The Sounds of Dubbing IV- Gintama

 

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Synopsis: Aliens have taken over Edo period Japan, and everything from giant robots to space technology has taken over everyday life. However one day, a young man named Shinpachi Shimura has an encounter with a wavy-haired samurai named Gintoki Sakata, one of the last surviving warriors of the Joi Rebels who fought against the aliens, and one of the few people remaining who still carries the soul of a samurai. Shinpachi decides to work for Gintoki as part of his “Odd Jobs” group of handimen, and together with a strange alien girl named Kagura, the trio gets involved with a variety of increasingly weird characters and adventures.

Intro: When Crunchyroll first announced last year that they were venturing into the world of home video releases and dubs, I was the most curious about Gintama. It always struck me as a show that would be nigh impossible to dub, both due to it’s length, and it’s hefty amount of Japanese culture-centered humor. Sentai Filmworks took a stab at it a few years back when they licensed the first Gintama movie and the results were…less that stellar so I wasn’t too sure how a second attempt would pan out, and even more so when I was hearing suggestions that it would be done through the Canadian dubbing pool, who hasn’t seen much work in recent years. So with all that in mind, it’s time to see if the second time’s the charm


 

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 but decent 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 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)


 

 

Voice Direction

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Even when it comes to comedies, good vocal direction is always an important element to take into account as a stiff performance can make even some of the best jokes fall flat. In that respect, it’s pretty ideal that this show’s ADR Director turned out to be Karl Willams, a long time director at both Canada’s Ocean and Blue Water dubbing studios, and whose work includes some of the talent pool’s most iconic dubs such as Death Note and Inuyasha. All those years of experience certainly show here as he does a great job of handling the show’s comedic timing, helping the actors to successfully deliver on a variety of exaggerated punchlines, and while there’s certainly a few stiff line reads here and there, the actors manage to land their jokes more often than not, and I was pleasantly surprised that the dub had me laughing almost as much as I did listening to the Japanese track.

Of course it’s also important to take into account that Gintama is a series that can often be as heartwarming or dramatic as it is funny, and the ability to switch between those moods on the fly is also pretty important when it comes to a successful dub. It’s a little harder to get a read on how the more dramatic areas of the show will be handled from what’s currently available, but just going off of the finale to the Genderbending arc, it seems like the direction’s certainly there enough for that too, albiet not quite as much as with the comedy. Given that the dub’s starting off so deep into the material it’d feel a little unfair to expect too much right out the gate, but so far, I’m pretty happy with it’s direction, and it looks to be in good enough hands that it’s likely to improve with time.

 

Scripting

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Of all the aspects of a Gintama dub, I was the most intrigued/worried about, it was probably the dub script. As I mentioned in the intro, Gintama is a pretty culture-specific comedy, and while it’s certainly no stranger to mocking popular Western media in the same way mocks a lot of Japanese media, it usually leans towards the latter, and trying to translate around those jokes always seemed like too big a task to make a dub feasible. While as of this moment, I’m unaware of who the main scriptwriter for the dub was (or if wasn’t some kind of group effort by some of the crew at Crunchyroll), it seems as though the decision was made to leave pretty much all the jokes as is, and instead rely on the high energy of the vocal performances to help sell the comedy. It’s a pretty understandable approach since Gintama wouldn’t really be itself without it’s bizarre sense of humor, and it’s one that works in some ways, and falls flat in others, as a lot of the slapstick and references that seasoned anime/video game fans would get, are still just as funny in English, while some of the occasional wordplay puns like the ones in episode with the Japanese history lesson, sound a little on the awkward side. A bit of looser scripting might have helped with the latter a bit more, but speaking honestly, I can’t really think of around that without completely changing the jokes involved, so in the end this was probably the right call. The scripting’s certainly not perfect, but there was pretty much never going to be a perfect solution to this area of the dub, and as I said regarding my One-Punch Man review, the issue of a dub script being too faithful is a far better one to have than it being too loose, so I can certainly live with the lesser of the two evils.

 

Casting

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While not quite as big a hurdle as the dub script, the casting was another area where I was really curious to see the results. Not only has Gintama been around long enough that anyone familiar with the show is probably pretty attached to the Japanese cast, but said cast is comprised of some of the best actors that side of the industry has to offer including names like Tomokazu Sugita, Rie Kugimiya, Akira Ishida and god himself Norio Wakamoto. Living up to such a strong cast was always going to something of a tall order and one made harder by the fact that Canada’s talent pool isn’t as established as they used to be in their prime. Fortunately though, Karl Willams and the fine folks at Crunchyroll, managed to put together a pretty nice looking cast of Canada-based veterans.

Micheal Daingerfield (Inuyasha: The Final Act’s Sesshomaru, Mobile Suit Gundam 00’s Johann Trinity) seems to have been an excellent choice for Gintoki as he does a solid job of getting across the character’s crass attitude and sarcasm while also managing to nail down his rarely seen serious side in a few scenes. Cole Howard (Law of Ueki’s Kosuke Ueki, Kingdom’s Xin) is an equally strong choice for Shinpachi as he gets his straight man antics down pretty quickly, and while his exaggerated retorts don’t always hit their mark, his delivery is strong enough for the punchlines to get their message across. Jocelyne Loewen (Boys Over Flowers’s Sakurako Sanjo, Megaman NT Warrior’s Yai) on the other hand is the weakest link of the main trio so far, as her voice sounds a little too normal compared to Rie Kugiyama, or even Luci Christian’s brief take on her in the movie’s dub since Kagura doesn’t really sound the same without her accent, and while Jocelyne Loewen’s performance is good enough to get a few laughs across, it doesn’t quite feel like she has the character down yet.

The rest of the cast is a little bit more of a mixed bag. Some like Andrew Francis (NANA’s Takumi Ichinose, Infinite Ryuvis’s Airs Blue) and Janyse Jaud (Inuyasha’s Kagura, Shakugan no Shana’s Margery Daw) feel like solid choices for Sakamoto and Tae respectively, and nail their quirks down pretty well, while others like Marlie Collins’s Tsukuyo and Vincent Tong’s (Death Note’s Tota Matsuda, World Trigger’s Souya Kazama) feel a little underwhelming, and seem to still be in the process of feeling out their characters. Of course as with the voice direction it’s more than a little unfair to compare these guys to actors who had been playing their respective characters for over 250 episodes by this point, so I certainly wasn’t expecting anything near the level of the performances by the Japanese cast, but even with that in mind, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Fortunately, it did feel as though the actors were getting a better grasp on their characters with each passing episode (some faster than others) so there’s a strong chance that with a bit more time, this cast could really go a long way in making the characters their own.

 

Final Thoughts: Dubbing Gintama was pretty much always going to be something of a thankless job, and with one failed attempt already in existence, it seemed weird that Crunchyroll of all companies would be the ones to try again. However, this second attempt managed to greatly exceed my admittedly low expectations, and the dub turned out to be pretty funny. While I’m not totally in love with all of the casting choices so far, the majority do seem to have been well thought out, and I don’t have too much doubt they’ll get better with time. This certainly isn’t in the same league as the Japanese track, nor do I think anyone was really expecting it to be, but it’s definitely a much better attempt than the last one we got, and one that’s probably worth your time checking out if you’re either a newcomer to the series, or just curious to give it a listen.

Rating: Good

 

 


And that’s it for the Gintama review. 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.

The Sounds of Dubbing- 25 Days of Dubs (#5-1)

25days

In honor of the holiday season I’m counting down a list of my 25 favorite dubs of all time between December 1st and Christmas. I’ll be adding a new entry each day so be sure to check back for my thoughts on each dub as we make our way through December.  To keep things simple my criteria for these is that they have to be from a TV anime or OVA since including movies would make things a bit convoluted, and it’s being kept strictly to things I’ve actually seen so certain “classics” like Haruhi or the Berserk 1999 dub aren’t gonna make the cut since I have yet to actually get around to them. With all that said, enjoy ^_^

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet 


 

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ADR Director(s): Kevin Seymour (Code Geass, Akira), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Naruto, Digimon Tamers)

ADR Script: Marc Handler (FLCL, Code Geass)

Recorded at: Animaze (Manga Entertainment)

Synopsis: It is the year 2029, and as many rush to embrace the changes that cybernetic technology bring to mankind, the seedier side of humanity is even quicker to take advantage of it. This series follows Public Peace Section 9, a government organization that plays behind the scenes to stop the worst of these criminals. Join Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team as they take you through an incredibly vivid world filled with plots of such depth and intrigue as is seldom seen.

Thoughts: Ghost in the Shell has endured as one of the most iconic sci-fi franchises in anime, if not media in general, and there’s been a variety of iterations over the years. Out of all of them though, the Stand Alone Complex TV series stands at the head of the pack, and so it’s quite fitting that it also has the best dub out of the franchise. Mary Elizabeth McGlynn’s performance as Motoko is almost as iconic as the character herself, and while there’s been many an interpretation of her, none have come close to capturing the level of charisma and authority of McGlynn’s, and for me at least, hers is the definitive version.

The same pretty much goes for the rest of the cast as well. Richard Epcar’s (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusader’s Joseph, Bleach’s Zangetsu) Batou is an equally memorable performance and so much so that the actor himself has gone out of his way to voice the character across various incarnations of the franchise, while some of the other Section 9 cast members like Crispin Freeman as Togusa and William Knight (Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan’s Nurahiyon, Naruto’s Danzo) as Chief Aramaki brought a level of energy those characters that other dubs in the franchise haven’t come close to imitating. It’s just a really strong dub in general, and the combination of McGlynn and Kevin Seymour’s super strong directorial work here really helps to add some polish to the show’s stellar cast. GiTS is a franchise that will likely go on for years to come, but as far as Stand Alone Complex as it’s dub are concerned, both stand in a league of their own.

 

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ADR Director(s): Mike McFarland (Blood Blockade Battlefront), Colleen Clinkenbeard (My Hero Academia, Yona of the Dawn)

ADR Script: Jared Hedges (Dragonball Z, Yu-Yu Hakusho)

Recorded at: Funimation Studios

Synopsis: Once upon a time, two brothers passed the happy days of their childhood by studying alchemy, which is governed by the equal transfer principle: an eye for an eye — you can’t get more than you give. But these brothers tried to defy that law, and a horrific accident resulted. Now, the older brother, Edward, is called the Full Metal Alchemist because of his metal limbs, and the younger, Alphonse, is a soul without a body, trapped within the confines of an automaton. Together they search for the power to restore themselves, to find the lives they lost so long ago…

Thoughts: Going off of one of my earlier entries, if Yu-Yu Hakusho is the dub that helped to turn Funimation’s reputation around, then Fullmetal Alchemist is the one that firmly cemented it. When FMA first made the anime scene it was a gigantic phenomeon, and there was a lot riding on Funimation getting the dub right. Fortunately they managed to meet those expectations and then some, making for one of the most iconic anime dubs to ever hit the market. While Vic Mignogna’s (Ouran High School Host Club’s Tamaki, Level E’s Prince Baka) Edward might not be quite as strong as Romi Park’s (but like I mentioned in an earlier entry, Romi Park’s in a class of her own so that’s not much of an insult) but it’s still an extremely solid performance, and the rest of the cast more than compensates. Aaron Dismuke (Blood Blockade Battlefront’s Leo, Corpse Princess’s Ouri) and Maxey Whitehead (Dimension W’s Elizabeth, Bacanno’s Czeslaw) do great work as Alphose in both incarnations of the franchise while the notable mainstays like Travis Willingham as Colonel Mustang and Laura Bailey (Soul Eater’s Maka, Glitter Force’s Emily) as Lust were roles so well performed that they pretty much helped in propelling those actors to stardom.

Both versions of the series feature top-shelf talent, from Chris Patton (Akame ga Kill’s Run, Black Cat’s Creed) to Kent Williams (Yu-Yu Hakusho’s Narrator, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple’s Akisame) and even Troy Baker (Naruto’s Pain, Code Geass’s Schnitzel), with both also benefiting from a solid dub script and excellent voice direction, helping to capture so much of the humanity and drama that made the series so beloved in the first place. Funimation’s put out a lot of strong dubs over the years, but this is easily their best work, and after having delivered on such high expectations, it’s easy to see how they’ve gained so much goodwill.

