The Dub Track Mao-chan, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
by Ryan Mathews, Mar 2nd 2004
Last month, I came up short. So I found myself at Suncoast, scanning the shelves for something new and interesting to review. Finally, my eyes lit upon a title, Gunparade March. It had just come out and was from a dubbing company I'd never heard of, to boot. Unfortunately, once I got it home and watched it, it turned out to be a poor choice. Not only is it a blah, mediocre dub, neither good nor bad enough to get excited about, but there's no individual acting credits. I had to laugh. If the performances were any indication, those actors have very little reason to hide from the union.
Luckily, I'd bought two other titles during the same trip. I hadn't intended to review either of them, since they're not new this month, but Anne and I fell in love with both of them. Since it turns out they share a common thread, I'll briefly review both.
With "cute" the overriding theme, Bang Zoom picked the perfect actress to play the lead role. Sandy Fox (Monica in Heat Guy J), the owner of perhaps the cutest "little girl" voice in anime dub acting, is her usual adorable self as Mao. Kay Jensen (Kyoko in Heat Guy J), is sweet and proper as Mao's friend Misora. She has a speech mannerism in Japanese that the dub translates to "I say" at the end of many of her sentences. And then there's Sylvia, the third member of the team, played by Julie Maddalena (Hikaru in Magic Knights Rayearth), who has a speech mannerism all of her own.
When Anne first saw Sylvia, she shouted "Osaka!" I had to agree — Sylvia's cute dopey stare does remind me of the character from Azumanga Daioh. Then I heard her voice. Maddalena plays Sylvia with a mild, cute British accent. Since Sylvia's not British (as far as I can tell), that's a good sign that her Japanese voice has some kind of accent the dub is trying to adapt. I gave the Japanese track a listen, suspecting Osaka-ben. Now, I'll readily admit I can't understand Japanese, so I can't easily recognize an Osaka accent. But I do know what Kero-chan from Card Captor Sakura sounds like, and Sylvia sounds similar. Given that Sylvia's the silliest of the characters, my money's on her accent being Osakan.
If I'm right (let me know if I'm not), I'm of mixed emotions on the choice of a British accent to represent Osaka-ben. On the one hand, Sylvia's refined, cultured accent is the exact opposite of the image represented by the Osaka accent. But on the other, Sylvia is a pampered, generally well-mannered little girl, so the accent fits.
Another great voice in this dub is Midge Mayes as Kagome, the girls' long-suffering commander and homeroom teacher. Mayes handles both sides of Kagome equally well: the competent leader, and the young woman with a comically hopeless crush on her boss, Mao's grandfather. He, in turn, is played in entertaining fashion by Michael McConnohie, for whom no line is too ordinary to be a grand declaration.
If I had to find fault with this dub, it would be that the little girls are too obviously grown women playing little girls. All three are heavily "mannerismed" character voices, which serves to make the voices seem much less believable. It might have been interesting to see if there were any child actresses that could have handled the roles (despite what I've said in the past). But then again, it's not like this anime is meant to be taken seriously. The voices may not be realistic, but they're a lot of fun.
And did I mention cute?
Rating: *** (out of 4)
(Review based on episodes 1-14)
Released by: Geneon/Pioneer
Dubbed by: Bang Zoom!
Director: Wendee Lee
Mao - Sandy Fox
Misora - Kay Jensen
Sylvia - Julie Maddalena
Kagome - Midge Mayes
Rikushiro - Michael McConnohie
- Mao-chan and Misora-chan pledge to defend Japan!
- Sylvia-chan doesn't want her photo taken.
- The girls and their inspiring fight song!
ADV has become the absolute master in this arena.
I might have been unsure about the presence of an Osaka accent in Mao-chan, but there's no question in Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. The anime takes place in Osaka (and several alternate universe versions thereof), and the Osaka accent and culture are front and center, driving the humor. Dubbing it in a way in which it's still funny must have been a great challenge.
Osaka-ben has always been a difficult issue for translators. The accent is usually used to set a character apart, sometimes for humorous effect, sometimes just to emphasize that he or she comes from "someplace else". The intuitive way to handle such an accent in a dub is to use some regional dialect of English. But which one?
The Osaka stereotype is "uncultured", someone unversed in the manners of the high-culture of Tokyo. But one can be uncultured in different ways. You can be rude, blunt, and uncaring about the "cultured" way of doing things (the "Brooklyn" stereotype), or you can come from a backwards region of the country where people just don't understand such things (the "hillbilly" stereotype). The Osaka stereotype is a little of both.
Over the years, dubbers and translators have handled Osaka accents in various ways. In Adventures of Kotetsu, ADV gave Kotetsu a British accent. In Trigun, Animaze ignored Wolfwood's accent altogether. In Bang Zoom's dub of Card Captor Sakura: The Movie 2, Kero-chan talks a bit like a punk, but isn't really given an accent to speak of. And in ADV Manga's translation of Azumanga Daioh, Osaka occasionally slips into Brooklyn, even saying "fuhgeddaboudit".
After some serious consideration (detailed in the DVD booklet), ADV decided to go with a Texas accent for Abenobashi. And it works. The main characters have a laid-back attitude towards life that fits perfectly with the accent.
Luci Christian (Ran in SuperGALS!) and Jessica Boone (Misaki in Angelic Layer) have great chemistry as Sasshi and Arumi, playing off each other like the comedy teams their characters are meant to invoke. It never fails to amaze me how actors can play off each other so well when they're never in the studio at the same time. Kudos to director Don Rush for making the illusion so believable.
This dub is also notable for featuring some talented actors in roles that show off their range. Monica Rial, known for such quiet characters as Kirika in Noir and Hyatt in Excel Saga, plays the spunky, brash kogal Sayaka. Chris Patton, who played idealistic young Ayato in RahXephon, plays the dark and mysterious Eutus.
This is just a funny, funny dub. I especially liked the extra touches, like when the robot shopkeeper calls Sasshi a "smeg-head" in the sci-fi episode. ADV has proven once again that there's no anime so wacky that they can't dub it, and do an hilariously good job at it. I can't wait for The Super Milk Show.
Rating: **** (out of 4)
(Review based on episodes 1-7)
Released by: ADV
Dubbed by: ADV/Industrial Smoke & Mirrors
Director: Don Rush
Sasshi - Luci Christian
Arumi - Jessica Boone
Mune-Mune - Kaytha Croker
Eutus - Chris Patton
Sayaka - Monica Rial
- Arumi delivers her tagline.
- Sashhi annoys Eutus, who's trying to use his telescope.
- Everyone loves a good Dragonball Z gag.
Agree? Disagree? Have a comment about a dub, or just about dubbing in general? Let me know! (mathews1 at ix.netcom.com)
Ryan is on Vacation for a while, the next Dub Track will be in May.
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