The Dub Track
Upon Further Review

by Ryan Mathews, Jun 24th 2003
Readers have occasionally remarked on how my dub reviews tend to be based upon the first volume of a series. This is because I prefer to review when the anime is still fresh, rather than waiting for multiple volumes to come out, by which time everyone has heard the dub. Nevertheless, it's true that dubs often get better (or in extremely rare cases, worse) after the first volume. At least one reader has suggested that I take a second look at some series I've reviewed in the past. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Hellsing

When I first reviewed this dub, I was disappointed by the awkward mishmash of accents on the first volume, where authentic British actors mixed with American actors trying their best to sound British and coming up short. I didn't hate the dub, though, so I resolved to watch the rest of the anime in English. Boy, am I glad I did.

What a difference ten more episodes can make. There were no more of those awkward, not-quite-right accents on the final three volumes, and the dub just gets better and better, approaching brilliance near the end. K.T. Grey becomes completely comfortable as Seras Victoria, with all traces of uncertainty disappearing from her accent. And by far and away the best reason to continue watching: Josh Phillips as the foul-mouthed young vampire Jan Valentine, one of the best-acted characters, and easily the best-scripted, in all of 2002. If you didn't watch the dub, I urge you to watch go back and watch episodes 5 and 6, which feature Phillips. If you don't, you'll miss something great.

With its British cast members forming a strong anchor, the Hellsing dub turned out excellent. It's now my favorite example of how a dub can feel more "right" than the original Japanese. After all, the series takes place in England, and most of the characters are British, so who better to play those characters than British actors, and talented ones at that?

Initial rating: ** ½ (out of 4)
Final rating: *** ½
Clip: Mr. Phillips, you @#$%ing rule.


Inuyasha

Good old "Ocean Lag". You can count on it to make the first volume of an Ocean Studios dub awkward and mediocre. But you can also count on it to go away eventually. As I expected, after about six episodes, the cast of Inuyasha settled into their roles and most of the awkwardness disappeared. Moneca Stori's Kagome, who, I'd complained, sounded too much like Laura from Hamtaro, develops more of an attitude than Laura will ever have. Richard Cox as Inuyasha sounds smoother, and as I predicted, as his character's likeability increases from episode to episode, his performance becomes a better fit. Most impressive, however, is the episode in which Kikyo flashes back to the day Inuyasha betrayed her. Cox manages to make Inuyasha truly frightening, downright chilling, in fact. If only that had been the case in episode 1.

I'm enjoying some of the character voices as well, such as Paul Dobson's comical Myouga the Flea, and Jillian Michaels' cute Shippo the Fox. It all blends together for a comfy "Saturday morning" feel to the dub, perfect for American TV, where it's doing quite well.

There are currently 111 episodes of Inuyasha, and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. The cast should know their roles intimately by the time Viz finishes dribbling the episodes out to us. At their current rate, it will take eight years just to catch up to where the series is in Japan right now.

Initial rating: **
Current rating (after 15 episodes): ***
Clip: Currently my favorite line from the dub


You're Under Arrest

An actor at a panel at Anime Central this year said something interesting. I don't remember the exact words, but the gist of it was that dub actors can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Often, when the dub sounds bad, it's because the anime is bad. Coastal Studios had performed some amazing repair jobs in the past (the dub of Shinesman is much more entertaining than the original, for example), but even they couldn't fix the You're Under Arrest Mini-Specials.

I was so excited to hear the dub of the Mini-Specials, as it was the first ADV release featuring the Coastal cast. Sadly, most of it is horrible. Initially, I just sat there stunned, wondering what had happened to this excellent dub. Then it dawned on me: the Mini-Specials are just absolute dreck, episode after episode of panty-thieves, perverts, and cheap fanservice. In most of the episodes, Tamara Burnham Mercer, who usually steals the show as Natsumi, doesn't even get to act. The script requires her to shout or scream most of her lines. Marc Matney's Nakajima spends most of his lines wobbling and wavering as he's dressed down by the girls over and over again. What a waste of a great cast.

Then the second TV box set arrived, and my faith was restored. All the kudos I gave the dub in the first review still hold. And you haven't lived until you hear Bryan Keith Bolick as the Scooter Mama.

Initial rating: ****
Final rating ****
Clip: Scooter Mama!


Excel Saga

This was one of the best dubs of a comedy in recent memory, made all the more impressive by the fact that the character of Excel would seem near-impossible to dub. Most of her dialogue is a rapid-fire torrent of near-incoherence, delivered in an hysterical scream. Jessica Calvello amazed me by how perfectly she pulled off the role. Unfortunately, said role was sheer torture to the actress' vocal cords, to the point where her doctor told her she would have to quit or risk permanent injury.

I can only imagine the mood in the ADV offices when the word came down that they would have to cast the impossible role of Excel again. The role was given to Larissa Wolcott (Millie, Lost Universe).

I'd fallen behind on watching this dub, so I popped in one of the later volumes and watched an episode with plenty of Excel dialogue. How did Wolcott do? I can sum it up best by saying that I checked the credits just to make sure I hadn't watched a Calvello episode by mistake. Wolcott sounded different, but not different enough for me to be sure. She was that close.

Once again, ADV astounds me. To achieve voice continuity when a role that difficult changes actresses obviously took a great deal of coaching on the part of the director and a great deal of study on the part of the new actress. They pulled it off seamlessly. For proof, listen to the clip below, and compare it to the Excel clips in my original review.

Initial rating: ****
Final rating ****
Clip: Excel, Wolcott-version, rants at Ilpalazzo


Thanks to Anne Packrat for her audio-editing skill!
Agree? Disagree? Have a comment about a dub, or just about dubbing in general? Let me know! (mathews1 at ix.netcom.com)

The views and opinions expressed in The Dub Track are solely those of Ryan Mathews and do not necessarily represent the views of Anime News Network or its sponsors.


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