Friday, August 17, 2012

Katawa Shoujo: The Fantasy Cast

Katawa Shoujo is an English-language "visual novel" developed on the Internet over the past five years, finally reaching its full release this past spring. It tells the story of Hisao Nakai, a Japanese high school student who suffers a heart attack and learns that he has arrhythmia, a disease that causes irregular heartbeats. After a four-month stay in the hospital, he is released and transferred to Yamaku, a sort-of boarding school for the disabled. Here, he meets several girls, and the game allows you to take the "dating sim" route to get to know and fall in love with them.

Lest this sound like a trashy "guy has sex with disabled chicks" piece of exploitation, rest assured that Katawa Shoujo is actually pretty freaking good. It deals with the girls' various mental and physical conditions realistically and sympathetically, Hisao himself is an interesting protagonist (unlike the usual blank-slate heroes for this type of game), the few sex scenes are tastefully done (a few are even funny in their teenage awkwardness), and the writing is solid in both dialogue and plotting. Basically, this is just me hypothesizing a cast if the game had voice-acting at all, and because I think many of these roles would offer interesting challenges for certain voice actors.

As before, I'm not limiting myself in terms of voice-acting regions.


HISAO NAKAI (Johnny Yong Bosch)-This isn't new territory for Bosch, but I think he could bring some real spark and energy to this guy, especially since Hisao starts off so (understandably) bitter and angry about his upturned life. He also has a lot of sarcasm in him, and Bosch can nail that, as well as the more introspective moments later on in each storyline. Since Bosch also has an interesting speaking voice anyway, it would make the near-constant narration from Hisao seem less monotonous.

EMI IBARAZAKI (Tara Strong)-One of my favorite VAs of all time, one of Tara's unusual gifts is that she is able to sound youthful and energetic without being annoying, and she can focus that energy in almost any direction or type of voice. For the legless runner Emi (one of the themes of the game is that many of the characters refuse to let their disabilities define them or stop them from achieving their dreams), who could potentially come across as annoying, Tara could make her a real charmer with that skill. And because she's such a fantastic actress, she'd easily rock the hell out of Emi's more emotional sections.

HANAKO IKEZAWA (Brina Palencia)-Brina is another ridiculously talented, insanely versatile actress who can play almost anything you throw at her. Hanako is a delicate character to portray; she's a shy, withdrawn burn victim who has great difficulty opening up to others because of her past experiences with bullying about her appearance and the loss of her family in the fire that burned her so badly. I think an actress of Brina's caliber would relish the challenge of Hanako's slow-burn (morbid pun, sorry) character arc.

LILLY SATOU (Hynden Walch)-Hynden has actually done some anime before (Immortal Grand Prix, Gurren Lagann, Lucky Star) in addition to her Western animation; she's probably best known as either Starfire from Teen Titans or Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time. She has a sweet, guileless optimism as well as a certain formality in many of her roles that would work perfectly for the tall, blind blonde with a sunny disposition and formal manner.

RIN TEZUKA (Olivia Olson)-Another Adventure Time alum (she frequently guest-stars as Marceline the Vampire Queen), Olivia has a very deadpan quality to her voice that could work perfectly for the loopy, terse-speaking Rin. And she's a good enough actress that I think she can certainly handle Rin's emotional awakening over the course of her storyline quite well.

SHIINA "MISHA" MIKADO (Kristin Schaal)-Schaal is a terrific comedy actress who's been dipping more and more into voicework lately; she had a small role as Trixie the Triceratops in Toy Story 3, as well as guest appearances on shows like Adventure Time, The Penguins of Madagascar and WordGirl. Currently, she's co-starring in two animated series: Louise on FOX's Bob's Burgers, and Mabel Pines on Disney Channel's Gravity Falls, which is easily her best VA performance yet. I think Schaal, with her seemingly limitless energy and crack comic timing, would be a perfect choice for the bubbly Misha. Yet I also think she's a good enough actress that she could handle the pink-haired dynamo's more dramatic scenes as well.

