To celebrate Women’s History Month (and today is International Women’s Day), I had the chance to chat with Colleen Clinkenbeard, animated voice actor, producer and ADR director. Like many people in the anime industry who have been in this business for almost two decades in Clinkenbeard’s case, I had the absolutely embarrassing fangirl moment of realizing I’d been watching her progress in the industry for years. Although I definitely recognize them for characters like My hero academy yaoyorozu, One piece Luffy and my recent love for a strangely overprotective one SK8 infinite Mom, Nanako Hasegawa, I had no idea she was ALSO there kiddy levelan anime I liked in 2004. Anime is like that sometimes.
You may also know Clinkenbeard as ADR director, with credits like My Hero Academia, full metal
Alchemist, Steins;Gate, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle,
xxxHolic, Black Butler, Kiddy Grade, Kodocha, Negima, Mondphase, Aquarion, Code Breaker,
Fractal, KenichiLet’s just say Clinkenbeard has a pretty comprehensive resume.
We’ve both talked about Clinkenbeard’s introduction to anime and her work in the industry, but it was her advice to women hoping to pursue a career in anime that really struck me because I realized I’d unknowingly been doing the exact same thing as. talk about it
How did Colleen Clinkenbeard get into the anime?
A lot of voice actors I’ve interviewed have talked about discovering anime by accident. Back when you stumbled across this while browsing the channels, or if you’re like me, a random kid in your class was talking about “that cartoon that wasn’t really a cartoon‘ and you would give in to curiosity and discover something like that Vampire Hunter D.
Clinkenbeard’s introduction in the anime is the complete opposite. “I didn’t watch anime when I was growing up. I had no experience with anime, I didn’t know what anime was until I met Laura Bailey. Bailey, in case you didn’t know, expressed a lot of my teenage anime upbringing. In from young Trunks Dragon Ball ZKeiko in Yu Yu HakushoToru in fruit basket, the list goes on. It turns out that Bailey was Clinkenbeard’s roommate and best friend for years, and would eventually become his gateway into the anime. “I first got into anime as a professional, as someone who auditioned to make money in the industry. Then we started looking at everything together fruit basket (Clinkenbeard’s first anime), then we watched kodocha (with Clinkenbeard directing). Everything went a bit bam, bam, bam!
Clinkenbeard went on to say that fandom really made her an anime fan. Seeing everyone’s love and excitement for anime made them want to see more of it. “It’s so much fun fangirling with people about stuff!” Clinkenbeard is also a huge nerd, who proudly explains that it’s all over her house and it’s what she and her husband bond over. The jump in the anime wasn’t a “long jump,” she said. “I love shows, books, movies, and games with intricate magical systems and fantastical creatures. I fit in perfectly.
She also took the time to talk about other women in the industry who inspire her. “I’m inspired by anyone who can work in the industry while keeping a cool head and being themselves. The entertainment industry makes it so easy to get lost and end up emulating what you see as a successful version of what you’re trying to be,” she said. “People who maintain their own voice, embrace competition and opposing ideas, and manage to be friendly while doing so are definitely worth seeing. Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Luci Christian come to mind.
And to reinforce her nerd status, she also took on fictional women. “Hanna in wolf children or Egwene pure wheel of time.”
Her advice to women who want to get into the industry
When I asked Clinkenbeard what advice she has for women looking to get into the anime industry, her response resonated in a way I wasn’t expecting. That’s because it wasn’t his original plan to work with anime in this way – and if I stop and think about it, it wasn’t mine either.
This is what she told me:
Above all, I encourage people to strive for diversity in their careers. Don’t categorize your dreams and say something stupid like “I’m going to be an anime voice actor.” It prepares to be disappointed when things don’t go the way you planned. A career should not be linear. Take every opportunity that comes your way if it strikes you as a little interesting or can educate you in some way. If you take action, write your own content. If you’re directing, ask about the production. If you’re still looking to get started… look for an internship or an engineering school or workshops with established VAs. There is no single path, but if you don’t take steps, you’ll never find yours.
When I was little, I knew I wanted to be a writer. Back then, for me, that meant writing a book that would become a bestseller/animated series/fanfiction tag on your favorite fanfiction site. I still have that dream, but along the way, my goal of becoming a “writer” took a direction I never expected. To be honest, I wasn’t really interested in journalism until I saw a panel at an anime convention about writing for an anime website. I was in college at the time, so up until then I had only focused on writing fiction. Over the years I’ve stepped out of that box and learned that there are so many sides to writing and so many ways to approach it.
Trying to go down a linear path would have meant missing opportunities I didn’t even think were possible.
Ditto for Clinkenbeard, who initially didn’t even have anime on his radar. She was already a pro when she discovered anime and could have easily steered away from it, but embraced it instead. And even as she turned to voice acting, she continued to do more in the industry. “Initially it took me a while to get used to directing myself and then trusting the other actors that the whole project had a lot of different voices instead of seeming seamless. I spend most of my time producing these days, so being able to direct or perform and flex my creative muscles is a luxury.
I really appreciate the advice on careers that don’t have to follow a set path. It often feels like they have to do it, and I certainly felt pissed when my vision board took a big detour (Hello 2020, old friend). You want (insert career) so follow (insert steps), but we all reach a point where those steps don’t go the way you hoped. This can lead to a lot of frustration when you’re struggling to figure out how to get back on track, but perhaps the solution is to go in a slightly different direction.
It’s okay if you want to do a specific thing, just be open to other variations of it. In the case of voice acting, be open to voice acting in other media or even do other things in the industry. I’m still chasing that bestselling dream with myself and writing, but there’s no reason I can’t write some cool reviews, thought-provoking and interviews.
For fun, here are his three favorite moments from his time in the anime industry.
“I’m going to totally cheat here, so brace yourself,” Clinkenbeard said when I challenged her to narrow down her favorite moments to three. “First, the longevity of Luffy’s record in A game. I love that we’ve been able to see this story for so long and it’s my biggest career goal to see it through.
Ah, good to know that Clinkenbeard will have a FOR LIFE synchro gig A game will never end.
“Second, direct Full Metal Alchemist, Steins;Gateand My hero academy (See I told you I would cheat). LOL I guess I can let it slide. “And third, the deeply moving roles where I really feel like I met the character where he lived and brought the original intent to the fans. Hanna in wolf childrenAkito in fruit basketRiza Hawkeye in Fullmetal Alchemistetc.” It is also a little bit Cheat and break that “three moments” challenge, but when you have such a stacked resume it’s unfair to try to downplay your accomplishments.
(Photo: Colleen Clinkenbeard/Crunchyroll)
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