Laughing Your Way to Victory – A Talk With Lauren Landa

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

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Lauren Landa | Annie

I recently had the opportunity to speak with voice actress Lauren Landa. She performed various voice overs for many popular characters in numerous anime and video games, such as Karin in Street Fighter V, Hitomi in Dead or Alive 5, Kyoko in Madoka Magica and Annie in Attack on Titan.

OR: Thank you for coming out and speaking with me! I have quite a few questions to ask you with the various roles that you have been in and you’ve got quite the resume! To start off, what inspired you to get into voice acting?

LL: I think it goes all the way back to when I was a kid. I have been acting my whole life and I started in theater and I was always a big fan of cartoons and when I got into middle school I got into anime and I thought: “Hey that’s kind of cool.” And then years later when I went to college, I actually started exploring that and then I was given an audition, and then I booked the audition and that was almost ten years ago!

OR: Yes I’ve heard this kind of story before, where in college you get to really explore your interests and you are already into anime and eventually you are like: “Hey, maybe I can do this one day! I already have an interest in it, so why don’t I give it a shot?” And it seemed like it worked out really well for you.

LL: It really did! And I feel very fortunate to this day. That somehow, I don’t know how but somehow I’ve made it work and somehow I’ve been able to play awesome characters. I have yet to play a character that I don’t like.

OR: Great, that’s always a great thing when you like the character and it definitely shows in your work. Some of your roles include characters in various fighting games, especially recurring characters returning to the series. An example would be Karin in Street Fighter V or Kasumi in Dead or Alive 5, ironically both are 5. Did you find it difficult to take on these characters since they already have established personalities from previous games?

LL: Not really, because the personalities are already set and you just have to go along with what the director is telling you and you have to go along with the character’s design as well. For example, Karin from Street Fighter, she was already in a game, I think Alpha. I don’t remember if she had a voice or not. So I guess technically I’m the first person to give her an English voice, so I just go along with what the Japanese personality was. Which was awesome and I remember when I auditioned for the character they said, “We want you to play this character, but you have to be able to do the laugh, you can’t half-ass that, you got to be able to do the laugh.” I don’t know how but I was able to do the laugh. I’m noticing a pattern with my characters, they all have distinctive laughs.

Lauren Landa | Karin Laugh

OR: Just curious, do you know any Japanese?

LL: No, I mean other than very basic and I would butcher that as well, so I’m not even going to try.

OR: To expand on you being in all of these fighting games, something that has been happening a lot with the fighting game genre lately in regards to their design is that they are becoming more story oriented. There is a lot more cutscenes and I guess you can say that’s a result of games like Mortal Kombat 9. I’m going to call it Mortal Kombat 9 NOT Mortal Kombat! And also Persona 4 Arena is another one that people really like the story and they like seeing that. Do you feel like this new approach to fighting game design is benefiting these games in a good way?

LL: You know, its interesting. I know some gamers that absolutely hate that and I know other people that actually really like it. Me personally, I prefer more story, I am totally fine with cutscenes. I will play games just for the cutscenes. So Final Fantasy for example, I suck at grinding, because I want to see what happens in the story, so I just continue to move on, I don’t level up or anything. I actually like the idea that they are adding more story in games, like for Continum Shift[BlazBlue]. A lot of people were thinking: “This video game has a lot of story for being a fighting game.” And I personally really like that about games, but I totally understand why some gamers wouldn’t, because they are there to play the games, especially if they are professional tournament players. Then story doesn’t really matter all that much.

OR: You also voiced Cave in Hyperdimension Neptunia MK2. What was it like having to bring in the “exciting” personality of Cave games into the character?

Lauren Landa | Cave games(mushihimesama futari)

That “Exciting Personality” though…

LL: Its going to sound terrible since its been so long since I recorded that, I don’t remember too much about it, but I remember having a lot of fun with Cave. I find her very saucy *laughs*

OR: Do you think that the characters in Neptunia do a great job at getting a player interested in each of the characters’ respective company?

LL: That I judge from the fan’s perspective and I have a lot of fans that come up to me and mention Neptunia, so I assume yes!

OR: Do you think that you have inspired people to check out some of Cave’s bullet hell shooters?

LL: Like I said, I’ve had fans come up to me and say they love this game, they love Cave, so I can assume yes!

OR: I also notice that some of the characters you play are kind of ‘Antagonists’, or rather they get portrayed as that at first, like Kyouko in Madoka Magica or Annie in Attack on Titan. Do you really enjoy playing ‘Antagonists’ instead of heroes?

LL: Yes *laughs*

OR: Very blunt about it!

LL: I’m glad that you used the word antagonist instead of villain. In some cases they are the same thing, but when it comes to Annie, for example, I do not see her as the villain. A villain in my opinion is someone that does evil for their own reasons to be evil. Sometimes its not just to be evil, they have their own personal reasons. With Annie I consider her to be an anti hero or, as you said, antagonist. Villains and antagonists can be the same thing but in this case, Annie is clearly on a mission. We don’t know the mission yet, but she is not there for herself, she is there obviously because someone put her on this task. She’s obviously been trained at a very young age to be a warrior. Again we don’t know why though. Also in the last episode, spoiler alert if you have not seen it, but you should have since its been out for like 2 and a half years! In the very last episode when Eren[titan] rips off the female titan’s head and we see Annie crying, that’s also a sign that clearly she does not want to do this. That’s just my thought on it. As for Kyoko, I love the fact that when she comes in and you think she is the villain but she’s really not. She’s an old softy.

Lauren Landa | Kyoko

OR: In general, do you find that it’s difficult to make an English adaptation of a Japanese voice? I know you mentioned that you don’t have too much knowledge of the language. Do you find that really difficult to do?

LL: Not really, I’ve been doing this for ten years. Sometimes it can be a little difficult to find a character’s voice since you want to do it justice. And whenever we dub something into English from the original Japanese, we really try to respect the original Japanese as much as we can. For example, if the character has a high voice we are going to try and give it a high voice. If the character is evil or humorous, we will go along with whatever the Japanese did because it’s out of respect for them and it will be loyal to the character.

OR: This next question would be for out readers – Would you have any advice or any insight for anyone that is looking to possibly get into this industry?

LL: First off, the one thing I can suggest is that You Need Experience. So I would recommend taking theater classes, joining your local community theater, getting some acting experience under your belt. And on top of that unfortunately you have to be where the work is. If you are brand new in this industry, no one is going to let you record for a professional project from home, that’s just not how it works. Some people do, but those are rare cases, it doesn’t happen all the time. Definitely get involved in theater, take workshops, try and get as much experience as you can. And if you are a shy person, if you are in your own bubble, you have to get over that. As terrible as that might sound, you have to go outside of your comfort zone.

OR: Do you think that shy people make for great antagonists?

LL: You know surprisingly, I actually do! you would be very surprised at what shy people can bring out. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the shyest person bring out a very creepy, very sadistic and very evil character. So you never know. The shy people, they have more power than they think!

OR: Thank you very much for speaking with me! Its been a pleasure.

LL: Thanks for having me!

About Justin Guillou

Justin joined Operation Rainfall to share his passion and knowledge for some of the more obscure video games out there.