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)

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): 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.

Toon Talk- Monthly Retrospective (October 2016)

We’ve finally hit November and this long year is finally starting to wind down. October saw the start of a new season and with it some new shows as well as some new highlights so let’s take a brief look at some of what happened last month.


New Season, New Anime

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The beginning of October marked the start of the Fall 2016 anime season, which means a ton of new shows have come out over the last few weeks. I already went over my first impressions of a lot of these shows earlier so I won’t go into too much detail on individual stuff again, but I will say that despite some of the reservations I brought up while I was doing those (and nearly burning myself out in the process) it’s actually looking to be a pretty strong season. There’s a lot of chaff as always but stuff like Izetta: The Last Witch and Flip Flappers have stayed consistent enough that I’m fairly confident they’ll make for a fun ride the whole way through, and while Yuri on Ice already seemed like it was easily going to be the best show of the season, it’s only improved since it’s first episode, and to my amazement it seems to actually be popular. It’s certainly nice to see something that doesn’t scream super-mainstream actually picking up steam (and weirdly not many people seem to be actively talking about Drifters despite that being the obvious big action title of the season) and I guess it’s another sign that times are changing. Time will tell if the bigger Fall titles manage to stick the landing in the end but now that I’ve got the amount of shows on my plate down to a manageable number, I’m certainly pleased with what I’m seeing so far.

 

Toei FINALLY Brings Dragonball Super to the States

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So it’s finally happened. After over a year of being denied Dragonball Super despite DBZ being about as mainstream as anime can get when it comes to the U.S., Toei’s finally decided to wisen up and bring the show to legal streaming channels ala Crunchyroll and Daisuki. All I can say is: it’s about time, and while it’s easy to speculate over what the hold up was (knowing Toei I imagine it was them trying to push for television deals first) at this point I’m just glad it’s been made available. As of right now I have yet to actually check out Super since I have a ton of other things on my plate to shift through, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it from both enthusiastic and jaded Dragonball fans alike, and I’m looking forward to taking a peek at it whenever I get the chance.

 

Shelter and the “Anime” Debacle

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One of the most interesting and simultaneously irritating discussions of the month came when a short music video called Shelter was uploaded to Crunchyroll. It looked absolutely gorgeous, and was helmed by some of the folks at A-1 Pictures, but despite that listing, having a Japanese voice actress attached to it, and being having some marketing in Japan, the fact that it was partially produced by American musician, Porter Robinson was enough for the mods at Reddit’s anime forums to declare it “not-anime” and similar debacles were brought up elsewhere. Honestly I have to say that it’s really frustrating to still be having this conversation in 2016, but apparently some parts of the anime fandom haven’t moved past gatekeeping culture, and the whole thing has gotten to be tiresome. I’ve made my stance on the whole east v.s. west thing and what exactly defines “anime” pretty clear, so I’m not going to go into too much of a tirade on that, but as far as I’m concerned if it was animated in Japan, features Japanese voice talent and was marketed for Japanese audiences in some capacity: it’s anime and arguing otherwise is kind of nonsensical.

Co-productions have been a thing for years now, and with the ever increasing influence of the western market and China on anime sales they’re only going to grow in number and it’s time for folks to start getting with the program. It’s fine to debate over exactly how much good or ill western influences might have on what gets produced, but arguing their validity is inherently pointless when you take into account how fragile the west’s definition of “anime” is, and the time people spend arguing over this stuff, is time taken away from actually evaluating the works themselves, and for what it’s worth, Shelter was pretty good, and the overall reception seems to have been positive. Sadly I don’t imagine this’ll be the last time these kinds of debates pop up, and all the more considering stuff like Children of Ether is coming down the pipeline, but I do wish certain sections of the anime fandom would give it a rest already.


And that’s it for this time. This one was kind of short despite October being a fairly big month, but I mostly just wanted to get my thoughts out on the Shelter thing (and to be frank I almost forgot about doing this entirely). Hopefully I’ll have a bit more to talk about next time but 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

First Impressions- Fall 2016 Anime (Part III)

And here we are at the last stretch of premieres for the fall season. There’s still quite a bit left to go through, so let’s not waste anytime in plowing through them.

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Bungo Stray Dogs s2

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Synopsis: Kicked out of his orphanage and on the verge of starving to death, Nakajima Atsushi meets some strange men. One of them, Dazai Osamu, is a suicidal man attempting to drown himself in broad daylight. The other, bespectacled Kunikida Doppo, nervously stands by flipping through a notepad. Both are members of the “Armed Detective Agency” said to solve incidents that even the military and police won’t touch. Atsushi ends up accompanying them on a mission to eliminate a man-eating tiger that’s been terrorizing the population… In the virtual city of Yokohama are individuals bearing the name of Bungo, “literary masters,” who possess unusual powers likened to that name. Now begins the battle between the mysterious Bungo powers!

First Impressions: When season 1 of Bungo Stray Dogs aired back in Spring, I was pretty impressed with it’s aesthetic since bishonen action shows can be pretty fun when done right, and being animated by BONES just added to the effect. Sadly though I was let down by the one-dimensional characterization of most of the main cast (with Dazai’s suicide shtick in particular getting to be downright obnoxious) and the fairly sub-par writing. Still it was entertaining enough to see the whole way through, and so far the second season seems to be off to an okay start. Kicking things off with a flashback about Daizai’s time in the Port Mafia feels a bit odd, but it’s done a better job of giving him some semblance of nuance as a character than pretty much the entirety of s1 so it’s certainly appreciated. It’s more tonally consistent too, and while I can’t say I’m super excited to learn more about Daizai’s past, this did leave me at least a little curious as to how he ended up leaving. On the downside, starting things off with a flashback means this was a pretty slow premiere by normal standards, but it’s at least made me feel a little better about going through the rest of the season. Hopefully it’ll keep improving.

Rating: Good

 

Keijo!!!!!

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Synopsis: Nozomi Kaminashi is a fantastic gymnast, and in order to help her family out of poverty, has decided instead to become a competitor in a new women-only sport, Keijo. A lucrative endeavor, Keijo is a popular gambling sport where female players stand on floating platform on the water and must push other players off by only using breasts and buttocks. Will Nozomi be able to make it big in the world of Keijo?

