horse Comics talked about manga in America. Asked about submitting art, they said that they loved to discover new artists, but they got hundreds of submissions per year, many of which offered too little material to evaluate. Many artists submit just a few character sketches, but they said they need to see evidence that an artist can tell a story and sustain it over many pages.

Voice Acting Panel

Producer Toshifumi Yoshida and voice actors Tiffany Grant and Kirk Thornton hosted a panel about voice dubbing. They were asked why the English actors have to work so hard to exactly match all the "lip flaps" in the animation, even though the Japanese original may not match very well. Grant explained that in the Japanese version may be recorded when the art is not finished yet -- the recording cast has to meet a tight schedule because Japanese studio time is so expensive. But since the English dub is made after the animation is complete, it is held to a higher standard. She also said that she always watches the original scene first before recording her part, but just to see what happens, not necessarily to try to imitate the original voice.

Yoshida explained that cultural differences can account for some of the discrepancies between the Japanese voices and those in the English dub. For example, in Japanese culture a stereotypical "threatening male villain" voice would often be a very effeminate-sounding voice, but that would not make sense in American culture. And for female voices, American girls do not speak in the very high-pitched tones of their Japanese counterparts.

A fan asked about inaccurate pronunciation of Japanese personal and place names in English dubs. Yoshida said that they have to choose a pronunciation that all the actors can comfortably say, then use it consistently. He compared it to how the standard American pronunciation of Toyota does not match the Japanese(approximately "toy-OH-tuh" in America vs. "toh-yoh-tah" in Japan). But someone in America who said "I drive a toh-yoh-tah" would sound weird. Yoshida also pointed out that Japanese fans never complained about the incorrect pronunciation of English names like "Edward Elric" in the Japanese version of Fullmetal Alchemist.

Yoshida challenged the belief that American companies come along and "ruin" Japanese anime by making arbitrary changes. He reminded the audience that the Japanese companies retain the rights to the material and control how it is used. Sometimes the Japanese company makes decisions about the English translation even though the American company does not agree. For example, the subtitle of the first Inuyasha movie, "Affections Touching Across Time," is an awkward phrase in English, ". . . but they made us use it," Yoshida said. He also mentioned that the Japanese company behind Gungrave wanted to call a character "Blandon" instead of "Brandon," until the American producer talked them out of it.

Piano Squall Concert

Michael "Piano Squall" Gluck gave a concert featuring his own piano arrangements of music from anime and video games. Gluck's "Nintendo old-school medley" accompanied a fast paced and entertaining video montage of scenes from a variety of Nintendo games featuring Mario. It reminded me of how movie houses in the era of silent films often had live music from a piano or pipe organ to accompany the show. He also performed a complex "Final Fantasy battle themes medley" that got a big round of applause from the fans. After the concert, he sold posters that raised over $800 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Gluck obviously enjoys what he does, and his enthusiasm comes through in his performances.

Voice Dubbing Demo

In one of my favorite events of the weekend, Yoshida gave a demonstration of voice dubbing and let some audience members attempt to dub a short scene from Inuyasha. Naturally it was tricky to get the timing just right. Three audible beeps marked the entrance for the line, such that the actor would start at the imaginary fourth beep. But even knowing exactly when to come in, the actor still had to speak at the right pace to match the lip movements and finish at the right time, and creating a convincing acting performance at the same time was also a challenge.

But two things really surprised me: First, the nonverbal vocalizations that accompany actions like being stabbed or swinging a sword were quite difficult for the volunteer actors to create, because these sounds can easily come across as unintentionally funny. The scripts have very specific descriptions of each one, indicating what the character is reacting to, and whether the noise should be made with an open mouth, closed mouth, or clenched teeth. Second, on the whole the end result was much better than I would have imagined. It was not as good as the real English dub, but it was fairly listenable. Maybe this shows that the sort of anime fan who would volunteer for a demo like this has some degree of voice acting talent.

In the end, it took about an hour to record the dubbing for a section of the show that was less than a minute long. Kirk Thornton said that professional voice actors might work more quickly than this, but then again, in some cases they might not. The event gave me a new appreciation for how much work is involved in dubbing an anime.


The cosplay contest allowed fans to take to the stage to show off their costumes, skits, and dance numbers. One group of yaoi manga fans sang a song to the tune of "YMCA" called "Y-A-O-I." Though many costumes were from popular shows like Fullmetal Alchemist and Naruto, one group dressed as characters from Death Note, a relatively new manga that I think deserves more attention. The cosplayers performed in front of a packed house, with standing-room-only at the back.

I enjoyed this year's Kumoricon even more than last year, and it was great to see the convention continue to grow in popularity.

See also:

Kumoricon 2005
Piano Squall interview

Replies: 1 Comment

Thanks for mentioning our DeathNote skit/cosplay! I hope you enjoyed it! It was a lot of fun. (And yes, Deathnote needs more love.)

Posted by Riyuki @ 09/14/2006 08:51 PM PST

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