The merger of Wakanim and Crunchyroll, platforms specializing in animation, gave rise to the creation of a dubbing studio aimed at strengthening simuldub production. Testimonials from the community tell us about the new VF strategies adopted.
In the age of platforms and SVOD, multilingualism has never been so easy to access. The VF having long been taboo because considered by many pro-VO as sub-game compared to the original Japanese, animes do not always have the chance to benefit from a French version. An astonishing fact for France, which was the first country to develop advanced techniques for producing quality dubbing using, for example, the famous rhythmo tape.
A renewed interest in its shadow jobs via social networks in recent years has, however, enabled the production of new qualitative dubbings to the delight of voxophiles and Japanese animation enthusiasts.
Backed by our French talents and to meet this ever-increasing demand, Crunchyroll, recently merged with the Wakanim platform, and now the largest catalog of animated series in the world, has created Crunchyroll Production France. Located at Plaine Images in Tourcoing, this dubbing studio makes it possible to produce numerous French versions of anime, in particular those broadcast in simuldub (simultaneous dubbing with Japan) during the different seasons.
This structure, equipped with two recording studios, makes it possible to dub, each season, six series broadcast in simulcast or from the catalog, and this in a very short time.
“The desire of this studio is to considerably reduce recording times. We went from six weeks of waiting between the broadcast of the VO and the VF, two or even one week only”, explains Crunchyroll. “That’s the time we need to lay down the vocals and do the mixing.”
This live work and this desire to reduce the production time of a dubbing while offering French versions that respect the original version as much as possible, can raise questions about the way in which these recordings are organized.
“Although we work with the rights holders, we receive the material to be dubbed very late. Sometimes, we are even offered material that is not yet finished, and one episode at a time. We must therefore succeed in planning the actors who intervene in said episode and to find a slot in their diaries so that they can to register in Tourcoing. It’s a fairly sharp organization and always on the edge.”
Shortening the delays then offers an increase in the number of simuldubs offered until then by the platform, which therefore increases to twelve simultaneous dubbings with Japan, compared to six before the creation of Crunchyroll Production France: “It’s part of our desire to reach an ever wider audience. The VF seems to us to be a must.”
Full of promise for the many anime fans and VF enthusiasts, this accelerated pace has nevertheless raised some concerns among stakeholders in the field: “An artistic director sometimes finds himself having to direct sets on which he is not artistic director, because the person in charge is unfortunately not available at the required time. He is sometimes called upon to work on series that he doesn’t know at all. It even happens that the actors are directed by the sound engineer! We also see anime that are directed by the main actor of the series. These are things that are not done, or very rarely, because it’s very complicated to direct a dubbing and have a big role at the same time.”
Difficult to manage schedules from one week to the next due to the specific conditions linked to the simuldub and the equipment generally provided very late: “There is a huge loss of money on some anime, because sometimes we have to come back several times instead of once. only”explains an actor. To overcome this, savings must be made on other series deemed less important and on which it is not “serious” to reuse voices.
Crunchyroll affirms that these organizational complexities are not due to the distance between Paris (where the majority of actors live) and Tourcoing, but recognizes an acceleration of the stages which can make the process more risky.
“As we have to move quickly, we don’t always have time to pass tests, nor to have our choices validated by the Japanese beneficiary, so we must not be mistaken and be sure that the votes stick as soon as departure.”
However, casting errors are still possible and cause some problems according to dubbing professionals who state that “Changes are sometimes made along the way. Some actors record five or six episodes and are replaced at the last moment. This causes a lot of delay.”
Despite this, the company claims to want to take advantage of this new studio to discover new local talents, but also from Belgium, Tourcoing having the chance to be very close to the border. Different projects whose potential repercussions nevertheless worry some Parisian actors…
“This desire to bring local actors or Belgians to the studio includes the risk that actors based in Paris will no longer be called back. There is also this concern that all the anime VFs will be repatriated to Tourcoing. There is a real risk for the Paris studios, which could end up closing. This would therefore imply that VFs of anime already well underway would change studios. This would also cause changes in direction.
To these apprehensions, Crunchyroll assures that the opening of their own structure does not make it possible to double their entire programming: “In Tourcoing, we only have two recording studios, we can only dub about six anime there per season, simulcasts and catalog offers combined. Far from the twelve simuldubs planned. So we will obviously continue to work with Parisian partner studios.”
