The Sounds of Dubbing II- Planetarian

Well here we are again. I said the last time that if I ever did another one of these it would be shorter, and what’s shorter than a 5 episode OVA? I figured something like this would be pretty simple enough to plow through, so let’s take a look at the dub for Planetarian


Dub Rating Scale

Bad– Really horrible voice direction and cringeworthy performances or scripting. Perhaps a couple of decent performances in the mix but  an overall bad product to the point where even if you aren’t particularly concerned about acting it’s immediately apparent how awkward it is (ex. Revolutionary Girl Utena, Penguindrum, 4KIds One Piece, Guin Saga)

Serviceable– A dub with a mix of performances ranging from good to mediocre. The good mostly outweighs the bad and the scripting and voice direction are workable. Not particularly good by any means but okay sounding enough that if you ignore the existence of the Japanese version and just want to listen to the show in English, it’ll do the job though it may not have much in the way of rewatchability (ex. Majestic Prince, Prince of Tennis, Gatchaman Crowds)

Good– A solid and competently put together dub. The majority of the performances work with only at best a couple of dull sounding ones and a possibly a few that are outstanding. Scripting and voice direction hit the right marks and even if the Japanese version is more technically competent in a few areas it’s a good enough production that you can stick with it and not miss out on much. Worth revisiting every now and then (ex. Gargantia on the Verderous Planet, Psycho-Pass, From the New World)

Exceptional– An extremely well made dub. A lot of really outstanding performances, great voice direction and a well crafted script. Can be perfectly comparable to the Japanese version in terms of technical competence and in some rare instances can stand out as the superior product. Definitely worth revisiting and recommending to others (ex. Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, Death Note

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Synopsis: Much of the world has been destroyed after a mysterious war, and some of those who survived have staked out a living in collecting whatever valuables they can find, earning the title of “Junkers”. One such junker travels into an abandoned city and discovers a robot girl named Yumemi, who works at a long forgotten planetarium. Yumemi invites him to stay and see one of their shows, and while the Junker is initially disinterested in the idea, his curiosity gives way, and by growing closer to Yumemi, he soon rediscovers his own long-forgotten love for the stars.

Intro: Of all the shows Funimation managed to snag for the summer 2016 simulcast season, this was definitely one of the most surprising as shows based on works by the company Key are generally more associated with Sentai Filmworks in the west (or Aniplex in the instance of Charlotte, but that’s it’s own animal). What wasn’t surprising though was them deciding to pick it as one of their Broadcast Dubs for the season as Key works also have a pretty much perfect track record of being dubbed and between the two Key shows this season (the other being Rewrite whose first episode was so terrible I couldn’t even last 15 minutes) it’s the stronger one by far, so it was a pretty sensible decision. But how good is the dub?

Voice Direction

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So between the general high reception for Key shows, and their reputation for being incredibly melodramatic, when I heard Funimation was going to dub this one, I was kind of expecting it to be in the hands of one of their more high profile ADR directors like Colleen Clinkenbeard or Christopher Bevins. Instead it was put in the hands of Clifford Chapin (Damidaler: Prince v.s. the Penguin Empire, Divine Gate) who’s a little fresh when it comes to the field of ADR work. Having only seen his work on Divine Gate (with the show itself being an utter travesty) I didn’t have too much to go off of in the way of expectations, but he manages to deliver here. The direction is solid, albiet a little subdued, and manages to fit the needs the show pretty well. There’s not really much to highlight on in this area, but it’s more than enough to get the job done and for what’s relatively one of the biggest things he’s solo directed, it’s a nice effort and I’m curious to see if he’ll be handed larger projects some day.

 

Scripting

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Script wise there isn’t really a whole lot of note here. Given the nature of the show itself, I wasn’t particularly worried about the idea of the script not being tight enough, and it does the job of being faithful to it’s source without being too much of a direct translation to sound unnatural, which for me is all most dubs really need to accomplish, and it’s certainly preferable to having to go on a tirade about it. The most interesting here though is the identity of the script writer itself, Emily Neves, who’s know primarily for her voice work and directing (specifically at Sentai) with this being her only writing credit besides a couple of episodes on The Rolling Girls. For her first full writing credit, this is a pretty good start and while it’s not exactly memorable, it ideally shouldn’t be in most instances, so I’m on board for her doing more stuff if it means lessening the odds of getting some of Funimation’s more…liberal translations.

