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The Dub Track

by Ryan Mathews,
re Ocean lag: none.

Ocean dubs have, in the past, been known for talented actors and lackluster directing. Dubs like Gundam Wing and Escaflowne show a noticeable improvement in acting quality in later episodes, as the actors become more familiar with their characters. I coined the term "Ocean lag" to refer to the number of episodes it takes a given Ocean Studios dub to improve to the point where I actually enjoy it. Usually it takes between five and eight episodes. Not this time.

Truth be known, I hadn't planned to review this dub. Heck, I hadn't even planned to listen to it. A series of disappointing efforts had pretty well soured me on anything from Ocean. But I couldn't resist at least trying the dub (I never can), and I'm glad I did. This is not only the best dub I've ever heard from this studio, it's one of the better dubs I've heard this year.

But first, a digression.

You may notice that I rarely review dubs from Animaze (Pioneer's primary studio), or Ocean (Bandai's main studio). There's a reason for it. It has to do with the lack of individual acting credits. These two studios, to the best of my knowledge, are the only ones who still refuse to tell the viewer who plays who. The actors' names are given in one generic list, with a title such as "English Voice Talent", without listing the character each actor plays. This is extremely frustrating when trying to do a review. Occasionally, I can recognize an actor by ear, but it's so embarrassing to be wrong. A little research will turn up a few actors whose roles became public knowledge in one way or another, but it's rarely enough for a satisfactory review. So I tend to stick to reviewing dubs from studios that don't keep the information a secret.

("But what about your vast array of industry contacts," you ask? "You're a reviewer, aren't you?" Well, first off, my array of contacts isn't as vast as I'd like, and probably never will be. Secondly, most of my best contacts are with studios that already provide individual credits. There's nothing ironic about that. It makes sense that studios that aren't afraid to provide full credits would be the most willing to talk to fans.)

What makes this situation especially maddening is that no satisfactory explanation has ever been provided as to why such credits can't be given. I've been asking the question for over five years now, and have never received a straight answer.

First off, it's not even clear who makes the decision not to list characters. A Pioneer representative once told me that it was up to the producer of each dub, but couldn't tell me on what basis the decision was made. Pioneer's Animaze dubs don't feature individual credits, but their New Generation dubs do. So it must be the studio, right? Not so fast! Bandai's dubs, most of which come from Ocean, don't have individual credits, but Viz's dubs, which are also by Ocean, do.

What possible reason could there be for withholding the name of an actor's character? When I asked one actress, a very talented and prolific individual, she had no clue, and even professed to be just as annoyed as I that she wasn't receiving full recognition for her work. Another actress, just as talented and prolific and even working in the same market, when asked the same question, clammed up as if she feared secret police would leap from the shadows and wrestle away her SAG card.

A vague allusion to "the union" is often made, but no one ever explains why the union would care whether or not a character is listed next to an actor's name. Would that simple act change the pay scale?

Whatever the case, I can see no reason not to give individual credits. New Generation does, and considering the caliber of talent they attract, I find it hard to buy that they're defying the union. Bang Zoom uses many of the same actors as Animaze, and they give individual credits. And if Ocean can give them for Viz, what reason do they have not to give them for Bandai?

Thankfully, interviews featured on the Arjuna DVD revealed two of the actors. For the rest, I'm relying on the list provided by the Crystal Acids English Voice Actor & Production Staff Database.

Maggie Blue O'Hara (Ai, Video Girl Ai), responsible for the voice of Juna, really got my attention when I began watching. Her voice is wonderful, soft and gentle at rest but capable of becoming forceful when the script calls for it, without feeling the slightest bit strained at either end. But what impressed me the most, what truly grabbed me, is her performance in the first episode when Juna is taken from her body on her deathbed and shown "the truth" about the Earth. That scene is one of the best depictions of fear and confusion I've heard in a dub.

The physically vegetative but psychically powerful Chris is played by Brad Swaile (Quatre in Gundam Wing), or as his legions of fangirls referred to him at Anime Central this year, "SHRIEEEEEEEK!" Swaile was well-picked for this part, as he brings some of what he used for Quatre to the role. Swaile gives a Chris a gentle but mentorly tone. Chris speaks only telepathically, so the velvet, dream-like quality of Swaile's performance works well.

There are so many good voices in this dub. Brittney Irvin is well-cast as the snotty little girl Cindy who speaks for Chris to those who can't hear his mind. Her voice has a biting tone to it that suits the character well. Andrew Francis plays Tokio, Juna's boyfriend. He does his best to bring some depth to a character whose primary goal in the early is to chase after Juna and get in trouble, and he succeeds, convincing me the character was motivated by real concern and not just a failure to know when he's out of his league. And Samantha Ferris is both sexy and professional as officer Teresa Wong.

Ocean is to congratulated on a excellent job of casting, and director Teri Snelgrove should pat herself on the back for shaping a dub where every actor fits his or her character like a glove from episode one. Now if only they would fix that little problem with the credits.

Rating: **** (out of 4)
(Review based on episodes 1 & 2)

Vital Stats:
Released by: Bandai
Dubbed by: Ocean
Director: Teri Snelgrove

Juna - Maggie Blue O'Hara
Chris - Brad Swaile
Cindy - Brittney Irvin
Tokio - Andrew Francis
Teresa Wong - Samantha Ferris

Note: Crystal Acids truly is a marvelous site. It provides a surprising number of cast lists for Animaze and Ocean dubs. I expect this to be a great resource for me in the future.

Clips: Thanks to Anne Packrat for her audio-editing skill!
Click here to read some letters I've received!
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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