Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Compliment: A Story

The concept of the compliment is pretty easy to explain. It's usually given to someone you care about that deserves praise or accolades for doing something ordinary in an extraordinary way. In the case of the performer (actor, musician or otherwise), most of them are short and straightforward, like "you're awesome", "you rule", "you're incredible" or perhaps simply "I like you... I like you, a lot". Though I wonder, have you ever truly paid someone a compliment? I mean, the ones that go deeper than the ones you see above. The kind of compliments where you communicate a sense of understanding and deep appreciation, for both their presence in pieces of work that you love and their dedication to their talent. In doing so, you honor the person you are complimenting and yourself.

To that end, let me tell you a story. I went to Ohayocon 2009 about two months ago. It was the first anime convention I ever went to and, as expected, it was rather crazy. In the middle of this madness, I was on a mission which involved an actor named Caitlin Glass. Caitlin Glass is a lovely and talented voice actor/director who mostly works for Funimation Entertainment as well as some occasional ADV Films projects. Although I hadn't seen her in very many things yet, she had already captured my attention from her performance as Winry Rockbell, in the anime "Fullmetal Alchemist". I knew that if she was at this convention, I was going to give her my regards if it was the last thing I would do.

So at 5:30 PM, I arrived at her "Ask Caitlin Glass" panel, ready and waiting. She was a little late and flustered when she arrived, notifying us that due to poor scheduling the panel had to be shorter than most voice actor panels. For you see, she had to attend the "Ouran High School Host Club" panel, an anime which she directs and plays the lead character, Haruhi Fujioka. After waiting for several people to get in their questions first, I was ready to give it my all. I knew that in the spirit of the panel being shorter, I had to be as hasty as I could. I raised my hand and after one other question, I was called.

I shall recount what I said the best I can, as well as add some annotations that I didn't get to say.


I have a tremendous affinity for voice actors. Voice acting, to me, harkens to two things. One is silent acting, which is essentially the inverse of voice acting; where the actor shows their entire history and emotional complexity from the look in their eyes and the expression on their face. Whereas in voice acting you bring out the history and complexity through the way you speak a line. On that level, the other thing voice acting harkens to is singing, which deals in the same principle. There is a sense of sincerity in the way you sing or the way you speak if done well. To that effect, I want to tell you when I fell in love with you as an actor. In "Fullmetal Alchemist" you play Winry and there is a specific scene that stuck with me. I don't know if you remember this or not. It's in episode 26 (Her Reason) and it's the scene where Winry is sitting in a hotel room with Ed (Edward Elric) after she had just repaired his automail. She asks him whether or not he can come back to Resembool (the respective hometown to both of them) to see if she can update her work on him some more. He thinks for a second and decides not to do it, he'll pass for now. After this answer she bows her head in sadness and she says quietly, "Haven't you been satisfied with my automail, Ed?" When you say that line, you say everything. You are emotionally pure and open in this moment. The question itself is not about whether her work is good or not, it's more about the hurt you feel for him and his brother Alphonse, and the loneliness you feel without them. These are two people who lost their mother and are continuing their lives as if they are the only family they have; but you've always seen these two as your family along with your grandmother, Pinako. You want to take care of them, give them a home and relieve them of their hurt as well as your own; you want to help but they either refuse or don't listen, especially Ed. You have a deep love for them and you hurt with them, but you're still faraway yet so close to them. Only a great actor can show that much emotional depth by doing so little. So I have the utmost respect and honor for you because of that.


As I said these words, which I had spoken in my head many times leading up to this, I was looking at her. She was visibly moved by what I said and soon after my finished she agreed with what I said and started talking about how personal it was to play Winry. At that moment, I felt so accomplished. I had given someone I respected something really personal. At that moment the dichotomy wasn't performer and fan, it was a level of mutual honor between two different but similar individuals. It was beautiful. I later received an autograph and a picture from her while I told her about how these words were one of the main reasons I came to the convention in the first place. This knowledge made my words move her even more.

This experience is exactly what a compliment should entail. A moment where you let someone you like know that you were given something so special from the simple words of a performer, courtesy of their talent and their acute awareness of humanity.

Thanks, Caitlin.


Oh, I almost forgot to mention, she's a beautiful singer, too.

(Yours Truly & Caitlin with Haruhi Fujioka wig)

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