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Being a Brief Discussion of Anime Dubs: Last Exile Volume Three
By Way Jeng
April 12, 2004
Welcome to today's column. This time I'll be taking a look at Last Exile volume three, released by Geneon Entertainment. This is a show that has sported a quality dub in its previous volumes, and this volume continues to uphold the standard of work established in earlier volumes. However, like many shows Last Exile does experience a few growing pains as a result of plot transitions for many of its characters. However, none of the characters sound inappropriate, and this remains a solid dub with a lot to commend in it.
The most striking aspect of the Last Exile's English dub is the contrast between the established crew of the Silvana, this group composed of Alex Row, Sophia Forrester, and Tatiana Wisla, and the newcomers to the ship, including Claus Valca, Lavie Head, and Alvis Hamilton. There's a clear delineation between these groups in terms of emotionality and overall tone. The established crew has an aura of majesty and confidence surrounding them, while the newcomers to the ship are awed, surprised, and sometimes confused. These elements have been present since the last disc, but it's only now that we get a full sense of the difference between the two groups as we see them interacting and responding to the same situations. The difference is very plain, and it's going to be interesting to find out how the theme is going to evolve in later discs.
Heading up the main crew is Alex Row as played by Crispin Freeman. Mr. Freeman turns in another solid performance in this disc. At every moment Alex sounds calm, cool, collected, and above everything else unapproachable. It's true that so far this role hasn't demanded a lot of emotional range from Mr. Freeman, but comparing this role to his work in other shows such as Chobits it's an impressive showing of range.
It's also worth noting Julia Ann Taylor's performance as Sophia Forrester. This role has been a lot of fun to listen to because it's the most genuinely human and sympathetic of the main Silvana crew. While Sophia exudes the command authority one would expect from her character Ms. Taylor is also able to keep the character warm enough to make her interactions with the newcomers to the ship, especially, Alvis, genuine. It's an excellent performance to show emotional versatility inside of a single character.
Tatiana Wisla, performed by Michelle Ruff, is one of the few characters in this show who doesn't quite work. While Ms. Ruff is certainly a talented actress, she has a few problems in this role. Specifically, Tatiana fails to be compelling as an angry, icy character. While Ms. Ruff is able to portray the requisite amount of anger and overall hostility appropriate to the character there's something missing from this performance. Tatiana sounds, for lack of a better term, too nice. She lacks a cold edge to her speech, and ultimately sounds like a happy person who's simply having a very bad day. Her core personality still feels inherently friendly, and it doesn't mesh well with the character. On the other hand, this is not the kind of role one would typically expect from Ms. Ruff, and even if the role isn't working out perfectly it's good to see voice talent being given the chance to try characters who will let them show off some range.
Turning to the second group of characters in the show we're first met by Johnny Yong Bosch's performance of Claus Valca. This is a good performance, though at times sounds slightly lower in pitch and less energetic than we've heard in prior discs. On one hand the performance lacks the fun and youthful exuberance we've heard in the first volume, but it's equally true that this volume marks a very real psychological change in Claus's mindset. He's now being introduced into a situation far beyond anything he ever expected to be in, or has experienced before, and a certain caution is expected in his character. In the end I thought this was an appropriate change for the character, though it was somewhat less fun to listen to than the happier Claus we've heard in previous volumes was.
The same general pattern can be heard in Kari Wahlgreen's performance of Lavie Head. Again, the performance is a little slower and a little less peppy than in the past. However, it's appropriate considering the evolving storyline. Ms. Wahlgreen's overall performance is great, and she adds an element of roughness into the performance of this character that's very enjoyable to listen to. This is doubly impressive when one considers the ease with which she handles her slower and more thoughtful scenes.
Coming to the character of Alvis we find ourselves again examining one of Michelle Ruff's performances. This is solid performance with a lot to commend it. In particular note the scenes where Alvis gets angry at Tatiana for treating Claus badly, and also the end of episode twelve when she gets scared. The honesty of the emotion in these scenes plays out very well.
Finally, I'd like to note Joshua Seth's performance as Dio. Haughty and a little creepy, this is an excellent performance. It's slightly unsettling to listen to, but it matches the overall tone and motif of the character very well. Mr. Seth does an excellent job of capturing the character's bizarre mindset, and I'm looking forward to hearing what he does with the character in later volumes.
In conclusion, this is a strong dub currently undergoing a delicate transition. The show is now entering the mainstay of the plot and growing more serious, and the dub is moving along in time with the show. Overall, the cast is doing some great work with this show, and it's going to be a lot of fun hearing what they do with these characters in the next disc.
Questions? Comments? E-mail me at BitRMann@aol.com
Copyright 2004 Way Jeng