Crunchyroll was also asked about the different criteria used to choose these so-called seasonal simuldubs which will have the chance to benefit from a VF. Part of an overall multi-language dubbing strategy (English, Italian, German, etc.), it is the editorial team at the US headquarters, based in San Francisco, who decides which animes to acquire and determines which ones will be dubbed.
“At this level, Crunchyroll France intervenes very little, but obviously the criteria depend on the potential of the series, its notoriety… We are still sometimes consulted for questions of adjustment. For example, we can recommend the VF of a particular anime because the manga is already released and popular in France, which may not be the case in other countries. But since the majority of dubbed anime are in multiple languages, the decision remains global.
In the second step, Crunchyroll tackles the positioning of artistic directors, which is done according to a very specific strategy: “The artistic directors are chosen by Enzo Ratsito, our creative producer. He knows them well, so he is the one who distributes the series to the people he considers the most competent. It is a work that is done in collaboration with Olivier Cervantes, the head of the studio. Enzo Ratsito is able to determine the best people to lead this or that VF.”
Active in dubbing for several years (notably the French voice of Tanjiro in Demon Slayer), the remarkable presence of Enzo Ratsito in the direction of major series such as Spy X Family and Ranking of Kingstriggered some strong reactions on the Internet, due to his young age and his early experience as an artistic director:
Crunchyroll returned to these controversies by telling us about the history of the creation of Crunchyroll Production France, a project first initiated by the Wakanim teams who occupied the Tourcoing studios before the merger, and who had spotted Enzo Ratsito following his performance in Demon Slayer.
“It’s true that he’s young, but he’s someone who has a lot of talent and we wanted to give him a chance to direct. So he’s the one who distributes the anime, of course, but he doesn’t does not necessarily claim the most important series. We work with many other artistic directors like Bruno MeyereFouzia Youssef-Holland, Jeremy Zylberberg... People may have noticed Enzo’s presence more only because he is very active on social networks. It is an element of communication that is part of our time and for us, it is important to highlight our French versions. We want to highlight this profession, because we know that people are very attached to voices. And a person like Enzo fits perfectly into this project through his relationships and his desire to share his job and his experience.”
An experience of social networks due to its status as a popular Tiktoker with more than 222,000 subscribers on the application and which leads fans to question themselves at the same time about the recent involvement of influencers in certain VFs of anime they consider it illegitimate to double roles:
Crunchyroll also made a point of expressing itself on the subject of the star-talent which is causing a stir among lovers of dubbing: “We’re not against bringing in influencers, because that’s also part of today’s communication. But what matters most is the voice. We’re not going to tell ourselves that we want to work with an influencer and try to find him a role. It’s the opposite. We first discover a role and we think that it could be fun to have such an influencer on it. So only there, we will contact him. It’s really in this sense that we want to work with them. The most important thing is that the voice goes to the character. It is not a question of placing an influencer at all costs. And the knowledge and experience of Enzo in the middle can provide us with expertise and find us the most relevant voice. And in this case only, it can be interesting to do and win-win to involve them.”
The fed up around this practice remains nevertheless shared by several actors who are annoyed by these increasingly numerous interventions in the middle.
“The star-talent argument remains that of communication. Except that it doesn’t sell more, so it doesn’t bring in money and the quality of the dubbing suffers from it. We see anime promotions solely based on the names of the influencers present in the casting. If the result is good, relevant and subtle, why not? But this is not the case and we cannot replace all the actors with tiktokers or streamers. Even if this is only for three lines, it’s always less work for an intermittent worker who needs it.”
Star-talent enthusiasts or not, knowing that one in three French people would not watch a program if it was not dubbed, the French version seems to be more and more essential and now makes Japanese animation accessible to uninitiated.
With extensive technical and artistic resources (translation and adaptation of the language, pronunciation of names, actors’ acting, etc.), this studio has a voice in helping to perpetuate the know-how of French dubbing. Crunchyroll thus offers 70 series available in VF on its platform, i.e. more than 1,000 episodes and 400 hours of programs dubbed in French, as well as 12 titles broadcast in simuldub each season.