First Impressions: And so after going down a long list of premieres we finally arrive at Keijo or as it has been jokingly reffered to by Anitwitter, “pool butt”. I was always shockingly aware that this show was going to be a thing, mainly because I couldn’t believe it actually existed (and by going by anime fanservice standards that says something). Given that I was pretty sure I’d find myself fairly disgusted by this one, but instead I find myself feeling rather torn. On the one hand, it’s exactly as much of a shameless fanservice fest as you’d expect with plenty of booty on display, and nary a couple of minutes goes by without having it literally shoved in front of the screen. On the other hand, it’s so stupid and over the top, I found myself grinning like an idiot the entire time I was watching it, and it was hands down the funniest premiere I’ve seen all season. So bad it’s good can work as a method of execution when a show makes enough of a spectacle out of it’s stupidity that it’s there’s little time to get genuinely angry at it, and so far this episode displays that in spades. While I originally found myself asking how such a sport would even exist in the first place, by the time some of the girls started dishing out ridiculous special moves like “Butt Cannon” (I kid you not that was an actual thing) I just found myself rolling with it. I honestly wasn’t expecting to to enjoy this one, and my base instincts are telling me to stop now while I can, but this season’s been so bland so far, that I may be willing to take my entertainment where I can get it. This show might be enough to send me on a one way trip to oblivion, but I guess I can at least enjoy the ride.

Rating: Great (???)

ALL OUT!!

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Synopsis: The day of the entrance ceremony at Kanagawa Highschool… The story starts when the timid but unyielding Gion joins the rugby team. His classmate, Iwashimizu, who can’t get into rugby because of something happening in the past, the vice-captain, Hachioji, who looks out for all of the members, and their captain, Sekizan, who is more passionate and intense than anyone… All of the members are completely different, but they all keep growing on this battlefield known as youth. Once they give it their all, the ultimate stage awaits them!

First Impressions: Speaking of booty, it’s time to move to the sports show on the opposite end of the gene pool. Much like Keijo before it, this was a show, whose anticipation seemed to be based it’s fanservice but while Keijo features curvy ladies, All Out was looking to have well chiseled, full-bodied dudes. Unlike Keijo though, this seems to be a much more traditional sports show, but as I said with Scorching Ping Pong Girls, the classic sports show formula rarely fails me in general so I’m certainly not complaining. Much of this episode is spent establishing our two leads, Gion and Iwashimizu who are abnormally short and tall respectively. Gion more or less comes off as you’d expect from a loud mouth shorty (and so much so I’m half expecting Funimation to cast Vic Mignonia as him for the dub) and he’s honestly came off as kind of annoying here, but I liked Iwashimizu and while the whole “super timid giant” thing is another archetype that gets overplayed a lot,it’s at least not one that gets abused much in anime and the episode does a good job of  both making him likable and explaining his hesitance to return to playing rugby. How much of a future this show has kind of depends on how much they can tone down Gian’s short fuse (no pun intended) concerning his height, but there was enough potential in this premiere that I’m willing to go ahead and find out.

Rating: Good

Flip-Flappers

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Synopsis: Cocona is a model honor student, cautious and slow to embrace new opportunities. This makes life complicated when a mysterious girl named Papika suddenly appears, fearlessly searching for a wish-granting crystal called the “Shard of Mimi.” When fates collide and they’re given the ability to transform into powerful fairy-like beings, where will the dangerous journey into “Pure Illusion” take them?

First Impressions: And here we are at magical girl show #3 (though you’d really only know from the promotional material since this episode doesn’t feature so much as a single transformation). I went into this one relatively blind, but I did know that the sakuga fan section of Anitwitter seemed to be really excited about it, and after seeing the premiere it’s not hard to understand why. Simply put: this show looks gorgeous. While Yuri on Ice was no slouch either, this one will definitely wet your whistle if you’re a fan of stylized animation, because there’s a lot of it on display here, and it’s supported by some great looking backgrounds and fun looking art design, making for a visual treat from start to finish. It’s a good thing too, because story-wise, this premiere hasn’t really given any kind of indication as to where the show will be headed. There’s a group of scientists lead by a guy named Dr. Salt (I need to see if I can get my name legally changed to that) and some KKK looking villain organization in the OP and the end of the episode, but much of the first episode is spent having our two female leads Cocona and Papika, going on an adventure in some strange fantasy world without much explanation as to what’s happening. Normally having that many blanks would be an immediate turn off for me, but I was just so dang impressed with the visuals that I hardly cared, and I felt like I could have a good time just staring at it. It’s rare for me to give something a pass mainly on visuals alone but while there wasn’t much explanation here, there also wasn’t anything that made me feel like I should steer clear of this, so I’ll happily gawk at it for a few more weeks and hopefully some kind of plot will surface by then.

Rating: Good

 

Drifters

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Synopsis: Toyohisa Shimazu is a fierce samurai who, in the aftermath of a fight with the Tokugawa regiment, suddenly finds himself in a strange corridor far from the bloodied grasslands of the battlefield. Before he can ask any questions, the shocked fighter finds himself sucked through a door in the wall and promptly lands in an unfamiliar place populated by kindly elves. There he meets with two infamous warriors, Oda Nobunaga and Nasu no Yoichi, who have met the same fate as him. However, not all is well in this new world as the brutal Black King aims to destroy everything. Now, with a battle raging between the fiercest warriors from throughout history, could this trio of Japanese Samurai be the only ray of hope in a land threatened by darkness?

First Impressions: Fall 2016 has been a bit odd compared to previous years in anime. Normally the fall season is the dumping ground for big titles, with the potential to make waves overseas, but this season hasn’t really seen anything like that. The sole exception seems to be Drifters, the new series by Hellsing author Kouta Hirano and directed by Kenichi Suzuki of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure fame. With those two elements in it’s favor this one seemed to have everything it needed to be a hit with the one big outlier being the animation studio, Hoods Entertainment, whose biggest anime credit is the poorly received Blazblue anime adaption. But studios only really matter as much as their creative staff, and Drifters seems to be in good hands thanks to Suzuki’s efforts. While it was always going to be a challenge to animate Hirano’s art on a TV production schedule, this is a pretty darn good effort, as it delivers on some cool action scenes, and bombastic visual direction, as Suzuki’s experience with the campy nature of Jojo’s feels right at home here. The story so far seems pretty simple but there’s just enough mystery surrounding it to make me curious where it’s all headed and I have to admit I got a good chuckle out of seeing Oda Nobunaga’s reaction upon learning how badly his conquest of Japan feel apart after he was gone. All in all this was a super solid premiere, and while it’s weird only having one show this season, to carry the torch of having mass market potential, this at least seems like it do a pretty decent job of carrying that mantle.

