No matter what level one is practicing it, comedy is a wild world of trial and error. As true as any art, someone might find everything about comedic works to be side-splitting and hilarious, while others could be downright offended. When television is involved, it is no secret that jokes and performances have been heavily considered and trimmed to fit the mold of the production’s upper leadership (“Cut this joke”, “Don’t say that”, or, more common in daily comedy: “Make yet another joke about the president. Yes, we know it will be the fourth time someone has this evening.”). Shows might proclaim to be live, but it is well known that every bit of television comedy has fingerprints all over it.
Perhaps that is why I have always been drawn to an era of comedy where the audience can see the transformation of what is aired within the lifespan of a work. I spent a good chunk of my early teens digesting old episodes of shows to the likes of Saturday Night Live and MadTV, amazed by the talents of would be super-stars and their clever ideas for entertainment. As of the time of the Oscars being awarded while I’m writing this, there are a lot of tweets floating around reminding people that Best Screenplay award winner Jordan Peele had a big role in the sketches on MadTV. It really goes as no exaggeration saying that nearly every other mega-hit comedy actor, writer, or director was involved in one of these two mosh-pits for talent. Viacom got in on this action when they put All That on the air for the weekend evening time-slot on Nickelodeon, SNick, and offered their own comedy skit series for younger audiences.
What ended up happening from these three series were incredibly diverse in cast and gave great minds phenomenal career trajectory. Take Keenan Thompson for example, who started as a headliner on All That, and has since had his own comedy series and is a recurring star on the current iteration of Saturday Night Live. There are countless other examples that I could dive into, but I wanted to bring it up for one simple reason: we just don’t have such a medium for vocal talent in the U.S. The closest example I know of is the dub of Ghost Stories (which I wrote about some time ago), which allowed the vocal cast to go all out and have a lot of fun with what was a disaster of a source material. Comedy anime are relatively tame and as a result leave a very small window for quality comedy from voice acting to show.
Enter Pop Team Epic (AKA PTE)- one of this recent season’s most off the wall adaptations of a beloved Japanese comedy manga. The feedback has been mixed between general audiences, with a rating of three stars on FunimationNow being an accurate representation of the verdict- people either love this series like it is their firstborn child or they hate it so badly that they actually hate the people who love it. This show goes at a ridiculously fast pace, and launches out skits at breakneck speed. At what would be a halfway point for a majority of shows, PTE runs it all back with the exact same skits, only voiced by actors of the opposite gender. The entire show is done twice in a single time-slot with that idea.
If you clicked this knowing how Dubs w/ Dil works, there are good odds you read through the first four paragraphs as you murmured under your breath “This guy is just going to end up listing every voice actor involved and splurge over how much he loves the role(s) like he always has. I can’t wait to project my frustrations over this trash series and his writing in the comments. Wow, doesn’t he have an editor to look over grammatical errors in an article on a community ran blog about anime? Goodness, I bet he wrote a lame *** joke in italics about me thinking this too.”
This actually isn’t (entirely) correct anymore. I’d like to start transitioning the Dubs w/ Dil series into concentrated looks into specific factors like seeing how the cast works and what I find particularly effective about the chemistry in the direction for example. This will also help me produce more of them as it was a lot of busy work to format the names, role hyperlinks, and other works. I’ll still throw in names in bold and links to their Behind the Voice Actors/MyAnimeList profiles as I reference them, but the focus should be more on the current role, not the “gee whiz” facts (after so many times of crediting Stephanie Sheh in a role, I kind of run out of huge “known for” bits I haven’t already covered).
There isn’t a better dub in recent memory I can think of to dive into a focus on the concept of a dub itself over individual performances quite like Pop Team Epic. Thinking back to the live action comedy skit shows that I grew up on, the question has to come up: “What is it that made this such a unique experience?” The answer was quite simple: It allowed a diverse cast of talent to spread their wings and embrace the craziness of the material. What could be better than letting two voice actors go wild with the silly jokes that might not always hit, but are easy to see they are entertaining to give life to? Four. That simple. To take it further, there isn’t the same four voice actors for the roles of the two main characters of the series in any particular episode. This stroke of genius lets everyone in Funimation’s dubbing bullpen get their pitches and have some fun.
I’m not exactly drawn to sub voice acting because I can only name a handful of talents, so I while I understood how amazed people were with the names popping up in the subbed version of PTE, it didn’t really hit me. I think Funimation handled the first impressions from the SimulDub the right way by going with someone who can hit the humor in a tiny orange hair girl having a deep manly voice as outlandish as Christopher Sabat (Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z). While various voice actors picked up the role of Popuko, it was wise to go with a fastball right from the top. It was so effective that people who don’t typically speak about dubs were going nuts over it on Twitter.
There is no denying: a good number of jokes just do not hit the mark for me in this series. I understand some might be elaborate pop culture references, but the saving grace that carries my interest through a weekly watching is finding out who is going to be in the current week’s episode. The performances range from “just fine” all the way to amplifying the source material in ways that wouldn’t be able to be represented for English speakers otherwise. I’ve known of the memes from the series forever and was tickled by some panels that had their rounds, but I was far more interested in this series for a dub after hearing the initial sub crowd talk about how there were two different sets of voice actors voicing the characters per episode. This is such a simple explanation for what is typically a deep dive into how much individuals impact the series, but hearing Popuko and Pipimi represented by FORTY different voice actors at the time of writing this is a marvel for the industry. It comes back to the original point with the live action comedy skits again: more roles to fill and be creative over means more work for the industry and, maybe most importantly, the more fun that can be had.
There are way too many names to sit down and write out, but take a look at this list of talents and just spot huge AAA anime roles some have had. Hopefully for others this will help establish their names and we can see more of them paid forward thanks to the silly antics of
Thanks for reading! If you have any dub recommendations, drop them below in the comments or shoot me a tweet over at @DilKokoro. Have a wonderful day!