Anime dubs that *don't* suck

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Anime dubs that *don't* suck

Post by penfold » Wed Aug 19, 2009 8:07 pm

As midsummer's a bit of a dry spell for anime releases I thought I'd deviate from my usual reviews this week and instead post here on the forum about something that's been bugging me for the last few years, namely anime dubs and how they're not sucking as much as they used to.

Now, as some of you may have gathered by now from my reviews, I generally hate dubs with a passion, usually electing to skip them entirely (unless I'm doing a review of course) and go straight for the subbed version instead. However, I've found over the last couple of years that there's been a welcome improvement in their general qualty, not just in the voice acting but also in the ADR direction and translation/adaptation. I first noticed this trend of improvement when I was rewatching Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi and found that the dub was actually far superior to the original Japanese version. Yes, even I was shocked. Now at the risk of sounding like I'm reversing my previous Anti-Dub stance I've actually started going back and trying out the dubs on several of the series released over the last few years and found many of them to be quite enjoyable. A couple of these that I'd like to talk about today are The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya & Ergo Proxy.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
This is one of those cases where no matter how good the Dub is, it'll never ever in a million years be as good as the original. Once that's accepted and I look at the Dub on it's own merit then even I can see it's pretty good. Not pant-wettingly great I'll admit, but still pretty good.

Now apart from some things that really bugged me, which were mainly mispronunciations* or Wendee Lee (Haruhi's dub actress) in general, there was actually a lot of good things about this dub. Crispin Freeman makes a very capable Kyon and you could get the feeling most of the way through that A: he'd actually watched, and more importantly listened to, the original Japanese version before he started and B: he really knew where Kyon was coming from most of the time. Itsuki and Asahina were enjoyable for most of the time and Nagato, though played with just a touch too much monotone, actually had some of the funniest throwaway lines. Even the rest of the supporting cast weren't *too* annoying.

The biggest let down though was Wendee Lee who just doesn't seem to be able to grasp the fact that this show isn't for 7 year olds. Her Haruhi has more in common with a side character in Chip n' Dale: Rescue Rangers than it does with a multi faceted potential god. Even if I hadn't heard the Hirano Aya version first I'd still have thought the dub Haruhi was bad. And speaking of the Hirano version, for ep 12 they really should have just left Haruhi's singing voice in Japanese and put the lyrics in the "on screen titles" sub track like they did for the OP & ED. Wendee Lee's version wasn't -just- bad, it was painfully bad, and here's why:

First, she can't sing. Sorry, but she just can't. She couldn't when she tried it two decades ago and now, when she's well over 50, she still can't. Give it up woman.

Secondly, the English lyrics were terrible in a "written in five minutes by a High Schooler" way, didn't fit the tempo and sounded like they'd been shoehorned into the song with a sledgehammer. It had also lost a lot of the subtle subtext about Haruhi & Kyon's relationship as well.

Thirdly, They used the off vocal version of the original song (all good so far) and layered Wendee Lee's singing (pah) voice over it a number of times. They did this at way too high a volume without attempting to make at sound at all like it was being sung live through an amp or PA system. Result: it sounds like a baaaaaad karaoke.

So, a rather enjoyable dub for the most part but do yourself a favour and switch to Japanese for ep 12.

*They kept pronoucing Kyon as Kee-yone, to rhyme with Joan, rather than Ki-yon, to rhyme with John. Haruhi was occasionally Ha-who-he, Suzumiya had the Su and Zu treated like a Tsu and a Tzu at times and many other words were sounded out syllable by syllable rather than properly flowing as a single word.

Ergo Proxy.
Now this is how a Dub should be done. The three main characters; Vincent, Re-L and Pino, are all handled very well. I'd actually go as far as to say that for the main they're actually as convincing as their Japanese counterparts. Several of the supporting characters, including Iggy and Christiva, are also very good though a couple of them do manage to fall into a few of the more common dub traps**. There's also almost no instances where the lip-flaps don't match the dialogue and the mass majority of the cast manage to sound passably fluid and natural. It seems odd but there's not much else for me to say about this Dub as it's left me with very little to actually whinge about.

**Ep19 "The Girl with a Smile/eternal smile" actually seems to play up to many of the common dub pitfalls on purpose. While much of the episode may have been written to take a sly dig at US based animation, the creators of the Dub seems to have cottoned onto this and have added a few digs as well. As a little extra for the fans they've used many recognisable old Disney/Tex Avery sound effects and the Dub Voice Director, J Klein, has inserted himself into the ep as the voice of the character "Rougi".