Rating: Great

 

Classicaloids

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Synopsis: Kanae’s got a two oddball houseguests in her beloved grandmother’s mansion: Moz and Beetho-san. However, these guys, with their crazy antics and supernatural musical powers, claim to be Classicaloid versions of maestros Mozart and Beethoven! Their powerful “mujik” arrangements evoke more than just emotions: they can make the stars fall, spirits dance, or even summon… giant robots? Friend or foe, Kanae is stuck with them, even as more classicaloids begin to invade her life. Will their presence usher in a new musical renaissance in her sleepy town, or will their explosive euphonics cut the standing ovation short?

First Impressions: Of all the shows set for this season, this one seemed to have the most bizarre premise. That also made me pretty curious to check it out since anime’s ability to turn weird into good is not to be underestimated. Surprisingly though, most of this episode seemed to be pretty standard as we were introduced to our lead heroine and the crazy iterations of classical musicians she’s forced to hang out with through a “save the orphanage” plot involving her grandma’s mansion, which was fine but not terribly interesting. Then we got to the last few minutes which featured a transformation sequence and some trippy looking visuals that looked like they were ripped straight out of a Rie Matsumoto show and suddenly the show had my attention. I haven’t a clue what was up with those last few minutes of the episode, but they certainly delivered on the level of weird I expected coming into this and then some, so I’m at least mildly curious to find out. This premiere certainly didn’t quite blow me away but if you’re looking for the oddest show this season, look no further than this one. I certainly won’t.

Rating: Good

 

March Comes in Like A Lion

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Synopsis: Rei Kiriyama is a young student who excels at the game of shogi. Having lost his entire family at a young age, Rei now lives with his kind neighbor Akagi and her two young sisters, Hina and Momo. The four enjoy a quiet life from day to day, dealing with first loves and other challenges, while Rei continues to compete in shogi games and learn new skills. While they each have sadness in their pasts, this new family will get through any challenge together and with love.

First Impressions: This show was another one of the few things I was anticipating this season for a couple of reasons. Firstly because I’ve heard a lot of good things about the manga over the years, and second because it’s being directed by Akiyuki Shinbo of SHAFT fame. What’s interesting about the latter is that this the first time in a long while he’s actually outright directed something. While he’s credited with pretty much everything SHAFT does these days, it’s usually someone else doing the groundwork, and his style of visual direction has become the go-to method for most of their productions (for good or for ill). This made me pretty curious as to what his genuine handiwork looks like these days, and going by the first episode it’s more or less what you’d expect from a SHAFT show at this point, with plenty of trippy looking shots, and on the nose visual metaphors. Fortunately it works pretty well here, as most of the premiere’s first half features very little dialogue, allowing the visuals to tell the story, and without having any familiarity with the manga, it was pretty easy to gather from that that the protagonist Rei is suffering through some form of depression, while also feeling very cut off from those around him, and the fact that it was convey how much those feelings weigh on him so clearly speaks wonders to the show’s direction. The second half of the episode is a bit lighter, but still carries plenty of atmosphere, and it all made for a premiere that had me entranced from start to finish. My only real nitpick is that there’s little indication of where exactly things are going to go for the rest of the series, but the presentation here sold me enough that I’m more than willing to keep watching and find out.

Rating: Great

 

Occultic;Nine

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Synopsis: The multitude of small, miniscule “discomfort” later develops into a case so large it is beyond imagination… Yuuta Gamon is a 2nd year in high school. He runs “Kiri Kiri Basara,” an affiliate blog that rounds up occult forum posts, for a shot at quick money, and challenges himself to the occult night and day to “hack and slash away!” the many supernatural phenomena existing in the world from a scientific standpoint. However, with that blog of his as a catalyst, a group of downright maniacal and insane comrades have gathered about.

First Impressions: And here comes the latest entry in the semicolon sci-fi visual novel adaptions, and the first one not picked up by Funimation (that honor went to Aniplex USA for better or worse). These shows have always been odd little ducks, combining surprisingly realistic nerd banter with crazy sci-fi plots, with the quality of the latter having varied from series to series. From my experience with these though, I’ve always had something of an appreciation for said nerd banter, and the attention to detail in that portrayal has rarely failed to click with me. That said, the group of nerd turned heroes this show is throwing at us are definitely the kookiest so far ( and I admittedly had to roll my eyes at the ultra-busty loony girl)  and the protagonist in particular talks so fast it’s hard to keep up with what he’s saying at any given moment. Much of this first episode is spent introducing them, so exactly how much interest you’ll have in this largely depends either how high a tolerance you have for that kind of thing, or how distracted you are by the visuals (it’s got quite a look). Both things worked out pretty well for me here, and while I can’t quite say it’s done a great job of setting up the inevitable mystery, there was enough to this show’s overall atmosphere to keep my attention. Guess I’m strapped in for semicolon number four.

Rating: Good

 

Kiss Him, Not Me

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Synopsis: Kae Serinuma is what you’d call a “fujoshi.” When she sees boys getting along with each other, she loves to indulge in wild fantasies! One day her favorite anime character dies and the shock causes her to lose a ton of weight. Then four hot guys at school ask her out, but that isn’t exciting to her at all — she’d rather see them date each other!

First Impressions: On the note of relatively honest portrayals of nerds, we have Kiss Him, Not Me. I’ve been aware of the manga’s existance for a while and recall having briefly skimmed through the first chapter or two of the manga and enjoying it. With all that, I was expecting to find this show pretty cute, and it more or less met that expectation. I wasn’t particularly amazed by anything here but the soul of the show is definently the heroine Sae, who while perhaps a little over stereotypical in some instances, comes off as a fairly honest portrayal of a fujoshi (at least going by the ones I know, but I’m not going to pretend I have any kind of expertise in that area) and a likeable character. Her harem on the other hand just feels like a stock of archetypes so far (right now I’d have to say glasses guy is the best) but there’s always room for that to change, and this was a pleasant premiere from start to finish. If you’re in the mood for a light shojo series this season, this one should fit the bill, and I’m certainly willing to check out more.

Rating: Good


Well that’s pretty much it for me and my first impressions. There’s still a few other shows I haven’t covered including a couple of things I’ve already watched but if I did a write up for every show this season I think I’d end up driving myself mad, so I might as well stop here before I exceed my limits. All in all this is a fairly weak looking season, which is about what I expected coming into it, but there’s a couple of standouts here, and a few shows with the potential to turn into something good, so with any luck, I’ll have a much better outlook on things three months from now. Until then, stay animated.

