Sing a Bit of Harmony is the newest anime movie from Funimation that is currently taking the world by storm, having won multiple awards and impressing critics alike. Directed by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, the musical tells the story of a disguised AI named Shion (voiced by Megan Shipman) who infiltrates an ordinary high school in Japan to spread friendship and joy, all through the power of catchy songs. To mark Sing a Bit of Harmony’s international release, The Digital Fix got the chance to chat with two English voice actors for the dubbed version of the flick – Ian Sinclair and Jordan Dash Cruz.
Ian Sinclair voices Gocchan, the coolest guy in school, who, despite his popularity, has a strong moral compass. Jordan Dash Cruz takes on the role of loveable tech geek Toma, who is also the childhood friend of Satomi – the protagonist of the animated movie voiced by Risa Mei. Both characters spend the film struggling to keep Shion’s identity a secret while also navigating the trials and emotional strife of growing up. Sinclair and Cruz are seasoned voice actors, having starred in hit anime series such as Attack on Titan and One Piece – however, Sing a Bit of Harmony proves to be one of their most wholesome performances yet.
In our interview with the stars, we discuss what first drew them to Sing a Bit of Harmony’s story, how they got back into a teenage mindset, and finally, we unpack why this feel-good movie is an excellent gateway to anime in general.
Hi! How are you guys?
Ian Sinclair: Pretty good. How are you?
I’m good. Thank you. So I love Sing a Bit of Harmony. I thought it was really just very wholesome. What first drew you both to this project?
IS: The audition. Caitlin [Glass] (the ADR director) told us about it. And it was a, you know, pretty competitive audition process. Then I think she knew; she knew both of our works. And I mean, I hadn’t seen the film before I got the part. Then I got to watch it beforehand before we recorded and I loved it. It was fantastic. What about you, Jordan? What was your process?
Jordan Dash Cruz: I mean, honestly, it was pretty similar. You know, we got the auditions, and I auditioned. And I was just like, ‘hey, we’ll see what happens.’ You know, kind of throwing caution to the wind and being like, ‘I hope I booked this.’ Then, you get the email; obviously, it was very, very exciting. Even just the whole recording process was a lot of fun. There’s not a session that went by that I was like, ‘oh, man’ you know? I was hoping that we could do more [laughs].
Then, kind of like Ian, we got a chance to watch it. Everything just sounded so good. Like, everything was just so well blended, and everyone did just an amazing, amazing job.
Yeah, speaking about your recording, I don’t want to give too much away. But I will just say that Toma has a big musical moment. And I was very taken aback by how enthusiastic you were.
IS: That was such a good moment.
Yeah, I loved it. What was that like filming that Jordan?
JDC: Yeah, so I can’t say too much about it. But let’s just say it was very exciting. The recording process was filled with many, many laughs
This movie has won quite a few awards already, which is fantastic. I think part of that is because it feels very relatable.
Would you say that this film is a good gateway into anime, especially for people that aren’t familiar with the genre and tropes?
IS: Absolutely! I think it’s a story that everybody can relate to. Because everybody’s at some point looking to find happiness. If you just boil it down to that, everybody’s gonna get this movie. And it’s just so sweet! It makes you feel good watching it. It’s a feel-good story, slice of life. I think we all know about interpersonal relationships; we all know about love and friendship and the search for happiness. I think everybody gets that, even if there are more fantastical elements.
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JDC: Yeah, I 100% agree. You know, I definitely think that people can go into this film, not even necessarily being an anime fan and just, watching it and saying, ‘hey, this is a good movie, the story’s great. I relate to these characters.’ I know that’s kind of what my own thought process was when I watched it. I was just like, ‘man, these characters are just normal, high school kids.’ I’m sure anyone watching can say, ‘hey, this was me back when I was younger, you know?’ Or say, ‘this is me now.’ So I definitely think that it’s an excellent entry point into anime for fans as well as just people who are interested in the medium.
So you guys both are quite experienced with anime voice-over work already. You’ve voiced roles in anime series like Dragon Ball, One Piece, and My Hero Academia. How was this experience different from those past action-heavy and more screamy kind of voice roles.
IS: I personally love it. It’s because I do spend so much time either playing jerks or very loud people, which is so much fun, mind you. But for me, Caitlin and I have worked together on a few things. The last thing we had before this was Fruit Baskets. And with it, she found a part of my voice that isn’t used very often. It’s a very soft, very gentle person. And it was an amazing experience to kind of live that, and there are so many truths that these characters go through that are just real.
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There are real situations and emotional things that, especially me and my partner go through during the film, that I just…I pulled from life, I was able to really do very simplistic, very real acting that drew on personal experiences and a deep well of emotion that I forgot was there. And I just went ‘blurgh.’ So to be able to have that kind of very grounded thing, and then the next day, jump in the booth and be a screaming singing skeleton is wonderful. It is a gift.
