‘Dragon Ball’ Voice Actor Sean Schemmel Admits He’s Not A Fan Of Netflix’s ‘One Piece’, Says He’s Still “Not Convinced” Anime Can Be Properly Translated To Live-Action
Despite the rare successes of such adaptations as Ruroni Kenshin, Kingdom, and One Piece, Dragon Ball series voice actor Sean Schemmel still believes that it is inherently impossible to accurately translate any given anime production to live-action.
Schemmel, who is perhaps best known for providing the English voice of Son Goku and King Kai across the various American dubs of Dragon Ball, offered his thoughts on the topic during a recent interview with Bleeding Cool.
Speaking to Hollywood’s abysmal track record with live-action anime adaptations, Schemmel told the outlet’s Tom Chang, “It’s weird because I’ve kind of got an insider view, and I’ve watched Hollywood try to understand anime my entire career, and they still don’t get it.”
“It’s not until you see, and I’m not entirely sure the anime genre trends will ever translate well to live-action,” he added. “I’m not entirely convinced.”
Turning to Hollywood’s latest take on anime, Netflix’s One Piece, Schemmel opined, “I’ve only watched part of the live-action One Piece, and I frankly think it’s terrible.”
“The Dragon Ball Z live-action movie [Dragon Ball Evolution] was also terrible for a different reason, though,” he then elaborated. “They had switched directors halfway through before they even started production.”
Fully aware this his was the minority opinion, Schemmel explained that his issue with One Piece was not with the production itself, but rather the live-action medium’s inability to fully realize an anime’s less-realistic elements.
“It’s interesting, and I’m sorry about my opinions,” the Yu Yu Hakusho voice actor noted. “I feel as a public figure, I feel so nervous about like even saying, ‘I don’t like the One Piece live-action very much.’ That’s not necessarily the crew and cast’s fault. They’re probably all talented. That’s more of the execution and in terms of the genre translating.”
“Once we see a real bona fide attempt by a high budget [studio] handling the effects, they do an anime because you also got to reconcile a big part of anime,” explained Schemmel. “A big part of the style is giant eyeballs, which makes a big difference in the style. When you’re shooting anime, everybody’s human beings with normal-sized eyeballs, but anime has these giant eyes that have fascinated everyone for decades. It’s part of the style, and that alone, plus the hair, special effects, and subject matter, can be.”
Drawing his thoughts to a close, Schemmel told Chang that, ultimately, “I see so much stuff going on, and it’s all mainstream. I still don’t feel like Hollywood higher-ups are ever going to get it until all these kids who grew up in it get jobs doing that and start doing that.”
In support of his theory, the voice actor pointed out how, as made clear to him by The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes director Roy Burdine, “The last season of Picard. the showrunner [Terry Matalas] was a giant fanboy who ended up growing up around Star Trek or was on set assistant Next Gen.”
“Now he’s digested it so much you’ve got this fantastic last season of Picard – I don’t even tell people to watch the first two seasons,” he recalled. “My point about anime is the same thing. Once you have somebody like that helming something, the test will then finally be, we’ve got the right person in the slot.”
“Will this genre translate to live-action?” the man who has voiced Goku for nearly a quarter century concluded. “I’m not convinced it will yet, but I could be wrong for sure.”
It should be noted that despite Schemmel’s belief that anime’s “style” is impossible to capture in the real world, numerous productions have shown that some progress is being made on that front.
From the live-action Gintama film rather successfully recreating protagonist Gintoki Sakta’s messy blue hair, to James Cameron’s enlarging of the titular heroine’s eyes in his 2019 take on Alita: Battle Angel, to Luffy’s use of his Gum-Gum abilities in Netflix’s One Piece, it’s clear that Hollywood has, at the very least, left its days of turning the Kamehameha into an impotent burst of air far behind them.