Why Aren't There Japanese Voice Actor Bloopers?
by Justin Sevakis,
I was watching the Panty and Stocking bloopers on youtube and started wondering if there were any original Japanese anime bloopers floating around. I couldn't find any. Not one. So i was wondering, do the Japanese not release bloopers or do they simply not exist the same way they do within dub companies because of their way of recording their lines? Is there some sort of idea that releasing bloopers would tarnish the VAs reputation in the eyes of the Japanese public?
I've never sat in on a Japanese recording session, so I don't know whether or not "bloopers" as we call them would be a real thing that happens there. However, I can make a very educated guess that they don't. Why? Because they barely actually happen in the US.
Fascination with screw-ups in movies go back to at least the 1930s, wherein movie editors would splice together the bad takes to make a gag reel, which would usually only get seen by the film's staff, often at the wrap party. (This tradition continues today with TV series.) In the early days of radio, particularly amusing screw-ups would seldom get recorded live, so some producers actually staged re-enactments of particularly bad moments, which ran in comedy shows as early as the 1940s. In the 1960s, one such producer named Kermit Schaefer released a very popular series of comedy records entitled "Pardon My Blooper," which were mostly these re-enactments. Bloopers made for popular segments on late-night TV, morning radio, and occasionally a TV special. Comedy films and TV shows began playing credits over blooper reels. And now, we have Fail compilations on YouTube.
Bloopers are a thing in Japan, too, but aren't given such prominence. Bad takes are known as "NG scenes" (NG standing for "no good") and play a lot on variety shows, where other stars can laugh along with them, and they can be used to promote an upcoming film project. However, Japanese talent agencies are much more powerful, and maintain tight control over what is seen by the general public. Takes that they deem embarrassing to their client will never make air, and these NG scenes are very seldom included on home video releases. I've never heard of an NG take being released for an anime.
Back in the early DVD era, the US anime distributors were looking for new ideas for DVD extras, as people got pretty excited over such things back then. It helped if the extra was something that the company could make themselves, for cheap. And if a show was being dubbed from scratch, it was a relatively simple thing to ask the actors to stay in the booth a few minutes longer and just sort of be "wacky" off-the-cuff to a few scenes. Most actors tend to like being wacky off the cuff, but it's not the easiest thing in the world to get laughs in a dead silent room, alone, staring at a TV with headphones on. Some are better at it than others.
Most actual dubbing screw-ups aren't all that amusing to listen to. Occasionally an actor gets tongue-tied and might mutter, "aah, ****, let me start again." A handful of actors who are really quick-witted might spin a screw-up into a funny one-liner or something. But at least 90% of most dub "blooper reels" are actually staged antics.
I can't picture that happening in Japan for a number of reasons: first, the higher-end actors are getting paid a lot more, and since everybody records together, having those additional few minutes for wackiness would cost quite a bit of money. Everyone going off-script at once would probably result in unintelligible chaos in the final recording. I'd imagine the group nature of dubbing in Japan makes for a higher-pressure environment, so everyone probably stays a little more on task. Moreover, Voice actor talent agencies would also be less likely to endorse such an idea: it would be far better for them to participate in extras that get their talent on camera, so that their own fan base can develop.
And indeed, Japanese voice actors do get a lot more opportunities to host segments and events, appear in specials and music videos for theme songs, interview each other, and any number of other ways to promote an anime project. And in those, they get PLENTY of opportunities to ham it up and be really wacky for the fans. Some of them are allowed to be released overseas, but many of them don't translate into English all that well.
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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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