 

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ADR Director: Mary Elizabeth McGlynn

ADR Script: Marc Handler

Recorded at: Animaze (Bandai Entertainment)

Synopsis: Follow interstellar bounty hunters Spike Spiegel and Jet Black as they scour the galaxy for criminals with prices on their heads. Hoping to escape their past, they live on the spaceship Bebop, but it’s a dangerous business and old enemies don’t forget easily. Allies come from unlikely sources, however, as they find comrades in the beautiful swindler Faye Valentine, the genius child hacker Ed and the genetically engineered ‘data dog’ Ein. Will they be able to help each other though their respective struggles, or is their fate really inevitable?

Thoughts: Well it was pretty much a matter of where not if Bebop would spring up on my list, but that pretty much speaks to how influential both the show and its dub were to the western anime market at large. While there’s a few more decent dubs from the yesteryears of anime than is given credit for, for the most part, dubs were once considered something of an afterthought and weren’t taken nearly as seriously as they are today. However Bebop managed to change things for the better by bringing out a level of quality unlike any of the other dubs from its time, and even some dubs today, setting a golden standard for future works for to follow. There’s not much I can say about the cast that hasn’t been said already, but it really is difficult to understate the lead performances in this show as his Spike Spiegal is what helped to cement Steve Blum’s reputation as one of the best VAs in the business and he’s joined by Beau Billingsea (Digimon Adventure’s Ogremon, Gungrave’s Bear Walken), Wendee Lee (Bleach’s Yoruichi, Digimon Adventure’s T.K.) and Melissa Fahn (Digimon Tamers’s Rika, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works’s Rider), with the latter two having become voice acting staples in their own right, and all of them demonstrating some of their best work in this series.

The performances here all carry a very natural quality to them that very few dubs have been able to imitate, and everything from the show’s zaniest antics to its most dramatic stakes all come across as genuine and the cast members rarely miss a beat. It also serves as another example of where being flexible in the translation for the dub script can be to the dub’s benefit, as much of the dialogue here is refined to sound smoother in English and just about all of it works. Most significant of all though, is Mary Elizabeth McGlynn’s voice direction for the series, as she manages to bring out the best from nearly all the actors involved and the end result is incredibly smooth pretty much all across the board. From great casting, to great scripting to great voice direction, Bebop more or less paved the way for anime dubs, and while that’s been slowly taken for granted over time, it’s also something that should never be forgotten.

 

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ADR Director(s): Jamie Simone (Afro Samurai, Only Yesterday), Suzanne Goldfish (Sailor Moon, K: The Animation)

ADR Script: Jamie Simone, Liam O’ Brien(Naruto, Gun x Sword), Ardwright Chamberlain (Digimon Adventure, Naruto), Sam Regal (Tweeny Witches, Megaman Starforce)

Recorded at: Studiopolis (Viz Media)

Synopsis: In Sternbuild City, corporate logos not only cover billboards, but also the costumes of the super-powered heroes that act as its protectors. Veteran and newcomer warriors of justice alike compete in a reality TV show that offers points for apprehending criminals while giving champions’ sponsors a chance to promote their brand. When the low-ranking Wild Tiger loses his backing after a string of outrageous, botched rescues, he finds himself paired with an up-and-coming spotlight-seeker called Barnaby. But with their wildly different personalities, will the pair be able to save their beloved Sternbuild City and win the game show, or will their constant tension be the undoing of the world’s first hero team?

Thoughts: Tiger and Bunny was one of my favorite shows of the last decade, and one that was filled to the brim with a very western style of flavor. It pretty much goes without saying that I was really looking to its dub, and the end result both met and exceeded those expectations. Viz Media and Studiopolis managed to assemble an all-star cast for this dub, featuring the likes of anime regulars like Jamieson Price (Bleach‘s Zangetsu, Fate/Zero‘s Rider), Kari Walgren (Durarara‘s Celty, Fate/Zero‘s Saber) and Micheal Sinternklass (Bakuman‘s Mashiro, Urusei Yatsura‘s Ataru), to names that are a lot harder to come by these days like Daran Norris (Digimon Frontier‘s Mercurymon, Fist of the North Star‘s Rei), Jason Spinsak (Zatch Bell‘s Kiyo, Scry-ed‘s Ryuho), and Beau Billingsea, all bringing their A-game to the table and all brought together under Jamie Simone’s rock solid direction. The scripting here is just as noteworthy, as it stands as what is probably my go-to example of how to do liberal translations without distorting the original intent of the story. Almost every bit of dialogue that’s changed here is done so for the specific purpose of sounding more like native English, and it both allows for a bit more fun with some of the comedic scenes, while also allowing some of the heavier character interactions to flow more naturally, accomplishing pretty much everything a good translation is supposed to do.

For all that though, the dub wouldn’t be nearly as strong without its two lead actors and what they bring to the table. While Wally Wingert’s (Bleach‘s Renji, Zatch Bell‘s Brago) Kotetsu sounds a bit younger compared to Hiroaki Hirata’s performance, it still hits just as strong, and he does a fine job of playing the washed-up old dork. Similarly Yuri Lowenthal’s (Persona 4: The Animation‘s Yosuke, Naruto‘s Sasuke) performance as Barnaby also hits all the right notes, and gave him an opportunity to display something a bit more on the natural side compared to some of his other work around that time, while also making good use of his more melodramatic tendencies for the character’s harsher scenes. Both performances are great and the chemistry between them always sounds genuine, making all their interactions a blast to watch. All in all this dub is really good at pretty much everything it does, and so much so that Sunrise actually managed to have it air on TV in Japan as an example of what good English dubs are really capable of. It’s hard to get much more praiseworthy than that, and while this dub may not have quite gotten the level of attention it needed to (it really needed to hit the US airwaves rather than Japan’s), for me it’s easily the best one of the last five years, and one of the finest examples of dubs in general.

 

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ADR Director: Patrick Seitz (Your Lie in April, Blazblue: Alter Memory)

ADR Script: Patrick Seitz, Taliesen Jaffe (Ergo Proxy, Read or Die), Micheal Sorich (Digimon Adventure 02, Digimon Tamers)

Recorded at: Salami Studios (Viz Media)

Synopsis: Dr Kenzo Tenma is a genius surgeon working in post-Cold War Germany who has a bright future ahead of him. He is admired by his colleagues, loved by his patients, and due to marry his boss’ daughter, the beautiful Eva Heinemann. One day, when two patients in desperate need of emergency surgery are wheeled into his hospital, Tenma faces a terrible choice of saving the orphaned boy who came first or the mayor of Düsseldorf, whose recovery would raise the hospital’s profile and boost his own career. Against the demands of his superior, Tenma does what he believes is right and saves the child. However, his decision not only damages his prospects, but unleashes a chain of events so horrific that it might have come from the depths of his worst nightmares. Laden with guilt, Tenma begins a journey across Germany in search of a formidable young man who will challenge his morals, his love for life, and his very sanity.

Thoughts: When I was thinking about what would qualify as the strongest dub I’ve seen, I knew right away I had to go for something featuring a large ensemble cast. While there’s almost always instances of individual performances sticking out among the crowd in shows, it’s the stuff that gives focus to the largest amount of characters possible that really tests the quality of how well a series is acted as a whole and for me, I can think of no better example than Monster. Naoki Urasawa’s masterpiece is a work that truly defines what it means to be human, and at what point someone can no longer be redeemed. As such it required a certain touch in order to best convey those themes, and Patrick Seitz’s proved to be the perfect match. His vocal direction here is strong, bringing out the best from virtually all the actors involved, making it sound less like an anime dub and more like a live-action drama, with every display of emotion and drama coming off as genuine and powerful.

The actors themselves of course, are where this dub truly shines, and despite the massive cast assembled of the course of the show’s 75 episode run, almost all of them manage to be distinct and memorable. Performances like Liam O’ Brien’s Johan and Karen Strassman’s  (Code Geass‘s Kallen, Persona 4: The Animation‘s Nanako) Nina do a fantastic job of conveying their respective character arcs and the extent to which their belief in human goodness is tested, while on the other end of the spectrum Keith Silverstein’s (Hunter X Hunter‘s Hisoka, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure‘s Speedwagon) chilling work as Johan manages to sell every ounce of the villain’s inhumanity and sounds unsettlingly creepy at every turn. The rest of the ensemble is stellar too, from Richard Epcar’s Lunge to Tara Platt’s (Buso Renkin‘s Tokiko, Tiger & Bunny’s Agnes) surprisingly strong delivery as the snide Eva, bringing in a performance that sounded a lot more natural than a lot of the other work I’ve seen her in. Honestly the work here is so strong all across the board that it’s hard to choose a standout, but if I had to, the prize would likely go to Patrick Seitz himself as Grimer, with his portrayal of the character’s final scene, standing out as one of the finest performances of acting I’ve seen just not in anime, but media in general. While I can certainly think of more fun examples of a good ensemble cast, to me the real test is how well the actors can express the various emotions of their characters, and as far as that goes, this is the one that really stands above the rest.


And that’s it for my favorite dubs. Thanks to everyone for reading and I hope you enjoy the rest of the holiday season. I’ll be back next week with my Best of 2016 highlights for anime but until then, stay animated.

<- #10-6

The Sounds of Dubbing- 25 Days of Dubs (#10-6)

25days

In honor of the holiday season I’m counting down a list of my 25 favorite dubs of all time between December 1st and Christmas. I’ll be adding a new entry each day so be sure to check back for my thoughts on each dub as we make our way through December.  To keep things simple my criteria for these is that they have to be from a TV anime or OVA since including movies would make things a bit convoluted, and it’s being kept strictly to things I’ve actually seen so certain “classics” like Haruhi or the Berserk 1999 dub aren’t gonna make the cut since I have yet to actually get around to them. With all that said, enjoy ^_^

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet 


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ADR Director/Script: Alex von David (Blue Exorcist, Kill la Kill)

Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (NIS America)

Synopsis: Ryuuji Takasu has an eventful life: his classmates think he’s a delinquent due to his ‘killer’ eyes; his crush Minori seems ever out of reach; and he’s just had an unfortunate encounter with ‘palm-sized Taiga’ – a feisty and dainty wench in his class. With different cleaning habits and tempers, the two clash like night and day; that is, except for the fact that Taiga and Ryuuji have crushes on the other’s good friend! With school rumors abounding, the duo must now work together to play matchmaker for each other. Who will end up with their true love?

Thoughts: For a long time, Toradora was one of those shows I had always meant to get around to watching but for one reason or another never actually did. So when the dub was first announced, and made available on Crunchyroll no less, I was figured it was as good a time as any to check it out. Admittedly I wasn’t expecting too much from the dub initially since while I liked most of the VAs in it, I figured that I knew what they were capable and the same went for Alex von David who I found to be really consistent as a director but not quite what I’d call amazing. Needless to say I was pretty surprised when the dub turned out to not only be good, but downright incredible and it really made going through the series a memorable experience for me.

While I liked Erik Kimerer’s (Accel World’s Haruyuki, Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic’s Alibaba) work up to this point, I also found him to be a bit inconsistent at times. However his performance here as Ryuji is easily the best he’s ever done, and also served as a good demonstration that he could do pretty well outside of his more traditionally heroic type casting. I was equally impressed by Christine Marie Cabanos (Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s Madoka, Kill la Kill’s Mako) as I honestly wasn’t too big on her up till that point, but she really excels here as Minori and turned in a grade-A performance that I wasn’t even sure she was capable of.

Although while the cast is excellent across the board, the real star of the show here is Cassandra Lee Morris (Yu-Gi-Oh GX‘s Yubel, Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s Kyubei) as Taiga, with her performance more or less serving as the heart and soul of the dub. I’m generally not a fan of Taiga’s tsundere-loli archetype (and even less when I know she was originally played by Rie Kugimiya, who while a good actress, has done that character type so many times that they all just kind of blend together for me) but Cassandra Lee Morris does an excellent job of making the character feel genuinely endearing, and does well at serving up both the soft and brash sides of her without going too heavily in either direction. All of these fine performances come together really well under Alex von David’s strong direction, and even among his solid track record, this is by far his best work. This dub was really something of a welcome surprise for me, and while I didn’t expect a whole lot coming in, what I got coming out was enough to easily mark among some of the best work I’ve seen.

 

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ADR Director: James Corrigall (Zoids, Mobile Suit Gundam 00)

ADR Script: Stephen Hedley (The Law of Ueki, Kurozuka)

Recorded at: The Ocean Group (Geneon USA, Funimation)

Synopsis: Rokuro Okajima is a small-time salaryman who is carrying documents for his company, when the ship he’s traveling on is attacked by pirates. Kidnapped, he discovers to his dismay that his employers’ main concern is to ensure the documents don’t get into the wrong hands, even if it means sending the carrier to the bottom of the sea. Now, with his former life ruined and his kidnappers seeming comparatively friendly, “Rock” decides to join their merry band of mercenaries, and sets out with a new career to the shadier corners of the South China Sea.

