The Dub Track
by Ryan Mathews,
(Before I start, I'd like to gripe briefly about Viz's inability to decide how to spell the series' name. The main logo spells it "Inu Yasha," or is it "InuYasha"? The credits refer to the main character as "Inuyasha," and the manga is titled "Inu-Yasha." Come on, Viz! You have authority here. Make up your mind!)
Last month, I discussed the concept of "Ocean lag," how Ocean Studios' dubs often start out rough or even downright poor, only to improve as the actors receive on-the-job training as to how their characters should sound. It was my opinion that Arjuna broke out of that pattern. Sadly, Inu Yasha does not. While not a bad dub by any means, it bears the hallmarks of a cast struggling to find unique voices for their characters.
What always seems to happen in these cases, when (presumably) the actors are given insufficient data on their characters to truly understand them, as well as Insufficient Direction to bridge the gap, is that the actors choose an archetype (or a cliché, if you prefer) that's "basically like the character", and then perfect the voice as they get to know whom they're playing. For example, Kagome is "basic distressed teenage girl" and Inuyasha is "basic snot-nosed punk".
Kagome is voiced by Moneca Stori. She's also Laura in Hamtaro, and the two characters sound remarkably alike. Actually, if Hamtaro ever does something to really piss Laura off, they'll sound exactly alike. There's not really much depth to Stori's portrayal. Kagome is just a generic teenage girl, distressed because she's trapped away from home and prone to regular angry outbursts, usually at Inuyasha. There's nothing particularly wrong about her performance, there's just nothing distinctive about it. I simply get the feeling that just about any actress capable of playing a teenager could have delivered an identical performance.
Richard Cox plays Inuyasha as a slightly grumpier version of Ranma, whom he also plays. It fits — sort of. The only problem with the portrayal is that he isn't the slightest bit scary, not even in the very beginning, when he's supposed to be. At the end of the first episode, Inuyasha is threatening to kill everyone unless the Shikon jewel is turned over to him. Cox's Inuyasha is more "I'm gonna kick your ass" than "I'm gonna kill you." I had trouble believing any murderous intent. To be fair, as the series progresses and Inuyasha becomes more of a sympathetic character, that will be less of a problem.
Kaede, the old lady and provider of exposition, is played by Pam Hyatt. She's well cast and believable, projecting a strict, yet almost motherly tone. Even here, though, there's something that annoys me. The dub script has her talking in a clichéd version of archaic English, with lots of "ye" and "thee." I can guess why: most likely, the Japanese script has Kaede speaking an extremely old-fashioned dialect of Japanese. Nevertheless, it just sounds clumsy and odd. The dialogue is inconsistent as well; for example, she says "your" when the correct word would be "thy" or "thine."
As I write this review, it occurs to me that my standards have become more strict. Once upon a time, it was wonderful if a dub just featured actors who knew how to act. These days, with Animaze, Coastal Carolina, and even ADV having pushed the bar to the roof, I want more. Generic acting of the kind in Inu-Yasha just isn't going to receive raves.
Rating: ** (out of 4), but likely to improve
(Review based on episodes 1 - 3)
Inuyasha - Richard Cox
Kagome - Moneca Stori
Kaede - Pam Hyatt
Note: Unlike most Ocean dubs, Inu Yasha does feature individual credits. However, in what I can only guess is an attempt at economy, they run the same credits every episode, regardless of who actually appears. So the voice of "mistress centipede" is not listed, but the voice for Sesshomaru, who won't appear until much later, is.
- Laura, I mean Kagome, bemoans her situation
- Kagome keeps Inuyasha in line
- Inuyasha the bad-ass
- Kaede's archaic speech
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.