Christopher R. Sabat is an incredible voice actor whose voice made up a majority of my childhood. He has notable characters such as Vegeta, Piccolo, and Yamcha in the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z universe. Fans may also recognize him as the voice of Braun (Steins;Gate), Christophe Giacometti (Yuri!!! On Ice), Garterbelt (Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt), and Roronoa Zoro (One Piece), among many others. After stealing my phone to take a selfie, I was able to sit down with Christopher to ask him about his long career.
You’ve voiced a lot of characters from my childhood, all of which have very distinct personalities. What did you have to do to prepare and keep them from blending together?
Well, in retrospect I don’t think I did enough to keep them from blending together. When I first started, we were working on Dragon Ball, and when we were about halfway through, my voice was so shattered that I was having a hard time keeping the voices separated. In fact, what was kind of a wake-up call for me at one point was halfway through dubbing the series, I was at an anime convention. Some fan came up to me and said “Hey man, your Piccolo and your Vegeta voices are kind of starting to sound the same”. I kinda went back to the studio and thought about it, and it’s true; my voice had been so wrecked the voices were sort of converging on one another.
But when it comes to other shows like Yu-Yu Hakusho, my voice was nice and fresh because we had finished Dragon Ball, so that was good. As I started getting more voices, I realized that I seem to be always cast as the tough guy with somewhat of a soul. The one who doesn’t really want to be part of the group that he is begrudgingly part of. So, I do get type cast a lot into those roles of “tough guys with souls”. I don’t think I’m the best voice actor when it comes to differentiating voices. There are those far better at it than I am, but I am very happy to have played the characters I was cast as.
With an abundance of live action movies coming out, such as Ghost in the Shell, and with the talk of a live-action Akira announced, do you think this takes away from anime coming to the west?
No, I think that these movies being made from anime sources – in my opinion – does nothing but still increase awareness for the original material. I’d be all about it if Jordan Peele directed Akira. I think he would be one of the people young enough to understand the importance of keeping the integrity of the movie.
I still feel that anime is fairly mainstream now, and that people are coming to cons that don’t necessarily know what anime is, but like cosplaying and the environment, and the people. I don’t think those movies could do anything but strengthen the popularity of anime in the United States. As long as they don’t keep getting whitewashed. In the case of Ghost in the Shell, I do think it was appropriate to cast Scarlette Johannson. I don’t think Ghost in the Shell was ever meant to be a “Japanese show” really. I feel like a lot of people in Japan try to make the anime non-Japanese; I think it’s supposed to transcend all of that. In that one case [of Ghost in the Shell], I think it kind of works. I already felt like she was in Ghost in the Shell when she starred in Lucy.
Being behind the scenes on so many shows, are you seeing more progressive roles for women to work on? Or anything some studios or shows just do right?
In anime, sometimes. In video games, it’s changed quite a bit. Granted, my exposure to this over the past couple of years has been on Borderlands and Battleborn. Anthony Burch and Aaron Linde really took the illusion very seriously. Anthony takes misogyny in video games very seriously, so his games always had very well-rounded and more balanced characters. So, that’s been my experiences. After all these years of seeing the same character descriptions over and over again, such as need deep-voiced male, need high-pitched female, it’s nice to have some variety. Anime is getting more progressive, but at the same time, it tends to repeat itself a lot. Sometimes I look around at conventions and wonder why they even bother developing new characters, because a lot of the character design is so similar that it’s irritating. Then there are shows like My Hero Academia, which blows my mind. It has the coolest combination of western and eastern references. But a lot of these shows tend to have the same style.
Hilarious and honest, Christopher provided me with great insight into the acting community and about being a voice actor as a whole. On behalf of everyone at Mithical Entertainment, I would like to thank Christopher R. Sabat for his time and responses.