Inside the English Dub Premiere of Digimon Adventure Tri

by Jacob Chapman,

It was a packed house at the TCL Chinese Theater for the English dub premiere of Digimon Adventure Tri's first movie, as everyone settled in their seats, goodie bags and tickets in hand, with nervous energy. I have to admit, I wasn't sure what to expect myself. While Studiopolis hadn't been able to get the entire cast for the show back after 15 years, many of the actors they did get hadn't been heard in any anime projects for years, with a couple having disappeared from the voice acting scene altogether. So it was anybody's guess what the result would be when Joshua Seth, who retired from voicework a full decade ago, returned at long last to play Tai Kamiya for this movie.

Well, it may be a cliché to say, but it was like he'd never left at all. Seth's voice and cadence as the original gogglehead were immediately like flashing back to childhood, from Tai's breathy internal monologues to his comical panicky voice cracks. It was already surreal and nostalgic to hear, but when Tai finally reunited with Agumon after a full 25 minutes of build-up, the crowd broke into a round of applause. When Tom Fahn's equally long-absent voice came out of the little dinosaur, fans were as overjoyed to hear these two together in English again as the Digimon partners were to see each other in the film.

The rest of the movie followed in similar fashion, with each returning voice being met with a few audible gasps and squealing from the crowd. Mona Marshall as Izzy in particular seemed to bring a few folks in the crowd to the brink of tears, not only because so many young nerds identified so strongly with the computer whiz, but because it was inspiring to hear Mona Marshall, now almost 70, playing the teenage boy so perfectly, even as he's introduced speaking French! Colleen O'Shaughnessey and Philece Sampler as Sora and Mimi were the other returning Digidestined in top form as their characters, and Sampler was also present after the screening to comment on the movie, saying how overjoyed she was to play a more grown-up version of her first ever anime role. Most of the monster characters were back as well, with Laura Summer's inimitable Patamon voice getting several "awws" from the crowd, and Jeff Nimoy hamming Tentomon up more than ever before to plenty of laughter.

While most of the old cast was able to return for a flawless reprisal of their roles, there were also a few replacements in the group. Most of them were successful soundalikes, embracing their potentially thankless task to mostly positive results. Tara Sands as Kari was the strongest recast in the human group, capturing not only the familiar pitch of Kari's old dub voice but even the cadence and delivery style of the original performance. The strangest replacement was Johnny Yong Bosch as T.K., considering his original dub actor Doug Erholtz was available to play a new character in the movie instead. Still, given T.K.'s new bishounen hipster style, it's easy to see why Erholtz's original "dorkier" portrayal was reconsidered. JYB didn't sound much like the old T.K., but he didn't need to; dub T.K. ended up getting all the best lines in the movie, as Bosch turned even innocuous exposition into a hilarious deadpan remark that had the crowd laughing every time the relatively quiet character tossed off a line.

The only replacements that really distracted from all the nostalgia were the recasts for two missing Michaels: Michael Lindsay as Joe and Michael Reisz as Matt. Robbie Daymond did a laudable job portraying Joe as a character; it just couldn't be helped that he didn't sound anything like Lindsay's original portrayal. Still, this replacement was only mildly distracting compared to the only true record-scratch in the cast: Vic Mignogna as Matt. Unlike Daymond, whose list of voice credits is still relatively fresh, it's extremely hard not to hear Vic Mignogna as anything but Vic, thanks to his distinctive voice and enormous anime resume. This wouldn't be so bad if he sounded enough like Reisz's Matt to maintain the illusion (Matt gets a lot of focus in the movie), but there's not even a scant resemblance between either their voices or delivery styles. (Mignogna is all quiet scratchy intensity, while Reisz had a strong, enunciative, almost fratty punch to his kid-voice.) Even the inclusion of a new techno remixed dub theme song to replace Butter-Fly was met with largely enthusiasm from the crowd, but the theater got uncomfortably silent when Matt was speaking. (Well, save for the laughter that ensued whenever Tai and Matt stared intensely into one another's eyes. It's definitely been interesting to watch the Tri movies do all the audience's shipping for them.)

In the end, a few tiny casting hiccups were definitely not enough to sully the incredible nostalgia bomb of the evening. Apart from the replacement opening theme and localized names, the script was extremely faithful to the original Japanese—save for one precision delivery of "Prodigious!" from Izzy near the end of the movie that was met with the biggest applause of the screening. As the movie finished out with a special thank-you message from Crunchyroll and a preview of the first several minutes of the third movie to come, it was a terrific night to be a Digimon fan.


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