Culture of Gaming attended Animanga 2019 and we got a chance to talk to anime and video game voice actor Sean Chiplock. 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 of anime and meet their favorite cosplayers, voice actors, buy merch, and attend a plethora of engaging panels. Among the guests attending this year’s convention was Sean Chiplock, alongside his colleagues from Re: Zero.
Sean Chiplock is a 29-year-old voice actor from the Midwest who is well known as Revali from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Subaru from Re: Zero -Starting Life in Another World. He is an avid gamer who loves playing dungeon crawlers such as the Etrian Odyssey series, and self proclaims to be the best West Coast Mega Man player in Smash Bros. Ultimate. This year alone he has performed in popular games such as indie darling Wargroove, Mortal Kombat 11, and Pokémon Masters on mobile. We sat down with Sean Chiplock and asked him about how he got into voice acting, getting certain roles, and his thoughts on anime as a whole.
Kevin Alvarez: “How did you get your start in voice acting?”
Sean Chiplock: “Do you want the short or long answer? laughs Do you remember Neopets? Well, I was the night owl child during high school who would wait till 3 am for the daily reset for Neopets. Toonami would be my daily companion as I would wait for the Neopets daily reset to hit in my region. On Adult Swim, there was this neon, pastel, simply-drawn creature, who would do advertisements saying ‘Adultswim.com is really cool, we got games and merchandise’ about seven or eight years ago. They aired the commercial constantly. Eventually, I got sick of it and finally went to Adultswim.com. While I was browsing around, I found an upcoming preview for the next episode of Trinity Blood. It was amazing at the time, this small clip had pop-up info bubbles about the production process.”
“One of those pop-ups would contain a hyperlink leading to a mini clip showing Troy Baker [of Last of Us fame] in the booth recording his lines for Abel Nightroad. It dawns on me, I’m watching this person talking at the same time the characters’ lips would move. There was no special voice filters or any kind of editing magic, it was just him talking in-character, matching the lip movement on-screen. When I saw Troy Baker’s performance, I realized this was a job people performed and got paid to do on the radio, video games, cartoons, and in this case, anime. As an adolescent in high school, it made me go ‘I don’t know what this is…but I want in on it!’, which is weird for me because before I had always been partaking in a similar type of performance before understanding what it was. My brother and I would play old Nintendo 64 games which at the time only had written dialogue and we would always take turn voicing the characters.”
“Watching Troy Baker and my previous experience voicing characters for fun lit a fire inside of me. It captured my interest and made me want to get more involved in the world of VO. Right around December 2007 is when I consider the official start of my voice acting career. I bought a cheap microphone on Amazon, opened up Microsoft Sound Recorder, and started voice acting. I thank Neopets for keeping me awake long enough to be annoyed by an Adult Swim advertisement and getting me to where I am today!”
Voice Over (VO) in Games
Kevin Alvarez: “Recently, you got to play the part of Noob Saibot in Mortal Kombat 11. How did you get the part and were you a fan of the series beforehand?”
Sean Chiplock: “I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of the series but I did play Mortal Kombat: Deception for Xbox. I also remember at school playing Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and I had this friend who would play Noob Saibot. He would love spamming Noob’s counter move and at the time we didn’t know it was a counter move. He would constantly use this move and we didn’t know how to block it. He would thrash all of us and it was my first experience playing against an OP character.”
“As for how I got the part, I was auditioning for a game under a code name, which tends to happen in video game projects. I didn’t know what game it would be for but they had a description of what they wanted the character to sound like. They wanted a ‘ghostly wraith aura,’ something not of this realm, but was a person. Typically in this industry, you want to use two distinct takes to showcase your options and the ability to adapt your voice. For my first take, I used an airy, higher pitch voice which sounded wise and not of this world. For the second take, I wanted to do something scarier and deeper because my first take sounded more like an 80-year-old man. This second voice was deeper and sounded like something that could destroy you and had powers beyond the mortal realm. One inspiration was Black Doom from Shadow the Hedgehog on the Gamecube, who is voiced by Sean Schemmel from Dragon Ball. This darker and more menacing voice is what got me the part as Noob Saibot in Mortal Kombat 11.”
Kevin Alvarez: “Recently, Nintendo announced an upcoming sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We don’t know anything other than it’s in development. Would you want to reprise your role as Revali if he was involved somehow?”
Sean Chiplock: “I think my answer would be “no”, only because I can’t imagine how Revali would fit in this sequel. It seems like BOTW 2 will take place underground as shown from the initial footage of Link and Zelda down in those catacombs. At least from my own personal headcanon, I imagine BOTW 2 takes place deeper and deeper underground ala Metroid 2. Link and Zelda would have to investigate this new evil and find the source within the depths of Hyrule’s underground world. If that’s the case, then I don’t see how the whole cast of characters would have a place in the game. The first game already told the story of each champion and I also have a hard time imagining a scenario where Revali, a bird, will be needed in an underground cavern.”
Voice Acting and Challenges
Kevin Alvarez: “What are the differences between VO in anime when compared to VO in video games?”
Sean Chiplock: “Anime is harder, but the recording process is essentially the same. In anime, you’re recording to a picture and you have to match the lip movements either in chunks of footage or line by line. In video game VO, you’ll have a sheet of text and the recording will either be in free-form or hardcoded. Free-form allows the actor to play with the lines and take as much time as you want. Hardcoded is typical in Japanese games, where the lines are already coded to a specific length. If the Japanese line takes three and half-seconds then your read of the line needs to be below or at the same length of time. It cannot go above the coded length of time. However, you can do whatever you want within the given time frame.
“Anime is a bit harder because it requires context, matching the emotional tone, and other factors. You can’t do a one-for-one copy of the Japanese lines because of the difference between English and Japanese which doesn’t translate over. So you have to honor the original Japanese audio while also making it your own. The debate between dubbed vs subbed comes into play because of those differences. People don’t realize if I did my VO exactly like the Japanese audio’s intensity then we would have Zelda CD-i levels of ham.”
Kevin Alvarez: “Have you ever turned down a role?”
Sean Chiplock: “I actually did for the first time recently. I normally don’t audition for a character whom I wouldn’t have fun playing. However, there was a character within the last month that I booked and when I learned more about the character, I found out they were a female-identifying male character who liked to crossdress. I’m wholly supportive of characters who encompass a different gender and sexual identity, but I had to ask myself if this was worth the risk of potential backlash because of a previous incident.”
“There was a role I performed a couple of years ago for Smite called Chiron Unicorn. He was a stereotypical campy, gay character and I had fun performing the role but there were people, including colleagues in my industry, upset about it. They were upset I, a cisgender white male, was playing a character who could be seen as an insult to the LGTBQ+ community. While I knew I would do my best to be respectful of this new character, I didn’t want to risk having any kind of unintentional backlash. So I talked to the client and let them know I was grateful for the role but we should find someone else who better identifies with the character. I gave them a list of names of people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community who would be a better fit. In this instance, I had to turn down the job and I hope people understand it wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in the role, but because I knew it was important for someone else in the community to represent an LGBTQ+ character. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I could afford to turn down a role without destroying my own career in the process.”
Kevin Alvarez: “Thank you for your time!”
You can follow Sean Chiplock on Twitter @sonicmega and keep an eye out for the second season of Re: Zero -Starting Life in Another World.
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check out my interview with USC Games Chair Danny Bilson 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.