Thoughts: Black Lagoon is more or less the anime equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster so it’s not particular surprising that it would sound strong in English, but even keeping that in mind it’s still incredible just how fun it’s dub is. The cast features a variety of crazy and/or sinister performances such as Patricia Drake’s commanding presence as Balalika or Tabitha St. Germain’s (Shakugan no Shana’s Shana, Elemental Gelade’s Aljenna) Roberta perfectly demonstrating how terrifying she can be beneath her initially unassuming exterior.

Of course the real prize here goes to the two leads. Brad Swaile (Dragon Drive’s Reiji, Mobile Suit Gundam’s Amuro) does a solid job of portraying Rock’s gradual transformation from an empathetic optimist to a manipulative cyni and delivers on a very grounded performance, even among a cast of hams. Maryke Hendrikse’s (.hack//Roots‘s Tabby, Mobile Suit Gundam 00‘s Wang Liu Mei) Revy on the other hand, is pure unadulterated fun almost every time she’s on screen selling every ounce of her perpetual rage and insanity, while also knowing when to dial things down for her more introspective moments. The dub also benefits from a really fun script as it opts to dial up the amount of swearing to eleven and while that sounds like a bad idea on paper, it’s exactly what something as action movie-esque as Black Lagoon needed and it really helps to add to the overall aesthetic of the series. While I’ve watched a lot of fun dubs over the year, very few have compared to Black Lagoon in that department, and even though it’s been close to a decade since I first listened to it, it’s never failed to put a smile on my face every time I come back for another look.

 

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ADR Director: Kevin Seymour (Akira, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex)

ADR Script: Liam O’ Brien (Naruto, Gun x Sword), Marc Handler (FLCL, Tenchi in Tokyo), Mary Claypool (El Hazard, Hyper Doll)

Recorded at: Animaze (Bandai Entertaiment)

Synopsis: In 2010, the Britannian Empire enslaved Japan using powerful mecha known as Knightmares; in the aftermath Japan was renamed Area 11, and its people began a hard and terrible existence. Lelouch, a Britannian student living in Area 11, has grown up hating the Empire and everything it stands for. One day, in the middle of a terrorist attack, Lelouch meets a mysterious girl who grants him the ability to control minds. Can he use his new power to fight for freedom, or will his hatred twist his good intentions into mindless acts of vengeance?

Thoughts: This was the final dub produced by Animaze and the late Kevin Seymour, and it’s one that really demonstrates the power of the legacy they left behind. Code Geass is a super over-the-top show with super over-the-top voice acting to match so attempting to match that level of energy in English was already set up to be something of a challenge to put off but Kevin Seymour proved he was more than up to the task and assembled an all-star cast of VA’s all elevated by his stellar sense of direction. Trying to match the sheer ham of names like Takahiro Sakurai and god himself, Norio Wakamoto would be a difficult climb for most but Yuri Lowenthal (Naruto’s Sasuke, Hellsing Ultimate’s Pip) and Michael McConnieh (Hunter x Hunter’s Narrator, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans’s Lieutenant Crank) managed to pull it off as Suzaku and Emperor Charles respectively with other big names such as Crispin Freeman (Hellsing Ultimate’s Alucard, Naruto’s Itachi), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Sailor Moon’s Queen Metalica, Naruto’s Kurenai) and Steve Blum (Digimon Tamers’s Guilmon, Naruto’s Orochimaru), filling out the rest of the cast, making for a great experience all across the board.

Once again though, the show really goes to Johnny Yong Bosch’s (Trigun’s Vash, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’s Johnathan) performance as Lelouch, giving off a level of arrogance and audacity that was unlike anything else he’d done up until that point. It worked so well in fact that it not only matched Jun Fukuyama’s original performance, but in some instances, outright surpassed it for me, and given that the character was originally made with Fukuyama in mind that’s saying a lot. There was clearly a lot of energy going into this dub, and it’s one whose popularity has managed to persist pretty well over the years.  It’s sad knowing that both Animaze and Kevin Seymour are gone, but as a final hurrah, this dub was certainly a good note to go out on.

 

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ADR Director: Karl Willems (Inuyasha, Cardfight Vanguard)

ADR Script: Stephen Hedley, Michelle Clough (My-Otome, Pretty Cure)

Recorded at: The Ocean Group (Viz Media)

Synopsis: Have you ever felt like the world would be a better place if certain people weren’t around? Such grim daydreams might occur when watching the dismal daily news, but on one fateful day, Light Yagami finds that these daydreams can become reality. By pure happenstance, he comes across a black notebook entitled “Death Note”, whose text within states that whoever’s name is written on its pages will die. With the aid of the death god Ryuk, Light takes it upon himself to rid the world of its corruption, ushering in a new era of purity one death at a time. But as Ryuk foretells, Light’s actions will not go unchallenged…

Thoughts: Death Note was the other super-ham show of decade next to Code Geass, and between the two it’s enjoyed a bit more in the way of popularity in the west. This is large in part due to its strong dub, and it’s one that’s become nearly as memorable as the show itself. Mamoru Miyano is one of the hammiest actors in the Japanese side of voice acting no matter what he’s in so going head to head with that is no easy feat but Brad Swaile’s Light is every bit as wicked and over the top as Miyano’s, making for a delightful spectacle across the show’s 37 episode run. Alessandro Juliani’s (Ranma ½’s Prince Toma) L on the other hand, is a pretty notable departure from Kappei Yamaguchi’s performance since it sounds notably more mature, but it works well and he manages to capture all of the character’s quirks and childish tendencies. Brian Drummond’s (Black Lagoon’s Benny, Dragon Drive’s Mahiru) Ryuk works pretty similarly in that respect, as it’s a lot raspier than Shidou Nakamura’s but it’s just as sinister and the rest of the cast is strong too, with all of the performances proving to be a perfect match to their Japanese counterparts. I honestly had a hard time deciding whether or not to place this one above Code Geass, but I think this dub edges out just a little bit more in the ham factor, and the fact that Brad Swaile was able to deliver lines as ridiculous as “I’ll take a potato chip and eat it” without missing a beat is a feat unto itself. As a whole, Ocean’s track record is a bit mixed when it comes to their dub output, but this one is by far their strongest effort, and one that’s become something of a classic for me.

 

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ADR Director: Justin Cook (Fruits Basket, Kiddy Grade)

ADR Script:  Jared Hedges (Fullmetal Alchemist, Gangsta)

Recorded at: Funimation Studios

Synopsis: Yusuke Urameshi was a normal middle school punk until he was hit and killed by a car, while saving a child. His selfless action earned him the right to gain his life back and serve as a detective of the spirit world, keeping the world of the living safe from a myriad of demons. But being reborn has its price: Yusuke must hatch a spirit beast that will develop according to his actions, and if he doesn’t act in a good and honest manner, it will eat his soul. Can Yusuke protect the human and spirit worlds and still manage to save himself in the process?

Thoughts: While Funimation currently enjoys a mostly well-deserved reputation as one of the best in the business when it comes to anime dubs, this wasn’t always the case. In fact for a lot of their earlier years, they were despised much in the same vein as 4Kids for their work on the old Dragonball Z dub, and the numerous problems that came with it. However there was one dub that managed to help turn their reputation around, and that distinction belongs to Yu Yu Hakusho. Like the Dragonball Z dub of old, there’s a lot of liberties regarding its scripting and it’s distinctly snarkier and more potty-mouthed than its original Japanese counterpart, but unlike with Z, YuYu’s dub actually knew where to draw the line, and never veered too far off course from it’s source material, making for a sharp, energetic script that actually helped to make the show a bit more fun during some of the few slow parts of the series. Of course while the script is fun, the dub cast is even more so, and they’re a blast to watch. Justin Cook’s Yusuke served as one of the most memorable anime performances from my childhood and it one that was constantly filled with attitude as he delivered every bit of the character’s brash personality. Equally memorable was Chris Sabat’s Kuwabara, and while the voice itself is admittedly pretty silly, his actually delivery is really strong, and he manages to make it work, even during the character’s more emotional moments.

The other members of the cast are all strong too, and many of the performances here served as introductions to some of my favorite actors, from minor ones like Ed Blaylock (Fairy Tail‘s Master Jose, One Piece‘s Sengoku  as one Yusuke’s sadistic teachers, to Robert McCollum’s (Psycho-Pass’s Kogami, Drifters‘s Nobunaga) chilling work as Sensui, the latter of which has gone down as one of my favorite villain performances in anime and turned the character himself into one of my favorites as well. While the series is regarded as something of a classic, it’s a shame that it isn’t as well remembered as Funi’s old Z dub because despite being from around the same time period, there’s really no comparison when it comes to their quality, and with how much went into this one, it’s easy to see how this was the one that helped to turn Funi from reviled to beloved.


<- #15-11

The Sounds of Dubbing- 25 Days of Dubs (#15-11)

25days

In honor of the holiday season I’m counting down a list of my 25 favorite dubs of all time between December 1st and Christmas. I’ll be adding a new entry each day so be sure to check back for my thoughts on each dub as we make our way through December.  To keep things simple my criteria for these is that they have to be from a TV anime or OVA since including movies would make things a bit convoluted, and it’s being kept strictly to things I’ve actually seen so certain “classics” like Haruhi or the Berserk 1999 dub aren’t gonna make the cut since I have yet to actually get around to them. With all that said, enjoy ^_^

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet 


 

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ADR Director(s): Lia Sargent (Gatekeepers, The Big O), Joe Romersa (Street Fighter Alpha, Fist of the North Star)

ADR Script: Steve Nattow, Trina Watton

Recorded at: Animaze (Geneon USA)

Synopsis: “Vash, the Stampede” – worth 60 billion dollars to the one who can turn him in. Bounty hunters everywhere are on the lookout for this legendary gunman, not to mention insurance agents Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, who are tasked with preventing any potential damage that this Vash can cause. But with 60 billion on his head, Vash is not an easy man to find.

Thoughts: The now dead Animaze was once revered as the Holy Grail of anime dubbing studios, and their track record more or less speaks for itself. One of the series that helped cement their reputation was Trigun, and it’s a series whose dub is still pretty well respected to this day. What’s likely the most notable thing about this dub for many is that it’s the one responsible for kickstarting the voice acting career of the now super iconic Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach’s Ichigo, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’s Johnathan) and to this day, his Vash still stands as one of his strongest performances. The way he nails both the perpetual goofball and deeply tortured soul that make up both sides of Vash’s personality makes for a powerful performance and it’s easy to see how his work here helped to turn him into such a popular actor. Jeff Nimoy (Digimon Adventure’s Tentomon, Zatch Bell’s Kanchome) also does great work as Vash’s buddy and overall thematic opposite in Wolfwood, and the rest of the cast is strong too (plus it’s worth noting that the now equally iconic Bryce Papenbrook was also in this dub as Young Vash in the flashback episodes), with the majority of the performances holding up really well despite the age and time period of the dub. This is a dub that helped to launch a couple of noteworthy legacies, and while Animaze may be gone, it’s hard to imagine their work on this dub will be forgotten anytime soon.

 

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ADR Director: Taliesen Jaffe (R.O.D-The TV, Nazca)

ADR Script: Taliesen Jaffe, Mike McFarland (One-Punch Man, BECK)

Recorded at: New Generation Pictures (Geneon USA, Funimation)

Synopsis: Alucard is a vampire who works for Hellsing – an organization responsible for hunting down and destroying other vampires. In these dark times, whoever is bitten by a vampire turns into a ghoul — with the exception of Seras Victoria, Alucard’s newly created and appointed apprentice. Now, Seras must serve her master, Alucard and work for Integra Wingates Hellsing. Nefarious vampire activities are being reported throughout England, and it all traces back to the organization named “Millennium”. Will the Hellsing organization, under the command of Sir Integra Wingates Hellsing, be able to prevent a full scale war? Or will the world become a battlefield of destruction?

Thoughts: Crispin Freeman (Naruto’s Itachi, Eureka Seven’s Holland) is one of the most popular and well respected voice actors in the industry, but this wasn’t always the case. Back in the yesteryears of his early work on NY dubs, his track record was less than stellar, and while he did have a couple of highlights, his reputation left much to be desired. However one role of his helped to change that perception, and it belongs to his Alucard in Hellsing. I haven’t seen the original Hellsing TV series (and given that Ultimate is more or less the definitive version I don’t see a need to) but even just going off of his performance in the Ultimate OVAs it’s easy to see why it helped transform him into such an icon as he pretty much chews the scenery every time he’s on screen, and his powerful baritone gives off a sense of presence and menace that makes his Alucard as cool as it is frightening. Even though his voice for Alucard has carried over onto a lot of his other performances this is the one where it clicks the best and it’s really impressive, even by Crispin Freeman’s usual standards.

