Why Do Voice Actors Get Re-Cast In Sequels and Reboots?

by Justin Sevakis,

Sai asks:

Recently I watched the 20th century Berserk anime and then the third film of the Golden Age trilogy. The entire main cast voice-actors changed when compared to the anime. I wondered why they just didn't bring back the old cast for the 3 films. Is there any formailites to bring back the same cast to voice for further adaptations? Is it difficult to do so or does it depend on the willingness of the voice actors too?

When an old franchise is dusted off and either remade or continued, there are actually a huge number of factors as to whether the original voice cast will return, in whole or part. Some are actual decisions, while others are more circumstantial.

The first question to ask is, did the original creator (or their people) like the original production, and specifically, the voice cast? Is the new producer and director looking for continuity with the old show, or are they looking to branch off and do something new? A reboot is more likely to go in another direction, while a direct continuation of the old story is more likely looking to bring back as many fans of the original show as possible -- and bringing back the old voice cast is a big part of that.

Once the producers, director and original creator of a show have decided on a direction to go, the producers have to reach out to the old voice actors and find out if they're available for a new production. Some may have died since the original show wrapped. Some may have moved on from the voice acting profession (especially if they were in it as an idol, or another flash-in-the-pan type of celebrity). How easily the core voice actors can be reassembled might actually have an effect on what the producers decide to do with the rest of the cast: if one or two key people can't return, is there a point in getting the rest of them? This is especially true if chemistry between two of the old cast members was a big reason for the previous show's success. If you can't get one of them back, that chemistry will be gone, and fans will be disappointed.

The Berserk movies were intended to be a reboot of the franchise, so it's quite possible the producers wanted a fresh cast to take the adaptation in a new direction. Even if they did want to reassemble the cast of the old TV series, Yuko Miyamura (Casca) now lives in Australia, so getting her back on a regular basis would likely be difficult, if not impossible.

Reuniting the cast of a decades-old production, in Japan or America, can be a lot of additional work or expense, but it tends to be harder to pull off in America. Anime voice work is a low-paying gig, so while many actors do stick around for many years, a good number move on. Actors often move to other cities -- a Texas-based actor might move to New York or LA, or one living in New York or LA could decide to pack it in and go somewhere else. If the producer of that dub wants to fly them in to record, that's an option... but if the role and the show is an ongoing one, those expenses can add up very fast, and the actor might not be available for that long.

In other cases, the changes brought by the passage of time can be insurmountable. A successful actor might decide that low-paying anime work is no longer something they have time or desire to do. (Can you imagine Bryan Cranston coming back NOW to do a Macross Plus reunion episode? Not gonna happen.) Or an actor might join the union and not want to lie and work under a pseudonym, but the dub is a non-union production. Or they could be dead, or go missing entirely. One very prominent hentai voice actor once completely seemed to disappear from the face of the earth in between episodes of a show he starred in; the part had to be recast halfway through the series.

Every time a new show comes out a decade or more year removed from the original, and miraculously everyone sounds exactly like they did before, consider it a miracle. Time changes everything, so for a large number of people to be able to return to a project years after the fact is not something that happens easily.

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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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