KENJI SETOU (Greg Ayres)-One of the few other male characters in the game, Kenji is a glasses-wearing conspiracy theorist who frequently rants about "feminist conspiracies" to anyone who will listen. Greg can do this kind of panicked, high-strung paranoia in his sleep.

NURSE (Crispin Freeman)-Crispin doesn't get to play truly nice, good-humored guys that often, so I think it'd be fun for him to loosen up as the head male nurse of the school.

AKIO MUTOU (Kelsey Grammer)-True, he's never done an anime before, but Kelsey is terrific in anything he does, be it live-action or voiceover work; he even managed to be a great Hank McCoy/Beast in the mediocre X-Men: The Last Stand. His best-known VA role is easily his collective performances as the villainous Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons. He's also done film roles like Anastasia and its DTV spin-off Bartok the Magnificent (although not as the same character), Stinky Pete in Toy Story 2, Snowball in the TNT version of Animal Farm, the modern Mickey Mouse short Runaway Brain, and other TV characters like Comedy Central's short-lived Gary the Rat. His main hallmarks as a VA are that wonderful, sonorous voice, a real sense of intelligence, and just as much energy. I think it'd be a really interesting challenge for him to channel that intelligence into a kind, passionate teacher who's also slightly out-of-it.

YUUKO SHIRAKAWA (Grey DeLisle)-Grey's another actress who can do almost anything, but I think she's a perfect fit for this neurotic, well-meaning librarian/waitress who acts as an older mentor to Hisao and company at some crucial moments.

MEIKO IBARAZAKI (Nicole Oliver)-Princess Celestia herself, Nicole has a very warm, motherly quality to her voice that could fit Emi's mom to a T.

AKIRA SATOU (Ashleigh Ball)-I think if Ashleigh deepened her Rainbow Dash voice a bit, she could have some real fun with Lilly's suit-wearing older sister.

SHINICHI NOMIYA (David Ogden Stiers)-Shinichi plays an important role in Rin's route as her main art instructor. He's an older, heavier gentlemen who is passionate about art, a bit of an eccentric, and also turns out to have a rather ugly side later on in her route. I think David could do a masterful job with this role.

SAE SAIONJI (Virginia Madsen)-Virginia has a great, smoky voice that's been well-utilized in voicework on shows like Justice League Unlimited, where she played the villainous Roulette, Raven's mother Adella on Teen Titans, Silver Sable in the MTV Spider-Man series, and the Wonder Woman animated DTV film, where she got to play Queen Hippolyta. That's actually a pretty good show of her acting range in itself, as those are all very different characters. I think she could do awesome stuff with this smaller, but still crucial role as Rin's other artistic supporter, and one that's a little more understanding and accepting of the girl's limits.

SHIZUNE HAKAMICHI (Jennifer Hale)-Shizune is a deaf-mute, but as she and Hisao learn to communicate with each other through sign language in her own route, I thought it might be cool to "cast" her anyway so that the signed dialogue could still be spoken. I think Jennifer would be awesome as this firey, confident Student Council President, and she could certainly knock this girl's more emotional, vulnerable moments out of the park.

HIDEAKI HAKAMICHI (Mona Marshall)-What with all the jokes about his girly clothes and the fact that he's younger than the rest of the cast, I couldn't help myself. It was too funny not to imagine Mona's young-boy voice.

JIGORO HAKAMICHI (John DiMaggio)-Shizune and Hideaki's father, Jigoro is, to be perfectly blunt, a total asshole. He is rude to pretty much everyone with a pulse, has a massive ego, and seems to honestly believe that his daughter's condition is a personal problem, not a medical one. Thankfully, he can also be quite a funny asshole at times, what with his habit of wearing a samurai robe and carrying a sword with him absolutely everywhere. I think the actor behind Bender Bending Rodriguez can handle this quite nicely.

There's my fantasy cast. Enjoy.