First Impressions- Fall 2016 Anime (Part II)

It’s now the middle of the week and there’s been quite a few anime premieres since the last write-up, with some good, some bad and mostly just a lot of “eh”. Let’s go down the list.


Ratings Scale

Bad: Stay away far away from this one.  Not worth watching

Decent: Has some okay elements to it. Might be worth giving a  couple of episodes to see how it goes

Good: Fairly solid show. Should be worth keeping up with for now

Great: Really good show. Definently worth seeing if you get the chance

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet


Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru

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Synopsis: In the year 2205, the past becomes threatened by the historical revisionists who seek to change it. Protecting history becomes the task of a boisterous band of swords that are brought to life, including the glamorous Kashu Kiyomitsu and the kindly Yamatonokami Yasusada. Beyond their battles, these legendary swords from different eras lead charming daily lives.

First Impressions: I came into this one pretty much blind, but apparently there are two Touken Ranbu adaptions in existence. One is an upcoming production by Ufotable that promises to be heavily action-oriented and the other is this one…which is apparently a moe slice of life show featuring pretty boys. Shows about cute girls doing cute things already face a pretty hurdle in getting me to watch them since it usually requires having other elements to the show to keep it from just being about that since it gets old rather quickly, and that goes doubly so for shows about cute boys doing cute things, since being a heterosexual dude means those are effectively not made for me. This seems to more or less be what’s expected of these kinds of shows at this point, with plenty of quirky pretty boys, and enough homoerotic undertones to potentially ship characters without the show having to commit to actual relationships. As said earlier, it all more or less equates to being not for me, and having an action scene and some decent animation isn’t really enough to negate that. I’m sure it’ll do fine with it’s intended female audience, but for me it’s an easy skip.

Rating: Bad

Show By Rock !!#

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Synopsis: Metropolis of music, MIDICITY. A kitty girl wearing gothic lolita clothing named Cyan is scouted by Maple Arisugawa, the president of a music agency. From there, she meets chuchu the honor student rabbit girl, a net geek dog girl named Retoree, and an alien sheep girl named Moa. Together, they form the band named “Plasmagica,” and aim for the top of the world. However, the path there is long and tough, and keeping in high spirits is important. By battling against other strange bands, Plasmagica slowly grows toward a top-grade band. In the end, they’ll be a band that becomes the driving force of MIDICITY’s music industry… Maybe?

First Impressions: Speaking of cute girls doing cute things, we somehow ended up with a second season of Show By Rock. The first one didn’t particularly wow me, but it’s fun characters, and nonsensical “power of music” plot made it a pretty easy watch (and the fact that I needed to help review it for the Dub Talk podcast certainly helped things). This season’s looking to be about the same in that respect, and we’re already getting an even crazier storyline than the first one with this apparently involving robots and time-travel, which is sure to be pretty entertaning in it’s own right. However the main priority for this first episode basically centers around the other girls of Plasmagica struggling with their music careers now that Cyan’s gone and those moments are just sincere enough to stand out from the rest of the madness going on within the episode. Although it pretty much goes without saying that Cyan won’t be gone for too long, and the last bit of the episode has already laid the groundwork to throw her back into the swing of things, so I suppose it’ll be back to the usual song and dance (and I mean that quite literally) before long. (but enough about Plasmagica, I just hope the ShinganCrimzon boys get more screentime since they’re the real stars of this show). With that, Show By Rock’s second season seems like it’ll be the same relatively pleasant ride as the first and while I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to watch more of it, it’s certainly a good show to watch on quiet Sunday afternoons.

Rating: Good

 

Gakuen Handsome

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Synopsis: The top-class boys school in the prefecture, Baramon Private Academy. The protagonist who just transferred there encounters various tough guys at the school. As soon as you pass the gates, there was handsome— The outlaw teacher, the captain of the soccer team, his childhood friend who he hasn’t seen in seven years, etc… This is a school love story filled with very uniquely extreme feelings.

First Impressions: I’d heard a few whispers about this a while back and it seemed like it could be pretty entertaining since I’m pretty much all for genre riffs. This one is basically mocking aforementioned cute boys doing cute things type shows by making both the character designs and animation as ridiculously cheap as possible…which is more or less the entire joke. That could get old pretty quickly but forunently this is a short, and 3 minutes seems just about right for this kind of thing. It certainly had me laughing the whole way through, so this’ll probably make for a good afternoon distraction

Rating: Good

 

Trickster

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Synopsis: Kensuke Hanasaki meets a mysterious boy named Yoshio Kobayashi who, due to an unexplained fog, cannot die though he wishes for death. Intrigued by this boy, Kensuke invites him to join the Boys’ Detective Team and their work around the city. But danger awaits and their fate will lead them down a dark path.

First Impressions: So last year we got a show known as Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace that was loosely based off of a few old Japanese mystery novels by famed writer Edogawa Ronpo, and directed by Seiji Kishi. That show was,  to be frank: a hot mess, so imagine my surprised when it was announced that we were getting another bishonen show based on Ronpo’s novels, and only a little more than a year after the last one. So is this one looking to be better? Honestly it’s hard to say after this first episode. While Ranpo Kitan ultimately proved to be a trainwreck it at least had some interesting visual direction and mild attempts at horror, this on the other hand seems to be a more stock bishonen action show that just happens to feature characters based off of Ranpo’s. I do find it kind of interesting that the protagonist Hanasaki seems to be kind of in line with the offputting and slightly creepy personality of Kobayashi from Laplace, but this show’s version of Kobayashi is apparently a super-angsty pre-teen who apparently has some kind of weird fog surrounding him that kills things. Much of this episode is spent trying to establish something of a dynamic between them but it’s not terribly interesting, and Kobayashi’s whining got pretty old after the first couple of minutes. The one big positive here is that it’s certainly a much better looking production than Laplace was since much of Kishi’s direction in that show was to hide the fact that the animation was pretty stiff, and while nothing about this particularly impressed me outside of that, there wasn’t anything here that completely turned me off. I’ll probably give this one another episode or so to see where it goes, but if nothing stands out by then, I’ll probably drop this one off.

