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Filipino-American Genshin Impact voice actors share origins, tips

Michelle Lojo - Philstar.com
Filipino-American Genshin Impact voice actors share origins, tips
From left: Filipino-American voice actors Anne Yatco, Christian Banas Jr. and Ratana at CONQuest 2022
Philstar.com / Michelle Lojo

MANILA, Philippines — AcadArena’s CONQuest 2022 had some of the biggest names in gaming and streaming in their lineup during its weekend festival from July 23-24. Three such guests who drew in the crowd were Filipino-American voice Actors Anne Yatco, Ratana and Christian Banas. They all have one project in common: being a voice of a character in the open-world adventure game Genshin Impact.

As festival attendees flocked their panels, the three voice artists shared their own origins in the industry, how they landed their roles, and how they eventually created the voice of their respective characters.

Ratana as the ever-mischievous Yae Miko

Ratana Therakulsathit, known simply as Ratana, got into voice acting because of her love for cartoons and anime. Voicing cartoon characters was not something she thought was possible, joking that as a child, she thought magical realism was at play. Raised in a Filipino household, she had a stable job for a very long time and was then introduced by her friends to voice acting classes and mentors, which started her journey in the industry.

Ratana previously voiced Leonie in the Fire Emblem games and Cebuano superhero Wave in Marvel Super War. She also voiced the young versions of Crispin and Basilio as well as Dr. Petra Gallaga in the Netflix Animated Series Trese.

When she first read for Yae Miko, the head of the Grand Narukami Shrine and editor-in-chief of the Yae Publishing House, she found inspiration from another iconic character.

“So the audition for Miko, the way I read her, felt a little bit like Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl but a little bit more mischievous, like Blair Waldorf, grown-up and a puppet master. So we just kept playing with that and so she’s a woman who players with her food. She knows several steps ahead, what’s going to happen because she’s been around. Her best friend is Ei so you know, she’s seen some things. So the directors and writers just had some thoughts about particular voice prints and we just workshopped until we found [the right voice],” shared Ratana during her panel with fellow voice artist Anne Yatco.

Speaking to an aspiring voice artist, Ratana shared a personal tip.

“The biggest tip I can give: read out loud everyday. Doesn’t matter what it is. Could be the text messages on your phone. It could be a book. It could be the words in your favorite manga. Just read out loud everyday,” said Ratana.

She also mentioned attending acting classes or if budget is an issue, an improv class to help with the acting part of being a voice artist.

She added: “Nobody gives you a script in real life. This helps you with brainstorming. This helps you to speak extemporaneously on your own. It teaches you to trust your gut.”

Anne Yatco as three personas of the Raiden Shogun

Before lending her voice to Genshin Impact, Anne Yatco dreamed of becoming a mermaid. Having been inspired by Disney’s Little Mermaid, Yatco spent her childhood surrounded with music, taking singing and piano lessons. Her parents initially wanted her to be a doctor, hence her degree in Biomedical Engineering. But when she wasn’t studying her engineering degree, she would spend her time in the theater, which eventually led her to audition for graduate school in the California Institute of the Arts, which is known for its animation school.

Yatco then spent seven years as a Forensic Scientist while she took classes for voice acting which would lead her to quitting her job, booking her role in the hit anime series Jujitsu Kaisen, and eventually her triple appearance in Genshin Impact as Electro Archon Ei, the Raiden Shogun and Ei’s twin sister Makoto.

“There’s two parts to the Raiden Shogun, there’s the puppet [the Shogun] and then there’s the real woman, there’s Ei. With Shogun, the one direction I kept getting was [that] she's not a robot. So she’s cold, she’s regal, she is authoritative, she’s hard, but she’s not a robot. So that means she does have feelings, she does have emotions, she has real reactions. So it was threading that line of being very cold and detached but not robotic and that’s not easy. And then with Ei, kind of taking that but now I have to add warmth, she has more personality. She has more life to her.” said Yatco as she explained how she was able to differentiate the two characters she plays in the series.

She added that for the Shogun, she played around with a relaxed, mid-Atlantic accent because for that regal effect without having to use a British accent and that for she relaxed that even further for the voice of Ei.

After the game’s 2.5 update, Yatco added another character to her resume: Ei’s twin sister Makoto. Though essentially having the same voice as her twin sister, Yatco found another voice for the more motherly character.

