The Case for Vic Mignogna

It should come as no surprise that I'm a dub fan. I not only speak English, but I also appreciate the talent and passion that goes into so many English dubs. In some cases, like with Cowboy Bebop and Baccano!, you can make the case for the dub being superior! Clearly, there’s something to be said for the existence of dubs. But I’ve already written on that for Infinite Rainy Day...

Anyway, FUNimation Entertainment recently announced that they were re-dubbing the 90’s series The Vision of Escaflowne. Previously dubbed under the Bandai Entertainment/Ocean Group label, it was criticized for taking the beloved series and hack-editing it for television. I can’t say much about the acting, having never seen it, but I do know one of its biggest changes, aside from the "90’s-esque" opening, was moving the focus of the story from one character to another. That alone should should clue you in. So to have a dub that promised to be faithful was promising for the uninitiated (like myself.) And with FUNimation’s crowdfunding goals being met and then some, it seemed like this was a go.

Currently, FUNimation's been listing their casting and directing for the dub. Again, I can’t say much about who they cast, I’m happy they even have one, but if you were to look at the casting call, well…this particular decision would be a point of contention:

Vic Mignogna as Folken Fanel.



For those who don’t know, Vic Mignogna has gained a reputation lately, and not a good one. While the reports and rumours can’t all be verified, Vic has been called a creeper, a pervert and an aggressor, harassing his fans and causing his fellow VAs to not want to work with him. He’s been touted as whiny, hard to work with and all-around unpleasant. While these allegations are nothing new, he’s been divisive for years, the recent allegations of also being homophobic have caused outcry from the anime community and open boycotts of his work. So to see him listed in The Vision of Escaflowne as the main antagonist has made many people unhappy.


Where do I stand? Well, it’s tough. I’m not one to discredit any claims against Vic, regardless of any real truth, but that doesn’t mean I’ll automatically discredit the dub because he’s in it. For one, I don’t hate his work. I don’t think he’s fantastic, but he’s voiced characters in some of my favourite shows. I honestly think, for example, that his performances as Edward Elric and Tamaki Suoh in Fullmetal Alchemist and Ouran High School Host Club were some of his best, with both standing out because of his presence.

On that note, I’m not opposed to Vic Mignogna voicing a villain. He’s done so before, see RahXephon, so this isn't that much of stretch. Is it ideal casting? Maybe not. Could he have been picked for a different role? Probably. But I’m game because, honestly, he might surprise us!

Besides, I’ve been surprised before by dub castings. Remember when Bryce Papenbrook was announced as Eren Jaeger in Attack on Titan? Remember how people were taken aback by this, claiming that he “can’t act” and that he’d “ruin the dub with his presence”? Remember how that turned out to not be true? Remember how his performance was actually serviceable? How is it any different with Vic Mignogna, a veteran VA, being cast as Folken Fanel?

I think we forget that a bad performance isn’t always the fault of the actor or actress, but sometimes the director. Star Wars Ep. II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: The Clone Wars both had Daniel Logan as a young Boba Fett, yet the difference in the performances were night and day; the former, being a George Lucas Prequel film, had Logan sounding awkward and out-of-place due to bad directing and line-reading. The latter, however, was a vocal performance under the guiding hand of Dave Filoni, and the end-result was infinitely superior. You simply wouldn’t be able to tell it’s the same person because of the actor’s age difference.

People are also forgetting that an actor or actress can be talented and still be awful/contrarian in real-life. I like Mark Ruffalo as an actor, even though I think he frequently looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with tunnel vision. Marlin Brando was frequently cited as being a nightmare to work with because of his ego, and yet he’s regarded as one of the greatest actors ever. Even Gwyneth Paltrow and Natalie Portman, both annoying for different reasons, are incredibly talented actress with Oscars under their belts. And lest we forget Quentin Tarantino, Hollywood’s biggest cry-baby? Yeah, how many good movies is he responsible for?

Remember, acting is a strange and quirky industry. It, therefore, attracts plenty of strange and quirky individuals. And some can be really nasty and/or difficult to work with. That doesn’t mean they all are, but a good chunk are probably more controversial than we realize. We simply don’t see or hear about it because it’s not deemed “relevant”.