Rating: Decent

 

Scorching Ping Pong Girls

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Synopsis: The world of middle school girls’ ping pong enters an age of heated rivalry as the throne at its apex is surrendered… Tsumujikaze Koyori, a girl who loves ping pong, has just transferred to Suzumegahara Middle School. Along with her friends who strive to be the national champions, can Koyori bring the winds of change to the school?! The curtain is about to rise on a scorching hot tale of girls who love ping pong!

First Impressions: Well this one wasn’t really on my radar, but the sports show formula in general is one that usually works pretty well for me and while I was a bit late to the party in seeing it, I really enjoyed Maasaki Yuasa’s Ping Pong: The Animation. This show certainly isn’t that, but I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would at first glance.  The first episode does a solid job of setting up the dynamic between our two lead girls as it quickly establishes Kamiya as some who enjoys being at the center of attention, and Koyori suddenly stealing her spotlight despite her humble personality is clearly starting to get to her. While this sounds like a potentially irritating set-up the show does a lot here to establish both girls as fairly likeable, and though it’s hard to say if they’ll be given too much depth beyond their apparent moe archetypes, this definently feels more like a genuine sports show than a cute girls doing cute things one like the character designs and artistry here would suggest so there’s a lot of room for potential. There’s also some decent visual direction with the matches despite the simplicity of the artwork, and those sequences pack enough punch to get the job done despite the show’s limited production values. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one way or the other, but it turned out to be one of the strongest premieres I’ve seen so far for the season, and I’ll happily get on board for more

Rating: Great

Matoi The Sacred Slayer

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Synopsis: Matoi Sumeragi works as a part-time shrine maiden at her friend, Yuma’s, family shrine. While Yuma is a trained exorcist and next in line to become the shrine maiden, Matoi is content to pursue a normal life. Unfortunately, “normal life” comes to a crashing halt when she and Yuma find the shrine damaged and Yuma’s parents wounded. Things only escalate as Yuma’s “Divine Possession” ritual aims for, not Yuma, but Matoi, imbuing her with the powers of a god in a fight against evil spirits.

First Impressions: And here’s magical girl show #2 of the season. To be honest I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to watch this one since it’s TAN exclusive, but it seems as though Sentai doesn’t have it behind a paywall for the moment so I was at least able to check out the first episode. That said, I’m not sure if I’d have been missing out on much if I hadn’t seen it. It’s certainly one of the better looking premieres this season, and while I’m not too big on the character designs, the animation’s pretty smooth and the characters were certainly expressive. Far as the actual story goes on this one, it’s tonally all over the place as it seems very unsure of if it wants to be dark and serious, or lighthearted and fun, with some of the dialogue choices being downright weird, such as the heroine, Matoi mentally proclaiming about her desire to live an ordinary life right in the middle of her loved ones being attacked. It doesn’t help that said desire feels a little too par the course for most anime protagonists at this point and the fact that the episode doesn’t even put much focus on that wish until after she mentions it doesn’t help things. I might be willing to give this another episode or two, but I certainly can’t give it any strong recommendations at the moment so check it out at your discretion.

Rating: Decent

Nanbaka

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Synopsis: Four men are assigned to Nanba, the world’s most formidable prison. Jyugo, a man who attempted to break out of prison and ended up extending his jail time; Uno, a man who likes to gamble with women; Rock, a man who likes to get into fights; and Nico, a man who likes anime. A super exciting action comedy about the daily lives of the prison’s inmates and guards.

First Impressions: Crunchyroll announced the rights to this one way back at AX, and while I’ve been mildly curious about it ever since, I also wasn’t sure how much I’d actually enjoy it since this seemed like another cute boys doing cute things kind of show. Fortunently the prison break aspect of it, offered just enough of a spin on things to keep me entertained throughout the first episode. While a lot of the jokes just seem to more or less be base anime humor, I found myself laughing at it more often than not, and that the show briefly seemed to follow through on the one joke about the main character apparently being bi was an unexpected touch. I could see things eventually getting a bit to repetitive if the core joke is them not being able to escape, but for the first go around it worked pretty well. My one big complaint though would be the last few minutes of the episode which threatens a potentially “edgy and serious” subplot that didn’t really match the tone of the rest of it, but if the show can put that to the side, this’ll probably do the job as a solid anime comedy for the season.

Rating: Good

 

Yuri on Ice!!

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Synopsis: Yuuri Katsuki carried the hope of all Japan on his shoulders in the Figure Skating Grand Prix, but suffered a crushing defeat in the finals. He returned to his hometown in Kyushu and hid away in his family’s home, half wanting to continue skating and half wanting to retire. That was when the five-time consecutive world champion, Viktor Nikiforov, suddenly showed up with his teammate, Yuuri Plisetsky, a young skater starting to surpass his seniors. And so the two Yuuris and the Russian champion Viktor set out to compete in a Grand Prix like none the world has ever seen!

First Impressions: Sayo Yamamoto is perhaps one of, if not the most prolific female anime directors in the industry, and one of the best directors in general having brought us projects like Michiko and Hatchin and Lupin The Third: the Woman Called Fujiko Mine. I’ve only seen the former, but it impressed me enough to be down for pretty much anything she does, so when I heard that she was working on a male figure skating show for this season, it quickly became one of my few highly anticipated shows to come from it. So far from the first episode, it’s managed to meet my expectations and then some. There’s been some good looking premieres this season, but this one completely blows all of them out of the water as the animation here is absolutely gorgeous(Yuri’s skating sequence towards the end of the episode is easily one of the best looking scenes of the entire year), and Sayo Yamamoto manages to combine her strong sense of visual direction, and her own penchant for framing sexuality through shot composition to make for a downright stunning presentation. Also notable is that this is the first show she’s credited on for writing too, which I was slightly worried about coming into this, but so far it seems to be getting the job done, and the premiere does a solid job of getting us into the head of our protagonist Yuri. The one thing that did strike me as a little bizarre here is that of Yamamoto’s work so far, this one looks the most like a standard anime, even going for some of the usual go-to visual gags which feels kind of weird, considering how western centric her other stuff has been. That’s more of an observation than a dettererent though, and so far Yuri on Ice is easily the best premiere of the season so far. Sayo Yamamoto has done it again.

Rating: Excellent

 

Sound! Euphonium 2 

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Synopsis: Having won first place in the Kyoto Concert Band Competition, the Kitauji High School Concert Band prepares to go up against the many esteemed bands competing in the Kansai competition.

