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Being a Brief Discussion of Anime Dubs: Comic Party Revolution, Volume One
By Way Jeng
November 20, 2006
Dub fans live a strange existence, even for anime fans. We listen for ever-changing voices that speak for animated faces that change with each series. It's a fandom with the substance of a dream and the press of a whisper. One of the thorniest problems dub fans have to deal with is how to approach shows that change cast members. This can happen for several reasons. An actor might move away or become unable to work. In the case of Comic Party Revolution, released by ADV Films and dubbed by ADV Studios, the sequel series was licensed and released by a different company.
There are always differing opinions when a new cast takes over an established dub. Some people believe the new cast should do their best to emulate the old dub as much as possible. Others believe that they should create a dub based on a new interpretation of the show, or something in between. The ideal goal that a director and cast should work toward goes beyond the scope of a brief discussion, but regardless dub fans may want to pay attention to this show. For the most part this dub follows closely in the footsteps of the previous dub, occasionally so much that it would be easy to ignore the cast changes. That works for and against the dub. It makes the new cast familiar, but it also makes the deviations from the original all the more telling.
Leraldo Anzaldua plays the lead character, Kazuki Sendo, though this role is somewhat less important than it was in the original series because the show no longer follows Kazuki directly. This version of the show treats the cast as a more equal ensemble centered on Kazuki as the general object of affection and all-around good guy. It's a good performance without any major flaws. Kazuki's enthusiasm and energy occasionally don't come across as well as they might, but his anger and annoyance are quite good. The fight chemistry between Kazuki and Taishi, played by Josh Grelle, is excellent.
Grelle holds up his end of Kazuki and Taishi's bizarre partnership. That speaks fairly well for him, given Liam O'Brien's extraordinarily entertaining original performance. The delivery does a commendable job of emulating Mr. O'Brien's grand style, and Mr. Grelle's screaming sounds excellent. At this point the biggest issue is the performance's soft intensity at low volume.
Luci Christian plays Mizuki Takase, Kazuki's girlfriend. Luci's anger is more pronounced compared to the original dub and in general her high-energy lines are quite distinct. It's a good performance without any weak points worth noting.
Tiffany Grant and Larissa Walcott both sound good as Yu Inagawa and Eimi Ohba, respectively. Both actresses bring boundless energy and enthusiasm to their roles. These characters have become somewhat more important in Comic Party Revolution. Doubtless that's partly because their rivalry is one of the few enduring story elements from the first series that gives the show a bit of tension and energy. It's also one of the constantly running themes from episode to episode and an excuse to start the occasional fight. Having these two performances adds a lot to the dub and makes listening to it much more enjoyable than it might have otherwise been.
Comic Party Revolution has a relatively large supporting cast, but as a whole they do well. There are a few moments where the cast doesn't have as much confidence or flow as they might, but it's never a large problem. It's always good to hear quality performances for smaller roles. Jenny Larson has one of the larger roles in the supporting cast as Subaru Mikage. Her voice matches the character well, particularly in Subaru's embarrassed and confused moments. Kim Prause also does fair work as Aya Hasabe. Kim Ly Nguen's performance as Chisa Tsukamoto wavers a bit. There are a few points where she sounds a bit too young, but the voice works in general. Laurie Gallardo's take on Reiko Haga has a few issues. She sounds good for the most part, and her voice matches the character's visuals, but she sounds like she's trying too hard in the disc's last episode.
In this case, the cast changes may not be as apparent or jarring as usual. Comic Party Revolution bears more similarity to an independent OVA than a second series. Where Comic Party was a show about otaku culture, Comic Party Revolution merely uses otaku to fill out its cast. That might sound like a purely semantic difference at first, but it's an important statement about the intentions of the two shows. The original Comic Party specifically set out to explain and poke fun of otaku culture in its many forms. Many of the characters were hyperbolizations that struck comically close to home when it came to an otaku's proclivity to obsess about cartoons, characters, and collectable merchandise. The story was also firmly set on watching an artist's struggle to publish amateur comic books.
The contrast to this is the almost passing reference we see to otaku culture in Comic Party Revolution. One episode is centered on a character wanting to go to the beach, and another one contrives a situation so that the cast can play baseball. It's not a bad show per se, but this sequel series doesn't have the stakes or emotional investment of the original. The episodes bear no direct relation to the original plot, and they stand alone from each other.
This is a problem on two levels. First, it takes the focus away from otaku culture and turns Comic Party Revolution into a more bland show that could have gone by nearly any name. Second, and more important, it cheapens Comiket. The first series did an excellent job of displaying what an important event Comiket was, and how difficult it could be to bring comics to print on time. Comic Party Revolution brings Comiket around nearly every episode, even though the event only takes place twice a year. As such it undermines the efforts of the original series and rings false. The change in the show's priorities has an effect on every cast member, but it's easiest to see in Taishi.
Taishi was an iconic figure in the original Comic Party. He was the loudest, brashest, and zaniest of the lot. But even for all that he served a function beyond screaming a lot and making a fool of himself. Taishi hyperbolized and epitomized the group's ambitions to create amateur comics through his grandiose and often megalomaniacal scheming. In this set of episodes that flare doesn't work because it lacks a focus. Taishi is reduced to little more than a delusional paranoid who makes spot appearances with no impact on the plot. In some ways that's not too different, because Taishi wasn't a direct driving factor in the original series, but his actions in this series feel hollow. In the first series, his machinations had a goal tied to the central plot. The sequel has him showing up mostly for bit parts.
It's inevitable that some fans are going to find Comic Party Revolution disappointing. The story isn't as strong as the first series, and this one doesn't feel like much of a sequel, but there may yet be some hope for Comic Party Revolution. A brief informational segment in the DVD extras states that Comic Party Revolution's first four episodes came from an OVA. Later episodes made specifically for a longer-running series may have stronger, more connected plots. Fans who may want to rent the second volume before giving up on the series entirely.
Copyright 2006 by Way Jeng