Inside Pulse 12

EvilleCon 2014: Interview with Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged Genius Martin Billany

EvilleCon 2014

LittleKuribohThis year’s EvilleCon is happening March 28-30 at the Clarion Inn on Highway 41N in Evansville, Indiana. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to be able to go this year, but I was able to nab a few interviews with some of this year’s visiting guests.

I think it says a lot that while I never really got into Yu-Gi-Oh for whatever reason, I had heard of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged and how funny it is. Recently, through the wonderful staff at EvilleCon, I was able to get into contact with Martin Billany, a.k.a. “LittleKuriboh,” creator of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged, for a quick interview before the con this weekend.

 

DHGF: So the first question that comes to mind is, where did you come up with the idea of Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged to begin with?
MB: My first impression of Yu-Gi-Oh was the same as many people who tend to write off the show as just a cheap merchandising ploy. I saw the poster for Yu-Gi-Oh: The Movie in a cinema in Glasgow and I had to wonder what kind of person would voluntarily go see something so stupid. Years later, I regret not taking it upon myself to buy a ticket.

I ended up watching the show fully when I caught it in the early morning at about 6:00 am when it would play for an hour straight before Pokemon. I watched the last five minutes of one of the later Season 2 episodes, and I had to wonder why the characters were getting so worked up over a trading card game apparently aimed at children. I got so caught up in the plot, however, that I didn’t realize I was slowly starting to really like the characters and the overall feel of the show.

As a result, I went out of my way to marathon the series and bought all the DVDs. I felt as though I’d not given the show its due when I first wrote it off as a daft cartoon meant to sell toys. As such, I felt a lot of other people probably reacted the same way, and might have felt differently when exposed to the real heart of the story. I still feel that the show is criminally under-rated, and that there is some really good writing if you look between the card games.

I started abridging it mainly because I wanted to take part in the fandom and I believed I could do a decent job mimicking some of the goofier voices in the early episodes, so I threw the first Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged video together in less than a day. A few weeks and half a dozen videos later, it was lighting up the internet and people were talking about it on forums I was posting on, not even realizing it was me who made it. It was a really strange experience.

Ultimately, I made Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged because I wanted to pay tribute to everything about the show. Especially the dumbest parts. Because if you love something, you tend to love all of it. Even the parts you hate.

DHGF: Did you have any idea it would end up generating the response and following it has?
MB: Honestly, if I had known that it would gather as much steam as it did, I never would have followed through with the idea. I’m generally a pretty antisocial person, and at the time I was incredibly shy. So the idea of millions of people watching something I’d made solo in my bedroom was rather frightening, even when it did start happening.

Had I known beforehand, it would have put me right off making the videos because I know that when a large number of people love something, it doesn’t take much to get them to turn against it if you do something wrong. Fortunately, for the most part, I don’t believe I’ve turned people against me just yet. Give it time, though.

DHGF: What goes into the writing process for the episodes and other random videos you put together? Some of it’s clearly based on the shows, but other parts are completely out of left field.
MB: I try to just exaggerate what’s already there. I feel like that’s what brings out the best in the humor of my show, by just reminding people of what they saw before and may have been thinking when they first watched the series. A lot of the best characters (Bakura, Kaiba, etc) tend to just be slightly overblown versions of what came out of the original dub.

Some of the voices, however, are just me goofing around. Rex Raptor and Weevil Underwood being voiced as Beavis & Butt-Head was a tribute to my childhood hero, Mike Judge, and I used to do those voices all the time at school, so it seemed like an easy way to squeeze that in there. Other things such as Duke Devlin are just examples of me taking one singular absurd character trait and making it this huge, obvious running gag.

DHGF: Do you have any other major projects you work on besides Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged?
MB: I don’t know whether you can call it major, but I make a Naruto parody called Naruto The Abridged Comedy Fandub Spoof Series Show which started off as an April Fool’s gag and just snowballed into a completely different project. It has its own fandom and I actually have a lot of fun working on it, but it was never quite the juggernaut that Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged became.