Casting and Performances

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As Planetarian is a show with only two real characters there’s not a whole lot to talk about here either, but I was pretty surprised at the casting of the Junker as it turned out to be none other than David Matranaga (Clannad’s Tomoya, My Hero Academia’s Todoroki) who’s probably best known for his work on Clannad, the most well known of Key’s work. I suspect that was probably the reason for his casting here, and it seems to have been a pretty good call. While it feels a little strange to go from Daisuke Ono’s baritone to David Matranaga’s slightly lighter voice and I somewhat prefer the former, it still sounds gruff and weary enough to fit the nature of the character, and his delivery during the show’s big climax manages to hit it’s mark. On the other end of things we have Jill Harris (Three Leaves, Three Colors’s Sakura, The Disastrous Life of Saki K’s Chiyo) cast as Yumemi, and for my first time having actually heard her work, it’s a solid performance. It’s decidedly less robotic than Keiko Suzuki’s in the JP track (and definitely less filtering being used to disguise it as a robot voice) but I think it’s mostly to the dub’s benefit, as melodramas such as this one rely heavily on giving the audience an emotional reaction to the material, and that’s easier to achieve when it sounds more human. While neither of the main two performances were exactly groundbreaking, they both struck a pretty good chord with me, and for Jill Harris in particular, I’m looking forward to seeing more of her work in the future.

Final Thoughts: All in all this is a humble little dub for a humble little melodrama. Not much sticks out here aside from David Matranaga’s casting, but it’s perfectly fine, and there isn’t much in the way of negatives here either. As far as comparing it to the other Key dubs I’ve seen, I’d say it’s not as good as what I remember from Angel Beats (though that was a Steven Foster dub so I’m not sure how reliable my memory us on that one) or AiR, but it’s a whole lot more consistent than Clannad’s was so it’s certainly not a step down when it comes to that legacy. This might be a low-key effort, but for a show like this one it’s perfectly sufficient, and if you haven’t seen the show yet, you certainly aren’t missing out on much by checking out the dub.

Rating: Good


And there’s Planetarian. See that was much shorter than the first one. Feel free to let me know what you thought about the dub if you’ve seen it and if you’re curious about my general metrics for critiquing dubs, you can take a look at that here. Till next time.

Toon Talk: Monthly Retrospective- August 2016

Well September just started…so what better time than now to talk about all the stuff that happened in August? As far as animation news goes, it was a relatively quiet month, but the discussion on the other hand has certainly been pretty lively…though not necessarily for all the best reasons. Let’s dive into it.


Summer of Steven Heats Up Some Controversy

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August brought us the remaining Steven Universe episodes of the Summer of Steven (plus one) and with them both joy and headache. With the back half of this event seeing the show delving back into Gem lore, it’s produced an interesting array of topics to discuss, but the one that caught the most attention for better or worse was the episode “Bismuth” and it’s titular character. Particularly in having brought up the issue of whether or not it’s okay to kill one’s oppressors through the eyes of Bismuth who wants to crush the Homeworld Gems at any cost and Steven who believes in trying to reach an understanding with them without resorting to murder (or shattering in this case). This being a kid’s show, we’re obviously meant to sympathize more with the latter view point and it’s caught the ire of fans who feel it’s too heavy handed (The fact that Bismuth resembles and has the voice of a black woman only added to this outcry) and that the show should have handled it with more grace. .