It's kind of strange to think so but maybe ADV's recent problems could be one of the best things to ever have happened to dubbed anime. To give them their due, when ADV did a good job on a series then they did a *very* good job. A example of this is NGE which I can quite happily watch in either dub or sub any day of the week. The only trouble was that for every good job they did, they put out at least two stinkers. (But then, I'm not even mentioning the amount of stinkers Fox Kids and the likes put out over the years, yuk) But now that ADV's no longer the king of the hill it's giving other companies a chance get in there and really show what they can do. Funimation have snapped up a lot of new (and old) shows and are putting out some rather respectable dubs. A new breed of ADR director seems to be sweeping the anime dub landscape which, coupled with a whole host of fresh faces, or rather, fresh voices in the vocal talent pool, as well as what seems to be a new appreciation for the fact that the majority of the western world's anime watching audience aren't Pokemon collecting 12 year olds, means were seeing a lot more in the way of "serious" vocal work coming through.

By the way, If you haven't seen either The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or Ergo Proxy yet then I really can't recommend them enough.

Thanks for listening, Pen'

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Re: Anime dubs that *don't* suck

Post by Shinji Ikari » Wed Aug 19, 2009 11:25 pm

on there is one anime I just cant wach in sub ever agine and thats hellsing yes the British uperclases Vampier slayer anime just imagion the Queen speeking in Japanies to the mebores of the british govenment you just cant now can you?

but when they dubed this one they went for a bunch of proper English voice actors with british, Irish and scotish acents this indeed works fantasticly for the setting of the pice

anuther one thogh it be old is Marshion Sucsessor Nadesico your probbly woundering why?

well the reasion is hard to put into words bu for some reason once you seen the dub then the undub the dub is just better and i kow quite a few people who also think this such as some Mebers of Sweat shop studios

but in agreance to penfold dubs have realy gotten better in recent years its a fact

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Re: Anime dubs that *don't* suck

Post by ArmchairTitan » Thu Aug 20, 2009 12:10 am

I have to say that I have been stuck in the same boat for an enormous amount of time. I had unfairly categorised the general idea of anime dubs into "bad" after one too many terrible examples and didn't see fit to pay any more attention to the matter.

However, as stated above the quality has certainly risen in recent years. Many factors have contributed to this: Greater fan to dubber communication, the ever-increasing Western anime market and an influx of actors who actually care about what they are voicing. There is a lot of tone, dialogue, dialect and many other nuances of Japanese that don't translate well into English. In some cases the originally intended feel of a scene HAS to be sacrificed in the transition, but with enough effort and commitment a good actor and crew can work out suitable compromises.

I still personally prefer subs by a great margin. This isn't due to any deluded fixation with Japanese being a superior language or any kind of malice held for English. It just stands to reason that animation made for the Japanese culture and language will work most fluidly with its native tongue.

Still, I put my hands together for the dubbing companies fighting the good fight. It's a harsh market to cater for and the quality is really getting better every year. It's also good to see a lot of official subs becoming available as well, though. Dual-audio with optional subtitle track is the ideal format in my opinion.

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Re: Anime dubs that *don't* suck

Post by the-mental-one » Thu Aug 20, 2009 7:30 pm

Apart from one or two animes I've always preferred the subbed over dubbed (Hellsing being a marked example of an anime that's always seemed better dubbed as it suited the setting more), but I always watched both if available when I was younger because my mum just cannot cope with subtitles. So when watching anime at home it had to be dubbed, when I was at school or uni it was subbed for me... Still now that I'm reviewing again I have found the dubs increasingly becoming better. In some cases they're not just good now but better than the original Japanese, it's not often which helps it remain in the 'amazing' bracket when it does happen.

I've always hated it when you have no option. I have many movies from Japan that do not have a dubbed soundtrack and therefore though I may think they're brilliant I will never be able to share them with my mum. Then there are the animes that came out in the UK only with a dubbed soundtrack that sounded like someone had watched some really bad cartoons when they were younger and were trying to copy the voices...these animes I bought in from other countries and (in some cases) read subtitles in French or German rather than listen to the horror that was the English dub.

So yes, I'm very impressed that things are improving and hope it continues to improve, then again I'm still hoping the market will expand making anime more lucrative and mainstream so that we can see more of it in the UK and other English speaking countries so that the companies that produce the dubs will have more incentive to keep up the good work.


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