I wrote this shit for some reason so I'll be damn if I'm gonna let two days of writing this go to waste without at least a few people seeing it. I suppose it goes here cause Sonic and voice acting, and the original post has voice acting.
A Kirk Thornton Defence Post/Analysis of Shadow's Voice Actor
I love Kirk Thornton as Shadow the Hedgehog. That's a pretty uncommon saying, but that's just how I feel. Why am I making this post you may ask? Because over the past 5 years, the vast majority of the Sonic fandom still say the same thing - that Kirk Thornton does the worst Shadow voice. Throughout this post I am going to try my best to show that he really isn't as bad as everyone claims he is.
Before I dive, I just want to say that I don't expect to change your opinion nor do I want to. Like I said I just want to show you that he really isn't that bad. If you want to continue to hate him once I'm done, then that is fine by me. Everyone has their own opinion and I respect that. Now that I've got that out of the way, let's get started.
Shadow the Hedgehog is from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise and is one of the most popular characters amongst fans. He has been voiced by Kirk Thornton since 2010. If you don't know who Kirk Thornton is, then he is an American voice actor and director who does work in English-language versions of Japanese anime shows. His most well known roles are Hotohori in Fushigi Yugi and Jin in Samurai Champloo. He also voices Don Patch and Hydrate in Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, Gabumon and other voices in Digimon. He has voiced video game characters too such as Saix/Isa from Kingdom Hearts, Harry Mason in Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, and the already mentioned Shadow the Hedgehog.
Shadow has had three voice actors ever since he was introduced in Sonic Adventure 2 (2001). These three being David Humphrey, who voiced Shadow in his debut up until around 2003, where he was replaced by Jason Griffith in the anime Sonic X. SEGA intended to have the Sonic X cast reprise their roles in the video games, and so, Jason Griffith started voicing Shadow in the game Shadow the Hedgehog, and continued to up until 2009, where he was replaced by Kirk Thornton in 2010, who first voiced Shadow in Sonic Free Riders, and still has the role as of now.
David Humphrey was well received, and universally loved by the fanbase (I see people saying they want him to return all the time). As for me, I also liked David Humphrey, though I thought his delivery could be somewhat flat at times, but overall he was a good Shadow, he captured his character very well. Jason Griffith was not as well received, but that was due to the backlash of the cast being replaced. In time, he was accepted (you see a lot of people asking for him back too). In my opinion, I thought Jason Griffith did just as good as David. Am I saying he was better than him? No, I thought they both brought something good to the role. Jason captured Shadow's character just as well.
Kirk Thornton (the one that this whole post is about, just bare with me, I'm getting there) was received just about as well as Jason when he first started. Some did praise him, and I'm sure many praised Jason back then (I wasn't old enough to know about all this at the time, I'm just going on assumption) but many complained about how he voiced Shadow. The common trait in these complaints was that he made Shadow sound 'too old'. To elaborate on my already established opinion, I'd like to say that I've always liked Kirk in the role, and I think he captures his personality just like David and Jason before him.
Overall, I like all three of them, I think they all brought something to the role, but when asked to pick a favourite, I would say Kirk. And now that I have gotten that out of the way, (I didn't expect it to be that long) I am going to get to the main part of this post; looking at what Kirk has done in the role by breaking it down game by game. We'll start with his debut, Sonic Free Riders.
Sonic Free Riders: This was where it all started. If you would like to hear him for yourself, here's a video
. Shadow had quite a large speaking role in this game, in fact probably the largest speaking role he's had in the passed 5 years. Kirk's Shadow voice can be said to be a mixture of David and Jason (I have seen many people saying that he 'tries' to do this). It could also be said to be somewhat similar to his Saix voice, though his tone is not as low, and there is a hint of his accent within his voice. He brought something else to the role that neither David nor Jason did, which is to extend/stretch his words. I would say he gets the most flack for that particular addition.
As this was his first game in the role, I would say it was a good start, though many would disagree. He managed to continue where Jason left off, his voice does still capture who Shadow is, and it was not a huge difference.
Sonic Colours (DS): In this game, Shadow didn't have much of a role, and so, we don't really have much to judge. As far as I know, he had at least a 'Hmph' and a short line of dialogue. I would say that his voice was about the same as Sonic Free Riders, he just said less. It's worth noting that Kirk voiced Orbot in this game, and that was well received by the fans, in fact many people would prefer if he was replaced as Shadow but continue to voice Orbot.
