[Edited/consolidated to reduce where I rambled. Wow, those cold meds are something.]
For a little background, read phoebe_zeitgeist
's A perhaps-obvious point about shipping and voice work
, and don't skip the comments, which are equally insightful.
The TL;DR version is that voicework can completely alter our impression of a work, which is (as Phoebe says), probably completely obvious. I think there's a side-issue at work, though, which is that the voicework can also tell us how the voice-actors, themselves, approached the work—and our impression of the work, therefore, is informed by the actors' interpretation. That is, interpretation as the output (the voice recordings) and interpretation as the input (their own view of a character, a story, the conflict, and so on). I'll refrain from quoting too much of the original post & replies, since you can read it there, but I do want to call out this example, from aquila_black
...my first introduction to Naruto was one of the movies, dubbed into English and shown once at our local theater... The movie had interviews with several of the American voice actors, the Japanese voice actors, and the manga-ka himself. The middle-aged American lady voicing Naruto was embarrassingly informal and unprofessional, and had nothing interesting to say about her character. The Japanese voice actress gave the camera a serious, well-thought out response about the responsibility she felt, at portraying the emotional complexities of an orphan who projects a relentlessly cheerful exterior, while often feeling desperately alienated and alone. Needless to say, it was a night and day difference. The Japanese actress convinced me that her character was worth my time.
In short, I see the output-interpretation as hampered or stifled by the lack of input-interpretation. Or, in the instance of the Japanese voice actress, the output is significantly enhanced by the amount of input she gave it.
This is not that unusual for Japanese seiyuu, from the interviews I've seen. It's the English-speaking
VA who spends considerable time watching the original, thinking about the character, that's the unusual one (and they do exist, but there's plenty more who don't know of the original or seem to care). A similar case in point, for me, was watching the VA interviews that came with the US release of the Cowboy Bebop
Spike's VA (from the series) didn't do the movie-Spike
[See comments in re this statement.] Faye's VA... well, I recall the question was something about playing Faye, and the answer was mostly about how awesome it was to hang out with the gang, and we all get along well, and blah blah blah.
(Not saying VAs are the only ones who do this; I've seen many actors/actresses asked about their character and answer with how hard the filming was, or doing their own stunts, or how close the entire cast got to be. Okay, some actors/actresses just don't like to analyze a character, and insist it should be left to the audience. Except I'm not asking for the definitive meaning; I just want to know the actor/actress or VA actually gave characterization as much thought as I'm going to give it while ripping it apart.)
The reason the other VA non-responses stood out was because Edward's VA spent no little time explaining how much thought
she'd put into trying to communicate Edward's utterly-Japanese wacky dialogue into an English equivalent (IIRC, the VA doesn't know Japanese). She put time and effort not just into understanding Edward, but into crafting the translated dialogue with the director and scriptwriter, to "find" Edward's English voice. That's a lot of extra work, though, for a job where you're probably only making a pittance, anyway. Not everyone can, or will, or even is allowed to, go beyond like that.
But criticisms like mine do put a lot of weight on VA shoulders, and I think we need to shift some of that to where it belongs: the director
. If you're in a play, and you don't know or haven't yet seen where the story's going, it's the director who says, "read the line like this," or "the character is actually feeling like ___ but showing an expression of ____ because s/he is thinking ___." There's a reason for the old joke about the actor asking, "what's my motivation!?" When all else fails, the one who can best answer that is the director
... and I think we may have a substantial lack of directors in US VA work, from the results I'm seeing. Either that, or the English-speaking VAs are so incredibly bad that no amount of directing would save 'em. Hard to tell from the final product. ( Now that's out of the way, time for the main course: Kuroshitsuji, and some side-by-side comparisons. )
This took all day on benedryl, so I think I'll turn the mic over to the rest of you, now.
ETA: forgot to mention this, but at least one member of the English Kuroshitsuji
cast does deserve some mention: the VA for Meiran did a remarkable job of matching the Japanese VA's peculiarly hoarse-raspy-funny delivery. It's not a total match-up, but the VA gets points from me for not only mimicking the Japanese Meiran-style, but doing it with a low-class Brit accent as well. Well done, that.