Japanese anime has cemented its place in the heart of many Westerners. Regardless of how you like your animation, there’s bound to be a few anime series in your top five list of animated shows.
Maybe it’s the complex character arcs, insane costumes or vast worlds. Perhaps it’s the awe and appreciation of the amount of work that goes into creating each minute of animation. From the days of Atom Boy, the first Japanese anime to hit the USA, this art form has captured Westerners imagination and wallets.
Animation from the East has numerous differences from cartoons in the West. For one, there is a sub-genre for everyone – romcom, thriller, action, even X-rated! This broad range means that not every anime is suitable for younger audiences; some anime shows have an 18+ rating.
In Japan, there is a whole industry dedicated to animation developers and voice over artists. There are over 100 voice-acting schools alongside talent agencies and industry trade magazines that focus on anime. The question is, who does the English dubbed versions? If you’re expecting some actor struggling between jobs, you’ll be quite surprised.
Johnny Young Bosch. Name doesn’t ring any bells, does it? How about the voice of Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach? Kiba from Wolf’s Rain? These are only two of the characters he has voiced in his long career. He was also Adam Park, the Black Ranger in the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Movie. Like other voice actors, he has voiced many popular video game characters in games such as Ultra Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat X, Saints Row and Soulcalibur V to name a few.
The following are some Hollywood names that you would never have guessed had parts in Japanese anime.
10. Gillian Anderson
As the skeptical Scully, Gillian Anderson was dragged along with David Duchovny‘s character in an attempt to prove that aliens exist. Who can forget her scientifically trying to debunk all of Mulder’s kooky theories to prove that “the truth is out there”?
Before chasing paranormal activity across the world in The X-Files, Gillian already had a decade-long career on stage and on television. Since playing Scully for 202 episodes of The X-Files, she has appeared in stage plays and television shows including recurring roles in The Fall and Hannibal. She has appeared in 19 movies including The Last King of Scotland, Johnny English Reborn and Princess Mononoke.
Agent Scully voiced the wolf goddess, Moro, in Princess Mononoke. For fans of the X-Files series, a new six episode season, tentatively called X-Files: Revival, has been green lit by the series creator, Chris Carter.
9. Earle Hyman
Remember Grandpa Huxtable, Bill Cosby‘s on-screen dad on The Cosby Show? From 1984 to 1992, Earle Hyman was juggling two roles to keep fans entertained. He bounced between the trombone-playing, jumper-wearing grandpa to voicing the wise Panthro from the ThunderCats TV series.
Part resident mechanic, part pilot and all round tough guy, Panthro was played by the grandpa from A Different World. While it would seem like a big disconnect for many, Hyman said the role of Panthro was a walk in the park, as he easily slipped into the voice. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Hyman had a Broadway career that spanned over four decades. After sixty years in the entertainment industry, Hyman retired from acting in 2001.
8. Kiefer Sutherland
Kiefer Sutherland played David in The Lost Boys and the med student Nelson in 1997’s Flatliners, but you probably know him best as the perpetually sleep deprived badass Jack Bauer from 24. But before he was Bauer, this multi-award winning actor voiced the monotonic policeman, Ross Sylibus, in Armitage III: Poly-Matrix.
He voiced other cartoons like Hans in The Nutcracker Prince and Raistlin in Dragonlance. Video games like Metal Gear Solid V and Call Of Duty: World at War also carried his distinct voice. Having appeared in many films and television shows since then, he recently completed a 12 episode season of 24.
7. Bryan Cranston
For six years, Bryan Cranston played easy-going but ditsy dad Hal in Malcolm in the Middle. Two years later he did a complete 180 and became everyone’s favorite meth-cooking anti-hero, Heisenberg, in Breaking Bad. You may also remember him from roles in Saving Private Ryan, Drive and Argo. Producing, screenwriting and directing are some of Cranston’s skills that have garnered him awards.
However, when he was first starting out in the late 1980s, all he could get were minor roles and advertisements. Some of these roles included voicing English dubbed anime like Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, Super Dimension Century Orguss 02, Moldiver, Armitage III: Poly-Matrix and best of all, he was Isamu Dyson in Macross Plus.
