Did You Get Mysterious Messages? The Mystic Messenger Cast Talk About How They Got Started in Voice Acting and More!
The Mystic Messenger team made their first appearance in the US at Otakon 2018, and we've got all the deets!
At Otakon 2018, attendees were in for a special treat: The main voice cast and developer behind the hit otome game, Mystic Messenger! In Mystic Messenger, players take on the role of the main character who finds herself embroiled in a world of danger and intrigue! The main character comes into contact with a bevy of hot guys as she tries to stay out of harm’s way and solve the mystery she finds herself suddenly involved in, and perhaps even finds some romantic intrigue along the way! The game uses mobile phone features like text messages and calling to replicate real time conversations between the player and the characters, making the Mystic Messenger experience a truly unique game experience with deep story, memorable characters, and plenty of reasons to keep coming back to it!
Making their first US appearance, the voice cast and developer conducted a press conference to talk to fans and answer their questions. The panel consisted of Sujin Ri, the developer of the game, as well as the voice of Ray, Soojin Kang, the voice of 707, Young Sun Kim, the voice of V, Ho San Yi, and the voice of Yoosung, Kyuhyuck Shim! As big fans of the game, we were thrilled when we were invited to sit in on the press conference, so read on to see what the Mystic Messenger team had to say to their English speaking fans!
Can you tell us how you got started in the business?
Soojin Kang: If you want to work as a voice actor in Korea, you have to go through a test that is conducted by a broadcasting company. After you pass the test, you become an official voice actor for the company for a set number of years, and after you’re done with that contract, you become a freelancer. Everyone here has passed that same exact test in different years, and the reason why they all became voice actors varies. I majored in broadcasting in college, and I was interested in acting, so I ended up becoming a voice actor.
Young Sun Kim: My actual major in college was electrical engineering, but I was part of an acting club. I was doing a lot of theatre work, and I really liked it, but the money… (laughs) Voice acting has a lot of similarities with acting, so ultimately I became a voice actor.
Sujin Ri: I was studying computer engineering in Chicago, and I also had a career in it, but while I was doing that, I realized that there was a demand of otome games, but not enough supply. I also realized that in a lot of otome games, the producers were male, so even if the game was geared towards women, it was technically just that the main characters were swapped gender-wise, so it was kind of the same type of usual dating game. So I thought, “I really need to fulfill the needs of the female gamers; there should definitely be a female producer the fulfills that role”, so that’s why I started working in this business!
Ho San Yi: My original major in college was information, but there was a program request that needed a narrator. I ended up taking the narrator role, and the reaction was very positive and everyone around me encouraged me to become a voice actor! After researching, I found out that Soojin Kang and Young Sun Kim were at the top of their field, and I wanted to be like them, so I studied together along with them to become a voice actor. Right now I’m very honored to be here!
Kyuhyuck Shim: When I was young, I had a lot of interest in the theatre and movies. So instead of appearing in roles, he wanted to be a part of roles where I wasn’t appearing; I wanted to do more supporting roles instead. Initially, I wanted to be a script writer! Fortunately, in college, there was a program where a narrator was needed, so that when I started becoming more interested in being a voice actor. Through that experience, I found that I had a talent in voice acting, so I took the exam and passed it. Just like the director, I like being more in the background, so I really like this role!
Could you tell us about what you feel the role of same gender relationships is in media and specifically about your decision to include them?
Sujin Ri: In relaying the message in the game, I think you have to think about what is currently being portrayed, and what the current situation regarding what is popular currently, and so in making an otome game, I definitely thought a lot about gender roles. I understand that is a very sensitive issue, and when I am making a game, there are two sets of rules that I follows for this: one, to be fair when portraying all the characters, and two, don’t leave the ethical boundaries that has been set. Currently, there is a target that I have set for the game, and because a lot of people have been asking about it, that target is still what I’m focusing on, but it might change.
Did you expect this game to be so popular in the United States, and did you expect the kind of reaction you got in Otakon this weekend?
Sujin Ri: Before this, we usually make games for PC, so when we the game released, we didn’t expect this audience, we expected a similar sized audience that we got for our PC games. It was surprising! We released the game on July 2016, but by the time September rolled around, there were so many fans and we didn’t expect that kind of popularity, so it was a very hectic time! On Tumblr, we were ranked #1 in the game category on Fandometrics, and we didn’t expect that level of popularity, so there were issues with the servers, and trying to figure all of that out in that period was hellish! Also, we didn’t expect to sell this much merchandise (at Otakon); more than half of it is gone! I kinda feel like we underestimated things and feel very thankful and sorry about it at the same time!
