Turning Japanese

With over eighty titles of Japanese anime currently flooding the TV airwaves in Tokyo every week, the adventures of Sailor Moon, Teknoman and the Waspinator can get lost in the digital shuffle. Stateside, imported series like Voltron and Speedracer gradually became part of the American cartoon mainstream during the late nineties before Pokémon reached confounding popularity for its fast-paced action and cuddly critters. Sure, the red, flashing eyes of an intergalactic gopher named Pikachu might have triggered an occasional epileptic seizure (and brought the multibillion-dollar phenomenon criticism for being violent and plotless), but the series stands alone as the ultimate marketing marriage between TV, video games and the trading-card industry.

Nan Desu Kan (loosely translated as"What the heck is this?") boasts a three-day marathon of Japanese anime, art and culture that even the most hyper-sensitive kid could appreciate. Radiating a shared love for all things cute, NDK explores every aspect of anime production, with guest speakers from the Japanese animation and comic industry, art seminars and interactive games. Scheduled panel discussions promise several international heavyweights, including renowned ink artist Nobyuki Ohnishi, a man whose classical style gives modern cityscapes a blend of art-deco and jazz-age sensibilities.

Several voice actors will also be on hand to discuss their craft and offer pointers on everything from making a demo tape to the audition process. Singer/actress Mari Iijima, who enjoys pop stardom on par with Cher in her own country, provides the voice of Lyn Minmay in the anime series Macross. Scott McNeil is best known as the voice of Wolverine from the animated X-Men series, but he is also on Beast Wars: Transformers and the hit Japanese anime series Dragonball Z.


Nan Desu Kan 6: Japanese Anime, Art and Culture Festival

September 20-22
Holiday Inn at DIA, 15500 East 40th Avenue (I-70 and Chambers Road)
Daily pass $15-$22.50, weekend pass $45
303-394-7171, www.ndk.cc

Then there's the wildly successful Bob Bergen, heir apparent to the very man he once lied his pants off and ditched school to meet: the late Looney Toons maestro Mel Blanc. At 38, Bergen has not only provided the voices for Porky Pig, Tweety and Marvin the Martian in the 1996 live-action animation flick Space Jam, but he's worked on over 500 motion pictures, including Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Monsters Inc. A voiceover veteran of twenty years, Bergen is no stranger to Japanese anime, either, boasting credits that include the brooding Teknoman and Lupin, one of the genre's most popular and comical characters.

"What a lot of people don't realize about anime is that you're never working with another actor," Begen says. "The actors record their dialogue one at a time. There's nobody else's dialogue to react off of. And quite often, you don't know whole stories until the whole thing's put together. It's 200 percent harder to do, because with regular animation, you don't have to match sync. They record the soundtrack first and then animate it to your voices."

Needing to perform a convincing line in a constricted amount of time isn't the only reason Bergen prefers working with standard American animation over its Japanese counterpart: The pay is better here, too. Still, Bergen knows what it takes to succeed in the biz. "There's no such thing as a great voice," he insists. "Every voice is great. It's your acting skills that are gonna get you noticed.

"Nancy Cartwright's little-boy voice is something she's done with several characters," Bergen continues. "But when she brought Bart Simpson to life, it was the writing combined with her acting choices that took that voice and made it original."

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