Culture of Gaming attended Animanga 2019 and we got a chance to talk to anime and video game voice actor Brianna Knickerbocker. Animanga 2019 was held in the first weekend of August at the Pomona Fairplex in Southern California. Lots of anime fans gathered together to share their love for one of their favorite hobby. They get to meet their favorite cosplayers, voice actors, buy merch, and attend a plethora of engaging panels. Among the guests attending this year’s convention was Brianna Knickerbocker, alongside her colleagues from Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World.
Brianna Knickerbocker is an amazing voice actress from Los Angeles who won the BTVA Anime Dub Award in 2015 for Breakthrough Voice Actress of the Year. She performs voice-over (VO) for various games and anime. Some of her roles Rin from Catherine: Full Body, Rita Bernal from Mobile Suit Gundam Narrative, Sakura & Charlotte from Fire Emblem Fates, and Filo from The Rising of Shield Hero. She has an impressive body of work and will be playing Ling Shenhua in Shenmue III next year. Brianna is also a horror movie buff and is in pre-production on her first horror short. We sat down with Bri and talked about how she got her start in VO, her various roles, and her thoughts on dubbing anime.
One Day on the Internet
We met Brianna Knickerbocker at Animanga 2019 and she introduced herself as Bri (pronounced like the cheese). After we exchanged pleasantries, I began my barrage of questions about her various roles and her start in voice acting. She told us that one day she randomly booked a gig on a casting site because it sounded fun and was something she had never done before. Bri mentions she started “seriously pursuing voice-over” work after her initial casting. Even though it felt like a random occurrence, pursuing voice acting led her to becoming one of the best breakthrough artists as demonstrated by her award from BTVA. Once I understood how she got her start, I asked about her methods preparing for a voice-over role.
Bri first tells me her process is two-fold. For example, for anime she’ll watch the entire show and research her character and the setting. Video games, on the other hand, are a separate but similar process. Bri is given a code name for the project and often won’t know the role she is performing, but “the client will give tons of backstory… enough to build a three-dimensional character”. Given the secrecy, there’s no footage or previous work she can research for video game roles. However, this allows her to fully voice and express the character as she sees fit during recordings.
I asked about her experience voicing Rin in Catherine: Full Body for two reasons. Catherine is filled with tons of dialogue, meaing the role offered something she could really sink her teeth into. The second reason was that Rin was an entirely new character that was part of a cult video game franchise from a company known for creating stellar narrative titles. “It was absolutely unreal, amazing, and I was so deep in character that I cried in certain recording sessions,” she said. Bri explains a role like Rin’s allows her “live” with the character for a prolonged length of time. It became an “emotionally fulfilling role” as the character grew and evolved.
Bri mentioned also mentioned that the game had the budget to redo all the lip flaps and are reanimating them based on her performance. This is unheard of considering most voice actors are often syncing lip movements based on the Japanese audio, or at least trying to match the audio length. Games like Dragon Ball FighterZ has an amazing dubbed voice cast but still suffers from jarring lip movements. “You usually never get to have an [opportunity to redo the animation], which was the cherry on top,” Bri said.
Catherine: Full Body when it was first announced was a surprise for many and the addition of a third character was neat but not without controversy. Ever since then, there has been rumours floating around about Rin being a crossdresser or LGTBQ+. Medium posted an article clearing up any transphobic narrative the game may have gotten, but it does include spoilers, so be warned. Naturally, I asked Bri what her thoughts were about the negative attention the game received and if it affected her performance.
“I poured all my heart into Rin and you really do need to play the game in order to see what an in-depth and rich character she is. I can’t speak to any of the [contreversies] without giving away spoilers. However, please play [Catherine: Full Body] and see what happens [for yourself].”
Rem Rem? Yes, yes!
Bri won her award playing one of the best characters in Re: Zero − Starting Life in Another World: Rem. This year, the creators of Re: Zero recently announced a second season. Without spoiling one of the best-voted anime from 2016, just know that Rem is a popular and wonderful character. Rem disappears in the first season without a clear motive as to why. I moved the topic from Rin to Rem and asked Bri if she was ready to reprise her role in case she does show up in season two.
“Of course!” Brianna said. She loves Rem as a character and would jump at the opportunity to play her again. Bri mentioned Rem is actually one of her favorite roles she’s done in anime thus far. Part of it is because Bri loves taking on roles who have a darker edge to them based on life-or-death situations. It is part of why she loves doing VO for bigger characters. Bri says it gives her a “chance to go through heightened drama and change as a character”, to give the audience a sense of emotional catharsis. She says, “If I break your heart, I know I did my job well.” Bri also performs fun and upbeat roles too, and recently this year she played a character in another popular anime.
I asked her about her role in The Rising of Shield Hero, where she plays a small girl called Filo. “She’s just so sassy and part of me loves that about her,” she said. She mentioned Filo felt similar to another role of hers, Charlotte from Fire Emblem Fates. “Both characters are super boisterous, loud and sassy,” which are fun roles to play Bri said.
The Dub or Sub Debate
There are vocal fans who dismiss dubbed anime in favor of subtitles. Bri mentions that she loves anime in Japanese audio and the symbiotic relationship with dubbed anime. “English voice acting and Japanese voice acting is all acting and both are usually enjoyable,” she said. She has watched several shows in both formats and mentions how each version also gives a different “flavor”. I mentioned some anime shows I love in dubbed like Dragon Ball and Cowboy Bebop. She also made a good point about watching a show in Japanese and then watching a dubbed version to see what changes voice actors make for a western audience.
One thing became clear after talking to Sean Chiplock, Brianna Knickerbocker, and Laura Post at Animanga 2019: as long as you support the official release of a show it doesn’t matter. Dubbed anime can be amazing in its own right.
I hope you enjoyed our interview with Brianna Knickerbocker and her insight into some of her roles. You can follow her on twitter @briannanoellek or support her on Patreon. Check out her performance as Rin in Catherine: Full Body once it comes out on September 3rd on PS4, Xbox One,
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check out my interview with voice actor Sean Chiplock and my latest review, They Are Billions for PS4. For more great interviews, reviews, editorials, and news stay tuned to CultureOfGaming.com or check us out on OpenCritic.com.