MIDLAND It’s not every day that a voice actress can say that she resides in the Permian Basin, especially if the voice acting is for anime.
For those who might be unaware, anime is hand-drawn and computer animation originating from Japan.
Anime has generated a significant following around the globe, consisting of well over 430 production companies including major studios like Studio Ghibli, Sunrise and Toei Animation.
Odessa is currently hosting an anime convention taking place from July 30-Aug. 1 at the Odessa Marriott Hotel and Convention Center located at 305 E. 5th street.
For the last six-and-a-half years, Christina Kelly has become one of the biggest names in anime voice acting, voicing numerous characters in different shows.
She provides voices for English dubs of anime for Sentai Filmworks and Funimation.
While Kelly and her fiancé currently reside in Midland, she primarily works in Dallas and Houston and even Los Angeles.
They’ve lived in Midland since 2016.
For Kelly, one of the best things about managing her schedule is that she is her own boss.
“I can make my own schedule,” Kelly said. “I basically just set my own schedule with the studios and go to Houston or Dallas when I set my own schedule. I go back home to Midland when I’m done. I have an apartment in Houston. Whenever I go to Houston, I have a place to live. But I enjoy it. I like being in the fast pace of my life in Houston and coming back to Midland and having a slower paced life style. I also work with LA studios as well and work on video games.”
Her work schedule always changes.
Sometimes she’ll fly to Houston or Dallas and work for a week or two before returning home to take a week off before going back but it depends on what projects Kelly’s working on.
A graduate of Lady Bird Johnson High School in San Antonio, Kelly attended the University of Houston School of Theatre and Dance, appearing in shows such as The Miser, Blood Weeding, Ring Round the Moon and Zombie Prom: The Musical. She graduated with a BFA in acting in 2015.
Her voice acting career began in the winter of 2015 before graduating from college, landing her lead role as Satone Shichimiya in the hit series Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions.
It wasn’t long before she landed the lead role of Mine in the action anime series Akame Ga Kill and her career continued to take off and she loves doing voice acting.
“It’s changed my life in the best way,” Kelly said. “It’s crazy how things happened so quickly. I didn’t anticipate how fast it would happen for me and I’m thankful for that. It’s crazy how everything happened so quickly. I didn’t anticipate how quickly things would be moving but I’m very thankful.”
Kelly originally wanted to do professional theater but it wasn’t long before she fell in love with voice acting in school.
“I majored in acting and my main focus was in theater and then film but the voice work just fell into my lap,” Kelly said. “One of my friends who’s been voice acting for 20 years now, told me that the studio was holding auditions and that he liked my voice and that I should audition for the studio so I did and here we are.”
Kelly has landed voice roles for different shows but the most popular one right now is the role of Alice Nakiri in the show Food Wars.
One of her favorite things about being in voice acting is the wide range of difference characters that she can play that she normally wouldn’t get to do on stage or on camera.
“I’m a 5-7, very tall woman and almost 30 and I still get to play these really funky teenage roles and typically that’s not something that I would play anymore because I’m not a teenager,” Kelly said. “Sometimes I get to voice little boys or teenage boys and young girls and even grandmas and older women as well. I like that voice over is endless. You can play everything. Not just who you are in your age range. You can play all different characters. That’s my favorite part.”
While anime may have a huge loyal following around the world, it wasn’t always easy to access for Kelly who grew up in the days before social media, Netflix and the internet being readily available at anybody’s fingertips.
Kelly’s introduction to anime came from Cartoon Network’s Toonami where her favorite show was Inuyasha.
“I was 6-years-old when I saw my first anime,” Kelly said. “That came on in the afternoons when I was a kid and that was my first introduction to anime. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. I got back into it when I was about 12- or 13-years-old. I was a really big fan of Inuyasha. That was a show that really got me into anime. Anime wasn’t as accessible to me back then but now it’s at the tip of your fingertips. It’s on your iPad, or iPhone. It’s on Netflix, Amazon and still on TV. Toonami still comes on.”
For her, it’s crazy how it has now come full circle in her life.
“I’m a huge fan of the style of it and how the stories are so dynamic,” Kelly said. “Not a lot of western animation has stories and characters like that’s why I love the different characters that I get to play and the animation.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every industry and entertainment was one that wasn’t spared.
Her schedule, like many other people’s, was brought to a stand-still in the early months of the pandemic last year.
Things eventually picked back up for her and now her schedule is back to being full.
“It affected things in the beginning but eventually we were able to record things safely for the actors and the directors and the sound engineers,” Kelly said. “We still worked but I think the first two months, there wasn’t really anything. From April to June (last year) we were on hold. But then we went back to work. It was definitely slower. There wasn’t as much work. But it’s picked up a lot this year. As soon as 2021 hit, I’ve been working nonstop.”
One thing that has returned has been the conventions which for Kelly is a rewarding part of her job.
“Some people will say things like ‘you changed my life’ or ‘your character helped me through a really dark time and I’m so thankful to see your show and happy to meet you’,” Kelly said. “I helped a proposal for one of my fans and his fiancée. They were huge fans of me. That was really cool. That happened at anime Lubbock, actually. I’m so thankful to meet all of my fans and I try to remember all of them as best as I can. It’s cool for me because I’m a fan as well and I’m there for them. It means a lot that they would want to meet me. I never thought that I would sign autographs for people. It’s crazy and weird but it’s awesome too. It’s great that I can brighten someone’s day and that they want to meet me.”
Last year, Midessanime was supposed to take place in the summer but ended up being canceled due to COVID-19.
Kelly is looking forward to the opportunity to finally speak at a convention that’s nearby.
“It’s nice,” Kelly said. “I have a few friends that are going to be at the convention. That’s pretty cool that I get to see them again and spend time with them. It’s really nice that it’s so close. I can go home and sleep in my bed if I want to. It’s also going to be nice to see the new Marriott hotel. It looks really beautiful. It looks really nice. I’m excited to see that and to see local anime fans.”
Being a voice actress from Midland, Kelly says it’s always a fun conversation when she tells other locals what she does for a living.
“I think people get a little perplexed,” Kelly said. “I don’t know if that’s the right word. They ask me what I do and why I’m in Midland. Sometimes I ask myself the same question. But it’s cool. People are fascinated by it. It’s not something that someone typically says when you ask them what they do for a living. But it’s cool to talk about. I like it and I like talking about what I do. People in Midland are really laid back. I like how small it is. I’ve met lots of amazing people and I’m thankful for that as well.”