Soojin Kang: There were probably other Korean games that were released in the US before Mystic Messenger, and the number of games that are localized in different languages that come out of Korea is very limited; it’s very rare that there are Korean games that are localized in other languages! Even with just the Korean voicing with English subtitles, I didn’t think it would be this popular. I didn’t think our voices would be this loved! During our panel, I felt so loved by all the fans that came out, and I want to take the time here to thank everyone again!
Young Sun Kim: One day, I had a flock of foreigners who started to follow me on Twitter and YouTube! They ranged from different countries, like Middle Eastern countries and South America. I was so surprised! I was like “What did I do?!” When I found out, it was about Mystic Messenger and the game being a huge hit. The things I’m experiencing right now, I think to myself “Am I gonna be able to feel something like this again in the future?”, and I’m very happy!
Ho San Yi: For Korean voice actors to come out to an event like this is probably a first for Korea. And I’m also very thankful to be here with my colleagues! So I will look back at these memories fondly.
Kyuhyuck Shim: Most of the time, Korean voice actors do dubbing for English movies, so now that we have people enjoying hearing Korean while reading English subtitles is very fulfilling to me! I hope this isn’t a one-time occurrence and that it will continue in the future.
Has the current anti-feminist movement in gaming in South Korea affected Cheritz at all?
Sujin Ri: Currently in Korea, the Me Too movement has been very active, and also, in a sense, it feels like the anti-feminist sentiment has been lessened for a long while or maybe possibly forever, so it feels like we’ve been more supported by people rather than being rejected or resented.
How do you develop each character’s voice? What do you do to get in the mindset of that character?
Young Sun Kim: For my character, a lot of the recording had to do with the phone calls that the character was making within the game. There’s a lot of recording studios and rooms, but because he was recording by himself, the rooms were smaller; it’s a lot bigger than a telephone booth! (laughs) Being in a smaller booth like that, the moment I stand in front of the mic, it kinda takes me back to being in front of a public telephone booth or being at home trying to call my girl, so for me, it wasn’t that difficult to get into the character.
Soojin Kang: My character can be divided into three different personalities, and somehow miraculously, I felt like I had all three of them within me. The weak and narrow-minded Ray was very similar to me when I was a child. For Saeran, who was more of a chic city boy, I was probably at a stage when I was trying to overcome that complex that I had. And the third, Unknown, was kind of like a devil character. When I was thinking about the roles, I’ve always wanted to portray a bad guy and sociopath type of character, so I’ve always been practicing for that kind of role! Even though acting out all three voices wasn’t easy, it was doable. In BBC’s Sherlock, I’m the voiceover for Moriarty, and I thought they were pretty similar!
Ho San Yi: At first I couldn’t understand V, so the character had quite a different personality from me, so it took me awhile for me to understand him. While I was acting, I felt like myself and V were fighting, so I had to work really hard to overcome that. There was a scene where I burst into tears, because I imagined that my wife was leaving me, and after having that emotional breakthrough, I began to better understand the character. I want to thank my wife for helping me understand V’s character. I love you, my honey!
Kyuhyuck Shim: As a voice actor, when you look at a character, you look at the way they talk as kind of a tempo and adjust yourself according to that. Usually the director looks for the right personality in choosing the voice actors. For my character, Yoosung, he’s very soft, he’s kind, likes to listen to others and he plays more of a supportive role in the story suited to the cast, which resonated very well with me. The one difference is that Yoosung tends to very honest about his emotions, but as for me, I like to respect other people, so I sometimes hide my true emotions or suppress them. For the traits that I had in common with him, it was very easy to draw from, but for the parts where I was different from him, I looked to other people and other characters for reference. For reference for Yoosung, I looked at my own younger sister and actors and actresses who played roles of younger siblings in terms of how to speak like them and act like them. Through acting as Yoosung, I was able to also learn and develop as a person, and I’m very happy that I was able to learn from this character as well.
Could you tell us about the new game that Cheritz has been developing, Ssum, and in which ways you’re going in a different direction from Mystic Messenger, especially with the art style? And can we expect a US release?
Sujin Ri: A lot of the feedback that we’ve gotten regarding Mystic Messenger was asking about when we’d be able to receive the next story for it, so I thought “What if we made a game that doesn’t run out story-wise?” The goal of this project for us is to write one day’s worth of scenario per day. Compared to Mystic Messenger, we designed it to make it something more light and also has this joy of living the everyday life. It’s kind of an application that’s somewhere between a game and a service. Because we’re trying to make a day’s worth of scenario every day, it’s kind of hard to use the art style of Mystic Messenger because it takes more time, so the method we implemented right now is that we hired a model we can base our art on and have it rendered into the game to generate the art in a quicker fashion. We wish people can really enjoy the complex and deeper story of Mystic Messenger and also enjoy the more simple and lighter and everyday style that Ssum will have to offer. Our goal is to release the global service version of Ssum within this year.
