In the lead up to Supanova 2020 – Melbourne and Gold Coast, we had the extreme honour of chatting to voice acting royalty, Tiffany Grant, better known from her role as the enigmatic tsundere from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Asuka Langley Soryu! Charmed, huh?
Asuka’s character (with Grant’s voice) set the modern blueprint for the ‘loud, superiority-complex’ tsundere character, and her influence can still be felt in anime today, especially in the mecha genre. One modern show with more than a few leaves taken from Evangelion’s book is Infinite Stratos, another show where Grant voices a German, eyepatch-wearing, tsundere mech pilot. The similarities are not lost on her, but always the consummate professional, Grant doesn’t let Asuka influence her other roles.
“I was the scriptwriter for Infinite Stratos, so when I sat down to watch the show, as soon I saw Laura get introduced, I paused the video, walked over to the director, and said, ‘Ah, by the way, there’s a loud German girl,’ and I just turned around and left the room!” Grant recalls. “And you know after that third Rebuild movie where Asuka has the eyepatch, I said, ‘Well I guess I’m only playing German girls with a patch over their left eye.’ But I always try to treat her as a different thing.”
Of course, if you’ve seen the original Eva in Japanese and English, you might have clocked a couple of small dialogue differences. One change Grant told us that the studio, ADV Films, had to fight for was for ‘Third Child’ over ‘Third Children’.
“The whole ‘Third Children’ versus ‘Third Child’ was a debate that went on at a much higher level, where the director, Matt Greenfield, had to impress upon the original Japanese team that that doesn’t make any sense,” she says. “They don’t have plural nouns in Japanese, so if you have no concept of having plurals, I imagine that’s very difficult to convey that ‘Children’ and ‘Child’ are not synonymous, and cannot be used interchangeably.”
It was also Grant’s call to include something that became a large part of Asuka’s character, something that’s such a staple now it would almost seem wrong to not include it; speaking German.
“We did, mostly me I guess, come up with this idea of Asuka really using a lot more German, so we weren’t really changing anything; we were already doing it in a different language to Japanese,” Grant explains. “And since the character is German, instead of her calling Shinji and Toji and Kensuke morons and idiots and perverts and whatever in English, why not say it in German?”
One interesting change between the Rebuilds and the original from behind-the-scenes is that, in order to craft his perfect, genius, auteurist master vision, director Hideaki Anno insisted on Funimation making some small script changes that might seem inconsequential at first… But may reveal themselves to be important come this June.
“On the third Rebuild film, so ironically called You Can (Not) Redo, we were made to go back and redo most of what we had already recorded. Studio Khara had some supervisors that came in and they rewrote stuff and didn’t necessarily care if anything matched the mouth flaps or whatever, but they had some very specific words that they wanted us to say in certain places, like saying ‘idiot’ instead of ‘stupid’ even though they’re synonyms. They were much more literally hands-on during that process.”
Grant has been voicing Asuka since 1996, when the show was picked up by ADV Films in the West, and she’s still voicing her in the Evangelion Rebuild film series, a retelling of the original show with a lot of twists. With the final Rebuild film coming out in June this year, we had to ask her about the major differences between the new Asuka and the original Asuka, and what that experience was like from inside the booth.
“It was very much that he [Mike Macfarland, voice director] wanted, as far as her attitude and vocal quality and everything, to really be the same. But one thing [that was different] obviously, is that Asuka being German is almost entirely removed, she never speaks German. You know in the original TV series, Yuko Miyamura did speak some German, but in the Rebuilds that didn’t happen, so as a consequence I never got to speak any German as the character, and for me that was a really big loss.”
But the other side to Grant’s career isn’t just behind the microphone, she’s also written adapted scripts for many, many anime. We asked her about how her experience in front of the mic informs her work on script writing, and vice versa.
“Oh, I think it’s absolutely integral [for writers to be actors too], I don’t actually know people who work in the industry as script adapters who don’t have some booth experience, either acting or directing,” she tells. “That’s really where all the writers come from. It’s really critical to have that experience as an actor, particularly to understand the art and science of matching the lip flaps, and the way those lines are gonna be delivered.”
And finally, Grant left us with a message for her Australian fans!
“I absolutely love coming to Australia, I love all of the Eva fandom down there, and of course anime in general. Everybody makes me feel so welcome when I come to Australia, so I am very VERY much looking forward to coming back and seeing everyone there soon!”
Catch Tiffany Grant at Supanova Melbourne (March 6-8) and Gold Coast (March 13-14), returning in June for Sydney and Perth. Evangelion ‘Central Dogma Access’ Passes are on sale now via Moshtix.