“Konti lang,” Anne Yatco says with a coy smile when asked if she spoke Tagalog. “Although, I love karaoke. My parents used to bribe me with $5 a song!”
You can sue the writer; it is a cliched question to ask if she’s still fluent in Filipino, but it is a standard one for a Filipina who has made it big in the international scene. Seeing Pinoy talent shine on the global stage has always been so big for us Filipinos as a people, and Anne’s way of representing us as the full-blooded Filipina on the weeb-iest corners of mainstream media is so beautiful and poetic it’s hard to not geek out and celebrate her local roots.
Not to worry, because contrary to Anne’s limited Filipino vocabulary, her talent, stories, and experiences as a voice actress are way richer and fuller of fun twists and turns, exciting enough to make for an anime plot. Speed was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit down with her during CONQuest Festival 2022, to get to know the voice—the Filipina—behind Genshin Impact’s hottest waifu archon, Raiden Shogun.
From Biomedical Engineering to an MFA in Acting
“I’ve always been into performing. I took singing lessons, piano lessons, I was in choir all four years of high school, I did all the school musicals and plays,” shares Anne about her childhood. And then, plot twist: “When I went to college, I went for Biomedical Engineering.”
For someone who loved theater and all-things arts all her life, it was surprising that Anne chose a pre-med course for college. The Asian in us, of course, would understand, since it was the pre-med and the pre-law that sounded good as a career compared to the bachelor of arts courses. However, although Anne gave Biomedical Engineering a chance, she found herself spending most of her time hanging out with the theater crowd. She was auditioning for plays. She admits she was essentially a Theater major—who did her coursework for the Engineering department.
In her senior year, instead of taking the MCAT—the medical college admission test that would have set her course for medical school—her acting mentor convinced her to finally pursue acting. Anne got into the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), an internationally renowned school created specifically for students of both the visual and performing arts. Shortly after receiving her MFA from CalArts, Anne found herself booking her first video game, Dungeon Fighter Online.
Her demos and the tips from her dialect coach paid off, and that gig opened the world of dubbing for her. However, like many, she found herself a struggling artist. “I was just building my portfolio doing work maybe once every month, on the side, because I left CalArts and realized I couldn’t pay my bills. So, I got a job as a forensic scientist.”
For almost eight years, Anne juggled her work as a forensic scientist—doing accident reconstruction for a private company—with doing voice acting (VA) gigs once in a while. For a long time, voice acting remained on the sidelines. Anne remembers her years juggling both worlds with a laugh and a smile now, but it would’ve been terribly challenging and frustrating. Imagine wanting something so bad it’s almost grazing your fingertips, but you’re unable to pry open the shackles of reality’s cruel responsibilities.
“It was not probably until 2017 when I started getting called in more often for VA work and I was like, ‘Okay, maybe it’s time for me to switch over.’ And when I did that, and started really reinvesting in my career, started taking classes some more, and carving out a little community of fellow actors, all of a sudden, I got an agent. Stuff started to finally fall into place. In 2020, I booked Jujutsu Kaisen.”
Enter: Jujutsu Kaisen and Genshin Impact
“For me, Jujutsu Kaisen was really the lynchpin in my VA career because that was a big shift in my castability. Until then, I mostly played moms, but playing Nobara was really cool for me because the role kind of celebrated the way how my voice just mostly naturally sounds,” Anne says.
Many hardcore otakus will never watch an English dub, because for the longest time, anime has always been best enjoyed with Japanese dub and English subs. English dubs, however, has made more animes accessible and easier to watch—and good English VAs has made that transition much more seamless. Jujutsu Kaisen was one of those with English dubbing that did not disappoint, which was a perfect setup for Anne to add who probably is the most iconic character to her portfolio to date: Genshin Impact’s Raiden Shogun.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how big the game was when I auditioned. With projects like this, everything has a code name for confidentiality, so it wasn’t until I got the role that I found out what her name was. When I did my homework, I realized she’s kind of a big deal! Cool!” Anne shares.