I also do a series of Let’s Plays in character as Marik Ishtar on my “ObeyMyRod” YouTube channel. That’s about it for abridging related projects.

DHGF: While you’ve certainly attracted a lot of positive attention, it also seems like you’ve had to deal with some YouTube suspensions along the way. As that’s becoming more and more of an issue for content providers, can you give us any insight into the frustration involved there?
MB: 
I actually don’t get it nearly as bad as some of the more recent content creators tend to. From what I can gather, a lot of videos that are monetized tend to be hit very hard by companies that insist they own certain properties and as such they don’t want anyone getting any money out of their hard work.

In my case, I’ve not really made any money off my videos so they tend to go under the radar. Occasionally, every few months or so, my account will be taken down by a YouTube copyright bot that scans the footage and assumes it to be an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh. But after I counterclaim the copyright strike on the video from my profile or via email, the videos tend to get immediately reinstated after two weeks because they’re parodies – not the original content.

DHGF: You’re married to voice actress Marianne Miller; did that come about through your work with Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged?
MB: Sort of?

She was aware of my work, but we were introduced through a friend of mine, Chris Niosi. He’s a talented flash animator and he had cast us together in a scene where our characters made out quite violently. He mentioned to me over dinner one time that she was who I’d be making out with, and I said that I rather liked her voice, so he put me on the phone with her and that, as they say, was that.

DHGF: Your work on Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged seems to have inspired others to work on abridging anime series, including perhaps most notably Dragonball Z. How do you feel about having inspired others to do this thing for other shows?
MB: Like they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I myself am imitating a show that I love, so the fact that there have been so many abridged series since Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged can only be a good thing.

At the end of the day, a lot of the other abridgers have gone on to evolve and improve on what I started, so it’s been quite an astounding feeling to watch them take the reins and really craft their own mark on the parody world. The guys at TeamFourStar are phenomenally good writers and actors, and even if people only knew me for my voice work in their shows, I’d still be extremely proud of that.

DHGF: How long does it usually take to put together an episode?
MB: It really does vary. Impossible for me to really give you an accurate estimate beyond: Anywhere between two weeks and six months. Free time, unfortunately, can be a rare commodity. And especially doing this thing solo, it can be hard dealing with the stress that comes with it.

At one point I did try updating weekly, but it destroyed what little social life I had. So I wouldn’t recommend going for that.

DHGF: Has your work on Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged opened up any opportunities for you?
MB: It’s certainly given me the practice needed to step outside my comfort zone and actually do some real, professional voice over work. However, I think that if anything it’s also given me a harder time breaking out of the realm of online parody videos. A lot of people in the industry tend to associate you with a certain thing if you present yourself that way – as such, people won’t take you very seriously if you’re just known for doing silly internet videos.

For example, I would never bring up Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged in a situation where I’m hoping to be cast in anything that isn’t an internet project. At the end of the day, if you want to be treated professionally as an actor, you have to behave and present yourself in much the same manner.

That’s not to say that it hasn’t come in handy every so often. I’ve learned certain skills and tricks doing the abridged series that I simply wouldn’t have access to if I’d tried to start voice over totally blind. Or mute? I’m not sure what the correct nomenclature would be.

DHGF: Anything you want to say to the fans of the work you’ve put in over the last eight years?
MB: A great big thank you!

I’ve said on many occasion that I would not be where I am today without my fans, and it’s the truth. I never really went out of my way to promote my work during the first few years I made Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged, and if it weren’t for the fans taking it upon themselves to spread the word and tell their friends about it, then it never would have been watched by as many people as it has.

My life has been extraordinarily changed by making the show and by interacting with the people who watch and enjoy it. So I really do owe everything I have to each and every one of you. No exceptions.

 

If you have a chance to go to EvilleCon this weekend, I highly recommend it. At the door, a three-day badge price is $40. Be sure to stop by and say hi to Martin for me, and maybe get something signed. Regardless, EvilleCon is a good time, so if you’re in the area and are a fan of anime and video games, you should definitely go!

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