While I can certainly understand where people might see some unfortunate implications here (as a black person myself I wouldn’t read too much into that race bit, but I obviously can’t speak for others) for the most part it just feels really overblown. Steven Universe has always embraced empathy and understanding as it’s core values, and Steven’s world view is pretty much consistent with that of the show itself, so taking issue with it this late in the game feels odd. I recall seeing similar complaints over the final moral conflict in Avatar: The Last Airbender back in the day, and I’d be lying if I said that was executed perfectly, but it was handled decently, and this was done much more tactfully in comparison. Even though it’s clear we’re supposed to lean more towards Steven’s point of view, the show itself points it out as just that, his point of view, and not only is Bismuth’s perspective made fairly sympathetic, but the conclusion points out that there can be negatives to Steven’s pacifistic views, and that he’ll have to live with those consequences if he wants to maintain that viewpoint. If anything it serves as further proof that Rebecca Sugar and co really know how to throw these kind of ideas at children without talking down to them, but I suppose there’s always going to be the question of if they aren’t pushing things far enough. Well at least the latest episode gave us the show’s best musical number yet, that also doubles as a collaboration with Japanese animator Takafumi Hori and it’s really neat, so hopefully we can all at least agree to be happy about that one…right?

 

Ash Loses the Pokemon League…Again

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It’s that time of the year again (well couple of years I guess but whatever) where all of Ash Ketchum’s hopes and dreams must be crushed in order to keep the Pokemon anime train going. As someone who’s used Pokemon as Saturday morning background noise for over a decade, I’ve seen my share of ridiculous losses (the Darkrai deus-ex machina in the Sinnoh League being the worst offender) but this one particularly stings. The XY season has seen Ash make some real strides as a trainer, learn some good lessons and build up a roster that actually looks pretty darn competitive. Adding to that was the show introducing rival trainer Alan, who had decent dynamic going with him, and had already beaten him a couple of times before the League tournament had even began. Combined with the fact that this season may very well be the last one with traditional leagues, it seemed like things were really in favor of Ash’s victory this time, and even skeptics like myself felt the slight twinge of hope that it might actually be possible this time…then reality struck.

Needless to say that even though I wasn’t surprised at the outcome, I was kind of disappointed, and I wasn’t the only one apparently as that sentiment seems to have echoed across the internet, and even the Japanese fandom seems to be pretty upset about it. Of course this is all more or less status quo at this point, and long past the point of being a joke in and of itself, but that’s basically the problem. To the anime’s credit, there is a tremendous amount of value in teaching kids the lesson that failure is a part of life, and that you can’t let setbacks stop you from achieving your dreams and it genuinely worked…the first couple of times. You can only repeat the same lesson so many times before it starts getting ridiculous, and while it’s easy to make the argument that each Pokemon season is meant for a different generation of kids, and therefore shouldn’t be judged in a general sense of continuity, that frankly just makes things even worse.

Why should it be the exact same lesson every season? Shouldn’t the writers find other big themes to explore at this point? While it’s unfair to say the Pokemon anime’s been running completely on auto-pilot (well BW came closest and the ratings suffered for it) it’s definitely been afraid of changing the status quo and their over-reliance on it has only become more blatant over the years. It’s depressing because there are any number of ways to shake things up a bit and many of which don’t have to necessarily involve removing the anime’s most iconic characters (which seems to be the driving fear behind these stunts). Of course status quo has long been the way of the franchise in general, and the upcoming Sun & Moon games look to it’s first real attempt to break free from it. With some luck that sentiment might end up carrying over to the anime too (and the fact that we have yet to hear any information on the Sun & Moon season of the anime makes it somewhat plausible) but at this point I’m not sure I have enough faith in the anime producers to think they’ll make the effort.

 

Bleach’s Ending Has It’s Fans Seeing Red

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Speaking of controversies, there was another one that occurred the same morning as Ash’s latest downfall (well officially the Monday after but unfortunately the speed of manga scanlators is not to be underestimated). After years of the manga’s final arc stretching onward from fight to fight, with the ending feeling a lot further out of reach than it should have, the story finally concluded…very, very abruptly. The outcry over Bleach’s supposed cancellation has been going on since the beginning of July where it was made clear exactly how much time was left and that it wasn’t nearly enough to resolve everything, leading to all kinds of conspiracy theories on how Bleach’s author Tite Kubo somehow got screwed over by his editors. Personally I’d say it’s more likely that his editors got tired of his stalling and/or gave him a specific deadline that he had to rush out the remainder of the manga in order to reach, but we can only really speculate either way. I was however, able to come across the most plausible explanation behind it and the downfall of the series in general through a rather detailed video analysis (which I’d link but it seems to have been the latest victim of Youtube’s nonsensical policy enforcement changes) and while we’ll never know the exact answer, it’s at least clear that Kubo was running on borrowed time .