If you would like to hear him for yourself, here's a video
just skip to 0:16
Sonic Generations: I can't talk about Generations without mentioning the infamous 'You got this Sonic' (http://youtu.be/vCH_3nPgLHA). I will admit that this line was not his best, downright laughable, but it's not something to make a big deal out of. In all honesty, a line like that seems a bit out of character for Shadow, but we're not here to talk about the script. Could he have delivered it better? Most likely, but I don't mind what we got. Aside from that unforgettable line (unforgettable for all the wrong reasons) here are some other lines that he had during the game
. Apart from 'You got this Sonic' his delivery for his other lines was well done. For his battle cries there is enthusiasm, he sounds like he means it, it doesn't come off flat. For spoken dialogue, there is an added rasp to his voice, which I approve of, even though I wouldn't picture Shadow having one. He remains consistent in what he does, which is something to be thankful for. However, this is the last proper speaking role Shadow had for a while.
After Sonic Generations, we had Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed, Mario and Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games (these titles are long) and Super Smash Bros Wii U and 3DS (where he was an assist character). Listening to his minor dialogue, you'll notice that it's reused dialogue from previous games, and therefore I can't really comment on it since I'd end up repeating myself. So, I'll be moving on to Sonic Boom and it's games, which brought about a change in the way Kirk voiced Shadow.
Sonic Boom Shattered Crystal and Rise of Lyric: This was his first proper speaking role since Sonic Generations, though Shadow's appearance could only really be described as a cameo (his reasons for being there in the first place baffle me, as it's never really explained. Well, Shattered Crystal gave a better reason than Rise of Lyric, though apparently he was supposed to be an android by looking at the Japanese version) as he only had two cutscenes in both games and a boss battle. These two games were most likely recorded around the same time, so it seems right to discuss them together. In both games, Shadow's character underwent a change, as many of the Sonic Boom characters are different to their main series counterpart. Shadow is more of an anti-hero, you could even call him a villain in some cases. This change in character meant that his voice also had a change to match it, though it wasn't extreme. This time round, Kirk adds a gruffness to Shadow's voice and his tone is not as low as before nor is he stretching his sentences, but his accent is still present. In terms of fitting Shadow's character, I think this change in voice suits him well. As for other people's opinions, doing research I've noticed a trend of people saying that Shattered Crystal was his best work, which is a nice change from the negativity. Even so, there are still those who criticise, most reasons being that they don't think his voice fits Shadow, which I think is a justified thing to feel.
Here's a video of all the Shadow cutscenes from Shattered Crystal and Rise of Lyric if you'd like to hear him for yourself
Sonic Boom TV Show: Shadow made his first appearance in the season finale of Sonic Boom (better late than never). Kirk was voicing Orbot, along with several side characters such as T.W. Barker and Leroy the Turtle, and at least 14 others (that I'm aware of). Shadow came to join the ranks, so to speak. His voice can be linked to Shattered Crystal and Rise of Lyric in similarity, though the gruffness is still there, it was more of a growl. His character arc was also the same, being a villain and trying to prove that he is better than Sonic (for some reason). His delivery was well done, helping to show that Shadow is a serious character surrounded by a cast of wise cracking jokers, which plays on the whole joke of the episode. I think he did a good job. He managed to sound different to the vast majority of characters he voices which is a plus. As for opinions, I noticed that there are people that are still coming around and giving positive feedback, but there are still those who dislike the way he voices Shadow, with their own valid reasons.
Once again, if you would like to hear him for yourself, here is the episode
In conclusion, looking at his progression we can see that he has changed for the Sonic Boom games and TV series. This is most likely due to a change in voice director (I have to give credit to them, all voice actors have a voice director) and the change in Shadow's character. Though throughout the 5 years he's had the role of Shadow, he hasn't had many opportunities to improve due to lack of screen time. We also don't know how much freedom he has when it comes down to it. In all honesty, I don't think he's flawless as Shadow, I know what he gets flack for, and I like to make fun of it from time to time. I know that there is a lot of room for improvement, and I think he could get better if he was given more opportunities, and then maybe people would be more accepting. Looking at him from other people's perspectives, I can see why they would hate the way he voices Shadow, the stretching of his sentences is not something I would have thought of, and he can make him sound old, but he is getting better, and more people are starting to warm to him, and I'm sure it took time for people to warm to Jason Griffith too. All he needs is time. If people still dislike him, then that is perfectly fine with me, just please understand that he really isn't as bad as you think. He has good delivery, and his voice isn't drastically different to the previous two. I could think of a lot worse than what Kirk does. And I'm thankful for it and what he's been doing ever since he started.
I will continue to support his work as Shadow and I look forward to seeing how he does in the role in the near future (hopefully, if he sticks around). You have to admit, whether you like him as Shadow or not, he is a pretty darn good voice actor.
If you made it to the end of this post, then congratulations, you get 10 brownie points. Seriously, though, thanks for reading.