First Impressions: When I first watched season 1 of Sound Euphos way back in Spring last year, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be my kind of thing since it seemed a little too low key for me. Despite those reservations though, it managed to win me over with it’s quiet character drama and incredibly dedication to realism in it’s framing and animation(though at this point it may be better known for some of the awkwardness concerning the yuri subtext between the leads). It wasn’t exactly a super standout for me, but it worked well enough to make watching the second season an easy sell and so far it’s off to a solid start. While a double length premiere might seem a bit much for a show as quiet as Euphos, it manages to earn the extra time by picking up pretty much exactly where things left off the last time, as the band continues preparing for Nationals, and more club drama rears it’s ugly head when a former member decides she wants back in. As always it’s pretty low key but it works, and it’s well supported by some incredible shot composition, with Naoko Yamada’s excellent direction, reminding us why Kyoto Animation is good at what it does. Sound Euphos probably won’t ever set the world on fire for me, but it’s consistently pleasant, and in a season as rough as this one, that’s more than appreciated.

Rating: Great


That’s it for this batch of fall show impressions. Yuri on Ice seems to be the only true standout of the season right now, but there’s still a few premieres left to go through this week so hopefully something else stands out. My last batch of impressions should likely be ready sometime Saturday so until then, stay animated.

First Impressions- Fall 2016 (Part I)

Well looks like it’s time for yet another new season of anime, meaning a lot of new shows to check out. To be honest this is the first time I’ve gone into a season without much of anything to anticipate since there wasn’t much that really stuck out from the previews and there’s surprisingly few mass-market potential shows for the fall. On the bright side though, going into most of this stuff blind means there’s always the chance a few things could end up taking me by surprise, so time to start going down the list.

Ratings Scale

Bad: Stay away far away from this one.  Not worth watching

Decent: Has some okay elements to it. Might be worth giving a  couple of episodes to see how it goes

Good: Fairly solid show. Should be worth keeping up with for now

Great: Really good show. Definently worth seeing if you get the chance

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

*All series synopsis from Anime Planet


Time Bokan 24

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Synopsis: The history in our textbooks are all wrong?! In the 24th century, humankind accomplished the invention of a time machine, “Time Bokan”. As they discover the truth about history, they realize that the history written in their textbooks are all wrong! To correct their knowledge of history, the government developed an organization called JKK. Our hero Tokio is recruited by Karen, a girl from the future to join the JKK. Together they travel through time to discover the true history, along with fighting the “Akudarma” a villainous group whose goal is to prevent the discovery of the truth!

First Impressions: So while I haven’t been anticipating much this season, this was one of the shows I was somewhat curious about. Time Bokan is a fairly established property in Japan, and one of the biggest ones belonging to Tatsunoko, who created a few major superhero titles for Japan back in the 80’s. My own experience with it though, is mostly limited to having played Tatsunoko vs Capcom on Wii a few years back, and having seen Winter 2015’s Yatterman Night, which actually turned out to be a pretty fantastic riff on superheroes and the classic Saturday Morning Cartoon formula of animation. This however, plays those tropes pretty straight, which is more or less what I expected, and for what it is, it’s fine. I didn’t find too many of the gags funny (outside of one ominous reference to 2016) but I think it’ll work out pretty well for it’s intended audience, and it was interesting seeing what this franchise is like when it’s more in line with it’s original incarnation. Whether or not you’ll find it enjoyable will mostly come down to your level of tolerance for Saturday Morning Carton fare, but I still have a bit of a soft spot for that kind of thing, and there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with it either so I might give it another ep or two

Rating: Decent

 

Bloodivores

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Synopsis: 60 years ago, a strange case of insomnia struck the population, forcing them to stay awake for more than a full week. The victims, completely sleep deprived, all went mad. To cure this illness, a new medicine was produced, but the side effects turned the patients into vampires. Humanity went to war against this new species and triumphed, but some of the vampires managed to survive. Born from a Human and a Vampire, the main character Mi Liu, “The Child of Hope”, is to represent the new hope that will connect the two species. Ringleader of a bank robbery, Mi Liu is arrested and transferred to a special prison of the National Defense Agency that monitors Vampires. Trying to break free with Anji, Mi Liu is attacked by strange monsters and he finds out that the prison location corresponds to the birthplace of Vampires, the old capital “Blue Town.” Why are Vampires trapped in Blue Town? What are those strange monsters attacking them? Our heroes must fight to solve those mysteries.

First Impressions: So this is the second in upcoming Anime co-productions of Manwha stuff, with the first being last season’s The Outcast. I made the mistake of giving that show enough of a pass to go beyond the first episode, and it was ultimately pretty bland, so I more or less expected something similarly bland here and it exceeded my expectations. Bloodivores’s first episode doesn’t do much in the way of explaining it’s setting or establishing it’s characters instead hoping that it’ll manage to hook people with it’s “shocking twist” where it threatens to be a Deadman Wonderland wannabee. Unfortunently the episode doesn’t do nearly enough to make said twist feel genuinely interesting, and doesn’t even offer the benefit of being unintentionally hilarious in some instances despite having a show title that was pretty much asking for it. The closest thing would be the ending, which if watched without seeing the next episode preview, almost makes it feel like a 1-episode series which is certainly how I’m going to view it. I’m already pretty averse to vampire shows in general so between that hurdle and it’s general blandness I sure won’t be sticking around for the rest. Pass

Rating: Bad

 

Bubuki/Buranki- The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy

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Synopsis: It’s been ten years since Azuma Kazuki has been in Japan, and upon his arrival he is taken prisoner by a group of armed men. Azuma is saved by his childhood friend, Kogane Asabuki, thanks to a living weapon she wields on her right hand, known as a Bubuki. Learning about these weapons, Azuma becomes a Bubuki wielder himself and sets out on a journey.

First Impressions: The first season of BBK/BRNK aired way back in the Winter season and offered what is perhaps the closest 3DCG cel shading has gotten to actually emulating the look of 2D anime to date, while piling said visuals on top of a nonsensical plot involving giant robots and Super Sentai teams. This season looks to be offering more of the same in that respect, but already seems to have a clear advantage in terms of sheer entertainment value by introducing Azuma’s younger sister Karuko into the plot, having managed to more or less steal the show with 10 minutes of her first scene. The show’s animation has also stepped up a bit as it’s gotten even more comfortable with the emulating the visual humor of most 2D anime, and the series itself is still knee deep enough in stock anime tropes to avoid feeling boring. Far as the actual plot goes, there’s still not a whole lot beyond the usual popcorn entertainment, but at this point I’m far enough in that it’s sort of a moot point, so I’m just gonna keep having fun with it, and hope the visuals at least continue to improve. Bring on the robots.