As for the ending itself, it was about as good as could really be expected after all this. I’ve long since lost interest in Bleach’s actual plot, and things got so rushed towards the end that the final chapter had to quickly shoehorn in Ywatch’s motivation while simultaneously pretending the series had an actual ongoing theme (and felt incredibly tacked on in both accounts) but it was nice to see what Ichigo and his core group of friends were doing as adults. That in itself seems to have caused the biggest controversy of all though as the fandom at large seems to have been incredibly displeased with the manga’s final romantic pairings of Ichigo ending up with Orihime and Rukia with Renji. While I recall seeing a similar outcry during the end of Naruto when the titular character ended up with Hinata and not Sakura, the blowout here seems to have been much worse and so much so that there’s been numerous videos and pictures of angry fans destroying their Bleach collections in frustration. While I don’t want to make this entirely about pairings (though having spent much of this year powering through the Bleach anime I can say that Ichigo and Rukia’s relationship felt incredibly platonic, and even Kubo himself apparently said so during a commentary in the Hellverse movie, so this all seemed like the most probable outcome) I do think it’s more than a little silly to see people destroying merchandise they paid for just because they were mad about who ended up with who, and they could have at least sold them and got their money back or something. Thank goodness Eiichiro Oda’s made it so One Piece won’t ever have these kinds of problems.

 

Voice Acting Blaz-blues 

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Well this last bit isn’t totally animation related, but I consider voice acting to be a pretty vital part in what makes this stuff work so it’s worth pointing out. Voice acting saw it’s own share of controversies in August  as a couple of big things came to light. The first was video game publisher Aksys Games deciding not to include an English audio track for Blazblue: CentralFiction the latest game in the franchise, despite having dubbed all the previous entries. From what’s been publicly stated this seems to have been an issue of speed more so than any financial woes (which is usually the simplest explanation when stuff like this happens) and they feel like not dubbing it will get the game out to the audience faster. While there’s certainly a lot of truth to the idea, it feels incredibly short sighted, since they are in effect taking something away from their audience and that typically never ends well.

Though some will make the argument that people will still buy the game regardless and that it’d be “worse” for them to delay it for such a reason, what’s often missed a lot of the time is that in a similar vein to how anime releases with dual-audio work, people are generally pretty willing to wait if it means getting a more ideal product. Though it’s certainly true that interest fades over time and it’s best to get stuff out while the iron is hot, they’re a lot more likely to lose sales by including one audio track then they are to gain or maintain them, as history as show that stuff typically sells better when people are given more options. It sucks that things had to come to this when it could have been avoided, and it’s all the more frustrating for the VA’s who were involved with the games and had gotten attached to their characters over the years. Of course there’s always the slight chance they could change their minds or include an English audio option later on, but if the game sells regardless, then what reason would they have to go back and spend more money on a option they don’t “need” in order to make money? It’s a lose-lose situation either way, and while those who prioritize getting stuff quickly might be pleased with this outcome, the rest of the fandom seems to have been left in disappointment.

This isn’t the only VA related issue to have happened during the month though, as when voice actress Krystal LaPorte was asked why she didn’t reprise her role in the second season of Chika the Coffin Princess, she revealed through a long statement that she’d been somehow exiled from Sentai Filmworks for reasons unknown. It’s bizarre to think something like this would happen for no reason, but it seems to have really been the case, and it’s very alarming. While it’s pretty much impossible to speculate about why this happened, it’s ridiculous that it occurred at all , and it’s beyond depressing to see a voice actor being treated like this, or frankly anyone for that matter. I sincerely hope there aren’t similar horror stories for other VA’s regularly employed with Sentai, but even if it isn’t this just seems both incredibly heartless and downright unprofessional, and really hope more people call them out on it. With all that said, I suspect that we’ll probably never learn what Sentai’s exact reasons were for all this, but for now it’s definitely knocked down my respect for them a few pegs.


And there’s my thoughts on August in a nutshell. Yeesh, that was a lot more negative than I thought it would be. Here’s hoping September turns out to be a lot brighter.