“If you put them into a spectrum, you got Shogun-she’s cold, she’s detached. Ei is warmer and then Makoto, she’s the warmest. She’s the most motherly. She’s kinda like the most knowledgeable of the world. She’s the wisest of the three. That’s like my text points for the three different versions of Raiden Shogun,” explained Yatco.

As for her tip to aspiring voice artists Yatco, echoing Ratana, advised them to invest in acting classes.

“The ability to be given a script and be able to just read, to quickly make the acting choices, and act it out on the first try without making mistakes. Acting classes would help you refine that,” said Yatco.

Christian Banas Jr. as the household favorite Thoma

Banas started out as a band director, having studied music and having started his acting career on YouTube Red’s Video Game High School as a background extra during its second season. A friend then invited him to a voice-over project, which sparked his interest in the craft. He then started researching more about voice acting, attending classes, and joining a community of voice actors.

Banas was all set to leave the voice acting industry after having stints in the video game Dying Light 2 and the series Pokemon and having worked through the different aspects of production — from being a production assistant, broadcast engineer, teleprompt operator to scriptwriter, just to name a few. But Genshin Impact arrived, and he found his way back to voice acting.

“Genshin Impact happened in the most spectacular way possible. It was around my birthday. I got a job at the game studio and I was about to leave, contract signed, and I was ready to go. I got an email saying, ‘Hey, you were asked to do extras in this game called Genshin Impact.’ I’m like what the heck is a Genshin. So I was like, I might as well go. You know, try it out. Let’s see what happens. The session was on my birthday. From there, I met wonderful people and started playing video games together and how I got engrossed into the Genshin circle.” shared Banas.

The so-called Genshin circle is composed of Genshin Impact voice director Chris Faiella, Ganyu’s Voice Actress Jen Losi and Gorou’s voice actor Cory Yee. The trio, along with Banas, would play the game every night, with Banas even reaching Adventure Rank 36 with the game only being out for just a month.

His involvement with voicing NPC (non-playable characters) would led to a character audition — but not the one fans would expect: Kaedahara Kazuha, the wandering samurai.

The role ended up going to Michael Whitten, and Banas got his second character audition for Thoma, the Kamisato Clan’s housekeeper and Chief Retainer, as well as the well-known “fixer” in the land of Inazuma.

Banas didn’t need to look far as his normal voice fit the character’s youthful and easygoing personality.

“I was recording for Genshin Impact. The director, Chris Faiella, wonderful human being but he doesn’t understand anime terms a lot. We were recording a line and Thoma originally said, ‘with the power of housekeeping' and Chris was so confused. Like, this man just threw a spear at a guy why would he say ‘with the power of housekeeping’. So, Hoyoverse, the client said, ‘No, no, no’ you don’t understand. It’s supposed to be endearing’. I watch Anime so and I said, ‘Chris, Chris let me handle this’. So I talked to the client and he goes, ‘Can you say this like ‘nakama’?’ And I’m like absolutely. So with the power of housekeeping we could totally make this happen’ and [the client] was like “perfect.” shared Banas.

Nakama means friend or colleague in Japanese, which Banas sees as an accurate description of the character he was playing.

Though he still got a part in the game he loved, Banas shared that failing to land the initial role presented to him left him a little heartbroken.

“I was a little depressed by [failing to land Kazuha] because I worked really hard on it. And Jen and Cory taught me that hey it’s the first audition you’ve done in a while, you’ll get something. We got the next batch of characters, Thoma and Gorou were there and everyone was just like, ‘Dude you would so be good for Gorou. It’s great for you’. And we saw the Thoma one and we were like, ‘Oh Cory [Yee] would be perfect for that. And then we got booked the opposite.” shared Banas, hoping that particularly experience would be as much as a learning experience to aspiring voice artists just as it had been for him.

“Keep auditioning, keep being you because eventually you will be put in the right role. That is how that works,” reminded Banas.

He adds, “Voice your favorite manga. Voice your favorite video games. Just get behind the microphone and do it. Because if you can do it every day and still be in love with it, then you belong in voice acting. It’s gonna take you a long time before you do it professionally. It takes so long so it has to be worth it for you. If you could voice act consistently, every day and still enjoy it, after six months. Do it. You should do it professionally.”

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