Video Girl Ai
VHS 1 - i'm here for you
Video Girl Ai is a virtuoso piece of work. Now it gets a commercial release, letting all of the fans who don't know about fansubs to finally discover what we've known all along... This is by far one of the best stories ever put to animation.
For those who don't know the story, it goes like this: Yota Moteuchi (often misread "Motenai", meaning "Dateless") is a really really nice guy... so nice, in fact, that instead of stewing in his own juices after the love of his life Moemi confesses love to his best friend Takashi, he's feeling sorry for Moemi's having been shot down. But inside, his own heart is breaking...
Stopping at a mysterious video shop he never noticed before, he drops in for a porn to cheer himself up. He happens upon one of those Video Girl tapes (non-interactive virtual girlfriends for losers)... "I'm Here For You! Ai Amano" says the box. He goes home and pops it in the VCR (that hasn't been working quite right lately). That's when Ai-chan comes out of the TV to REALLY be there for him!
...Except she's not exactly as expected. Her breasts have shrunk, and she's not all kind and coy like she was on VHS. She's loud, brash, bad at cooking, and has a perverted sense of humor... but she's still cute and fun. She takes it upon herself to get Yota and Moemi to hook up, but it's pretty much hopeless. Moemi only sees him as a friend, and he's too nice to ever turn down that role.
Video Girl Ai is one of the most well-done, best-presented anime ever made. The original is a favorite of mine, and Megumi Hayashibara delivers a stunning performance as Ai-chan that I thought couldn't be matched. The thought of a dubbed version sent shivers down my spine.
Surprisingly, Video Girl Ai is very well dubbed! True, the new voices take a bit of getting used to, the mixing is a little off and Takashi sounds like a smoker, but those are rather trivial things that no one will really notice. Contrary to what some may have heard, the dubbed version is NOT cut, but the subtitled version accidentally had the prologue to the second episode removed by the always inept Captions Inc. I really really hope Viz has an unannounced recall of this tape like Urban Vision was forced to with the volume of Gatchaman that they royally screwed up.
I'm not sure whether it's an insult to the famous Dallas Operator 7G fansub or a compliment to the dub that the translation is actually much better in the Viz dub. The rewrite is amazingly good, although it rearranges a few lines of dialogue in a way that they don't really make sense. For example, in the second episode Moemi corners Yota at school and thanks him for always being there for her. The dub adds that she says, "Sometimes I wish that I fell in love with you instead." This takes all the sting out of her saying that to Ai-chan later in that episode, so that's changed to "You wouldn't mind if I had feelings for your brother, right?" and Ai-chan thinking "No chance of that happening, eh Yota?"
That aside, there's plenty about this dub that's right... very right. Even the songs, which many had feared would get rewritten to be singable (and therefore stripped of most of the original meaning) have been left in beautiful, untouched raw-translated form, making it the perfect compliment to the gorgeous soundtracks already domestically released by JNA Music. All of the post-production work is well-done. The dub is every bit as enjoyable as the original subtitled version.
...But the best parts, as they were in the original Japanese Version, are the video theater extras! They did accidentally omit gargantuan Ai-Chan's animalsitic roar from the first episode, but the second episode is dubbed complete with Hicksville Southern accents. The line at the end is changed to reflect Viz's point of view. Funny stuff indeed!
Really, only if you get the subtitled version are you in any way cheated by getting the commercial version. For a show that has so heavily fansubbed, Viz really needs to do something about that if they want any support, expensive as it might be. Most fans will be waiting for DVDs, methinks.
Overall (dub) : A
+ Classic angst-drenched anime. Haunting soundtrack. Surprisingly good dub.
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