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The Dub Track

by Ryan Mathews,
This will be my last column as a dub reviewer. It's been fun reviewing dubs for the last four years (going back to my Akadot days), but too much has changed, both with me and with dubs. You guys who are in or just out of college and are active in the anime fandom on the internet, enjoy it while it lasts, 'cuz one of these days you'll find yourself with a full-time job, a mortgage, a spouse, and maybe even kids. There are those who can still find the time to be an active web journalist under those conditions. It helps to be a master organizer, to be a fast writer, and to have few, if any, other serious hobbies. I'm none of the above. So as I struggled these last few months, unable to meet any deadline I set for myself, I felt I was doing ANN a disservice by continuing. There are other writers they can get who can do a good job of reviewing dubs, younger ones with more time to do it.

Dubs have changed as well. When I started reviewing, the average dub was fair-to-poor, with plenty of big glaring flaws I could point out in detail. These days, the average dub's flaws are much more subtle. It's rare that you hear truly bad acting or bad directing. More often, it's uninspired directing, unenthusiastic acting, or decently acted but forgettable performances that are the problems. I honestly don't have the training or experience to be able deliver such subtle critiques. I don't know how many times I've sat at my computer stumped as to what to say about a performance. I mean, it was "alright"... It wasn't "bad", but it wasn't "good." The character was just kinda "there." If I had the time, I might try to study the art of film and theater criticism to be a better critic, but I just don't.

So, I'm handing in my title of "dub reviewer." Ideally, I'd like it if my successor, if possible, could be someone who's actually worked in the dubbing industry. That's the type of insight I feel we need.

Anyway, onto the last of the reviews. With my new wife Anne Packrat away at Sugoi-Con (I still don't go to conventions), I figured it was the best time to get some writing in. I hope readers will forgive the casual format, as well as the lack of clips. (Mac's here, stereo's waaaaaay over there, and I haven't yet decided how I'm going to connect them.)

Tenchi Muyo GXP

When I first watched this anime, I remember my inital stunned impression being "They dubbed the songs!" I suppose it's silly to care about that, but I thought it was a nice touch. The original Tenchi Muyo! OVA dubs featured dubbed songs, after all. As for the dub, it's not bad.

I think this dub pretty much epitomizes the average dub these days: competently acted, enjoyable to watch, but nothing you're going to remember a year later. I liked Wendee Lee's performance as Kiriko, but to be honest, it sounds like several of her other roles. Tony Oliver as Seina sounds like puberty is violently having its way with his voice. I'll admit it matches the character, but it gets annoying after a dozen episodes or so.

But what I really want to talk about is episode 17. A throwaway episode which brings back all the major Tenchi characters, it showed just how far anime acting still has to go in this country as a profession. While the Japanese track featured the original actors reprising their roles, economics prevented Funimation from doing the same on the English track. As the company explained, the expense involved in finding the original cast and bringing them into the studio was too great, given that each character had only a small number of lines.

(Here's irony for you: One member of the original cast was already onboard — Rebecca Forstadt, who played Mihoshi in Tenchi in Tokyo and Erma in this series. So guess which Tenchi character had no lines in the episode?)

So the viewers were left to hear to a different cast than the old familiar one. I remember the griping way back in 1993 when the original dub hit the scene, and can't help but wonder if some of those folks would have preferred the new cast. Chris Kent's Tenchi is a lot more mature than Matt K. Miller's, and Mona Marshall's Ryoko is more feminine than Petrea Burchard's. Jessica Gee as Washu does a surprisingly good impression of K.T. Vogt. As I watched the episode it dawned on me that she was doing it by pinching her nose shut.

Myself, I have a soft spot for the original dub cast, with all their flaws, which is why I'm glad Funimation will try to reunite them for the dub of the new OVA series.

R.O.D -The TV-

Long-time readers know that I have a history of giving dubbing studio New Generation a hard time. So you know there's no bias on my part when I say the R.O.D -The TV- is one of the best dubs of the year. Not since Cowboy Bebop have the main characters of an anime been dubbed by such a strong ensemble. Each of the four major characters has a voice good enough to carry an anime all by herself.

New Gen stalwart Hunter MacKenzie Austin plays Michelle. Her sing-song delivery perfectly matches Michelle's ever-sunny disposition, and is a delight to listen to. Newcomer Sara Lahti plays the tall, quiet, yet somehow ditzy Maggie, voicing her lines just above a whisper. And Anita is the perfect little brat, played by Rachel Hirschfeld (Hana in Haibane Renmei). Together with Wendy Tomson, who plays author Nenene so realistically it's almost too real, they form a team with amazing chemistry.

This has quickly become Anne's and my favorite dub.

The Super Milk-chan Show

Man, I don't know what Adult Swim was thinking. For as long as I've been watching ADV's insane dub of Super Milk-chan, I've thought the anime would be a good fit with all the other weird stuff on Adult Swim's Sunday night lineup. Someone at Cartoon Network must have agreed, because that's exactly what happened. So what do I hear when I tune in? The wrong dub.

You see, ADV produced two dubs of this anime. The first one was a traditional dub with an accurate translation. It was well-done, but not particularly funny, unless you're very familiar with Japanese pop-culture. So, with the bar raised by ADV's wacky dubs of Excel Saga and Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, ADV decided to radically re-dub Super Milk-chan. They made major changes to the script, replacing Japanese cultural references with American ones, and replaced the live-action sequences with all-new live-action bits featuring the ADV voice actors.

It was that second dub, with a level of insanity that has to be seen to be believed, that would have worked well on Adult Swim. Not the less-than-funny original dub. Yes, some editing would be necessary, to bleep out naughty words and cut the free-form format, which presents all episodes and live-action bits as a single feature, into single-episode pieces. But it would have been worth it.

I know some people out there decide whether to buy anime after having seen it on TV. If all you've seen of Milk-chan is what was on Adult Swim, trust me, the new dub is much, much, much better than that. (And if you do like the TV version, well, ADV packages both dubs together.)

Thank you so much for reading. You haven't heard the last of me. I plan to submit the occasional editorial, and there's always a chance I may turn up somewhere else with a general anime opinion column. When you've been in the habit of spouting off online for as long as I have, it's a hard habit to break.

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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