Bryan Cranston got his first big break in an episode of Seinfeld, but I grew up knowing him as the flawed yet lovable Hal in the classic sitcom Malcolm in the Middle. He was witty, honest, and had a comical timing that few others in the cast could match. So many people know him for this role, but he didn’t go mainstream until Breaking Bad.
Walter White – or Heisenberg as he is often known – is one of the most beloved heroes in television history. The cancer patient from magician of meth built a criminal empire to provide for his family, but is slowly absorbed by the authority and fear that came with this notorious reputation. He becomes a vile monster, an ultimate destination so powerful because at the very beginning he was nothing but a high school chemistry teacher.
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Breaking Bad is one of the few shows that has lived up to its unparalleled reputation. I haven’t seen The Sopranos or The Wire though, so I’m probably not the best person to make that kind of statement. Or the X-Files. Please don’t judge me, I will meet them one day.
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But did you know that before Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston was a prolific voice actor in the anime world? This was before the explosion of the Japanese medium in the West, with fans smuggling in videotapes or tuning in to late night broadcasts if they had any hope of seeing the latest shows. Those that were internationalized often came with an English dub, as the choice of original audio with subtitles was rare. But with the performances of actors like Cranston, the iconic qualities were given the glory they were across the pond.
His voice isn’t always recognizable in some roles, with his trademark depth and sharp delivery often twisted to fit certain characters or reflect much of what the universe has said. You can see a few different examples above. I don’t know why it’s so appealing, but knowing that Walter White once cut his teeth on the likes of Street Fighter 2 and Macross Plus is incredible. It also shows that voice acting as a craft should never be discounted, as it often requires a different set of skills that doesn’t always apply to live-action. Who knew Walter White was a giant web.
He goes from mild-mannered handsome boy to that of a dirtbag criminal between roles, showing a level that isn’t always possible to gauge in his other work. Her turn as Fei Long in Street Fighter 2: The Movie is my personal favorite. The delivery is pretty silly, and you can really tell that Cranston is having fun in this over-the-top. Many of these roles came with him before he was a household name, with him possibly landing the ending as he had fun with the characters given the direction as well as putting a spin on them.
Cranston’s past in the anime world recently garnered attention online, and I find it strange how modern-day celebrities being involved in animation is seen as a strange thing. We stick our noses up or wonder as if the medium isn’t one of the most popular on the planet. Hailee Steinfeld kills it in Arcane, Karen Fukuhara rules in She-Ra, and Bryan Cranston showcases her talent in a bunch of anime classics that many of us miss. If I ever get a chance to interview that guy, it’s going to be Too many anime thing.
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