See more photos in Dianne Garcia's gallery “Voice Actors, Artists and Anime Fans Say 'We Heart Japan' at Meltdown Comics.”
“I always wanted to be an actor and anime was the first job, career thing, that let me be an actor,” said Stephanie Sheh at Thursday night's We Heart Japan fundraiser at Meltdown Comics. “I'm very grateful for that. I wouldn't have a career if it weren't for that genre and that culture.”
Sheh is a popular voice actor, writer and director for video games U.S. anime dubs. She has appeared in such fan-favorite series as FLCL, Eureka Seven, Bleach, Naruto and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya. Most recently, she starred as Yui Hirasawa in K-On!
When a 9.0 earthquake struck northeastern Japan last week, Sheh began planning a fundraiser in Los Angeles, despite the fact that she was at South by Southwest in Austin for, she said, about half that time.
“Through my working in that industry, I've made so many friends who live in Japan, who have friends and family in Japan, who are Japanese– I'm not of Japanese descent– and when it happened, I thought, I owe so much to that culture, to that country,” she said.
Sheh enlisted her friend, photographer and illustrator Pinguino Kolb, to help organize the event and Hollywood's Meltdown Comics lent them space. She also brought in many of her fellow voice actors to help.
“I got contacted by Stephanie Sheh, who is a good friend of mine in the voice acting community,” recalled Crispin Freeman, recently of the hit series Durarara!! Freeman has acted alongside Sheh in numerous works, including Eureka Seven and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and directed one of her early jobs, I My Me! Strawberry Eggs.
“She said, 'Are you up for a charity event on Thursday night to help Japan,' and I said, 'Absolutely, I'm in. Tell me what to do.'”
By Thursday night, they had pulled off a jam-packed event that brought together the anime industry and the art world.
The March 17 fundraiser featured autograph signings inside the comic book shop and a silent auction in Meltdown's gallery. Artists like Sawdust Bear and Eron Rauch contributed pieces for We Heart Japan. Additional items up for auction included Scott Pilgrim memorabilia donated by Edgar Wright and Bryan Lee O'Malley and a Hetalia poster signed by the English-language voices of Russia, France, China, U.K., America, Lichtenstein, Greece, Germany, Japan, Italy and Chibitalia.
For those involved in the Los Angeles anime community, both as professionals and as fans, helping Japan has been an issue kept close to the heart for the past week, as many have friends and colleagues who live in the affected areas.
“There was actually a message board that the industry put together where many of the producers and staffers checked in [from Japan],” said famed voice actor Wendee Lee, whose credits include Robotech, Cowboy Bebop and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where she played the title character.
“I did a Skype session with a Japanese producer yesterday and we had to stop at one point for an aftershock,” Lee added. “Then we just carried on.”
Sheh, Freeman and Lee reported that their friends have been doing alright.
“I know it's not over yet,” Sheh added.
For We Heart Japan, the fundraising isn't over either. Late Friday, the group announced that Thursday night's event raised $7,500, which will go to the Japan NGO Earthquake Relief and Recovery Fund. The announcement stated that a they will be organizing a charity movie screening later in the month. For updates follow @WeHeartJapanXO on Twitter.
Follow Liz Ohanesian on Twitter @lizohanesian and Dianne Garcia @punkagogo.