Friday, 9 June 2017

AN 2017: Kuriboh Q&A

This is a recap posting of the LittleKuriboh (Martin Billany) Q&A at Anime North from Sunday at 1pm. (The rest of my time at the con I summarized here.) Martin started with an introduction of some of his fandom involvements and motivations.

In 2006, he made YuGiOh Abridged to be part of the YuGi fandom. Be aware that when you make fun of something people like, you get a bit of backlash. Surprisingly, the first episode was well received - by all 10 people who watched it. He then made ep 2 and 3 and onwards, and it snowballed out of his control. He never really tried to be “everyone watch my show, subscribe, like, fave”, and doesn’t really know how, but the fandom got behind it. Abridged is not the real show, even though on, it's said that he (Martin B) was a director. (He asked someone to look to see if that’s still up; it is.)

Martin also did work on the Naruto Abridged fandom show, and he’s Nylocke (dragon man) in the animated series TOME (Terrain Of Magical Expertise). He likes Nylocke because he’s so over the top. It’s always the sort of character he’s dreamed of playing. Yugi’s his favourite from YuGiOh because he always does the right thing and is always there for his friends, Nylocke is a chance to play someone like that. Martin’s also done some voices in DBZ (Frieza).

He does a Vlog about depression, “We’re still here”, after a diagnosis two years ago. To help people realize that they weren’t alone. “You’re not the only person in that boat, you’re not the only person fighting.” And he has a series on wrestling, loving pro-wrestling as a method of storytelling. (Like Samurai Jack. No dialogue.) He’s loved it ever since he started watching it in the late 1990s. Like YuGiOh, he wanted to express something he’s passionate about and participate in a community - and make fun of it. He has a habit of making fun of things, it’s important to love everything that’s right about it AND that’s wrong about it.

Professional credits: In “Tales of Zestiria” as the Pope. Also role of a giant CGI purple bunny, which he auditioned for using a British version of Tristan’s voice. And he’s in the K-On Movie as “every British person”, as well as “Sushi Shop Manager” - one of his first official voice over roles. (Yes, in England, “Right Oh” is a thing.) Noted that in the original K-On movie the Japanese-English language difference doesn’t work for a dub, so they had Martin speak in cockney rhyming slang. The manager says “Thank you so very much” in the Japanese, they had recorded a take of that, but also what was used, “Ari Gato Gozai Mashita”.

Last thing to talk about, a big deal for him, was the latest Star Wars movies. If you listen to one of the other audio tracks “it’s me narrating the whole movie for the visually impaired”. Both the UK and US audio were going to be on the same track, so they wanted someone who had something of a British accent. He didn’t know, just that “this is a Disney property.” He figured Cartoon. They mentioned to him that Marvel movie is higher level security, then “We had to create a whole new level of security for this movie”. The Force Awakens was Level Zero Security. Funny enough, Martin had wanted to see the movie spoiler free, hadn’t watched trailers, didn’t even know that Han Solo was in it. “Part of me thought it’s the most amazing thing ever, part of me didn’t want the spoilers.” He was brought back to do Rogue One, hopefully there will be more.

At this point we got to questions. The first wasn’t technically a question, but audience member Joel’s girlfriend (missed her name) told Martin that Joel was a huge fan, who had based his life (look/clothes/jokes) on him, also having been diagnosed with depression. She just wanted to say thank you. Martin responded, “Joel, you’re not alone, you’ve got the strength to get through that. We love you.”


Favourite movie or video game quote, and say it in favourite British voice? Martin noted Joey’s not his fave British character, but he’s a good one. He loved “Evil Dead 2” and “Mad Max: Fury Road”. He said ‘Jill Sandwich’, voiced as ‘Mokuba Sandwich’, and “Groovy, nyah.” The next comment was something related to the K-On movie (which the audience member had, and got signed). Martin said that in addition to the Sushi Shop manager, in one scene, he’s voicing a black man.

An audience member loved the Lady Gaga parodies, wondered what thoughts/experience LittleKuriboh had with music parodies, will he do more? Martin said it’s one of the favourite things he’s ever done, because “when I sing in the character voices I get really into it”. First was Eminem rap as Yugi called “Without YuGi”, which he feels doesn’t hold up super well, but he got to call out other abridgers. Of the Gaga ones, “Brooklyn Rage” was done first, he didn’t think it would be liked, “just a stupid Joey video”. He wrote it in the space of an evening, posted it after midnight.

