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LITTLE KURIBOH at Youmacon: The Original Abridger Returns

A perennial presence at anime conventions across America, Martin “Little Kuriboh” Billany, the creator and star of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series (YGOTAS), an official and now a professional voice actor, worked a full room at the Cobo Center on Saturday, November 1st, the 2nd day of Youmacon. With loads of people in Panel Room 1, Billany, along with Mike “1KidsEntertainment” Hecht of Pokemon: The ‘Bridged Series, answered loads of fan questions in character, showed a then-new episode (Episode 63) and talked frankly about his life after becoming Internet famous.

New Changes

Always one to poke fun at his notoriously lax upload schedule, Billany announced right up front that Hecht, a friend of his, had been helping with the editing of YGOTAS for quite some time. Starting with the episode premiered at the panel, he continued, Hecht would be taking over the editing of YGOTAS on a permanent basis. The reason for such a switch was practical, Billany said: “I want to be able to get you guys new episodes faster, and bringing Mike in is a great way to do that.”

Fan Questions

Since there was no set agenda for the hour-and-a-half panel, other than introductions and showing Episode 63 of YGOTAS (which can be viewed online), most of the panel was set aside for fan questions, most of which were directed at Billany.  An attendee asked him why he had changed his voice for the character of Tristan during the series’ run.

The reason, Billany replied, was to reflect the actual actor change for Tristan in the original 4Kids Entertainment dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! “Originally, Tristan was voiced by Sam Regal, who gave him more of a surfer dude voice, but then he left for whatever reason and was replaced [by Greg Abbey] and I felt I should joke about it,” he said.  “I thought the way I addressed it in TAS [which posited in a gag that Tristan’s original voice died while he was running with scissors] was pretty funny.”

Another fan asked the two panelists if they had ever had any awkwardness recording. Billany said he had some awkward situations. Hecht answered that he “swears in my character voices when I screw up [Hecht voices Ash Ketchum and others in Pokemon: TBS].” Given that Billany is British, but now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, voice actress Marianne Miller, a fan asked him what his first international convention was.

“Youmacon 2009,” Billany replied. He added that he was so touched by how well both the fans and convention staff treated him that he’s come back every year since. It’s his “sentimental favorite,” he said. “There are ups and downs but Youmacon is great because of every part of it.”

The conversation than shifted when a fan asked if Billany has any more Let’s Play’s planned with his characters. Billany replied that he’s definitely thought about certain games, but “I don’t know if Yami Yugi playing [a] Yu-Gi-Oh! would be funny.” “I did, ” he continued, “want to do Papers, Please with the YGOTAS cast.” Billany was then asked if, when doing work that isn’t for himself, if he’s allowed to improvise off of the script.

Bringing up his fan-favorite role on the YouTube Flash Animation webseries TOME: Terrain of Magical Expertise as Nylocke, Billany said that he gets to play around with that character a bit. He then reflected on how a conversation between his character and another was scripted by Chris “Kirbopher” Niosi, the creator and animator of the series, was meant to be reflective of Billany’s role as an entertainer, something that deeply touched him.

Side Projects

Given his propensity for side projects (including Naruto: The Abridged Comedy Spoof Fandub Series Show, an April Fools’ Day joke-turned-side project), Billany was asked about the state of some of them. Asked if he would do more beyond the one-shot spoof he did of the spinoff anime Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, Billany simply replied with a maybe. As to the question of doing more Yu-Gi-Oh! Season Zero (the fandom name for a 1998 anime that was aired only in JapanAbridged, Billany said he would love to do it.

Then asked about any follow-ups to a one-shot Neon Genesis Evangelion Abridged he had done, Billany said he “would like to do another one,” but he initially made the spoof because he “just wanted [it] to be fun.” He added that he had had an idea, but it got trashed.

When asked about doing a one-shot of a Tenchi Muyo series, Billany replied that he does want to try and make a Tenchi Muyo Abridged a thing. He claimed that he wanted Scott “KaiserNeko” Friedrichs of Team FourStar (who was sitting in the audience) as a voice and that he wouldn’t do many voices himself if the project became a reality.

A fan then asked seriously if the Yu-Gi-Oh! fandom hated Billany, given how popular his work has become. “I’ve had some encounters,” he replied, “but if they feel I’ve done bad, that’s their right. I imagine it’s a little annoying to have something you take seriously disrupted by people coming up to you and shouting, ‘Bakorra!'” From his own perspective, he added, “I didn’t ruin anything. I’m still proud to be a fan, ” he said.

The two men were then asked how they practice voices. Billany replied, “I’d say the best thing for anyone is to practice. Read aloud. Practice voices.” Hecht answered, a bit more bluntly, “I wait until I’ve got lines. Then I do them.” Asked what voices they do first while recording, both men replied that they do the easier voices before the rough ones.

Billany was then asked what his thoughts were in the early days of YGOTAS. “‘Please don’t hate me’ was my main thought,” he said. “I was flying blind; I had no idea the show would come what it became. But at the end of the day, I want to say I made somebody’s day better.”

Billany was then asked if he had encountered any creative differences in his career. “Well, most of mine are me talking to myself, so…” he said to uproarious laughter. “As to professional stuff, I usually shut up and do the job. What the director says, I do.”

Wrap-Up

After the new episode was screened to an enthusiastic response, a few more questions were answered before the panel dispersed, most of which were questions asked of one of Billany’s characters. At the end, he was asked what his opinion was, as a British person, on the proper way to brew tea. Billany didn’t really answer, but recounted a story of how he was thoroughly upset by a “guy I saw with microwaved tea” at Almacon. And with that last humorous anecdote, the panel ended, with Billany looking as enthused as ever about his life, his work and the community of fans that have formed around him.

(EDIT: The original version of this article misstated Michael Hecht’s last name as Hearst. The error has been corrected.)

Cover image via

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Categories: Anime

Author:Tom Speelman

A lifetime of reading comics and watching television has left Tom with an inexhaustible supply of pop culture knowledge from the obvious to the obscure. Rather than keep it all in his brain for use at parties, Tom turned to writing a few years ago to help him share that knowledge with as many people as are remotely interested. Tom writes for several websites including The Mary Sue, Strange Horizons, Loser City and others. For even further rambling, follow him on Twitter @tomtificate.

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  1. An Improbably Good Day(s) | Vagabond of the Western World - 11/17/2014

    […] that I had been putting off and finally wrote up my panel recaps from Youmacon (which you can find here and here). I also wrote and sent off some interview questions to some pretty big names, more of […]

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    […] and redub all the footage in order to make it as funny as possible. The granddaddy of them all is LittleKuriboh’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged with Team FourStar’s Dragon Ball Z Abridged being perhaps the most prolific […]

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