Rating: Good

 

Izetta, The Last Witch

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Synopsis: The time is pre World War II that looks like Europe in an imaginary world. A large scale war abrupts and bloody battles are taking place through out the world. Eylstadt is a small country without a strong military force or natural resources. Finé who is the crown queen of Eylstadt decides to use a secret weapon against larger countries which was unheard of at that time to battle against larger countries. The secret weapon was using a witch named Izetta and her magical force to fight the war. Izetta is young (same age as Finé) and the last surviving witch with burning red hair.

First Impression: This was another show I kind of had my eye on since it apparently involved witches and WWII, the former of which generally turns out pretty well for anime, and the latter being of the most fascinating periods of world history in general. However my hopes for this show’s potential were slightly dashed when I saw that the scriptwriter was none other than Hiroyuki Yoshino, who’s works include anime original trainwrecks like Guilty Crown, and spotty adaptions like the first season of Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic. So far though, this show seems to be off to a pretty safe start. The first episode does a lot to take advantage of it’s fictional WWII setting, and the encroaching threat Germany (or Germania in this setting) placed on the rest of Europe at the time. It also does a fair job of introducing us to the first of our female leads Fine, who seems to be playing her part pretty well as the strong-willed princess archetype. Combine that with a solid visual presentation, and it all makes for a good opener though I’m still worried that Yoshino’s usual antics will eventually catch with it. For now though, I’d say it’s certainly worth checking out.

Rating: Great

Tiger Mask W

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Synopsis: The main characters are Naoto Azuma and Takuma Fujii, two young pro wrestlers. They were trainees at a small wrestling organization called Zipangu pro wrestling, but it wound up getting crushed by the wicked pro wrestling organization Tiger’s den. In retaliation, Naoto trains at the base of Mt. Fuji and becomes the new tiger mask, and Takuma meanwhile deliberately joins Tiger’s den and becomes Tiger the dark. The legacy left behind by the original Tiger mask is inherited by a new wrestler…!

First Impressions: Coming into this one, the only things about it I really knew were that it was based off of some wrestling property from the late 60’s and that it was being handled by Toei Animation, meaning that I had to set my expectations for the visual presentation from mediocore to absolute garbage. Fortunently it’s leaning closer to the former and actually surpassed my expectations a bit as while the animation doesn’t necessairly look impressive or anything, it’s certainly passable and the penciled in artstyle of the character designs gives the show a nice aestheic. As for the plot itself, it’s about as pre-90’s as you can get when it comes to anime with everything from super hammy acting to ridiculous character names such as “Tiger the Dark” and “Miss X”. Fortunently I happen to be pretty fond of goofy pre-90’s anime tropes so pretty much all of it worked to it’s favor for me, and while the story so far seems to more or less be nonsense, there’s so much goofy charm here that I quickly found myself caring, and the fact that I didn’t have to stop to complain about it looking ugly sure helped out a lot too. This show certainly isn’t going to set the world on fire, and if goofy 80’s nonsense isn’t your thing you’ll probably find yourself bored pretty fast, but for me it’s certainly worth at least a couple more episodes to bask in the glory of anime’s yesteryears . Also the ending theme song is one of the most amazingly try-hard edgy things I’ve heard in recent memory so there’s that.

Rating: Good

Magical Girl Raising Project

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Synopsis: Magical Girl Raising Project is a popular social game that has an ability to grant players a 1 in 10,000 chance to become a real life Magical Girl with unique magical abilities to help people. However, at some point, Fav, the magical administrator fairy, decides to cut the population of Magical Girls in half. The game quickly changes into a twisted, wicked battlefield as the 16 magical girls get dragged into a battle for survival against each other.

First Impressions: It seems as though we’re somehow getting three magical girl shows this season, and as has been the case for the last few years, it means the inevitablity of being handed one that wants to be the next Puella Magi Madoka Magica. This show is the latest wannabee, meaning that the episode follows some pretty familiar beats in introducing us to not-Madoka who’s as pure white a shojo heroine as they come and having our friendly not-Kyubei mascot character asking her if she wants to be a magical girl in a scene that feels “suspiciously” ominous. This show’s main gimmick apparently seems to be having the girls duke it out (presumably to the death) rather than having to deal with some unfair system of rules like Yuki Yuna is a Hero or Madoka itself. That could end up being pretty cool or really hacky depending on exactly how the show goes about it (and the opening scene isn’t doing it any favors in not feeling like it’s trying too hard) but for right how the show seems perfectly fine, and while it’s re-treading what’s a lot of familar territory to anyone who’s seen Madoka at this point, it’s at least re-treading good material and does a solid job of setting things up for the main event while throwing in a neat little twist regarding our heroine and one of the other magical girls she befriends that could turn into something pretty interesting. At any rate, if you’re in the mood for Madoka-lite you could certainly do worse, so I’d say it’s worth a peek.

Rating: Good

Monster Hunter Stories: Ride On

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Synopsis: In a world where people and monsters are at odds, some learn to coexist. Known as Riders, they awaken the powers of monsters and live alongside them in secrecy. Now, one young boy journeys to find his own companion and become the world’s greatest Rider.

First Impressions: This show has been partially on my radar ever since it was announced way back when last year, though mostly because it was being animated by David Productions and with this being slated for a 48 episode count I feared it would hurt their work on Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable. Fortunently that show’s production has remained relatively smooth, but it’s certainly clear from the opener here that David Pro has poured a lot of time and effort into this show. The art for the backgrounds is surprisingly detailed, and the animation looks great with even the show’s 3DCG monsters looking pretty tolerable. It’s all a lot more than I expected for a kid’s show since those tend to get the short end of the stick on production values, and it’s easily the best looking thing I’ve seen so far for the season. The story and characters so far seem about as standard as you can get for this kind of show, with your typical smartmouthed but well meaning protagonist destined for greatness, his reliable childhood friend, ominous prophecy, etc, but there’s enough charm here to keep it from feeling a little too bland, and the visuals are strong enough that it’s almost worth giving a look soley for that reason. Not sure exactly how far I’ll go with this one given that it’s visual presentation is the only big asset here, but that impressed me enough that I’m willing to give it another episode or two.

Rating: Decent

 

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans Season 2

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Synopsis: The Earth Sphere had lost its previous governing structure, and a new world was created under new systems of government. While a temporary peace had arrived, the seeds of a new conflict were being sown in the Mars Sphere, far away from Earth.