Since finding success on TV and in the movies, he has continued voice acting as Dr. Jewish on Family Guy and Dr. Fist on the Cleveland Show.
6. Kristen Bell
Well known for her long-running role playing Veronica Mars and electricity-wielding Elle Bishop in Heroes, Kristen Bell started her career on Broadway in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Before appearing in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and its spiritual sequel, Get Him to the Greek, she was active in the voice-over scene. One of her first roles ever was voicing the character of Hiromi in the English dub of The Cat Returns. She went on to voice Lucy Stillman in the Assassins Creed video game series, Cora in Astro Boy and recently the adult Princess Anna in Frozen.
Yes, this means Kristen is to blame for that song that has been stuck in your head since last year.
5. Michael Keaton
Now you know him as Tim Burton’s Batman, but Michael Keaton‘s career almost stalled before it even began. His first attempt at showbiz doing stand-up comedy bombed. Small roles on Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood, Maude and Working Stiffs gradually got him some recognition. It was his portrayal of oddball characters in Living Dangerously, Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice that gave him major breaks. Successfully transitioning from comedy to playing the role of the Dark Knight made Hollywood sit up and finally take notice of his acting chops.
Before voicing characters in Cars and Toy Story 3, Keaton had lent his voice to the title character in the Studio Ghibli film, Porco Rosso. Michael Keaton recently won his first Golden Globe award for his portrayal of the washed-up actor Riggan Thomson in Birdman.
4. Michelle Rodriguez
You definitely recognize Michelle Rodriguez as the street smart and tough Letty Ortiz in the Fast and Furious franchise. For her first movie, Girlfight, she gained 10 pounds of pure muscle in 4 months to play Diana Guzman. Her performance won her the Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. At its premiere at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, her performance was singled out as one of the most exciting breakthroughs.
Her resume is loaded with action movies such as S.W.A.T, Resident Evil and BloodRayne. Before all the action scenes, however, Rodriguez starred as Liz Ricarro in the Cartoon Network production IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix.
Not content with action on-screen, she lent her voice to some of the highest grossing video games of the 2000s including Driv3r, Halo 2, Call Of Duty: Black Ops and True Crime: Streets of LA.
3. Ron Perlman
Ron Perlman‘s impressive acting credits include playing the anti-hero Hellboy, the vigilante Clarence “Clay” Morrow in Sons of Anarchy, and vampire warrior Dieter Reinhardt in the Blade trilogy.
A devoted character actor, this cool cat’s been in the game since the late 1970s playing varied roles from the tender tough guy to the odd goofball. In 2006, he lent his gravelly voice to the cigarette-smokin’ Justice in Afro Samurai. He’s also lent his voice for the Hellboy animated films, Blood and Iron and Sword of Storms.
Another actor with numerous voice-over roles to his name, he’s been the narrator in every Fallout game in the series.
2. Kelly Hu
You may remember Kelly Hu as Lady Deathstrike, the evil mutant in X-Men 2 who battles Wolverine in an epic, claw-on-claw fight scene. With roles in television series such as NCIS, The 100 and The Vampire Diaries, Hu also lends her voice to video games and anime shows. Before voicing Sindel in Mortal Kombat X, she voiced Okiku, the assassin with the power of healing in Afro Samurai.
Appearing in many other cartoons, Hu continues to do voice-over work for games and TV including Karai from TMNT, Lady Shiva in Batman: Arkham Origins and Battlefield Hardline as Khai Minh Dao.
1. Samuel L. Jackson
This movie giant has starred in everything; there isn’t a genre that he hasn’t been featured in. From tough-as-nails spy Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the potty-mouthed yet religious Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson has done it all. Since starting his career, Jackson has racked up an impressive number of movies to his credit – a whopping 121! To absolutely no one’s surprise, he was recently recognized as the highest grossing actor of all time. Collectively his movies have made more than $7.4 billion. This prolific actor has appeared in five films per year on average for most of his acting career.
Jackson has also worked behind the scenes quite a few times. Whether it’s narrating documentaries like African Cats or voicing the cool Frozone in The Incredibles, Jackson continues to shine even behind the camera. His anime features include Gin Rummy from the Boondocks and the sword wielding Afro in the anime series, Afro Samurai.