Of course while the show mostly belongs to Crispin Freeman, the other members of the cast are great too, as the dub features a wide variety of talent from well-known veterans such as Yuri Lowenthal (Gurren Lagann‘s Simon, Bayonetta Bloody Fate’s Luke) and Kari Walgren (Durarara’s Celty, FLCL’s Haruko) to actual British actors like Steve Brand for Father Anderson and Victoria Harwood for Integra (with my personal favorite being Gildarts Jackson’s ultra-hammy performance as The Mahor). Bringing in foreign actors is almost something of a rarity for voice acting in general so seeing it actually applied to a dub really shows how much they went the extra mile on this production. Virtually every second of the dub bleeds cool, and even when the series itself eventually slows down into a series of long-winded monologues the performances still manage to carry on strongly enough to keep things from slogging. It’s easy to see why this one’s so well regarded and for a series with as much over-the-top cool stuff as Hellsing, it’s nice to see it got the dub to match.

 

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ADR Director: Christopher Bevins (Drifters, Jormungand)

ADR Script: Jared Hedges (Dragonball Z, Gangsta)

Recorded at: Funimation Studios

Synopsis: Hana is a nine-year-old girl who lives in constant fear of her abusive family; Michiko is a sexy woman who has just done the unthinkable: broken out of the impenetrable Diamandra Penitentiary. After Hana is whisked away by Michiko, who claims to be her mother, the duo sets forth on a high octane ride towards freedom. In the streets of Brazil and aboard Michiko’s motorcycle, Hana and Michiko will look for Hana’s long lost father, try to learn to co-exist and get along together, and stay one step ahead of the police and afro-clad Atsuko.

Thoughts: While Christopher Bevins has been directing at Funi for a long time now, there was also a long time where I found his track record to be inconsistent and for every good dub he put out there’d be one that I found a bit questionable. However there was one work of his that managed to pull a 180 on my opinion of his skills and has since made him one of my favorite directors from that area, and that distinction belongs to Michiko and Hatchin. Between Sayo Yamamoto’s sense of style, and the obvious parallels to works by Shinichiro Watanabe, this was definitely the kind of show that needed a strong dub, and thankfully Bevins delivered. At this point, Monica Rial (Penguindrum’s Ringo, Drifters’s Easy) has been in at least 70% of all the Texas anime dubs ever made, and her work while consistent, is also fairly predictable, but the performance she brought for Michiko is unlike anything I’ve ever seen from her as she delivers every ounce of the character’s gruff, woman-child attitude with finesse, and it’s by far my favorite thing from her. This was also another dub that properly me introduced me to a VA that I’ve since become a fan of as Jad Saxton (Log Horizon’s Akatsuki, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash’s Mary) plays off of Monica Rial really well as Hatchin, and the chemistry between the two really helps to carry the dub. This level of energy carries on through the rest of the cast as well, with the other big standout being Akron Watson’s (Jormungand’s Wilee) Satoshi, as he does a great job selling the villain’s mix of menace and false bravado. It was nice to see Christopher Bevins put out such a strong dub and he’s been continuing to put out solid work ever since.

 

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ADR Director: Tyler Walker (Fairy Tail, Ninja Slayer)

ADR Script: Eric Vale (Baki the Grappler, Basilisk)

Recorded at: Funimation Studios

Synopsis: It’s the 1930s, and Mafia groups fight for supremacy in American cities. Young Firo joins the secretive Camorra group; a meek street boy, Jacuzzi, finds himself the leader of a gang of thugs; an alchemist is producing a liquor of immortality, and a homunculus tries to retrieve it; and upbeat thieves Isaac and Miria head to New York after failing to strike gold in California. They ride the novel train, the Flying Pussyfoot, across the continent. However they find themselves embroiled in a ruckus caused by gangs, terrorists, serial killers, and others as multiple stories intertwine and unfold on this fateful ride. All are haunted and hunted by the legendary Rail Tracer…

Thoughts: This is another big ensemble show, but where it’s sister series Durarara falls a bit short regarding it’s dub, this one succeeds. While I like the most of the performances in Durarara, it was easy for them to get lost in the shuffle, and not all of them carried enough presence to make each of the characters distinct. Not so with Bacanno’s dub though, as this one does a much better job at giving each character’s performance a real sense of presence, and there’s rarely a dull moment no matter who’s on screen. From mellow performances like Todd Haberkorn (Fairy Tail’s Natsu, Claymore’s Raki) as Firo to show stealing ham like Bryan Massey (Dragonball’s Oolong, Overlord’s Cocytus) as Ladd Russo or Jerry Jewell (Casshern Sins‘s Dio, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple‘s Odin) as the Rail Tracer, there’s a ton of memorable work in this dub, and it does well in making the most out of every character. It’s helped by some attention to detail regarding both the script and the voice direction doing its best to match the time period of the show, and while the barrage of New York accents could have easily been a distraction, they’re given just the right amount of restraint to work and it helps to give the dub a bit of extra flavor. This dub’s a prime example of how to do ensemble performances right, and given how heavily reliant the show itself is on it’s wide cast of characters, the extra touches here are greatly appreciated.

 

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ADR Director: Christopher R. Sabat (Solty Rei, Speed Grapher)

ADR Script: John Burgmeier (Darker Than Black, Dragonball Z)

Recorded at: OkaTron 5000 (Funimation)

Synopsis: Five years have passed since Goku and his friends defeated Piccolo Jr. and restored peace to the planet. Gohan – Goku’s son – and a variety of good, bad, and morally ambiguous characters are back, and perpetually not ready for action! Aliens, androids, and magicians all hatch evil plots to destroy the world and it’s up to Goku to save the Earth once more – that is, once he and his comrades train plentifully in preparation.  Enemies will become friends and power levels will rise to unimaginable levels, but even with the help of the legendary Dragon Balls and Shen Long will it be enough to save Earth from ultimate destruction?

Thoughts: Dragonball Z is indisputably the most iconic anime series in the west, and many of us grew up watching Funimation’s original dub. However while that dub was often held up through the years as a beloved classic, in truth its quality was frankly…pretty bad. From Saturday morning cartoon style dialogue, to heavy amounts of overacting, the old Z dub just doesn’t hold up all that well, and while I was once among those who defended it against the naysayers who proclaimed it was but a shell of what the series actually is, in hindsight it’s kind of hard to deny they had a point. There enters Dragonball Z Kai, and while this half-hearted attempt at a remake didn’t do a ton to elevate itself over the original anime (well aside from improved pacing up until the Buu Saga) it gave the dub a second lease on life, and this time Funimation made sure not to waste it.

Much of the old cast returns and better than ever with Sean Schemmel’s (Shaman King‘s Amidamaru, Giant Robo‘s Tetsugyu) Goku having improved dramatically after finally managing to capture the spirit of the carefree nature of the character as opposed the more superhero-esque performance of the old dub, while Christopher Sabat’s hammy Vegeta, managed to gain enough nuance to capture every ounce of his prideful attitude without overselling it as much as he did in the old days. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the few major recasts that do happen are pretty much all for the better such as Colleen Clinkenbeard’s (One Piece’s Luffy, Yurikuma Arashi’s Yurika) Gohan sounding much more child-like than Stephanie Nadolny’s did in the old dub, with Chris Ayres’s (Devil May Cry‘s Sid, Gantz‘s Kei) Freeza in particular being the biggest standout, as his pitch-perfect take on the character’s arrogance and gentleman-like facade is a welcome departure from the infamous “evil Grandma” voice that comprised Linda Young’s performance. The scripting here is solid too, and while does include a few of Funimation’s usual liberties, they’re never intrusive enough to distort what’s happening, and it manages to capture the spirit of the Japanese version in a way that the old Z dub never did, making it by far the best translation Funimation’s ever given to the franchise. This was the dub that the diehard Dragonball fans were waiting for and while it might have taken Funimation nearly 15 years to finally get it right, this one proves that it was certainly worth the wait.


<- #20-16                                                                                                                                                                       #10-6 ->

The Sounds of Dubbing- 25 Days Of Dubs (#20-16)

25days

In honor of the holiday season I’m counting down a list of my 25 favorite dubs of all time between December 1st and Christmas. I’ll be adding a new entry each day so be sure to check back for my thoughts on each dub as we make our way through December.  To keep things simple my criteria for these is that they have to be from a TV anime or OVA since including movies would make things a bit convoluted, and it’s being kept strictly to things I’ve actually seen so certain “classics” like Haruhi or the Berserk 1999 dub aren’t gonna make the cut since I have yet to actually get around to them. With all that said, enjoy ^_^

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet 


 

 

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ADR Director: Christopher Sabat (Blue Gender, Case Closed)

ADR Script: Mike McFarland (One Punch Man, Hyperdimension Neptunia), Colleen Clinkenbeard (Moonphase, Samurai 7), Sean Micheal Teague (Case Closed, BECK)

Recorded at: Funimation Studios

Synopsis: Twelve years ago, an incident known as “Blast Fall” unleashed major destruction and chaos. Now, years have passed, and mankind has learned to adapt by incorporating cybernetic limbs into its citizens. Roy Revent is a bounty hunter known for his violent acts towards criminals due to the loss of his daughter in Blast Fall; and when a criminal tries to take revenge on Roy, an unknown girl falls from the sky and saves him. She has no memory of who she is, or where she came from. With the help of Miranda, his boss and landlord, he takes in the girl and gives her a name of Solty. What is the real identity of Solty, and what caused Blast Fall?

Thoughts: This is one of Funimation’s lesser known titles from the mid 00’s but it’s one that’s stuck with me over the years and largely due in part to how much I liked dub, or more specifically a certain performance in said dub.  It’s rare for a single performance in a dub to elevate the whole thing for me but Chris Sabat’s Roy Revant stands as one of my favorite roles for him, and for a long time it was my favorite before his Vegeta got better. While Chris Sabat has a pretty remarkable voice range, he tends to lean towards sounding on the gruff side for a lot of his work, and I ran into quite a few situations where I felt it didn’t always work (His Zoro in OP having been my go-to example, although I’ve warmed up to it with time). This however, has always been my go-to exception, as having him play a grumpy middle aged dad not only allowed for his usual sound to actually fit, but also allowed for a chance for him to demonstrate a bit more of his emotional range compared to most of his other work, and it still stands as one of his stronger performances

Though while I’ve gone on and on about Chris Sabat in this show, the rest of the cast works well too as it was the show that first introduced me to Carrie Savage (Fairy Tail’s Lisanna K: The Animation‘s Kukuri, ) in her role as Solty and I’ve enjoyed her work ever since while other Funimation regulars like Colleen Clinkenbeard and Luci Christian (My Hero Academia’s Ochako, Corpse Princess’s Makina) all pop here, bringing their usual brand of solid performances. The show itself on the other hand isn’t anything particularly special but it still holds up fairly well compared to the other GONZO shows of its day, and my somewhat strange appreciation for this dub has kept me coming back to revisit it every now and then. I feel sort of awkward having this dub so high up on my list, and especially when it’s mainly based around my feelings about one performance from it, but it’s still a pretty good one, and if nothing else it’s a nice example of why Chris Sabat is one of the best at what he does.

 

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ADR Director/Script: Patrick Seitz (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Blazblue Alter Memory)

Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Aniplex of America)

Synopsis: Kousei Arima was a genius pianist until his mother’s sudden death took away his ability to play. Each day was dull for Kousei. But, then he meets a violinist named Kaori Miyazono who has an eccentric playing style. His monotonus life was about to change forever.

Thoughts: It feels a weird to include a dub from this year on the list (especially when it hasn’t been a particularly great one for dubs in general until recently) but I was so blown away by it that I felt I had to include it here somewhere. While Patrick Seitz is well regarded for his work as a voice actor and a script writer, he’s not often used as a voice director and it’s a shame too because his track record is consistent enough that he could really stand to be used more in that area. This dub in particular marked his first major anime directing gig in a while (well I guess Blazblue technically counts, but did anyone really watch that show?) but he certainly hasn’t lost his touch as the dub’s direction is downright fantastic, and his doubling as the script writer really helps to emphasize how much work went into this one and it really shows.