Ho San Yi: As voice actors, I would hope you would cast us! (everyone laughs)
Sujin Ri: No comment! (everyone laughs)
Do you think there is a major difference between a game for women developed by a female producer and a game for women developed by a male producer?
Sujin Ri: I definitely feel there’s a difference in the games. If a game is developed by a male producer, I feel like there’s an emphasis on the importance of the results of the game, but as a female producer, I think that it’s important to talk about the “whys” and getting the answers of it. And as a result, I feel that the process of getting to the result is more important than just the result itself. A lot of the games developed by male producers, they put emphasis on how quick you can beat the game or how competitive you can be. It feels like female producers tend to care more about the relationships and just having a more comfortable experience while playing the game.
Earlier, the voice actors talked about trying to develop the voice for each one of their characters. How much information do voice actors get about their characters? Is it just a profile of the characters or do they know what happens later on in the story?
Sujin Ri: First of all, we give them the key visuals and maybe some very important illustrations that are finished, and if it’s not, we’ll give them rough drafts of the illustrations. In the case of Mystic Messenger, it’s not that they acted out every part of it, so there’s a lot of parts that they don’t act out, so we give them a summarized memo of what happens in between that session and the scenario. When we start the session, we have to spend some time trying to figure out what kind of vocal tone would fit the character best.
Soojin Kang: From the aspect of acting, the visuals are very important! The storyline is also very important, but for the users to get into the game, the voice and the image of the character has to be a good match. Before the recording, and after we’ve received the visuals, we carefully and examined the art. All of the characters in the game have a very unique personality; for my character, personally, I looked at the past history of the character as well to build that voice to better show him off.
Young Sun Kim: In my case, during the recording session, I would talk a lot with the producer and ask a lot of questions like “Would the character do this or would he do X action?”, and I’d get answers from the producers to develop the character more.
Ho San Yi: From the perspective of acting, you have to know the end goal of the role. For this project, it’s not just the basics that I wanted, but I did not know about the ultimate goal when I started. As I was recording and the recording was coming to completion, I was realizing more and more about the character and thought “Ah, I just realized something about him!”, and that made me very happy! In this scenario, in a world of Alphas and Omegas, I realized that V was more like an Omega. (everyone laughs)
Kyuhyuck Shim: Everyone has a different way in which they approach acting. For me, personally, I like to know the most optimal amount of information instead of everything to approach the character’s scenes. Just as if you live pragmatically, things come in to place, so when I concentrated on the scenes one by one, it just all came together.
You’ve all voiced character from popular anime. How do you compare that to voice acting for an otome game?
Soojin Kang: There’s various animation out there, including female-oriented anime, so for me, when I was thinking about it, I thought about school life and melodramatic shows. Just looking at those shows helped me figure out how to approach the voice acting. I feel there shouldn’t really be a distinction or a line dividing game and anime, it should really be focused on what type of project it is and how to approach that.
Young Sun Kim: So as guy, I didn’t really know what women wanted… (everyone laughs) After getting married and after lots of fights, I started to notice, just a little, what women wanted, but just a little! I took that “just a little” part and put it into my acting.
(Everyone unanimously agrees with Young Sun Kim not knowing about what women want and laugh)
Ho San Yi: I also agree that anime shouldn’t be differentiated by genre, but there is a difference in scale. For Mystic Messenger, I focused less on scale and more on seriousness, so I felt happy when I realized the whole situation with the whole Alpha/Omega thing!
Kyuhyuck Shim: Right now I’m recording for My Hero Academia as Midoriya and Haikyu!! as Kageyama, and in those series it’s always about competing, fighting and winning something in the end. But in the case of Mystic Messenger, the true goal is that the player is the main character and my goal is to make them feel happy. Although there are different goals, what made me happy was the dating aspect!
Thank you again to the Mystic Messenger team for inviting us to this amazing and informative press event! As the team mentioned, it is probably a first not just for them, but for many Korean stars to appear in the United States at a big convention! We hope to see them around again! If you haven’t tried out Mystic Messenger, go do so, and be sure to look out for Sujin Ri’s next game as well!
Have you played Mystic Messenger? Have a favorite non-spoiler moment to share? Let us know how you feel in the comments!