To be fair, saying Raiden is kind of a big deal is not an overstatement. Almost two years into Genshin Impact’s release, Raiden Shogun’s banner continues to be the second highest revenue character in the game’s history. Raiden also got the second highest peak sales in one day, inched out from her first-place reign only in July 2022 by Yelan. So yes, voicing Raiden is probably not just the coolest, but also quite the challenge since she was such a pivotal character to the game’s story—and to Hoyoverse’s pockets.
What’s even more unique about Raiden’s character is that she has multiple versions of herself: the puppet, pre-Sakoku Decree Ei, and post-Sakoku Decree Ei. For Anne, these different personas and journeys for Raiden impacted the way she voiced the character.
“Our choice was to make the voices different but similar. I did not stray too far from the puppet to get to Ei. I thought of it more of a shift in personality and tone,” Anne explains. “For example, the puppet, she is cold but not unfeeling. She is autonomous; she has her own thoughts and feelings and that was important to convey. With Ei, I tried to introduce more warmth to her. I tried to think in more actionable words and feelings: she is more warm, she is somewhat naïve. It was having all those words in the back of my mind to draw from when I was recording her lines.”
It’s also such a joy to see all these nuances that Anne poured into Raiden, especially since she understands and appreciates the weight of the character in the world of Genshin. Playing the game, of course, is not a requirement for a VA to do well, but it’s always such a moment for a fan to know that the actors commissioned to work on a game love and appreciate the material as much as they do.
“I played the game in the first couple of weeks of its launch and I found it cool, but it requires a bigger commitment than I was ready to give it at that time. When I booked Raiden, I guess it’s time for me to give that commitment to the game!” says Anne. And fair enough, Genshin is one of those games that require that level commitment—money, time, and effort all not optional. For Anne, the investment was high; but so was the payoff.
For almost eight years, Anne juggled her work as a forensic scientist—doing accident reconstruction for a private company—with doing voice acting (VA) gigs once in a while. For a long time, voice acting remained on the sidelines.
Connecting with fans at Conquest 2022 and beyond
Since Anne’s VA career really just took off during the pandemic, she has only been doing conventions since August 2020. Surprisingly, her first international convention was CONQuest Festival 2022—a full circle for her, coming first to the land of her genetic roots.
“I honestly was so touched with the [number] of people who were lining up for me. I love meeting fans. Everyone tells me their story, how many wishes it took them to pull Raiden, how the gacha gods were not kind so kind to them. It’s just fascinating because every single con experience is different in different ways,” Anne says and adds with a laugh, “And to be in a country where everyone looks like me! It warms my heart.”
It may just have been a two-day convention, but Anne was running like a madman all throughout CONQuest 2022 we couldn’t even fathom how she had enough energy and time to sit down with Speed for an interview! Together with her fellow Genshin Impact VAs Ratana (who voiced Yae Miko) and Christian Banas (who voiced Thoma), they stayed for hours to meet fans at the artist corner of Conquest—a space so jam-packed they had to be fanning themselves while signing merch and meeting people. They also held meet-and-greets and came on the community stage for a panel to share more about their VA journey.
It was surreal to see Anne and her fellow VAs in their element, staying cheerful and pumped throughout the convention despite the jetlag and the sheer amount of energy required from them. They make it look easy, but Anne had to run to her meet-and-greet quite literally after we thanked her for her time.
For those who weren’t able to meet Anne during her visit to Manila, she always has streams running on Twitch, which she says has been a great avenue for her to reach out to fans and foster a community of people who enjoy the same things she does.
For all her fans who dream of following her footsteps in voice acting, and to all the Filipinos who have big dreams to pursue in the local or international stage, this is what Anne has to say:
“What an honor it is to represent, to be someone who other people look up to as a being an example, as being proof that we can achieve these things. For people who are interested in VA, the most important thing is patience—but you can’t just sit back. I sat back for a really long time with my career. You have to be proactive with your career. It is hard; it is easy to feel discouraged because so much is being celebrated and it’s not you, but I think you just have to accept that it’s their time and your time will come too. But you have to be putting in the effort. You just have to be ready when the opportunity presents itself.
“Grab life by the balls!” Anne adds with a laugh then realizes, “What a crass way to end the interview! Let’s just say, grab life by the BAAL.”
If you’re a true Genshin fan, you’ll get the pun.