Before Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston Was A Seasoned Anime Voice Actor
Bryan Cranston got his first big break in an episode of Seinfeld, but I grew up knowing him as the flawed yet lovable Hal in classic sitcom Malcolm In The Middle. He was funny, honest, and possessed comedic timing that few others on the cast could match. So many people know him for this role, but it wasn’t until Breaking Bad that he exploded onto the mainstream.
Walter White – or Heisenberg as he’s often known – is one of the most beloved anti-heroes in television history. The cancer patient turned meth magician built a criminal empire to provide for his family, but slowly became absorbed by the authority and fear that came with this infamous reputation. He became a despicable monster, a final destination so powerful because right at the beginning he was nothing but a high school chemistry teacher.
Breaking Bad is one of the few shows out there that lives up to its peerless reputation. I haven’t seen The Sopranos or The Wire though, so maybe I’m not the best person to make such a statement. Or the X-Files. Please don’t judge me, I'll get around to them one day.
But did you know that before Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston was a prolific voice actor in the world of anime? This was before the Japanese medium had exploded in the West, with fans having to smuggle in videotapes or tune into late night broadcasts if they had any hope of watching the latest shows. Those that were made international often came outfitted with English dubs, as the choice of original audio with subtitles was a bit of a rarity. But with actors like Cranston giving performances, iconic properties were given the gravitas they deserved across the pond.
His voice isn’t always recognisable in certain roles, with his trademark deepness and sharp delivery often twisted to fit certain characters or reflect whatever universe said shows happen to reside in. You can watch a handful of different examples above. I don’t know why it’s so appealing, but knowing that Walter White once cut his teeth on the likes of Street Fighter 2 and Macross Plus is incredible. It also shows that voice acting as a craft should never be discounted, because it often requires a different set of skills that don’t always apply to live-action. Who knew Walter White was a giant weeb.
He goes from light-hearted pretty boy to a dirtbag criminal between roles, showing a level of range that isn’t always possible to gauge in his other work. His turn as Fei Long in Street Fighter 2: The Movie is my personal favourite. The delivery is so silly, and you can really tell that Cranston is having fun going this over-the-top. Many of these roles came along before he was a household name, with him likely landing them to make ends meet as he had fun with the characters while putting a spin on them alongside given direction.
Cranston’s past in the anime world received a recent surge of attention online, and I find it weird how modern day celebrities being involved in animation is seen as a strange thing. We turn our noses up or act surprised like the medium isn’t one of the most popular on the planet. Hailee Steinfeld kills it in Arcane, Karen Fukuhara rules in She-Ra, and Bryan Cranston showcased his talents in a bunch of anime classics that many of us remember fondly. If I ever have a chance to interview the guy, there is going to be so much anime talk.
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