This dub served as Max Mittleman’s (Aldnoah Zero’s Inaho, A Lull in the Sea’s Hikari) third leading role in an anime, and while he’ll likely be better remembered this year for landing the role of Saitama in One-Punch-Man, his performance here as Kousei is just as strong if not more so, and he does a wonderful job of portraying the character’s inner turmoil and depression.  Playing opposite him is Erica Lindbeck (Coppelion’s Ibara, Aldnoah Zero’s Yuki) as Kaori, who despite my initial reservations about the casting choice, delivers an equally powerful performance and they’re joined by a strong supporting cast including Erica Mendez (Sailor Moon’s Haruka/Sailor Uranus, Kill la Kill’s Ryuko), Erik Kimerer (Accel World’s Haruyuki, One-Punch Man’s Speed O’ Sound Sonic), Erika Harlacher (Hunter x Hunter’s Kurapika, The Seven Deadly Sins’s Elizabeth) and Wendee Lee (Bleach’s Yoruichi, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’s Lisa Lisa), with all of them delivering on some stellar work. Patrick Seitz may not direct anime as often as I’d like, but this one’s a great example of what he’s capable of and it easily stands as not only the best dub of the year, but one of my personal favorites.

 

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ADR Director: Jason Grundy (Chaos; Head, Medaka Box Abnormal)

ADR Script: Andrew Rye (Eden of the East, Desert Punk)

Recorded at: Funimation Studios

Synopsis: In a dark future, the world is in ruin and everything is slowly crumbling away into dust. Humanity is almost extinct, while robots desperately seek out new parts to replace their rusting bodies. Their only hope for survival is to devour the one known as Casshern… or so they believe. Meanwhile, Casshern himself has lost all memory of his past. Why are these robots attacking him? Did he really kill the one known as Luna; the Sun that was called Moon? And why is he, alone, unaffected and undamaged by the ruin?

Thoughts: Casshern Sins is a show that’s practically overflowing with melodrama, and it can be difficult to balance that sort of thing without getting to the point where it can’t be taken seriously. The series itself managed to avoid crossing that line, and cemented itself as one of my favorites in the process, so needless to say I was pretty pleased to see that the dub did an equally effective job of knowing where to toe the line, and the results were pretty great. Eric Vale (Desert Punk’s Ganta, D. Gray Man’s Krory) is general best known for his hammier performances so seeing him play a character like Casshern was a welcome surprise to me when I first saw the dub, and I was equally amazed at how much vunerability he brought to the character and while it’s a striking contrast to the more intentionally robotic performance that Tohru Furuya in the Japanese track, it works just as well and holds up as one my favorite performances from him.

This dub was also the first I’d heard of Brina Palencia (Durarara’s Valona, Fairy Tail’s Juvia) who played Lyuze, and she’s since become one of my favorite actors as Lyuze in particular is the one character who’s angst can get overwhelming if done wrong, and her delivery here does a great job of portraying the constant anger without being too over the top. The other cast members do well too from Monica Rial’s (Penguindrum’s Himari, Yurikuma Arashi’s Ginko) sugar sweet Ringo to Trina Nishimura (Attack on Titan’s Mikasa, Gai-Rei-Zero’s Kiri) dishing out a chilling performance as Luna with the one sore spot for me being that J. Paul Slavens (One Piece’s Wyper, Basilisk’s Jingoro) didn’t carry anywhere near the amount of presence that Kenji Utsumi did for Braiking Boss (may he rest in peace). It’s a great dub for a beautiful show and while it could have very easily gone wrong, I’m certainly glad that it managed to come out so strong.

 

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ADR Director: Eric P. Sherman (Argento Soma, Gungrave)

ADR Script: Kristi Reed (Accel World, Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne)

Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Geneon USA)

 

Synopsis: Samurai Champloo is all about style, from the dj-style scratching scene changes to the hip-hop-inspired soundtrack to the eclectic character design. Mugen’s fighting style is a funky meld of capoeira and limb-cutting, and Jin is the dramatic foil; he is all steel and old-school samurai style. What binds them together is the desire to test each other’s abilities, and a promise to a girl named Fuu: to find the samurai that smells of sunflowers, who plays a pivotal role in her past. Together they travel through edo-era Japan, finding battle and comedy wherever they stop.

Thoughts: Shinichiro Watanabe’s unique style of anime has always done pretty well at capturing an aesthetic that appeals to western audiences, and even a series about medieval samurai is no exception. Given that, it’s no surprise that his stuff also lend themselves pretty well towards English dubs, and Champloo’s is a great one. The core trio composed of Steve Blum (Naruto’s Orochimaru, Durarara’s Kadota) as Mugen, Kirk Thornton (Rurouni Kenshin’s Saito, Blue Exorcist’s Father Fujimoto) as Jin and Kari Wahlgren (Durarara’s Celty, Fate/Zero’s Saber) as Fuu, all have great chemistry, and play off each other really well while also really helping to highlight each character’s personality with Steve Blum’s Mugen being the standout, even if it’s not quite as well regarded as his spike. As the series is pretty episodic in nature, the focus Is primarily on these three, but the other members of the cast as just as fun, and includes voice acting veterans such as Dave Wittenburg (Naruto’s Kakashi, Digimon Tamers’s Henry), Micheal McConnieh (Hunter x Hunter’s Narrator, MAR’s Babbo), Lex Lang (Aldnoah Zero’s Cruhteo, Blue Dragon’s Blue Dragon), all of whom do well at bringing the weird and wacky world of Samurai Champloo to life. Honestly I don’t have a whole ton to say about this one, but it’s been held up as one of the classics for good reason, and much like with the show itself, it’s hard not to have a good time watching the dub.

 

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ADR Director: Mike McFarland (Attack on Titan, Blood Blockade Battlefront)

ADR Script: Aaron Dismuke (Nanbaka, Fairy Tail), Josh Grelle (Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans, Bodacious Space Pirates), Monica Rial (Ben-To, Gatchaman)

Recorded at: Funimation Studios

Synopsis: In modern day Tokyo, society lives in fear of Ghouls: mysterious creatures who look exactly like humans — yet hunger insatiably for their flesh. None of this matters to Ken Kaneki, a bookish and ordinary young man, until a dark and violent encounter turns him into the first ever Ghoul-human half breed. Trapped between two worlds, Ken must survive the violent conflicts of warring Ghoul factions, while attempting to learn more about Ghoul society, his newfound powers, and the fine line between man and monster.

Thoughts: When simuldubs (formerly known as broadcast dubs) were first announced my feelings were a bit mixed. On the one hand the idea of getting dubs out a faster rate sounded appealing and if done right had the potential to be a game changer, but on the other hand I feared that it would lead to lower quality productions as a result. However there was one simuldub that managed to toss aside those fears, and that would be the one for Tokyo Ghoul. Mike McFarland’s track record as an ADR Director pretty much speaks for itself at this point so when I heard he was directing it I figured it’d be good but I was still blown away at just how much he was able to get out of it on an initially limited schedule. While I was about as mixed on Austin Tindle (My Love Story’s Suna, Assassination Classroom’s Karma) as I was about the idea of simuldubs in general up to that point, his portrayal of Kaneki has since turned me into a huge fan of his work, as he manages to real sell the contrast between Kaneki’s human side and his inner ghoul, and sometimes to a very chilling effect as the character goes down a path of self-destruction.

He’s joined by a cast of Funimation veterans such as Monica Rial, J. Michael Tatum (Black Butler’s Sebastian, Attack on Titan’s Erwin) and even Mike McFarland himself, as well as a few lesser known names such as Kenny Green (One Piece’s Jango, Desert Punk’s Rain Spider)for Mado, all of whom bring their A-game for this dub. The scripting here works well too, and while it does get a little overly-liberal in some instances, it never veers too far off track (especially in comparison to how some other Funi dubs have gone) and captures the spirit of the series pretty well. It’s such a solid dub that’s almost hard to believe that half of it was done on a tight schedule, but it just goes to show how good of a director Mike McFarland is, and while most of the other Funi simuldubs haven’t quite reached this level of quality, it’s still nice to know that even under those circumstances, it’s totally achievable.


<- #25-21                                                                                                                                                                     #15-11 ->

The Sounds of Dubbing- 25 Days of Dubs (#25-21)

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In honor of the holiday season I’m counting down a list of my 25 favorite dubs of all time between December 1st and Christmas. I’ll be adding a new entry each day so be sure to check back for my thoughts on each dub as we make our way through December.  To keep things simple my criteria for these is that they have to be from a TV anime or OVA since including movies would make things a bit convoluted, and it’s being kept strictly to things I’ve actually seen so certain “classics” like Haruhi or the Berserk 1999 dub aren’t gonna make the cut since I have yet to actually get around to them. With all that said, enjoy ^_^

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet 


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ADR Director(s): Jeff Nimoy (Zatch Bell, Digimon Data Squad), Kirk Thornton (Bleach, Blood Lad), Liam O’ Brien (Gun x Sword, Koi Kaze), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Wolf’s Rain, Digimon Tamers)

ADR Script: Ardwright Chamberlain (Glitter Force, Digimon Adventure-tri), Liam O’ Brien, Jeff Nimoy, Steve Blum, Sam Riegal (Megaman Star Force, Tweeny Witches)

Recorded at: Studiopolis (Viz Media)

Synopsis: Naruto Uzumaki is a young ninja who bears a great power hidden inside him, a power that has isolated him from the rest of his village. As such, his only dream is to become the Hokage – the most powerful ninja, and leader of the village; but first he needs to graduate! With his inability to perform even the most basic ninja techniques, it seems that all Naruto has going for him is his determination to succeed no matter what. Teamed up with the genius Sasuke, book-smart Sakura, and their team leader Kakashi, Naruto embarks on his quest to become the Hokage. But with outside forces posing a threat to the entire Hidden Leaf village, Naruto discovers that he must become much stronger if he ever wants to realize his dream and protect the friendships he’s forged.

Thoughts: Naruto was a big gateway drug into anime for a lot of people in it’s heyday and despite how much opinions on it have soured in recent years, it’s significance in that area is hard to deny. It’s dub on the other hand was taken far less seriously and practically to the point where it became something of a meme in and of itself.  Everything from the silly “Believe It!” catchphrase to Yuri Lowenthal’s (Durarara‘s Shinra, Gurren Lagann‘s Simon)over the top portrayal of Sasuke’s angst was mocked by the show’s fandom with the stilted direction of the early episodes only serving to add fuel to the fire. As a kid, I was pretty much the only one among my group of friends who stood in staunch defense of it, and while there’s admittedly no denying that it’s early parts are rough, ever since Mary Elizabeth McGlynn took over directing duties for it, the dub’s transformed into a really rock-solid effort.

These days Maile Flanagan’s Naruto is more or less on par with Junko Takeuchi’s while performances that were already good like Dave Wittenberg’s (Digimon Tamers‘s Henry, Blood +‘s Solomon) Kakashi or Tom Gibis’s (Shinzo‘s Mushra, Honey and Clover‘s Takumi) Shikamaru have only gotten better with time. Although more than anything, while the dub’s had it’s ups and downs regarding Naruto and his friends, it’s always been excellent when it came to the villains. Roles such as Liam O’ Brien’s Garra or Steve Blum’s sinister Orochimaru proved to be every bit a match for their Japanese counterparts, and in several instances outright surpassed them when it came to which ones I preferred with almost all of those performances leaving enough of a lasting impact that I can still perfectly recall how much they creeped me out as a kid, years later. It’s a shame that the dub’s relevance has mostly faded into obscurity nowadays (though I imagine Shippuden’s drastic drop in quality might have helped play a part in that) and while may never quite get the amount of appreciation it deserves from it’s fandom, it’s one that still holds a special place in my heart.

 

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ADR Director(s): Kevin McMullan (Coppelion), Patrick Seitz (Blazblue: Alter Memory, Girls Bravo)

ADR Script: Patrick Seitz, Tony Oliver (Fate/Zero, Gurren Lagann), Micheal McConnohie (Digimon Adventure, The Seven Deadly Sins)

Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Warner Bros Entertainment)

Synopsis: When Jonathan Joestar was just a baby, his mother tragically died in a carriage accident, and his father George was saved by the kindness of a stranger, Dario Brando. At least, that’s what George believed, unbeknownst to him that Dario was just attempting to steal from the victims. Thus, when Dario later dies and his son, Dio, comes to his doorstep, the wealthy George eagerly adopts the boy. But what should have become a budding friendship between two siblings quickly becomes a nightmare for poor Jonathan, as Dio is cruel, calculating and will go to great lengths to become George’s primary heir. Little does Jonathan know that this unfortunate childhood is only the harbinger of things to come…

Thoughts: The start of Jojo’s journey to western shores was plagued with troubles as after initially failing to market the show to any would be US licencors, Warner Bros took it upon themselves to put out the show on DVD here and the results were…less than stellar. Fortunately the show has since fallen into more competent hands, and while it’s still easy to look back on that first release with horror, they at least managed to get one thing right: the dub. Dubbing Jojo’s was always going to be something of a thankless task as it’s fandom has constantly been of two minds as to what exactly makes the series work. On the one hand, there’s those who enjoy it’s high levels of testosterone and action, while on the other there’s those who enjoy how self aware it is about those things  and how much it intentionally plays up the goofier aspects of those areas. The dub opted to lean towards emphasizing the latter and pretty much runs with it. It’s got everything from silly British accents to ultra-hammy acting all across the board, and while that would pretty much be a death knell for just about any other series, for Jojo’s it’s pretty much exactly what the dub needed.

