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Monday, December 3, 2007

I'm not entirely sure how much more I can take this....

Recently, I've been playing Disgaea PSP. Being one of the original Atlus cult members since Rhapsody, I've not only played through Atlus and NIS games like a second job (sadly enough)but I've seen them grow into a great (as if they weren't great before) company. There's still that one thing that bugs me though. Amanda Winn-Lee (The original voice actor for Etna) couldn't do any future voices for Etna in the years to come when another cult would follow the first Disgaea (proof of that would be the fact that after 6 years, gamestop is still selling the first game at $40.00 US USED And this is only a drop from last year $45 USED). This would probably be due to the fact her son was battling leukemia (my sympathies) but what bugged me the most was the replacement voice actor for Winn-Lee, Michelle Ruff.

Generally, Michelle Ruff is a good voice actor. She's played Yukari from Persona 3 and Velvet from Odin sphere or Miranda from Grandia III (*shudder*) for example. But she's seem to had a large handful of mediocre work as well, and Etna happens to be one of those parts. Now, I'm taking the standpoint that she's supposed to replace Amanda Winn-Lee for Etna and compare her work to Ruff's. Now I KNOW those are big shoes to fill, but that's the problem really. Michelle Ruff seems to be very good at a certain type of voice, and for that I congratulate her. She's done well in getting a persona for Etna down.
HOWEVER, her work seems to just end there. Etna resulted in having a very flat tone of voice for all her emotions along with episode previews. What made Etna such a hit character with Winn-Lee was that she goofed around with the part. Changing her tones to dramatic proportions along with seemingly not being afraid to try a new voice that would help express just how easy going and bubbly Etna was. Then she'd pull a 180 on serious parts and give Etna a sharp edge in her voice that you could hear being pulled off so well. THIS is what truly separates voice actors from amazing voice actors.

Michelle Ruff gave Etna a really boring tone. It seemed as if she was being very safe about it and avoiding such dramatic tones which resulted in a horrible character. Perhaps it was the pre-bias that I had when listening to Amanda but Michelle never gave any "out there" voices for Etna. She stayed with the tone she had from Disgaea 2 and while it DID work for Disgaea 2, I can't really settle for that in the first game. Disgaea was about the completely random quirks and outrageous humor that gave it that edge over other Strategy RPGS (that and the fact the LVL cap was 10k, but that's a minor detail). What was needed was a strong voice actor who could be willing to sound stupid or ridiculous for the gig to work. The least Michelle Ruff could've done was given Etna a harsh tone when refusing to retract her proposal to find Aramis's zombies, but even that sounded very rushed and light-hearted making me wonder if she took Etna's part into consideration at all. In this case, I can't really tell whose fault it was (or rather, who takes the brunt of the blame). Was it the voice director's problem for not pushing Michelle hard enough or was it the licensing team (or is it dev? I can't remember who handles the voices) for accepting what seemed to be half-assed work. In all honesty, I'm kind of irritated that work like this is allowed to be professional, granted there are a lot of bad Japanese voice actors (Makino Yui would happen to be one. Despite how amazing her singing talents were, her first role as Sakura needed a lot of work, which she did improve a lot by the second season) the quality between the Japanese voice actors and American voice actors is tremendous which could only lead me to believe the standards that both countries have for VAs.

What also bothers me is that Michelle Ruff has been casted in about twice as many shows and video games than Amanda Winn-Lee has which WOULD typically make you believe that Michelle Ruff would have this in the bag... but she didn't. It sounds atrocious and I truly am disgusted at the poor work..

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