Which leads back to Vic Mignogna: we may never know if he’s as awful as he’s been touted, but it doesn't matter. Or it shouldn’t matter nearly as much as it does. Because he’s talented, helps garner attention and has proven himself on multiple occasions. Getting upset over his casting, even if it’s a miscasting, simply because it’s Vic is childish. You don’t have to like him, or even agree with his behaviour, but the backlash isn’t warranted if it means losing a potentially solid performance.

Not to mention, boycotting The Vision of Escaflowne over one actor means hurting the other actors and actresses. Like it or not, boycotts hurt the workers more than the companies, and FUNimation Entertainment is run almost entirely by VAs. By boycotting The Vision of Escaflowne, there’s no doubt FUNimation will survive, but you’d be robbing these VAs of a potential paycheque. And the anime dubbing industry is bleeding enough from piracy and lack of real interest/competition, so is that really fair?

Sufficed to say, I’m incredibly excited for The Vision of Escaflowne’s new dub. Like Yuri Bear Storm, it’s a chance to experience something from a part of the anime world that I’ve never experienced. Except this time, unlike Yuri Bear Storm, it’s not a new show, but an old show being redone. I only hope it lives up to its reputation. Or, rather, I hope I can watch it without FUNimation’s video player lagging every 3-5 minutes. (Seriously, you’ve updated your site HOW many times? Fix your streaming service, dammit!)
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Vic's attitude towards queer characters and women has been pretty infamous for the past few years. Zach's argument is just one take on this, and I allowed it to be published because this isn't a defense of Vic's actions and behavior.

However, you also have the absolute right to be disgusted with the man and not want him to act in dubs. Make no mistake, Vic Mignogna is a pretty obnoxious and troubling person in this industry, and it's perfectly understandable to not want him to be a major face in the western dubbing industry scene. It's not unlike having some of gaming's biggest names being sexist dude-bros. Like, they aren't being criminal, but they reflect on us. And that's shitty.

Comments

  1. I recall reading the complaints regarding Vic Mignogna. So I did some extensive research on the matter and honestly...I don't know. On the one hand, we do have the allegations. On the other hand, he not only strikes me as incredibly gracious in basically every single panel video and interview I've encountered [yes, even on the subject of yaoi, which he has explicitly addressed in detail], we also have the personal assurance of a gay coworker who knows him personally and counts him as a friend that he does not go around bashing gay people. So...I don't know.

    I've not met the man personally. Maybe he is difficult to work with, and obnoxious. Maybe some people just caught him on a few different bad days. I just don't have enough information to make an assessment one way or the other. Be that as it may, he seems like a decent voice actor from the little I've heard him in. If he's the right fit for the part, then I'm going to side with Zachary in his belief his mere presence in the dub is not sufficient reason to boycott it.

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    1. As someone who Follows a few people who've met him at cons, I can tell you one thing for sure: he can be very touchy-feely, as well as a little overbearing. Perhaps that translates to aggressive and gross for some people.

      It's always hard to judge these sorts of things, since the internet has a habit of fabricating info to make people look worse than they really en masse, but that doesn't necessarily discredit the fact that he might've done a, b and c to x, y and z at one point in time. We don't know, nor do we, like I said in the article, know much about a lot of VAs in the business and what goes on behind closed doors. But, like I said as well, it's the nature of the industry to have some weird people be attracted to acting, so it's sometimes better to not dig too deep into these sorts of things.

      I'm glad you sided with me here, even though it wasn't necessary. I was worried I'd be lambasted by Vic's detractors for "blindly sucking up to him," when that was never the intent of this piece. I guess I can always look forward to insightful comments from you, which is nice...

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    2. From what I have read of Vic, and seen in video footage, I will say that its actually not that hard to think of a plausible explanation for how he might disturb some people in the *absence* of any perverted intentions on his part. For instance, add all of the following factors together:

      1. He's very much an extrovert, "gaining energy", as it were,from being the life of the party, so to speak.

      2. He has a tendency to express affection via hugging.

      3. He's was born into one of the last generations where words like "honey" and "sweetie" were widely used as completely innocent terms of affection, and he therefore has a habit of using them openly.

