You know what I don’t do enough of? Short rants. Let’s see about having one today.
So, when I was updating my SMT Persona 3 and 4 Social Link Comparison rant, I discovered something odd about the new version of SMT Persona 4--Chie’s voice actress was dramatically different. Wondering why, I did some extensive, exhaustive, comprehensive, penetrating research (which is to say, I clicked on the first Google result I saw), and discovered that when Persona 4 had been updated, the original voice actress for Chie was no longer available for the role, and since they did have new lines they needed to have recorded, they just brought in a new actress to redo all the original lines and then voice the new ones. Well, that’s how things go, I guess.
What gets me about it is the drastic difference between Old Chie Voice and New Chie Voice. This isn’t like what cartoons sometimes have to do, where they replace a character’s voice with a new, more available actor who can manage some close facsimile of the original actor. This is a completely different voice and acting style altogether. They didn’t even try to come close to what Chie’s voice was on the Playstation 2. Supposedly this new voice is more similar to the original voice of Chie in the Japanese version. Couldn’t say, as I’ve never played the Japanese version, but since this new one is more high-pitched and loud at times, I’d suspect that to be true--one of Japan’s major exports is the high-pitched, squealing babble of adolescent girls.
Thing is, the new one just doesn’t work for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, New Chie Voice’s actress, Erin Fitzgerald, is not a bad actress, from what I can tell. I wouldn’t call her particularly great at the role, but I’d actually say she brings more skill to the table than Old Chie Voice, Tracey Rooney, did. But honestly, Tracey Rooney’s voice simply fit the character better, acting skill be damned. Now Chie sounds similar in pitch and personality to the type of female character that Yukiko or Rise is, and without rewriting Chie’s actual character, that’s not the right fit for her. Chie’s not as feminine a character as the more standard Yukiko and Rise; she’s forward, inwardly tough, and interested in things like martial arts movies, steak, and protecting people.
Having a voice like Rooney’s attached to her character made sense and brought the package together neatly. She had a deeper tone that fit Chie, while being distinctly feminine--you’d never mistake it for a boy’s voice, even if it’s similarly deep. In this way, the voice helped emphasize the rest of the character--not standardly feminine like Yukiko or Rise, but not so far as to be gender-ambiguous, either, like Naoto. Rooney’s inflections and general tone also fit the less feminine, still-distinctly-female character of Chie, even if Rooney had perhaps a little less acting range with it.
The new voice...it’s not bad, but it and the actual character of Chie are working around each other, not with each other, you know? And I’m not saying that tomboys all have lower, deeper voices or anything like that, and that more traditionally feminine girls can’t. But the cadence of the voice, the diction of it, the way the lines are SAID, with Tracey Rooney matched Chie’s tone and character, while Fitzgerald’s higher voice is emphasized by the more girly-girl way she uses it, and that simply isn’t Chie.
I wish Atlus had tried to find a voice actress who was at least a little similar to the original one, who could give us a tone that worked alongside the tomboyish character instead of contrast to it. I appreciate that Atlus may have wanted to avoid that weird, awkward feeling on TV shows when you can tell it’s a new voice actor doing the lines but you’re not supposed to know because he/she is supposed to be really close to the original...and I can appreciate that maybe Atlus was trying to listen to the complaints of some of its fans about Chie’s original voice actress.* But in the end, the original voice for Chie was the right one, and it would have been better to find someone to try to mimic it, or at least get in the same range.
* Because heaven forbid we challenge the weeaboos’ fragile perception of reality with a teenage girl who sounds like the many, many girls in actual, real life whose voices aren’t like the shrieking Japanese mice who voice every anime female.