While I wasn’t too sure about the casting choice back when it was first made for the test dub to Stardust Crusaders, Patrick Seitz (Blazblue‘s Ragna, K: The Animation‘s Munakata) made for a fantastic Dio and plays up every bit of his cartoon villainy to perfection, while Ben Diskin (Naruto‘s Sai, The Seven Deadly Sins‘s Ban) proved to be just equally as fun playing Joseph Joestar, and rather than detracting from their performances, the silly accents helped add to the charm, and especially so when it came to casting choice of Bryce Papenbrook(Attack on Titan‘s Eren, Blue Exorcist‘s Rin) as Caesar since that role wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without it. The dub script works wonders too, as it does just as well a job of playing up the show’s inherent silliness as the performances, and while it does have to work around some of the show’s most meme-tastic dialogue in order to flow better in English, it more than compensates by keeping things as breezy and fun as possible. Of course it goes without saying that such a silly dub has earned it’s share of detractors, and there’s some who wish it had gone the more serious route, but I feel like the staff here ultimately made the right call, and while it may not be the dub that some Jojo’s fans wanted it is the one we definitely needed.

 

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ADR Director/Script: Alex von David (Erased, Blue Exorcist)

Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Aniplex of America)

Synopsis: Ryuuko Matoi is a fiery, feisty girl on a vengeful mission: she’ll find her father’s murderer at all costs, with only a giant red scissor blade as a clue to the villain’s whereabouts. Using the item as a weapon, she fights her way into the terrifying Honnouji Academy to track down a lead, unaware that the institute is brutally governed by a student council that’s anything but ordinary. Wielding special “Goku uniforms”, the group, led by president Satsuki, uses superpowers to keep the student body in check – but things are about to change now that Ryuuko’s in town!

Thoughts: Whatever else might be said about Hiroyuki Imashi, it’s hard to deny that his works are pretty high energy, and the dubs of his projects have had quite a time of it trying to match said intensity. For the most part those have turned out pretty well and the dubs to both Gurren Lagann and Panty and Stocking were pretty well recieved but out of all of them, the one that really takes the prize goes to the dub for Kill la Kill. While I liked the dub to Gurren Lagann a lot and it was a pretty solid effort overall, it was slightly held back by a couple of casting choices and some minor issues in direction. As its spiritual successor however, Kill la Kill has pretty much none of those problems. Ryuko marked the second lead role for the up and coming Erica Mendez (Sailor Moon‘s Haruka/Sailor Uranus, Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic‘s Aladdin) and ultimately served as the one that propelled her to stardom as her performance for the character proved to be downright fantastic, and every bit as over the top as Ami Koshimizu’s.

The rest of the cast works wonders too, with everything from Christine Marie Cabanos’s (Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s Madoka, Blue Exorcist‘s Shiemi) hyperactive Mako to Ben Diskin practically stealing the show with his pimp daddy take on Takaroda, all serving to make for a cast that’s every bit as fun as the original with the only real deduction being that Laura Post’s (Squid Girl‘s Cindy, Sailor Moon‘s Tellu) Ragyo isn’t quite as good as Romi Park’s (but matching Romi Park is a nigh-impossible task to begin with so that’s not anything I can really hold against it). Putting it all together however, was Alex von David’s spectacular work on both the direction and the dub script as he played up the show’s pure ham to perfection, and managed to deliver on the rather lofty expectations the dub was facing. It’s hard not to have a good time with an Imashi show, and out of all his works that have been dubbed, this is definitely the one that’s cut from the best cloth.

 

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ADR Director: Suzanne Goldfish (K: The Animation, Tiger and Bunny: The Rising)

ADR Script: Mark Ryan (Shaman King, Digimon Adventure), Seth Walther (Digimon Frontier, Naruto: The Last), Michael Sorich (Digimon Adventure 02, Shinzo)

Recorded at: Studiopolis (Viz Media)

Synopsis: Life can be tough when you’re a teenager. Enter Tsukino Usagi, an average, if somewhat clumsy, junior high student whose voracious appetite for sweets and capacity for tears are offset by her enthusiasm for life. Her normal existence is suddenly turned upside down when a talking cat named Luna comes into her life. Suddenly, Usagi finds herself with the ability to transform into the superhero known as Sailor Moon. Fighting the occasional monster may be the least of her worries, though…

Thoughts: With the exception of Dragonball Z, few anime have left as big an impact in the west as Sailor Moon. Unlike Dragonball Z though, the reception of it’s dub was far less stellar, and while it still has it’s fans as much as anything else from that time period, the hope that it would one day be done right was one that fans held onto for over a decade. Needless to say that left some rather lofty expectations for Viz to live up to when they rescued the show back in 2014, and while there’s been a fair share of issues with that revival (mainly when it comes to the video quality) the dub is definitely the one area where they succeeded. Stephanie Sheh’s (Naruto’s Hinata, Eureka Seven’s Eureka)  Usagi is easily the best the character has ever sounded in English and nails her to perfection while Robbie Daymond (Tales of Zestria’s Sorey, The Seven Deadly Sins’s Gilthunder) proved to be every bit as impressive in his debut anime role as Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask and has since gone on to do some impressive work.

The rest of the core cast doesn’t slouch around either as the other Sailor Guardians are comprised of a balanced cast between established veterans like Kate Higgins (Naruto’s Sakura, Fate/Stay Night’s Saber) as Ami/Sailor Mercury and Cherami Leigh (Fairy Tail’s Lucy, D. Gray-Man’s Road) as Minako/Sailor Venus as well as fresher faces like Amanda Miller as Makoto/Sailor Jupiter (Accel World’s Nomi, Squid Girl’s Takeru) and Erica Mendez as Haruka/Sailor Venus, all helping to do justice to these beloved characters. The villains are equally well cast, bringing in talent such as Cindy Robinson (Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit’s Balsa, Tweeny Witches’s Sheila) for Queen Beryl and Steve Staley (Buso Renkin’s Kazuki, Bleach’s Hitsugaya) as Rubeus to make for a rock-solid dub, full of fun performances. A lot of credit also has to be given to the direction and scripting here too, as both not only deliver on capturing the heavier aspects of the material but also do a wonderful job of giving the dub an appropriately retro feel that really matches the time period of the series without making it sound too dated. All in all it’s a fantastic effort, and one that really helps to demonstrate just what’s allowed Sailor Moon to endure as such an iconic anime franchise.

 

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ADR Director(s): Mike McFarland (Attack on Titan, Blood Blockade Battlefront), Joel McDonald (Assassination Classroom, Space Dandy)

ADR Script: Mike McFarland, Clint Bickham (Barakmon, From The New World), Bonny Clinkenbeard (Death Parade, Black Butler), Brandon Potter (Absolute Duo. Riddle Story of Devil)

Recorded at: Funimation Studios

Synopsis: Long ago the infamous Gol D. Roger was the strongest and most powerful pirate on the seas. As he was about to be executed he revealed that he hid all of his wealth, including the legendary treasure known as One Piece, on an island at the end of the Grand Line – a treacherous and truly unpredictable sea. Monkey D. Luffy is a spirited, energetic and somewhat dim-witted young man with a very big dream: to find One Piece and become the Pirate King! However Luffy is no ordinary boy, as when he was younger he ate one of the Devil’s Fruits and gained its power to become a Rubber Man. Now in this grand age of pirates Luffy sets out to gather a crew and sail to the most dangerous sea in the world so that he can fulfill his dream… and maybe even his appetite!

Thoughts: It goes without saying that One Piece got off to a really rough start in the west (and doubly so if you were lured here by my tweeting the infamous rap song) and when the show was finally allowed the grace of shifting hands from the much reviled 4Kids to Funimation, they had a lot of work to do in helping to give the series a second chance. Fortunately they proved to be up to the task, and while the Funimation cast may have primarily started out mostly as improved versions of the 4Kids one (well minus Eric Vale’s Sanji since that was mercifully about as far south of David Moo’s as possible) they’ve since gone on to turn the dub into a real grade-A effort. The Straw Hat performances are all great with Colleen Clinkenbeard’s (Fairy Tail’s Erza, Kiddy Grade’s Éclair) Luffy serving as the glue that holds it all together and while I was admittedly more partial to Marc Diarson’s Zoro than I am Chris Sabat’s (My Hero Academia’s All Might, Fairy Tail’s Elfman) it’s still hard to deny it’s solid.

They’re all joined by a cast that’s as almost as vast as the world of One Piece itself as the show has brought in voice actors from various talent pools from Patrick Seitz as Franky, to even bringing in Canadian actor Scott McNeil (Inuyasha’s Koga, Gundam 00’s Ali-Al Saachez) for one of the films, allowing for a wide variety of performances that are all held together by Mike McFarland and later Joel McDonald’s stellar direction for the series. Truth be told, I haven’t seen a whole ton of this dub (mostly because I can’t bring myself to slug through the anime’s pacing when reading the manga’s easier) but what I have seen is more than enough to convince me that this dub’s a real standout, and while Funimation may never truly be able to erase the sins of the past wrought by 4Kids, they’re at least doing a bang-up job of helping to propel One Piece into the future.


<–Honorable Mentions

 

The Sounds of Dubbing- 25 Days Of Dubs Eve

The holiday season has crept up upon us, and people everywhere are already counting down the days to Christmas. In honor of the season, and more importantly getting around to things I keep meaning to, I’ve decided to do something a little special. Keeping in the spirit of the whole “25 Days of Christmas” thing I’ve decided to make a list counting down my 25 favorite dubs of all time between December 1st and Christmas, with a new entry being added every day. To keep things simple my criteria for these is that they have to be from a TV anime or OVA since including movies would make things a bit convoluted, and it’s being kept strictly to things I’ve actually seen so certain “classics” like Haruhi or the Berserk 1999 dub aren’t gonna make the cut since I have yet to actually get around to them. With all that said, before diving into the actual list, I’d like to take a bit of time to throw in a few honorable mentions that either didn’t quite make it, or I can’t count for obvious reasons.

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet


 

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ADR Director: Christopher Ayres (Chika: The Coffin Princess, Phi Brain season 2)

ADR Script: Clint Bickham (One Piece, Barakamon)

Recorded at: Seraphim Digital (Sentai Filmworks)

Synopsis: One thousand years from now, humanity live pastoral lives aided by psychokinetic powers and the subservient Monster Rats. Saki Watanabe has just come of age, and her power has been reined in through meditation and hypnosis. She joins the Unified Class, where she will learn about her power and the world around her; yet so much of the truth is kept hidden. Her friends Shun, Mamoru, Satoru, and Maria share in her curiosity, and decide to go out of their way to seek the truth. But will the secrets of the past and present turn out to be things that Saki really wants to know?

Thoughts: Sentai has come a long way with their dubs over the last few years, but it’s hard to forget that they had some pretty dark times back in the day. They were pumping out a high volume of dubs, and had only three ADR Directors to shuffle them through: Chris Ayres, Kyle Jones, and the infamous Steven Foster, with the level of quality generally ranging anywhere from passable to horrifying. A few solid ones managed to slip through the cracks though, and none as pristine to me as the dub for From the New World. Chris Ayres was in charge of this one, and his overall direction on the dub is pretty smooth, with Clint Bickham’s script for the dub doing a fantastic job of keeping things on point for such a wonderful sci-fi fantasy. The casting works really well here too as Emily Neves (Future Diary‘s Minene Uryu, Akame ga Kill‘s Chelsea) does a fantasic job as the heroine, Saki, and while Greg Ayres (Deadman Wonderland‘s Ganta, Negima‘s Negi)often gets flack for how distinguishable his voice is in proportion toWonderland his actual performance, he does good work here as Satoru, and the rest of the cast works just as nicely. The one somewhat weak link here would be that John Kaiser’s (Night Raid 1931‘s Shinichiro, Tamako Market‘s Nobuhiko) doesn’t quite sell the character’s final scene as well as he needs to, but the dub otherwise works well. Solid as it is though, it doesn’t pack quite enough of a punch to crack my top 25, but it’s still nice to know that as much as Sentai was getting wrong in those days, this one shows that they were still capable of getting one right.

