Whether you’re watching Cartoon Network, stepping into a mall with a Hot Topic store or reading the New York Times you’ll hear about Naruto. Now the series has officially moved out of the introductory stage, the first story arc “The Land of Waves” has been completed on Toonami and viewers are jumping right into the Chunnin exams. Now that Naruto has become more of a household name we talked to Maile Flanagan, Naruto’s US voice, about the success of the series. In response to the series popularity she said, “frankly it’s been great and Cartoon Network is very happy it’s still their #1 show for certain age groups.” However, even though it’s been a hit for Toonami Cartoon Network has not announced expanding over their 52 episode order, which would end the show right after the preliminary matches of the Chunnin exam. But there’s still hope! “52 is a big number for animation/anime rarely do they agree to do that many before it even hits the air! I’m pretty sure if it continues to be a huge fan favorite, they will continue to produce them here” Maile said.
Maile did step into an unfortunate fire when she took the role. When fans of the Japanese version heard her voice instead of Junko Takeuchi’s they we’re quite surprised. Twenty episodes later it seems like the consensus has changed. “Since the show began airing, I have received mostly (90 percent maybe) positive feedback. I do read forums sometimes and fansites, so I know there is negative feedback, but that will always be the case and I hope that my Naruto grows on them!” Maile also mentioned the difficulty of being an anime voice actress instead of doing other animation. “I do other animation and it’s a cake walk compared to anime and dubbing. (In animation) You are usually originating the character unless you are doing the series of something they did a movie about already. Either way, anime is much more difficult because of the mouth flaps.”
If you’ve been watching the US dub you probably heard Naruto say “Believe it!” a lot, but that’s going to change in future episodes. “I don’t say believe it that much anymore. I think the fans will be happy to hear that, according to the fan sites!” Even though Naruto has a couple of catch phrases Maile has not heard any kids shouting them out loud. “Ha ha! Not yet if I do hear them say believe it I’ll probably run away”, she joked. Between dubbing the episodes Maile has also been working on the Naruto games. The first game where Maile is making an appearance is Naruto: Clash of Ninja, which is coming out for the Gamecube in March. She finished making a library of sounds for video games to use. About the video game experience she said, “They have you do multiple takes of lines and a lot of impacts, punches, falls, running, etc. and then you sign a bunch of paperwork!”
While Naruto is gaining popularity with the US broadcast on Cartoon Network, most of the fans started by watching fan subs of the Japanese broadcast. Fan subs have always been a double edged sword for anime localization studios like Viz. On one hand they’re the fan base that’s most likely to buy a lot of the merchandise and seed a show’s popularity. On the other hand they might not actually watch the USA broadcast since they’re so far ahead in the series. In regards to the fan sub community Maile had this to say, “I’m glad that people are big fans of the show, regardless. It’s hard, because people have been watching it that way for years, but at the same time the people who work for Naruto in Japan and the U.S. rely on this for their income, so I really hope they are fans of the Cartoon Network show even if they have already seen it otherwise.” Maile also gave us an insight on how the uncut Naruto DVDs are going to turn out. “I do some alternate lines and extra stuff for each episode. Just stuff that’s more "adult" a little harsher language. Like ‘I’ll rip your throat out’ or something instead of ‘I’m going to hurt you.’” This sounds promising for fans who have been following the series since it launched in Japan. The uncut DVD pack with an unedited English track, Japanese language track and subtitles is set for a release later this year.
We’d like to thank Maile for doing this interview with us and you can watch new episodes of Naruto at 9:00PM Saturday on Cartoon Network.