      4. His natural tone of voice is one that can be very easily stereotyped as "creepy".

      5. He's caught in the unenviable situation of not only being a good looking middle-aged celebrity with a lot of teenage fangirls, but also having played at least a few characters who are known for being creepy and/or perverted. And said fangirls like hearing him do impressions of his characters, or recite their lines [some of which may involve sexual innuendos]. They also tend to enjoy "ship-teasing", which frequently involves the use of sexual innuendo, and they enjoy it when he provides such references. Does he oblige them and risk being misunderstood by some onlookers, or does he avoid doing so and risk being considered aloof and ungracious by his fans?

      Combine all of the above and you've a great recipe for being misunderstood.

      Of course, there's also the possibility that he used to be a pretty annoying guy, but has been getting better, and that despite his efforts, he can't shake his former reputation.

      Or maybe he really is a secret jerk.

      As I said, I don't know.

      "It's always hard to judge these sorts of things, since the internet has a habit of fabricating info to make people look worse than they really en masse, but that doesn't necessarily discredit the fact that he might've done a, b and c to x, y and z at one point in time."

      All very, very true.

      In the absence of any conclusive proof that Vic is some sort of terrible, horrible, evil person [and I've yet to see any such conclusive proof- although I do think there's enough evidence that he may need to think a little more carefully about how other people might interpret some aspects of his demeanor]- in the absence of any such conclusive proof -and in light of some other pieces of evidence that would seemingly contradict the worst of the criticisms- I will admit that I'm inclined to try and give him the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure I'll be [falsely] accused of shilling for the guy no matter what sort of caveats I give. However, I'm willing to accept that if it means I'll be obeying my conscience.

      "I guess I can always look forward to insightful comments from you, which is nice..."
      I try to give you worthwhile responses. I'm glad to know its paying off.

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    3. All the above points you made about Vic actually remind me of a late, Jewish musician who was sometimes accused of those same things. Most viewed him as a "spiritual hippie" who liked to get personal with his fans and didn't have an ounce of evil in his bones, but there were those who also thought of him as a creep because of it (I know for a fact that his marriage didn't last, although why that was could be any number of reasons.) Regardless, extreme warmth can be frightening to those who don't fully understand it, so the claims exist.

      I'm not sure if that applies to Vic, but it could seem that way. Perhaps his misgivings could also be a result of him not knowing when he's crossed the line, especially since the guy's pretty out there. I will say that he HAS been accused of being a drama queen at times from those who know him, something not helped by the roles he tends to get, so...

      Anyway, we can dance this dance forever and reach no solid conclusion, so I'll say this much: it's interesting how people jump on Vic for stuff that isn't 100% verified, and yet ignore stuff from people who are recognized jerks in the industry (like Chris Patton, who's made some really rude comments to people who've openly criticized Stephen Foster's dubs in recent years. Not that I don't think Patton is somehow less-talented for it, but it doesn't look good on him when he can't accept valid criticism that's not even directed at him.) Because, like I said, the acting world attracts all kinds of weird people, and while many are sweet and generous, a lot aren't. But it's important to differentiate between that and legit talent, otherwise nothing would actually get accomplished these days.

      That, and some of the boycotting going on around Vic isn't even based in verifiable claims, but more along the lines of, "His voice is annoying!" or, "He can't act!" Both of which, I might add, are incredibly subjective anyway...

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  2. As someone who has had the misfortune of working with him, I can tell you this. He tends to his flock as long as they worship him. But if you have to work with him, he is a nightmare.

    From hearing complaints, soothing shaken girls, and seeing female young cosplayers leave an area when he approaches to actively being a staff member trying to wrangle this group Diva, I can tell you that larger conventions have banned him for good reason. He is a monster to hotel staff, abusive to convention staff, likes to give his handlers hell, and he can't maintain a schedule to save his life, torn between being late or not showing for his panels and events or crashing in on other panels and events to take them over.

    You haven't had to share drinks and horror stories with the other VAs. You havn't had to 'kidnap' a voice actress for a dinner because she would rather starve in her room than have to spend more time with him after dealing with his jokes or inappropriate treatment. And how this guy can run a bar tab and utterly wreck a green room is appalling.

    If you don't believe in what people have experienced, look at the less leading roles he gets put into, and how many top tier conventions bill him as their guest. I, for one, do not buy any products he is in because Every time I hear his voice, I hear him demanding me to get him a drink, or trying to order me how to run a Cosplay Competition and that he is who people came to see, not the cosplayers. You mess with my convention family, you mess with me.

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    1. I'm really sorry you've had to deal with that. I don't know what else to tell you...

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