It got half a million views in a couple days, and back then 500 k was huge. Thought “people are going to want me to do more”, but he didn’t want to force it. Wanted to do it when he had a good idea. Then when he did “Leather Pants”, he struggled with whether he wanted to, as it’s another Gaga song. And the video, he thought had to have them dancing, can’t be a regular abridged video, so he approached his friend to animate it. It got featured on the Front Page of YouTube, mind-blowing that it got there. “People tell me that got them into the Abridged Series and I just wonder... how?” He liked “Exodia”, being able to revisit ancient Egypt stuff. He’d love to do another, it’s finding the right one and finding the time to do it. Even though it seems like it would be a shorter effort, it does take time to mix and time to the music. For instance “Starships” by Minaj he considered as “Starchips”, in fact he wanted to do a whole musical “Duelist Kingdom”. (Audience person says do a Mix tape.) Maybe one day when he has the time.

Next a wrestling question, something about Bullet Club versus another Club. (Didn’t hear.) Martin said he was excited to see Taka wrestling in the jr stuff. He wants to see an umbrella fight between the two. Then someone asked about a YuGiOh battle between Nylocke and Frieza. Martin said that would be perfect, with a battle being a lot of standing around talking; he didn’t know what cards they’d use though. “Pot of Greed” was mentioned, but Martin said “nobody knows what that does.” He thinks if Frieza used any card it would be to call something back from the graveyard because that’s all that he does. (Er, spoilers.) While Nylocke would have dragons.

An audience member was very curious, why does Tristan sound like Bullwinkle the Moose? (She also thanked him for the depression videos.) There is a very specific reason. For the English dub of YuGiOh, they cast Tristan Taylor using Sam Riegel in the first six episodes or so. The character sounded very goofy, and was felt to be a strange take - so they very quickly retconned it and had Greg Abbey do Tristan. Martin thought, “What if his character is like the way he sounds” (kind of dumb), because that’s great for him as a writer. He can talk about the small, dumb details of the show that way. “I almost hate to say it, he’s my voice in the show.”

LittleKuriboh was asked, in all seriousness, how he felt about Roman Reigns retiring the Undertaker. Martin admitted that was one of the biggest events in the last ten years; in the entire time he’s watched wrestling, the Undertaker’s always been there. Nobody knew, there was no real lead up to it, but people knew on the payperview, when he was going to go last, that this would be it. “We were emotional”, it’s like the final episode of the Simpsons. Even if you think it’s gone past the point of it’s original quality, no one really wants to see it end. “So seeing him go was really painful. I cried.”

Regarding Roman Reigns being the one to do it, well, if he was told, he’s doing his job. Martin doesn’t think it was the best way to do it, because their feud was maybe all of four weeks, but the way he ultimately felt okay with it, was thinking of the Undertaker as being the guy to retire himself. He lost and got beaten so badly that he was like “that’s it, it’s time to end things”. It was his call.

An audience member watching since Middle School was wondering, the “Zorc and Pals”, what made LittleKuriboh decide to put Zorc in there? (He’s not until the last season, though was a favourite character.) Martin didn’t think he’d ever had this question. The reason for the early introduction is the Zorc character is so impressive. He wanted to build to the fact that Zorc was coming, use him more than the show did, for more than one episode. The reason Zorc ended up in Episode 9 was because the episode was really weak - the one where Bakura and YuGi duel, and the others are pawns in the game. He showed it to a couple people, via early access, and they said “this could be better”. So he wrote a scene where Bakura couldn’t wait to get his own spinoff “Zorc and Pals”. That was the only change, and they said “this was the best episode you’ve done”. So Martin was happy for that and Zorc’s arrival in the series.


If he could do a character for any series he hasn’t, who? Meowth from Pokemon. Also, if Martin could choose anything to abridge? Tenchi Muyo, because that’s what made him fall in love with anime. (Some voices were done.) In character design, who’s his favourite in the original YuGiOh? Martin really likes Kaiba, he just looks badass, and you kind of get who he is from all his different outfits. But he also really likes the school uniforms that they have, the blue and the pink (for Domino High). Also, Aigami in the new movie had a good design. As an aside, his wife (Marianne Miller, who was present by now) thinks Tristan’s really hot, and initially thought his hair was a cool hat. 

