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The Dub Track
Witch Hunter Robin

by Ryan Mathews,
Have you ever gone to a movie that featured several of your favorite actors, then left the theater shaking your head in disbelief? "How," you wonder, "can actors that good make a movie that bad?" That's the feeling I had after watching the first volume of Witch Hunter Robin, a dub with some of today's best actors, actors wasted on one of the worst ADR scripts I've heard in over a year. At times merely mediocre, at other times almost painful to listen, this dub left me severely disappointed.

The cast is to die for. Not only is the lineup filled with experienced, popular actors, but each actor is well-suited for his or her role. I think many dub fans would have chosen the same actors given the chance. Wendee Lee as the level-headed, mature woman? Makes sense. Johnny Yong Bosch as the enthusiastic rookie? Of course! Crispin Freeman as the dark, mysterious, loner? No one does "dark and mysterious" better than Freeman. Sounds great. Sounds perfect! So what happened?

Before I get into that, let's take a brief look at the cast. I'll forego the usual detailed analysis, because my complaint with each actor is the same, and because I don't for a moment think it's the actors' fault.

Kari Wahlgren, best known as Haruko in FLCL, is the voice of Robin. Robin is a very cautious character in these early episodes, and Wahlgren plays that well, with an air of politeness that surrounds every line.

Crispin Freeman, Arucard in Hellsing and a ton of other roles, plays Amon. Freeman brings to the role his trademark deep voice and experience in playing mysterious, deadly serious hard-asses.

Johnny Yong Bosch, whose roles are many but who is still best known as Vash in Trigun, is Haruto Sasaki, the young rookie. Sasaki is young and enthusiastic, the type of character Bosch has experience playing, so it's a natural fit. I should be honest and say I didn't immediately recognize Bosch in the role, which isn't a bad thing, since it demonstrates his range.

Wendee Lee's roles are almost too many to count, but of course we all know her as Faye in Cowboy Bebop. Lee plays Miho Karasuma, the second most senior officer after Amon. Lee can play any age, but she's especially adept at mature women. She brings an air of competence and sophistication to Karasuma's voice.

Michelle Ruff, Aoi in Ai Yori Aoshi and many, many other roles, plays Yuriko Dojima, the irresponsible blonde who appears to be on the staff only because of her parents' influence. Ruff's voice fits well here, as she does her best to make Dojima sound selfish and bratty.

Dave Wittenberg, Kei in Please Teacher! and a ton of Digimon voices, is the voice of Michael, the young hacker who works at STNJ. Michael is essentially just a young kid, so Wittenberg doesn't have much of a chance to make him sound unique, save for one well-done scene where Michael tells Robin why he's not allowed to leave STNJ. Wittenberg plays the scene with a combination of enthusiasm and regret as he relates the story.

The above paragraphs were some of the hardest I've ever written. Notice how my comments center primarily on how the voices sound. I can't critique the performances, i.e. how those voices are used, because the performances are nearly all the same: flat, flat, flat.

It's the script. It's awful. The words are clumsy, and seem to have been written largely without regard to fitting the words to the animation. I haven't heard this many awkward mid-sentence pauses since the early 90's.

Some of the cast try valiantly to work around the script. Wendee Lee in particular does an admirable job of trying to make Karasuma's pauses sound natural, but even she has limits. Other actors seem resigned to... stopping whenever the... script requires them to.

How can actors be expected to do a good job when the script requires them to stop in mid-sentence for no reason? It's like placing telephone poles on stage during a ballet. Trying to get a good performance out of these words is trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

I'll continue to watch this dub. With this much talent on hand, I can't help but hope that it will improve. But the scriptwriting needs to get much better, or failing that, the cast needs to become experts in... making pauses sound good.

(Additional note: As Anne and I choose the sound clips for the column, she's not hearing the pauses, or at least not being as annoyed by them, as I was. If she didn't notice it, it's possible you won't. Give a listen to the clips and see if you agree.)

Rating: ** (out of 4)
(Review based on episodes 1-5)

Vital Stats:
Released by: Bandai
Dubbed by: Bang Zoom!
Director: Eric Sherman

Robin Sena - Kari Wahlgren
Amon - Crispin Freeman
Haruto Sasaki - Johnny Yong Bosch
Miho Karasuma - Wendee Lee
Yuriko Dojima - Michelle Ruff
Michael Lee - Dave Wittenberg
Chief Kosaka - Doug Stone
Takuma Zaizen - Jamieson Price
Master (Yuji Kohari) - Jerry Gelb

Clips: Thanks to Anne Packrat for helping me choose the clips and editing them.
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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