While issues surrounding localization and unionization have been prominent in the anime industry, especially the west, in recent times; Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury finds itself embroiled in a new sort of issue, which may or may not define how voice actors will be cast in the future.
On Feb 1, 2023, Crunchyroll had announced the cast for the English Dub version of Witch From Mercury, with veteran Jill Harris revealed as the voice actor for the lead character Suletta Mercury.
Hill’s casting sparked a discourse on Twitter over the character’s ethnicity and the lack of representation in the dubbing industry in the west. Though not explicitly mentioned, many voice actors seemed unhappy by the fact that Hill was hired for the role by Crunchyroll, instead of someone who matched Suletta’s ethnicity.
One of the VAs who referenced the missed opportunity in the casting was Nazeeh Tarsha, who voices Lauda in The Witch From Mercury English dub.
“It pains me to write this on a day that should be filled with nothing but celebration and admiration toward my peers. To feel as though there is a corporate flyer with a risk assessment eval stating how much one can get away with before receiving an inordinate amount of backlash,” Tarsha wrote.
“We can sit here and argue the merits of “right for the role” vs “auto cast because of ethnicity” but let’s also not pretend that the quality provided by minority actors is less than the quality of their peers. Inclusion gives us the ability to tell the stories of our backgrounds.”
“Even if it is a cookie cutter project where race ultimately could be neglected, character coding still exists, therefore bringing forth racial relatability to minority consumers. Unfortunately, the more obscure the minority, the easier it is to sweep under the rug. Sad but true,” the VA added.
“I have a duty to my peers to use my platform. To speak for those whose voices go unheard. May there come a day where the ambiguous nature of remote recording allowances is foregone and opportunities are provided to actors and directors alike to make the best possible products.”
As Tarsha’s tweet gained traction, many fans started debating whether voice actors stand to gain a free pass just because of their ethnicity, or should they be cast based on merit for the role.
A section of twitter users ridiculed Tarsha’s opinion saying if they actually cared about representation, then Suletta’s voice actor should have Red Hair and blue eyes too. Some even asked the voice actor to stop voicing Japanese characters because they won’t fit the ethnicity bill then.
Meanwhile there were also fans who pointed out that Suletta’s origins cannot be discerned from her skin-tone alone and that the world of anime is exclusive to itself.
Mostly, fans were surprised that ethnicity of a voice actor was now being touted as a deciding factor, when roles should be finalized based on merit.
Interestingly, the debate on the platform also expanded into previous issues, including Crunchyroll only hiring talent from Texas for their upcoming dubs.
While actors demanding the streaming platform to recognize unions seems to be fair ask considering the it enables them to demand fair contracts for the work put in, fans have not responded well enough to the issue regarding the lack of representation.
In fact, people pointed out that there were two MENA actors in the cast of The Witch From Mercury. There were also others who argued that Suletta only had a tan because she was brought up on Mercury, which is much closer to the Sun than the Earth.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury English dub started streaming on Crunchyroll from Feb 5, 2023.
The cast and staff for Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury English dub includes:
- Jill Harris as Suletta
- Natalie Van Sistine as Miorine
- Elizabeth Maxwell as Prospera
- Bradley Gareth as Guel
- Aaron Dismuke as Elan
- Brittany Karbowski as Chuatury
- Bryn Apprill as Nika
- Alejandro Saab as Shaddiq
- Gabe Kunda as Delling
- Christopher R. Sabat as Vim
- Eric Vale as Nuno
- Nazeeh Tarsha as Lauda
- Sara Ragsdale as Lilique
- Kimberly Grace as Petra
- Alexis Tipton as Felsi
- Kristin Payne as Rouji
- Cassie Ewulu as Secilla
- Mike Smith as Sarius
- Ian Sinclair as Rajan
- Jerry Jewell as Haro
The staff includes:
- ADR Director: Jason Lord
- Assistant ADR Director: Aaron Roberts
- ADR Engineer: Noah Whitehead
- Assistant ADR Engineer: Coco Caesar
- Script Supervisors: Bonny Clinkenbeard, Jarrod Greene
- ADR Scriptwriter: Alex Mai
- ADR Prep: Olivia Harris
The first cour of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From The Mercury anime started airing on Oct 2, 2022. It aired till Dec 2022, while the second cour will start airing in Apr 2023. The series is being animated at Bandai Namco Filmworks.
The ending theme is performed by Shiyui and is called “Kimi yo Kedakaku Are”. The opening theme for Mobile Suit Gunadam: The Witch From Mercury anime will be “Shukufuku” (“Blessing”) by YOASOBI.
The official website describes the premise of Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury as follows:
A.S. (Ad Stella) 122―
An era when a multitude of corporations have entered space and built a huge economic system.
A lone girl from the remote planet Mercury transfers to the Asticassia School of Technology,
run by the Beneritt Group which dominates the mobile suit industry.
Her name is Suletta Mercury.
With a scarlet light burning in her pure heart,
this girl walks step by step through a new world.