 

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ADR Director: Anthony Salerno (Revolutionary Girl Utena, Slayers)

ADR Script: Mark Ryan (Zatch Bell, Sailor Moon)

Recorded at: Taj Studios (4Kids Entertainment)

Synopsis: The time has come for the next Shaman King to be crowned in the great Shaman Fight. Yoh Asakura is one such hopeful, a kind-hearted boy with a hidden power… and a terrible secret. Now, the fate of all mankinds rests in the hands of Yoh and his companions as they must battle the most powerful shaman who ever lived!

Thoughts: Despite having been dead and buried for roughly half a decade now, 4Kids name still lives on in infamy and justly so given the amount of hackjob dubs they produced over the years. However while Pokemon is the one that most are willing to cite as something of an exception when it comes to some semblance of quality, for me, I’d have to say the Shaman King dub was probably their best work. The dub’s very existence is something of an anomaly as despite 4Kids reputation for removing any notable instances of major violence, this one managed to get away with blood, guns, smoking and even one bizarre instance of swearing, and I’ve rewatched it quite a few times just to get a laugh out of radar dodging it managed to pull. As far as actual voice work and direction goes, it’s mostly par the course for what you’d expect from 4Kids, but a lot of it still holds up pretty decently. Sebastian Arcelus’s (Gokusen’s Yoichi, Seven of Seven’s Mutsumi) performances as Yoh and Hao/Zeke respectively are both pretty solid, and while it’s chock full of voice actors doing ridiculous accents and the like, it sometimes manages to work, with Sean Schemmel’s (Dragonball Z’s Goku, Giant Robo’s Tetsugyu) Ryu/Rio and Andrew Rannells’s (Pokemon’s Harley, Sonic X’s Decoe)Tao Ren/Len  in particular working in some surprisingly good delivery every now and then, despite the outrageous accents they were burdened with. For everything I’ve said though, there’s still no getting around that this is a hackjob dub and it’s ultimately just something of a guilty pleasure for me. Still it’s a guilty pleasure I’ll stand by, and while I’ll never actually be able to defend my weird attachment to this dub, I doubt it’ll be fading anytime soon.

 

 

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ADR Director(s): Kristi Reed (Accel World, Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne), Kirk Thornton (Bleach, Blood Lad), Patrick Seitz (Monster, Girls Bravo), Alex von David (Blue Exorcist, Erased)

ADR Script: Kristi Reed, Alex von David, Caitlin Glass (Love Live!, Yuki Yuna is a Hero)

Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Aniplex of America)

Synopsis: Looking for a change, Mikado moves from the countryside to bustling Ikebukuro to attend the same high school as his best friend, Masaomi. Though navigating a new school and friendships can prove tough by itself, Mikado also finds an overwhelming number of new delights and dangers in the district he now calls home. From a friendly Russian sushi bar to the violent color gangs, to even an urban legend in the form of a black motorcycle rider, each resident of Ikebukuro is unique and frightening. But the town is smaller than it seems at first, and these strange events appear to be connected. Will the growing storm sweep up the transplanted country boy and his friends or will Mikado find himself at the center of a dramatic change for Tokyo?

Thoughts: Well if I were being honest, there’s frankly a lot of dubs I’d rate over DRRR’s, but it’s such an insane little project that it’s hard not to give it some due. Over the course of the franchise’s 65 episode run, the show introduces an outrageous amount of characters, and almost all of them end up playing a major role in the story at some point. Given that, the dub eventually turned into something of a who’s who of California based-VAs and despite the orgy of characters the show has to offer, the majority of the performances work out pretty well. From Johnny Yong Bosch’s (Bleach‘s Ichigo, Sailor Moon‘s Artemis) slimy Izaya, to Kari Walhgren’s (FLCL‘s Haruko, Wolf Rain‘s Cher) perfectly-awkward Celty, there’s a lot of fun performances to go around, and even some of the rough ones like Darrel Guilbeau’s (Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic‘s Hakuryu, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan‘s Rikuo) Mikado and Bridget Hoffman’s (Digimon Tamers‘s Jeri, Fate/Zero‘s Irisviel) Namie manage to improve a bit with time. Perhaps most notably though is that the show went through not one, but four different ADR Directors over the course of it’s run and managed to any serious rough patches outside of the second season’s first few episodes. That’s something of an achievement for a show with a cast as large as this one, and while as a whole, it’s not strong enough to rank among my all time favorites, it’s still one that’s worth checking out.

 

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ADR Director(s): Wendee Lee (Bleach, A Lull in the Sea), Micheal Sorich (Shinzo, Bo-bo-bo-Bo-bobobo), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Wolf’s Rain, Blue Dragon), Jeff Nimoy (Zatch Bell, Naruto)

ADR Script: Jeff Nimoy, Steve Blum, (Naruto, Megaman NT Warrior), Ardwight Chamberlain (Tiger & Bunny, Glitter Force), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn

Recorded at: Studiopolis (Saban Brands, Toei Animation)

Thoughts: I could seriously be here all day if I were to go over my feelings on each Digimon dub individually, but the franchise is near and dear enough to my heart that I had to mention it somewhere so I’ll try to keep things to a general summary. Digimon was the big monster franchise of my childhood next to Pokemon, and unlike virtually every other kids show of it’s heyday it was blessed with the miraculous gift of the dub staff realizing that they were adapting something that was actually pretty good, and tried their best to keep as much of the show’s original tone as possible within the expected limitations of hackjob kids’ dubs at the time. The result turned out something that’s been looked back on fondly, and a lot of it holds up surprisingly well to the point where it has more vocal defenders then pretty much anything else from it’s time period despite the flaws. It helps that each iteration was blessed a cast comprising of some of the best voice actors in the industry with talent such as Steve Blum (Cowboy Bebop‘s Spike, Naruto’s Orochimaru), Crispin Freeman (Hellsing‘s Alucard, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor‘s Tylor), Quinton Flynn (Kingdom Hearts‘s Axel, Bleach’s Kon), Laura Bailey (Soul Eater‘s Maka, Fullmetal Alchemist‘s Lust)and Kari Walgren having all been involved with the franchise at some point (and Derek Stephen Prince has popped up in it so many times that I’m convinced he’s contractually obligated to be in every incarnation of the series). The voice direction is equally effective as Mary Elizabeth McGlynn lended her legendary talents to much of the franchise, and while not every incarnation succeeds in that department (looking at you Data Squad) it still stands heads and shoulders above the level of quality typically expected of dubs targeted towards kids. Of course at the end of the day, while the dubs have all been relatively faithful adaptions, they’re still edited down versions of their original counterparts and as such I can’t include them on my list, but in spite of that obvious problem, I’d still say the Digimon dubs have more than earned their fame.

 

 

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ADR Director/Script: Tony Oliver (Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, K-ON!)

Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Aniplex of America)

Synopsis: Ten years before Shirou Emiya’s and Saber’s fateful meeting, Japan is the stage for the fourth Holy Grail War. Seven Masters, each with his own dreams, step forward to win the boon of the mystic relic. Into this fray comes Kiritsugu Emiya, the enigmatic “Mage Killer” who wants to use the Grail to make a better world. Can he, paired with the indomitable Saber win the War? Or will he fall to the ambitions of the other mages?

Thoughts: So much like with the dub to Soul Eater, I’m that one weirdo who doesn’t like this dub as much as everyone else seems to, but unlike SE, the worst performance here wasn’t enough to kill the whole thing for me, and I can still acknowledge that it has a lot of merits. Like DRR above, this is an ensemble show, and thus lives and dies on the strengths of it’s various individual performances. Fortunately a lot of them prove to be up to the task with everything ranging from ultra hammy performances like Dan Woren’s (Bleach‘s Byakuya, Persona 4: The Animation‘s Igor) and Crispin Freeman’s Kirei to heartbreaking ones like Kari Walgren and Matt Mercer (K: The Animation‘s Kuroh, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet‘s Chamber) respective takes Saber and Kiritsugu, with Jamieson Price (Blazblue‘s Iron Tager, Gurren Lagann‘s Lordgenome) and Lucien Dodge (Accel World‘s Taku, Pokemon Origin‘s Blue) in particular, having great chemistry as Rider and Velvet. The one sore spot in the cast would be David Vincent (Gun x Sword‘s Vann, Bleach‘s Grimmjow) as Gilgamesh since he wasn’t really suited to the level of ham that role required but it’s not nearly enough to take away from how strong the rest of the cast is, and as a whole it’s a great ensemble. Unfortunately while the cast is great the voice direction, while very solid, feels a bit stiff at times and it’s enough to keep this dub out of the running for my top 25, but while I may be the outlier in not thinking it’s a masterpiece, it’s still pretty darn good


And that’s it for the honorable mentions. Come back tomorrow as I start counting the full list of my 25 favorite dubs. Until then, stay animated.

The Sounds of Dubbing III- One-Punch Man

And here comes another one of these. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make this a regular thing, but since it’s a little easier to do than regular reviews, it seems to be working out pretty well for me. I guess for now the goal is to try and pump out one of these every month but since I’d like to keep it centered around dubs whose runs have actually completed, I may have to do some backtracking to keep a steady schedule. We’ll have to see what happens with that, but for now, onto the review!


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: Saitama was once an average joe who was down on his luck after losing his job as a salaryman, but after saving a young boy and recalling his childhood dream of being a superhero, he decides to dedicate his life towards becoming a strong hero. Three years later, Saitama has become the strongest hero around and is capable of taking down all sorts of villains and monsters with single punch. However with great power comes great boredom, and Saitama’s inability to be challenged starts to suck all the fun out of the job. Now he finds himself largely unsatisfied, and if he can’t have fun being a hero, then what’s really the point?

Intro: So coming into 2016, this was easily my most anticipated dub of the year. One-Punch Man’s anime turned out to be a stellar adaption of the original manga thanks to the director Shingo Natsume managing to assemble a crack team of animators, turning the series into an overnight sensation. Needless to say this put some heavy expectations on the dub and having it slated for a run on Adult Swim’s late night Toonami block only added to the pressure. Now that it’s run has ended and the dub’s been displayed for all to see (well anyone with cable I guess), it’s time to see whether or not the dub lived up to the hype.

 

Voice Direction

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One of the most notable things about Viz Media when it comes to dubs is that they’re more or less the only remaining anime distributor in the U.S.(outside of Funimation on the rare occasion where role reprisal requires it) who ships their dubs around to multiple recording studios. In particular they tend to send their dubs to one of two places: Studiopolis, who is usually handed their monolithic properties like Naruto and Sailor Moon (also K…for some reason) and Bang Zoom! Entertainment who’s usually handed their lower priority shows like Blood Lad or Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne. Going by that trend, I assumed OPM would be going to the former, but to my surprise it ended up with Bang Zoom. BZ’s overall track record, while solid, isn’t quite as consistent as what Studiopolis puts out so I was slightly worried about the outcome, but the show was put into good hands with Chris Cason (Birdy: The Mighty Decode, The Seven Deadly Sins) who’s worked on Bang Zoom and Funimation dubs alike over the years. All that experience certainly shows as the dub’s direction maintains a consistent tone, hitting all of the comic timing for the jokes effectively, and ensuring that none of the performances sound particularly stilted (well maybe one, but we’ll get to that later). Given that the show’s primarily a comedy, there’s nothing too mind-blowing here, but nothing feels off about it either and it all comes together pretty well. That said, there are a couple of areas where I feel like Chris Cason could have pushed the actors harder, and while it’s solid overall, it feels just a few steps shy of being outstanding which is what I was kind of hoping for here.

 

Scripting

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Ever since last year, there’s been a notable trend with BZ dubs borrowing script writers better known for their work at Funimation, so when another one of them popped up here I wasn’t too surprised. What did shock me though, was that the script writer was Mike McFarland (Hyperdimension Neptunia, Hellsing Ultimate) who’s better known for his directing credits than his scriptwriting. Thankfully he doesn’t seem to be lacking in the latter department, as the scripting here is solid and manages to feel just loose enough not to sound stiff, while also sticking closely to the source material. Since this was a pretty high-profile series, I’m glad that the script mostly errs on the side of caution (especially since the same can’t be said for a certain other blockbuster anime hit *cough*AOT*cough*) but at the same time it also feels a little too cautious, and might have benefited from punching up the dialogue here and there given that the show is mainly a comedy. Still. between the problem of a script that’s too loose and one that’s too faithful, I’d definitely rather deal with the latter so as far as that goes, I’m more than happy to give it a pass.

