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The Dub Track

by Ryan Mathews,
It's times like these that I'm glad I don't get paid for this gig, because they'd probably fire me. This will not be the best review I've ever written, but it should make for amusing reading.

I've only been in the reviewing game for a couple of years and still consider myself a beginner. One of the lessons I'm learning the hard way is this: Never, ever, ever promise to write a review of something until you've seen it, assuming you have a choice in the matter. When Synch-Point offered to send me a screener DVD of FLCL (pronounced "Fooly Cooly") in hopes of a review, I giddily agreed. Hey, free stuff! And I was truly interested in this way hip anime that had all the fans abuzz.

Then I watched it.

What the hell am I supposed to do now?

No, no, no. You misunderstand me. I'm not afraid of writing a bad review. I've worked with the folks at Synch-Point before. They're cool and understand the risks associated with soliciting an honest opinion.

No, I honestly have no clue how I'm supposed to review this dub. If it weren't bad enough that the first DVD has only two episodes on it, that there are only four roles in those two episodes major enough to mention individually, well... this is FLCL we're talking about. It's not my job to review the anime itself, just the dub, but I'll go ahead and say this: if someone describes FLCL by saying "I can't explain it to you, you'll just have to see it", it's meant literally. I have never seen such an inexplicable anime this side of Angel's Egg. In such an anime, the visuals and the music take precedence over everything, including the plot and the acting, which at times seems subdued just so it won't get in the way.

What do I say when a dub is dead-on, yet I dislike it anyway?

I'll say this: the FLCL dub is an accomplishment for Synch-Point. They proved with I'm Gonna Be An Angel that they could dub the undubbable and do it well, and they outdid themselves here. The original Japanese vocal director was a consultant to the production, and it shows. When I say the dub is dead-on, I mean almost creepily so. I could switch back and forth between the Japanese and English tracks, and discern little to no difference in the voices, save the language, of course. This is truly a masterpiece of casting and directing.

But, dang it all, I don't like the original voices! Especially Mamimi, voiced by Jennifer Sekiguchi. She sounds so dead! Would it really destroy the hip-ocity, the trailblazing, cutting-edge, artsy-fartsiness of it all if she emoted once in awhile? I swear, sometimes it sounds like she's lifelessly reading from a script. Again, this performance is identical between the Japanese and dub tracks, so I can't blame Synch-Point. That's the way the original director wanted it!

I liked Kari Wahlgren as Haruko, the wacky alien who hits people and robots with her guitar (don't ask). Wahlgren does a fine job with the character voice, playing it scratchy, high-pitched, over-the-top, and yes, precisely identical to the Japanese version.

Barbara Goodson plays the young boy Naota, who is the main character as well as providing narration. Goodson actually differs from the Japanese actor in that she reads the narration in a noticably more mature tone of voice, but that's such a trivial difference that it's barely worth mentioning.

And really, that's all I have to say. I'm going to withhold the star rating from this review. I simply don't like the acting enough to give it a good rating, but to give it a poor one would be to punish Synch-Point for expertly mimicking the Japanese, which, after all, is what fans consider to be ultimate goal of any dub.

Rating: (no star rating given)
(Review based on episodes 1 & 2)

Vital Stats:
Released by: Synch-Point
Dubbed by: Synch-Point
Director: Marc Handler

Naota - Barbara Goodson
Mamimi - Jennifer Sekiguchi
Haruko - Kari Wahlgren
Kanon - Joe Martin

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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