First Impressions: Last year’s Iron-Blooded Orphans was my first real Gundam show (depending on how you count Gundam Build Fighters), and it made a pretty good impression on me between it’s solid cast of characters, potrayal of child soliders and of course sweet mecha action. Given all that, this was one of the few things I was seriously anticipating for the fall, and so far the second season seems to be off to a relatively solid start. Much of this episode is spent re-introducing old characters while tossing in some new ones, and there’s a couple of moments where it feels a little too on-the-nose with the former, but otherwise does a good job of picking up where things left off. Now that Tekkadan’s made a name for themselves and Gjallarhorn is breaking apart I imagine much of this season’s conflicts will center around what both sides are willing to do to hold on their power, and that could be pretty interesting. Of course, Gundam’s track record with second seasons after a long break is apparently pretty spotty so it’s hard to say if it’ll stay as consistent as the first, but things seem fine for right now and it’s riding on more than enough goodwill that I’m eager to see where it all goes.

Rating: Great


And that’s pretty much it for the first batch of Fall shows. I’ll likely have my next round of impressions ready some time in the middle of the week, provided my schedule doesn’t get messy. Thanks for reading.

Toon Talk: Monthly Retrospective- September 2016

So I don’t really have much in the way of a clever segeway this time, but quite a bit went down in September, so might as well hop straight to it

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Crunchyroll and Funimation do the Fusion Dance

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There’s been a lot of feuds between U.S. anime licensors, and as the market has started to revolve more and more around the viability of streaming, the one that’s shaped the industry for the last couple of years has been the one between Funimation and Crunchyroll. A few years ago seemed to be more or less common knowledge that the two companies didn’t particularly like each other due to the latter’s checkered past, and those rumors of bad blood have persisted to this day, so the last thing anyone was expecting was an alliance between the two. It does however, make a great deal of practical sense from a business standpoint given the rising cost of anime licenses, the threat of streaming giants like Amazon Prime and Netflix, and the apparently fast growing anime market in China, all of which have the potentially to doom the two companies to irrelevancy so it’s a good way of fighting back.

As many have already pointed out by now, there’s a lot of potential good and bad to this little alliance. The good is that between the two companies, you’re effectively getting 70-90% of the new shows for each season in one place, with both companies lowering their subscription prices to make everything more affordable for fans. It also means more dubs, and now that Funimation doesn’t have to spend as much time, if any at all on subtitle translations (which they’ve been kind of iffy on for a while anyway) they can put more time on dub production, allowing us to get their simuldubs closer to the start of Japanese airing, and dub fans can get their fix faster. On the downside though, while this alliance won’t have any real effect on companies like Aniplex USA or PonyCan whose continued partnership with CR and their monopoly on properties belonging to their respective parent companies grants them immunity, and Viz who’s selective about what anime they get to begin with, it could end up cornering companies like Sentai, who already seems to be taking quick measures in making some of their simulcasts exclusives. It could also end up having an adverse effective on the quality of the dubs as well since Funimation has but only so many resources, and taking on more shows could hurt them, not to mention that having even more dubs potentially shipped to Texas wouldn’t do much for the sake of variety either. Of course there’s always the chance Funimation could expand their dubbing operations to LA or elsewhere so I suppose we’ll have to see how that goes. For now though, it looks like we’re witnessing the start of a new age, and regardless of what exactly it entails it’s clear there won’t be any turning back.

 

Summer 2016 Anime Come To An End

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Yesterday marked the end for a few of the summer’s remaining stragglers and now there were some definite winners and losers as to which shows successfully crossed the finish line. Among the winners were shows like Mob Psycho 100, which despite having a slower start than it’s predecessor OPM, managed to outdo it in the end, with it’s combination of stronger themes and a more rounded cast of characters, along with Sweetness and Lightning which managed to maintain it’s perfect level of fluffiness and genuine warmth right through to the final episode. 91 Days also managed to stick the landing in achieving the mafia movie aesthetic it was going for, and Thunderbolt Fantasy managed to consistently stay the most entertaining work of the season bar Jojo’s with Boochi instead opting to go for clever writing rather than a heavy amount of thematic depth. As for the losers, they were more or less the shows that seemed to be doomed from the start. Taboo-Tattoo was one of the most entertaining anime trainwrecks I’ve seen in a while, but that certainly isn’t enough to detract from how utterly trashy it was, and while I gave Hitorinoshita- The Outcast a pass on it’s first episode, it proved to be a gigantic slog the whole way through, with both shows definitively being the worst things of the season. On the bright side though I can at least say that nothing really ended up cratering which is always nice and while Berserk 2016’s overall reception is still pretty negative, the strength of it’s source material still shone through fairly well, and I’m cautiously anticipating the second half in 2017 (hopefully they’ll have improved the CG by then). All in all I have to say that looking back, it was a pretty good season for anime. Not exactly a standout, but there were enough humble offerings to get by, and the bigger titles managed to pull their weight well enough to compensate, so I can at least say that it’s nowhere near as bad as the Winter season was. Here’s hoping I can say the same thing about the fall…

 

Zoids Rising From Beyond the Scrapyard?

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So this last one isn’t exactly big, or potentially even animation related, but it’s fairly important to me on a personal level so here it is. While I watched bits of Gundam as a kid and enjoyed what I saw, it was the Zoids franchise that more or less defined my childhood where giant robots were concerned and arguments concerning the practicality of actually making a Liger were frequent playground discussions when I was growing up. I’ve seen at least parts of all four Zoids shows from the 00’s including Zoids Genesis which somehow never made it here despite Viz dubbing it, but the franchise as a whole has mostly been in complete radio silence for the last decade, so the prospect of a new series or a potential reboot both sound pretty appealing to me. Though while it’s certain that there’s a new Zoids project in the works it’s possible that it could be anything from a new video game to a live-action movie going by the visual Takara Tomy uploaded and an anime may or may not be a part of whatever’s coming. Of course it would be nice to get a new Zoids anime (and maybe even picked up by Viz for old time’s sake) but whatever this is, it’s nice to see one of my favorite childhood franchises being brought back from the dead so I’m pretty excited.


Well that’s more or less it for this month. Sorry if this one seems a bit short since I was juggling both this and my first impressions of the Fall anime shows at the same time. September came with a pretty big change in the world of anime for the U.S. and as we head into October, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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.