JDC: Yep. So, uh, same here, you know, I think sometimes we just get so used to the yelling and the wackiness and the over-the-top-ness that is anime, that sometimes we forget, like, ‘hey, there’s stories where they don’t ask for that. They ask for very realistic performances.’ And you don’t have to be crazy or loud, just pull kind of, like Ian said, pull from life. And a lot of people latch on to that because they’ve experienced it too.
So the recording process was a lot of fun, and it was really nice to be able to just kind of, like I said, play very calm and more realistic. The goofiness and the craziness is a lot of fun. But it’s also like filling for the heart, when you’re able to say like, ‘hey, I get to just kind of be myself and throw myself into this and not have to be all wacky and crazy. I can just kind of pull from what I’ve been going through or what I’ve been through.’ Yeah, that’s a lot of fun.
IS: This project is amazing because it still has those wacky moments of levity. So we’ll have those like, deep moments of emotion, and then someone will go [makes strange noise], and something wacky will happen. But then there will be a palate cleanse, and it’ll then get you right back into the story.
Both of you voice high school students in this film. That’s not a fun time for many, many people.
IS: No, it was awful.
You guys had to get back into that mindset of being a teen again. How was that process?
IS: The one big difference for me is I was never the cool kid. Now I’m the cool good looking dude on a bike; I don’t really know what that’s like. But I mean, I remember because a large part of my character it’s about a relationship. I remember how much you feel at that age, like how raw the emotions are, and how when you feel something at that age and those emotions, you feel it. So I went there, and I mentally had to go back in all those emotions. And that just kind of propelled me. It was great.
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JDC: Nice. Yeah, for me it was just one of those things where, obviously not spoiling anything, but Toma was kind of like me in high school. A little bit dorky. I was never a techie, but I do like videogames. So I don’t know if that counts. But, you know, just kind of trying to find his way. I kind of just thought of myself, I guess, in high school where I’m like, ‘hey, you know, this is kinda a little bit of an extension of me and what made me who I am.’ So it wasn’t too difficult finding that place. But it was definitely a lot of fun. And it was very refreshing.
I want to talk to you guys about the AI theme that we see in this movie. We see that AI, I mean, it’s always been popular, but it has been increasingly more popular as of late. How do you think Sing a Bit of Harmony separates itself from the other typical robots stories that we’ve seen in media?
IS: Trying to make sure I’m not spoiling, but I will say a big, big difference also is that usually, those are dystopian things. It’s usually Terminators and Matrixes. And bad things that are gonna come in machines. This film isn’t that. This is about a lovely machine that wants to make your day better.
JDC: I’m gonna piggyback off of him, just because I don’t want to say, too much. But I agree with him. I definitely think that this is a little bit more on the sweet side. And it gives the audience, I think, a different viewpoint in that genre.
It’s interesting that you don’t think high school is dystopian, but ok.
IS: [Laughs] Ha, you’re good; that was funny.
IS: I’m getting that it is becoming more popular. I mean, right now, I’ve got an AI that listens and answers about the weather. At the beginning of the movie, she gets the weather and stuff, and I’m like, ‘oh, oh, we have those things.’ I mean, like I started wondering because Satomi talks to a rice cooker in the first five minutes… that’s not a spoiler, right? [laughs]
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She talks to a rice cooker, and it answers back to her. Me and my girlfriend were like, ‘do you think we can buy one of those? I feel like that might exist. Does that exist?’ After we saw that. We’re getting close to that future like AI is a fairly real possibility. I think people that are growing up now and have grown up with the Alexas the idea of AI isn’t a far reach.
Yeah. Final question. It’s more of a personal one that me and my outlet like to ask people. What is your favourite cinema to go to?
IS: We have one in Dallas that I will leave the brand off. Oh, but it’s one where you cannot talk. Like, if you talk, you will get thrown out. They show a video at the beginning of like belligerent phone calls. But yeah, if somebody does it, you put up a little flag, and they are kicked out. As somebody who hates spoilers and who also has auditory processing issues, like I’m always like, ‘oh my God, what did they say? What did they say?!’ I’m so glad for it. And they feed you; I can have truffle parmesan fries.
JDC: Wonderful. Yeah. For me, I don’t have one. I just go wherever I see there’s a showing of a movie I want to watch. And if it’s close, I’m like, sweet. Let’s go. So it’s always changing.
IS: Do you like IMAX? Are you an IMAX guy?
JDC: Yeah, if someone else is paying.
[Laughs] OK, thank you so much for chatting with me.
JDC: Thank you, Emma.
IS: Yeah, thank you!
Sing a Bit of Harmony is out in theatres now in the US, and is set to release in the UK on January 28.