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The Dub Track

by Ryan Mathews,
You know, I'd like to give the SaiKano dub a fair review, but I really can't. Part of it is my fault, but most of the blame falls on Viz.

First, the part that's my fault. As a reviewer, I try my best to be unbiased. Unfortunately, I'm a human being with likes and dislikes, so that isn't always possible. When I'm unable to dismiss my biases, it's important that I say so. Few anime have had as strong an impact on me as Saishū Heiki Kanojo. When I watched the first episode fansubbed, I didn't know what it was about. The scene where Chise is revealed as a weapon is about ten times more powerful when you don't know it's coming. I was blown away. I was absolutely entranced by the gut-wrenching drama and the strong anti-war message. There are many scenes in this anime that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

So of course, I had high expectations for the dub. Extremely high. I wanted acting performances worthy of the level of drama found in the story, acting that would bring tears to my eyes like the sub did. I wanted to hear the best dramatic dub ever, for what I considered the best drama ever.

And, well... The dub just isn't that good. It's good, but it's not that good. Certainly not good enough to make me feel the same way I felt the first time around. That's not fair of me, is it? Maybe I've been spoiled by seeing the series subbed. Maybe if I'd watched the dub first, I'd have been blown away just the same. I doubt it. I really, really doubt it. But I'll never know.

I'll get to part that's Viz's fault in a moment. First, the primary actors.

Chise is played by Melissa Hutchinson. I liked her performance. Chise, despite being the most dangerous weapon ever created, is painfully shy and awkward. Hutchinson does a good job of bringing that out, her voice low and reserved. She has a cute voice, too, which helps.

Mark Atherlay (Jean-Pierre, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure) as Shuji is a bit hit-and-miss. In his scenes playing off other characters, Shuji comes off well. Atherlay's Shuji has good chemistry with Chise, sounding loving even as he calls her "dummy". I didn't care much for his narration, though. His readings of the next episode previews are painfully melodramatic.

There are many other roles in the anime, but none really made an impression on me one way or the other. No weak voices, but no particularly strong ones, either. I liked Amy Provenzano as Akemi, but the true test of her acting prowess will be how she handles the character's last scene, not the first one.

Fuyumi, the teacher with whom Shuji once had an affair, also has a nice voice, sexy yet vulnerable. However, I can't give the actress herself any credit. And the reason for that is just one of the myriad ways Viz managed to piss me off with their release of this anime.

You see, one of the ways Viz likes to cut corners is in the credits. They do this by producing one set of credits and using them for every episode on the disc. For the actors' credits, they grab a handful of the most important roles and put them on the screen. So what if it's not a full list — it's not like anyone actually reads these things, right? Viz does the same thing on the Inuyasha discs, but there, at least, they add a complete cast listing as a special feature. No such favors for SaiKano. So I have no clue who plays Fuyumi.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. I also have translation gripes. I thought it had been decided that mainstream American anime fans were informed enough to handle honorifics. I know I've heard "-chan" used in more than one dub. Yet Chise's cute "Shu-chan" has been replaced with "Shuji". This is going to cause problems later in the series when (if you'll forgive the minor spoiler) the two briefly break up. Chise stops calling him "Shu-chan" and instead calls him "sempai". If Viz is unwilling to use "-chan", I doubt they're willing to use "sempai", so how are they going to handle it in a way that carries any dramatic weight?

When we flash back to Fuyumi and Shuji having their tryst in the gym supply closet, Fuyumi says "We did something we shouldn't have, didn't we?" I'm guessing this is an accurate translation, but it just seems flat. The fansub I watched said "We did something really naughty, didn't we?" To me, that version carries more of an impact.

As if all these problems weren't enough, Viz seems to want to make it as hard as possible to watch the dub. No text translations are provided. There are several instances where Shuji or Chise react to each other's writing in an exchange diary. I had no idea what had been written unless I scanned back and turned on the subtitles.

While I'm busy griping, I know this has nothing to do with the dub, but would it have killed Viz to translate the opening song? There are no subtitles for the lyrics. It's a shame, because it's quite a beautiful song and very appropriate for the anime. The full title of the anime (literally, "She, The Ultimate Weapon", but "My Girlfriend the Ultimate Weapon" is closer to what "Kanojo" implies) is never translated, leaving "SaiKano" as a mysterious, meaningless word.

So yes, I'd like to give this dub a fair review, but there's just too much crap in the way, mine and theirs.

Rating: ** ½ (out of 4)
(review based on episodes 1-4)

Vital Stats:
Released by: Viz
Dubbed by: Not sure what to put here. The credits list a recording studio, a post-production studio, and the director's employer, but no single entity is given credit for producing the dub. It appears Viz took the overall responsibility themselves and just outsourced the various pieces of work.
Directors: Elaine Clark

Chise - Melissa Hutchinson
Shuji - Mark Atherlay
Akemi - Amy Provenzano
Fuyumi - Someone Viz didn't bother to list

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 this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of Anime News Network or its sponsors.

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