Top Anime Casting Director Mami Okada shares some great tips for those who want to make it in Anime
Casting Director and Director of Operations at
Bang Zoom! Entertainment
How did you come to be a Casting Director?
To cut a long story short, I came to the States as an International student and secured an internship with Bang Zoom, at the time the company was very small and only had three other people working there. They were just starting out but they had a big series already and I came on as its first intern, then I just stuck around and it’s been 20 years now! I really didn’t know anything about Anime prior to starting at Bang Zoom because I didn’t really watch it when I was in Japan. When I arrived in the States I realized how huge it actually is!
What do you enjoy about your job?
There Are so many things that I enjoy. Sometimes even actors who I have been working with for years can still surprise me. I can hear a new voice from an actor that I’ve worked together with for years. It can be different experience every day and often very challenging but that is what keeps me going and my work interesting,
How has the industry changed since you started out?
So many changes are happening in the Anime industry. It’s definitely changed dramatically since when I first started the job. It used to be that only a very small group were passionate about English versions of Anime, now it is becoming more mainstream. There is more attention coming from places like video games and it changes the way I think and approach my work.
Tell us about the process you use to cast an Anime series…
The casting process is not the same every time. In general, when we get a series from our clients we discuss with our producers to find out what they’re expecting to hear when it comes to auditions. The final decisions will be up to the producers and sometimes the creators in Japan. We’ll discuss the requirements and then we’ll decide which roles we need to do auditions for.
How do you choose who to audition?
I select group of actors who are most likely to fit in a role or come close to the range of the character. I will send around 10 characters to each actors so they can choose which one they understand or connect with the most. I will send that out to about 25 actors at most, then I’ll narrow it down to a shortlist and submit them to the producers.
If a character requires something very specific by the producers that I haven’t found, I will reach out to agents. Agents might have someone who would be perfect for the project we are looking to cast.
What are you looking for when you are casting an English version of Anime?
We have to be respectful to the original performance when casting English versions. We take the directions from the original voice so we look for the voices that are similar to the original. We are never looking for a perfect fit but they should bring the same energy and emotion to the performance. We definitely focus more on that than who sounds like the Japanese voice. That can be your direction and then you need to make your own character. We still need to make sure that the character performance will fit visually with the animation. Performance is crucial when it comes to casting.
The performance has to come from the heart. I always suggest actors should make sure ti have all the emotions reachable. Keep your emotion within your reachable range stored in mental “drawers”. open the “drawer” and get the emotion. In the next moment, you’re going to open a different “drawer” and get to that emotion.
Do you have to have an Anime demo to work in the genre?
I personally don’t think you need to have a special Anime demo. A lot of actors have commercial demos and character animation demos. I’m not sure about the other casting directors but for me, I like to listen to both of them. I love to actually listen to anything and everything you’ve got. As I mentioned, Anime can be cinematic or it can be wacky or cartoony, I love to listen to the range of the actors.
Is being able to do ADR essential?
It’s definitely essential to be able to do ADR, which is the process in which you match your performance to the video. It’s not only animation that is a preferred skill for, but also tons of foreign language tv shows that adapt to other languages. All the big steaming services are grabbing good foreign titles and dubbing them into English or other languages so it’s really busy and it’s good for you to learn the skills of how to do it. It might feel a little intimidating at first because you have a beat’s timecode and you have a restricted time that you can perform, but eventually, it will come to you more naturally. It’s a lot like music – when you’re listening to the music, you know when to start singing. It’s a similar concept. I recommend taking classes o ADR because if you book your first gig and don’t know what to do, your nerves about doing the technical aspects will affect your performance.
Mami Okada’s Top Tips for delivering a successful lip sync!
- Practice a neutral American accent.
- Trust the script.
- Preview the original language if the studio allows you to watch the original video.
- Quickly look at the line, then quickly memorize.
- Pay attention to the actual lift movement so you can practice during the preview.
- Keep the rhythm.
- Have a reason for performance choices.
- Watch Anime in both languages if you can. Stop, rewind, switch the audio channel, and try to perform alongside the original voice.