 

Casting and Performances

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Casting is always something of a give and take scenario when it comes to BZ since while they rarely miscast actors, their preferred style of imitating the original Japanese performances as much as possible tends to make some of their casting choices a forgone conclusion, and by extension less interesting. Fortunately this was one of their better efforts in that respect as we ended up with a good mix of solid choices and genuine surprises. When I first saw that Max Mittleman (Your Lie in April’s Kousei, The Seven Deadly Sins’s King) was cast as Saitama I have to admit I was a little skeptical. One of the most appealing things about the character is how unconventional he looks and sounds as a protagonist, so casting a guy who was already well on his way to becoming one of the next big names in California dubs seemed a bit strange. However he proved to be more than up to the task as he nailed all of Saitama’s dry humor perfectly, and his delivery of the character’s constant boredom stayed consistent the whole way through, while also allowing him to show off some of the deeper parts of his vocal register between jokes. Some other standouts include Robbie Daymond (Sailor Moon’s Tuxedo Mask, Tales of Zestria the X’s Sorey) as Mumen Rider, who captured the humble nature of the character to a tee, and Chris Jai Alex as  (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’s Esidisi) Boros, whose naturally powerful baritone really helped to give the villain the level of presence needed for his big confrontation with Saitama.

I also have to give some props to some of the dub’s gag casting as it pays homage to the similarities between the baddies Saitama faces and characters from other series, helping to give the dub a little extra flavor. This results in some hilarious moments like Saitama slaying a Titan look-alike voiced by Bryce Papenbrook of Attack on Titan fame or a bi-pedal lion-man voiced by George C. Cole suffering the same cruel fate as every Leomon from the Digimon franchise. There’s a few casting choices like this sprinkled throughout the dub and it really goes a long way in making it stand out.

Sadly though, the dub cast isn’t without a few hiccups. Zach Aguilar (Aldnoah Zero’s Slane, The Seven Deadly Sins’s King Arthur) sounds a bit stiff as Genos, and the voice itself feels sort of forced at times. While it’s possible this was done intentionally in an attempt to make him sound more robotic given that the character himself is a cyborg, it still sounds a little off compared to Kaito Ishikawa’s performance and doesn’t quite match up. Similarly Erik Kimerer’s (Accel World’s Haruyuki, Toradora’s Ryuji) Speed O’ Sound Sonic doesn’t go quite as deep as Yuki Kaiji’s and performance and while he’s certainly capable of pulling off a lower vocal register, for whatever reason he doesn’t here, and the performance loses some of it’s intensity as a result. The weakest link though, would be newcomer (well anime-wise anyway) Ben Lepsky, whose Amai Mask, while perfectly functional, doesn’t carry much in the way of presence, and especially compared to Mamoru Miyano’s natural ham (even if this show featured a more subdued version of it). None of these performances are weak enough to seriously drag down the quality of the dub (and in Erik Kimerer’s defense his performance improves the most out of the three) but given how high the expectations for this were, having even a couple of slightly underwhelming performances in the main cast is a little disappointing.

Final Thoughts: So did the OPM dub manage to live up to expectations? Well the overall reception seems to be positive, but for me I’d have to say not quite. It certainly isn’t a bad dub by any means and it could still end up ranking among my top 5 for this year (though as of this writing I have yet to see the dubs for Erased or Escaflowne, and the new crop of simuldubs seem pretty promising) but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly curious how things would have fared had the dub gone to Studiopolis instead. There’s a lot of strengths to this dub and I certainly can’t accuse the staff of not going the extra mile with some of the casting choices, but while it’s pretty great as a whole, it’s one punch shy of perfection.

Rating: Good

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.

The Sounds of Dubbing- Garo: The Animation

And looks like it’s time for yet another new segment. This one’s…about dubs.  It probably seems a bit redundant As anyone who follows my Twitter feed probably knows by this point that I sometimes contribute to a dub-related podcast called Dub Talk with some of my online pals, but it’s something I’ve been considering for a while now, and every now and then I’d like to talk about this stuff while it’s still fresh in my head. Of course I still plan on contributing to Dub Talk provided my shenanigans here don’t somehow get me exiled so I’m not sure how frequent a thing this’ll be but I guess we’ll have to see how that goes. This first posting will be a bit long, but if I end up doing more of these I’m planning on keeping them relatively short. Anyway, let’s get started

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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: Since ancient times, monsters called Horrors have plagued the land corrupting and devouring humans. Only the Makai Knights and Alchemists of the Makai Order have been able to keep them at bay, but over time the people of the order were branded as witches and hunted down by the rest of humankind. 17 years after the witch hunts ended, a young man named Leon stands as one of the last remaining Makai Knights and the inheritor of the legendary Makai Armor, GARO, but despite his duty to stand as humanity’s protector, his desire to avenge his mother’s death during the hunts burns even stronger.

Intro: So coming into 2016, GARO was one of the dubs I was looking forward to the most. The show itself ended up being a welcome surprise for me during it’s initial run as it managed to hit all my personal aesthetics for a good action show and in a lot of ways felt very reminiscent of the 2003 version of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime in terms of character writing and tone. With that much going for it, it pretty much goes without saying that I had some really high expectations for the dub, but now it’s time to see just how well it met them. I’ll be talking about the dub in three categories: firstly the voice direction, then the dub script, and lastly the casting and performances.

 

Voice Direction

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With the amount of dubbing projects Funimation juggles at any one time, it’s hard to say who’ll end up directing what, so I was hoping this one would end up in the hands of one of their stronger ADR Directors. Thankfully that expectation was met when it was revealed to be in the hands of Caitlin Glass (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Ouran High School Host Club, Noragami Aragoto) who has established a pretty solid track record. Going off of the dub commentaries on the release, and some of her own postings on Twitter, it seemed like she was pretty passionate about this series, and it certainly shows as the direction here is really solid. Everything manages to hit right tone, and none of the performances feel like they’re being restrained as it’s clear she went the extra mile to make the delivery work. I will say though that the dub’s frequent use of Spanish, while a nice way to make use of the show’s setting, feels a bit awkward in a few instances considering that none of the actors (save Monica Rial) use accents. I’d have personally preferred those bits having either been left out entirely or  being paired with accents all across the board if the dub was really committed to making the most of its setting, but this is more of a nitpick than anything, and the direction here is otherwise strong.

 

Scripting

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Speaking of a commitment to the setting, in an effort to stay faithful to the show’s medieval setting, the dub staff opted to go for an “ye olde Shakespeare English” style of dialogue, and to that end got two particular scriptwriters (and a third who also contributed, but not to as large an extent) who are known for doing that sort of thing. The first is Patrick Seitz (Maria: The Virgin Witch, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure) who was credited as the show’s lead script writer and wrote much of dub’s first half. His work on Maria: The Virgin Witch was pretty impressive as it added a lot of subtlety and clever wording to a series whose primary conflict is partially based around sexuality and that carries over pretty well here. His style of prose adds to a lot the show’s humor (with one line from the first episode being particularly memorable) while also knowing where to keep things grounded and keeping things faithful to the source material while staying consistent with the medieval style dialogue.

The other script writer however is none other than J. Micheal Tatum (Free: Eternal Summer, Future Diary) whose track record is…frankly pretty bad. Anyone whose seeing my ravings on Twitter probably knows it by this point, but while I’m fan of his work as an actor, I’m most definitely not a fan of his scriptwriting, and most of his work in the latter department has left me feeling frustrated more often than not as he has one or two styles of dialogue that he sticks to for every show he does, and a penchant for being loose with his script translations even when he doesn’t need to. He penned the entire second half of GARO’s dub, and the difference is pretty noticeable. Much of the subtlety in the dialogue is lost, occasionally coming off as snarkier, which for a series that was more or less thriving on how well it executed normally standard fantasy action tropes, definitely hurts. Fortunately this is one of his better scripts as there aren’t any big instances of this going so far as to make the dub feel like an entirely different show from the Japanese version, but there are a couple of key moments where his script changes alter the context of what’s happening a bit. For instance in German’s final scene:

JP Version: Be careful, my son is up there. Leon Luis. The one who inherited the blood destined to seal away Horrors, the Golden Knight, Garo. And I am also one who seals away you bastard Horrors, German Luis. Also known as Makai Knight Zorro.

English Version: I’d be careful if I were you, just so happens my son is up there. Leon Luis. You may have heard of him. It is in his blood to protect this world from those such as you, legend calls him the Golden Knight, Garo. I know his strength. God do I know it. For he is my son and no father has ever been prouder. You may call me German Luis, Makai Knight. Also known by the name, Zorro.

The dub version only throws in one extra line, but it’s enough to alter the subtext of the speech as in the Japanese version, it’s meant to symbolize German acknowledging Leon as a true Makai Knight, where as the dub has him come off more as a proud parent, which isn’t entirely inaccurate but slightly misses the point while also just coming off as a cheesier line in general and one that isn’t terribly consistent with German’s hands-off behavior as a father.  All that said, the script’s just faithful enough that I can give it a general pass, and there’s a few good lines in the second half, but with as high as my original expectations were, this soured me on the dub a bit.

 

Casting and Performances

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For all my eagerness to see the dub, I had a hard time guessing who would voice the protagonist Leon, but Ricco Fajardo (The Heroic Legend of Arslan‘s Daryun, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash‘s Haruhiro) proved to be an excellent choice for the character, being a perfect ball of raw teen angst during his initial character arc, while not overplaying enough to make him unlikable. Having the up and coming Justin Briner (Seraph of the End’s Mikael, My Hero Academia‘s Izuku) for Alfonso was also a pretty nice choice, and casting Monica Rial (Dragonball Z Kai’s Bulma, Casshern Sins‘s Ringo) as Ema was a pleasant surprise since it’s rare to see her in roles where she gets to play mature sounding women and it was a good match for Romi Park’s performance in the Japanese version, since her voice has always been difficult to pair off due to how distinct it is.

Of all the performances in this dub though, there are two that really stand out. The first would be Vic Mignogia (Fullmetal Alchemist‘s Edward Elric, Bleach‘s Ikkaku Madarame) as the main antagonist Mendoza. He’s picked up a fair share of villain roles in recent years, as opposed to his more well known pretty-boy typecasting and turned out to be pretty good at them. so when I first heard he’d been in this dub, I was really hoping it would be as Mendoza, and he certainly delivers. His performance gives off a perpetually creepy falsetto and combined with the Shakespearean prose of the dub, really helps in giving the character a sense of presence and menace. I don’t like it quite as much as I did Takaya Hashi’s performance in the Japanese version since Hashi’s unique baritone was kind of hard to match, but it comes pretty close and it’s certainly an impressive effort. The real standout though, would have to be David Wald (Akame ga Kill‘s Bulat, Fairy Tail‘s Gajeel) as German as it’s a really fun performance that captures both the goofball womanizer and serious sides of the character to perfection and even the scripting issues in the show’s second half aren’t enough to take away from how strong his delivery is. Overall, the dub’s performances are solid all across the board with the only weak link perhaps being Ivan Jasso(Prince of Stride: Alternative‘s Kyosuke) as Bernardo, the dark knight, since this was one of his first major anime roles, and his performance sounds a little awkward in a few instances, but on the whole the dub was very well cast and no one feels out of place.

Final Thoughts: Well I had some really high expectations for this dub, and I have to admit those weren’t quite met. The voice direction here is strong, and the casting’s pretty much the same in that department, but the some of the scripting issues with the dub’s second half hurt things a bit for me, and while good voice direction and performances can sometimes be enough to overlook those kinds of problems (see Attack on Titan) it wasn’t quite strong enough to do the job here. As a whole, it’s a really solid dub, and more or less in line with what you’d expect from Funimation’s usual level of consistency. Which is totally fine, but it’s not the standout I was hoping and since I’d set my expectations for this fairly high, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed. Despite those feelings though, I can still give it a fairly safe recommendation, and if you haven’t seen the show before there’s certainly nothing to lose in checking out the dub.

Rating: Good

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Woof. I had a lot more to say than I thought I would, but as I said before I’ll try my best to keep these shorter if I do any future installments. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the GARO dub, but feel free to let me know what you thought of it. Also if you’re curious to know about my general metrics for critiquing dubs, you can find my full thoughts in this article here, where I go into  a bit more detail on the subject. Thanks for reading!