Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
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This practice mostly stopped around 2001 or so, due to Licensor request. You see, when a song is cleared for use in an anime title, the rights to the song still lay with the artist, the composer, or their management companies. Apparently, hearing their songs distributed without their artists, original lyrics or original mix made them a little upset.
I considered this a shame. It was interesting to hear the new spins the various dubbing studios would put on familiar anime songs, to see how the lyrics adapted, to compare the new performance to the original. Most of the new arrangements were pleasant, though clearly a little amateur sounding (such as on Magic Knights Rayearth, Key the Metal Idol and later Ranma ½ OAVs). On a few occasions, the new English performance would be better than the original (such as on Phantom Quest Corp.).
Other times, the resulting track was nothing short of a disaster.
This week we have four dubs from the anals of US anime history and the anus of musical endeavor. Consider it a late Christmas present, or an early New Years' noise maker. And to those responsible for these dubs, I'm sorry in advance. I hope we'll still be on speaking terms at the end of this article.
TITLE: Ranma 1/2 OAV: Tendo Family Christmas Scramble
SONG: Equal Romance
PERFORMERS: Venus Terzo, Myriam Sirois, Angela Costain, Cathy Weseluck, Willow Johnson
WHY DOES IT SUCK? It was only Viz's third time dubbing an anime, and suddenly something happened that nobody had planned for. In the second OAV of Ranma ½, the female cast decides to entertain guests at their christmas party by taking the stage and breaking out into song.
Never mind that this makes little to no sense in the context of the show; this was a thinly veiled attempt to promote DoCo, the singing group that had sprung out of five of the main Japanese voice actresses behind the show. Unfortunately, nobody had bothered to check if the English cast could sing.
In an ill-advised decision to try and make the dub as seamless as possible (after all, it would be jarring to switch back to Japanese in the middle of an episode), the Vancouver-based dubbing crew pressed valiantly onward with dubbing the song. The Licensor agreed that the song should be sung by the characters and sent along a karaoke version of the song... but it didn't arrive on time, meaning the mostly-vocally untrained cast would have to sing against the Japanese version during the recording session.
This threw off the tempo of the actresses who could sing. As for the ones who couldn't, well, they never had a chance.
Thanks to Toshi Yoshida for giving me the post-mortem. To his credit, future DoCo songs were dubbed with actual singers.
TITLE: Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Returns
SONG: Simply My Heart
PERFORMERS: Cynthia Martinez, Toni Navarre
WHY DOES IT SUCK? Tristan MacAvery cast and directed the first Galaxy Fraulein Yuna, a cutesy sci-fi superhero parody OAV with a videogame tie-in that ADV released back in 1996. When the second OAV series came out, Matt Greenfield took the reins and brought back the same cast from the earlier dub. But there was one problem: in the sequel, they SING!
In a tragedy to rival that of Tendo Family Christmas Scramble, neither actress could sing at all, they were unable to get a karaoke version of the song, and ADV's self-installed studio was just not set up for music recording. To eliminate the Japanese vocals from the song, they used a waveform blending technique (that pretty much screws up the mix of 60% of the music you try to process it with) and just did the best they could.
The OAV itself is a shrill, annoying mess. But at least this early concert sequence can be used as an instrument of torture. It doesn't even sound like they're singing the right song.
TITLE: Psycho Diver: Soul Siren
PERFORMER: Kate T. Vogt
WHY DOES IT SUCK? I have no explanation for this one. I've never met Jack Fletcher, who directed this dub and usually turns in some pretty nice work. The fact that he cast a separate person as the singing voice of troubled idol singer Yuki Kano -- Kate T. Vogt is best known as Washuu-chan from Tenchi Muyo! -- shows that they at least tried to make a good song. And from the sounds of it, this song probably sucks in Japanese too. But after hearing this, I think you'll agree that Ms. Vogt should never, ever again attempt to rap. (The ending song is dubbed too, and with similar results.)
The singer in the series, Kano, is a pop idol who has more demons than Lindsay Lohan. After she freaks out, a guy whose profession is to dive into people's psyches to straighten them out does his work on this pop singer. I like to think of this OAV as Paprika's deranged, ugly, stupid in-bred cousin. The story seems similar, except without substance, meaning, quality, or pretty much anything else that made Paprika great. This opening song is intercut with Yuki's music video, a hilariously terrible piece that features the girl in a (men's) prison and being a 50-year-old's idea of a cool bad-ass.
For the record, this OAV features a character named Funky.
TITLE: Bubblegum Crisis
SONG: Mr. Dandy
PERFORMER: Jack Bowden
WHY DOES IT SUCK? AnimEigo was completely new to dubbing when they decided their cash cow, the legendary Bubblegum Crisis OAV series, needed an English version if it was going to continue to sell to new anime fans. Unfortunately, the music and effects audio master had been damaged and was not in a usable state. Rather than give up, AnimEigo commissioned the post-production studio Southwynde to both dub and recreate all the sound effects. Background music could be re-used from various CDs.
But Bubblegum Crisis relies a lot on the power of its J-pop insert songs, and so the Southwynde crew put together an ad hoc cover band and proceeded to re-record ALL of the songs from the show in English.
The dub is not good, though it's miles better than their earlier aborted attempt to dub Urusei Yatsura, the legendary "Those Obnoxious Aliens." In both the dialogue and the music, AnimEigo's inexperience shows through; the actors sound wooden and lost; the vocals are poorly produced and get lost in the mix, which sounds much less "controlled" than the Japanese. Later episodes get quite a bit better, but this particular rendition of the first ending theme, Mr. Dandy, is one of the more cringe-inducing ones... if for no other reason than music guy Jack Bowden's inflections, which practically scream "ladies, my voice is so sexy..."
And to think this is the place Mike Sinterniklaas got his start.
Psycho Diver is long out of print, and never got a DVD release in the States (there is a UK release). Ex-rentals are plentiful, so try getting the VHS off half.com or Amazon Marketplace. Bubblegum Crisis is still available in a remastered edition, and can be had for dirt cheap. Ranma 1/2 OAV Collection can only be had as a boxed set, but that boxed set is fairly reasonably priced. Both Galaxy Fraulein Yuna series were available from ADV on a single DVD, which is now out of print but many online stores still have it in stock. Lucky you.
Psycho Diver © Baku Yumemakura/Toei Video/Goodhill Vision/BMG Japan.
Ranma 1/2 OAV ©2000 Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan, Inc.
Bubblegum Crisis ©1987 by A.I.C., Inc., & Youmex, Inc.
Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Returns ©1996 Red • Hudson / TOHO • Starchild • MOVIC.
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