Martin was thanked for David Bowie music videos, which introduced the audience member to the music. (LittleKuriboh noted, “If I’ve done one thing”, this is the best.) Drop a song line? (Ninjas being trained by me...) Martin said here he loved the Naruto spoof, one of his favourites was the Spoof movie, never a dull moment there. He really wants to do the sequel.

Question about doing the “Star Wars” audio track - how does it work? All script, or can you describe? Martin said if it was him, “the whole audio track would be ‘oh my god, this is so cool’.” In truth, you don’t get to watch the movie, you watch it in little tiny pieces, there’s time codes. You narrate when there’s action or when a character is doing something before dialogue. You hit the space bar, you get three beeps, then you read from a script which is on two screens. One screen has description, the other has the movie, though the script appears under the movie when you hit space bar too. “Sometimes I’d get so excited that I had to tear my eyes away from the screen.” Martin was tearing up by the end of the Rogue One movie. He recommends watching last 10 minutes narrated, as it’s really beautifully written and captures the ending, but won’t say more to avoid spoilers.

Strangest convention/fan experience? “There’s a lot.” He doesn’t want to say the negative ones, never likes talking about any fans in a negative way, because sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding or can’t be helped. (Martin asks his wife. She reminds him some dude came up and asked to kiss him on the mouth.) Right, someone asked if they could pay to do that - he didn’t accept. (Marianne adds: Weirdest part was you looked to me for approval. I’m not against watching him make out with other men, but come on, for $20? No.)

Martin added that Irish are some of the most physical fans he’s ever met. A story that’s an anomaly is they (him and his wife) walked into the building and this crowd swarmed them, one person shoving Marianne into the wall before asking to get a photo. (“Can I check on my wife first?”) Most fans are cool and nice and supportive. “I’m a fan, at the end of the day, I am here because I’m a fan.” Martin added, “The only difference between me and anyone else is that I’m standing up here with a microphone.” No matter how weird things get, he’s happy to be here with you guys. One last anecdote, someone who said “It’s FannyCon, can you smack me on the fanny,” and he felt a definition was needed, as in Britain “fanny” doesn’t mean buttocks, it means something very different.

Who’s his favourite to voice to use? Martin likes voicing Marik. It’s not far off his regular voice, it’s just pitched up a bit and sillier. For Naruto, Sasuke takes absolutely no effort whatevaaaaaaaaaar. Favourite wrestling promo? He doesn’t know many off by heart. Loved Raven in ECW. “There’s so many good ones.” Anything with Chris Jericho. (He did a Chris Jericho as Marik. “Do you know what happens--“) Marianne adds, about that line, she once had a twenty minute pause when going to buy him ice cream. Also, kudos for Jericho for not only coming back but (something relating to roster), it’s a testament to that guy.

Someone asked about the YuGiOh movie, “The Dark Side of Dimensions”. Martin mentioned he felt Kaiba’s always been an exaggerated and over the top douchbag, and the reason he works in the Abridged series is Martin amps that up. So he feels he shouldn’t get any credit for portrayal in the “Dark Side” movie, that’s all the writers. There was a mention here of Miyazaki movies and the Nostalgia Critic. (“I’ll have my cricket bat.”)

An audience member points out LittleKuriboh is the first YouTube celebrity to be at an Anime North. Martin is surprised: Is that true? He thanks everyone for being so supportive. (At this point I couldn’t hear what was going on, but Martin was sorry an audience member had to go through something. Followed by a question.) Will there be another “Vampire: The Masquerade” video? There is another in the pipeline.

Time for one more question. Who he sees as the WWE smack down champion? He loves Shinuske, but it’s “not quite his time yet”. A.J. was said to have the potential now, Martin would love to see him carry that belt. Which is all we have time for (panel ended at 2pm). It was said, if you enjoyed the panel, send feedback! Afterwards, many were talking to LittleKuriboh outside. I saw him about a half hour later as I transitioned between rooms, and spoke briefly to him then. Guy’s a class act all the way.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment below with any thoughts. If you enjoyed this, I also recapped Reviewer Q&As at ConBravo last year, Time Travel panels at CanCon, and I personify mathematics in a comic.

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