Eigo Kudasai:The One with the Re-Releases (Mania.com)

By:G.B. Smith
Date: Friday, April 17, 2009

April is often one of the bleakest months for new releases (the other month that tends to have a few less is December, since both retailers and producers want everything new and shiny to be out on store shelves before the Christmas rush). This April is not very different, with a large number of re-releases of shows that finished their initial run some time ago. Looking at the last two weeks of this month, there are quite a few re-releases of shows of some note. There are the two Key games adapted by Kyoto Animation, Air TV and Kanon, the "I want to be a rocker" story Beck, and The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye, which is notable for being to date the last show from The Right Stuf/Nozomi Entertainment that was released with a dub. These shows are also a reminder that as little as two years ago, the dubbing landscape was far more broad than it currently is today. If you passed on buying the singles for some of these products that were put out just before what many people are considering the end of the "Golden Age of Anime Dubbing," let me say a few words to convince you, or not, to consider purchasing one of these sets.

 

Air TV

Dubbed by Amusement Park Media, Houston, TX.

Directed by Kyle Jones

 

Air, adapted from the game by Key/Visual Art's, tells the story of Yukito Kunisaki (Vic Mignogna), a wandering puppeteer (yes…) who comes to a seaside town and becomes involved with three girls, each of whom is slightly off-kilter: the cheerful yet lonely Misuzu Kamio (Monica Rial), the teasingly playful Kano Kirishima (Stephanie Wittels), and the quiet Minagi Tohno (Kira Vincent-Davis). All three girls have their own hidden secrets, which may or may not be connected to the "girl in the air" whom Yukito is on a quest to find, a quest bequeathed to him by his mother, one carried by his family line for 1,000 years. 

 

The expectations were fairly high among fans of the Key/KyoAni works, and those expectations were met. While I was originally a little hesitant about the choice of Mr. Mignogna as Yukito, the performance itself reassured me that he was a good choice. He managed to keep himself relatively restrained except for those occasions where the character got worked up, where he matched the on screen exasperation well. Ms. Rial's Misuzu was pretty much a winner from the start, with the right amount of sweetness and cuteness. Relative newcomer (at the time) Stephanie Wittels brought the right amount of spunky playfulness to Kano, while Ms. Vincent-Davis did more with less, as Minagi is the usual "speak little and not often" role that many a show has. One of the real highlights of the dub, however, is Luci Christian, who plays Misuzu's mother, Haruko Kamio. Here, she is in her mature range, and it is a breathtaking performance at times. Just to see the scene where she basically curses the heavens (I will not reveal why) is worth the price of this entire set. 

 

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

Dubbed by FUNimation Productions, Ltd., Flower Mound, TX.

Directed by Christopher Bevins and Taliesin Jaffe

 

Whereas Air TV is about cute girls occasionally doing cute things, but with Heavy Drama™ working its way into the story, Beck is all about wanting to belong. In this case, the wanting comes from one Yukio Tanaka, normally referred to by his nickname Koyuki, a 14-year with little direction and modest dreams. That all changes when he meets guitarist Ryuusuke Minami and joins him in the quest to form the ultimate band. The story follows them through the ups and downs of trying to make it in a music scene that has not been completely overrun by illegal downloads and downwardly spiraling music sales, which makes this all somewhat quaint and nostalgic. In some ways, think of it as "Almost Famous" for the anime set. 

 

There are many highlights to this dub. Early on, we have the singing contest where Koyuki (Greg Ayres) and Maho Minami (Brina Palencia), Ryuusuke's younger sister on whom Koyuki develops a strong crush, steal the show (even if they do not win the contest, since it was rigged). At various points, we also have the entertaining presence of the Lester Bangs-type character, Mr. Saito (R. Bruce Elliot), Koyuki's guitar mentor played with gusto by Mr. Elliot. Overall, this dub is refreshing in that many of the characters are not the normal mid-teens that tend to dominate anime. While the lead Koyuki is in that category, many of the characters are older, a few far older, and the performers bring a somewhat mature edge to portraying these characters. Mr. Ayres is very solid as the lead, showing us the various emotions that Koyuki goes through in his bumpy ride towards the hope of stardom. The show is also mainly filled with male roles, again an aberration from most anime, which helps to give it the feeling of being something a little different from the norm. While the show may not be for everyone (if you want nothing more than cute girls doing cute things, and have no interest in all in the music scene, especially the indie music scene, this show may not be for you), the dub is a very well crafted one and I highly recommend it. 

 

Kanon

Dubbed by Amusement Park Media, Houston, TX.

Directed by Kyle Jones

 

Perhaps one of the last dubs to be released from ADV Films' in-house studio (their most recent releases have been sub-only, and there is no word, official or unofficial, about any new dubbed projects), Kanon is the second of the so-called "KeyAni Trilogy" (the third part, Clannad, is currently being released by ADV as a sub-only release. It is highly unlikely that we will hear a dubbed version of Clannad. One should never say never, but I would be very surprised if we ever do hear Clannad in English). In Kanon, high school student Yuuichi Aizawa (Chris Patton) has come to live with his aunt Akiko Minase and her daughter Nayuki (Jessica Boone) in a town that seems to be perpetually blanketed in snow. Yuuichi had come to live with them once before, seven years ago, but he has largely lost all memories of that time. Coming back, however, he begins to meet several girls, all of whom have secrets to be revealed, and some of whom are tied to the memories that Yuuichi has seemed to have forgotten. Referred to by some as the show about "sad girls in snow," Kanon shares certain similarities with Air TV, but that is only natural since both were created originally by the game designer Key. 

 

With a much larger scope (24 episodes as opposed to Air TV's 12) and a larger cast, Kyle Jones had a larger task at hand. Avoiding overlap with Air's cast, Mr. Jones used a combination of well-known names and a few who were relatively new to dubs at the time to form a very good ensemble to give voice to the show. Chris Patton was a natural choice for Yuuichi, and a good match for the original seiyuu Tomokazu Sugita, since both are well-versed in delivering sarcastic asides in a straightforward manner. An interesting departure, however, from the original sound was made in the way Nayuki and Ayu Tsukimiya (Brittney Karbowski) were pitched. The original seiyuu, Mariko Kouda and Yui Horie, were very much in the hyper-cute, ow, my ears, range that is very common on the Japanese side of things. In English, both characters were put into a somewhat lower, and more normal register, which fits English-hearing expectations far better, since these two characters are nominally high school girls. 

 

Overall, Kanon is a very solid dub, with Mr. Jones showing an effortless mastery in getting both powerfully dramatic and hilariously comedic performances out of his cast. It is no surprise that Kanon was a big winner in the Anime Dub Recognition Awards (hosted here in the Anime/Manga forums of Mania.com). If you want to read more, you can see the write up that it received for winning the Best Dub Award for 2008: http://www.mania.com/2008-anime-dubbies-award_article_113802.html (scroll down to the end, but feel free to read all of the write ups for the winners). 

 

The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye

Dubbed by Headline Sound Studios, Irvington, NY, and Headline West, Los Angeles, CA. 

Directed by Joe DiGiorgi (in NY), co-directed by Liam O'Brien and Sam Regal (in CA).

 

I really wanted to like The Third. This was for many reasons. I wanted Kadokawa Pictures USA to do well, since I appreciate the effort they made to send Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid to ADV Studios to be dubbed after the decision had been made to give the distribution rights to FUNimation. I was also pulling for Right Stuf, who were in the process of re-branding their licensing and production division into the (at the time) newly christened Nozomi Entertainment. Right Stuf had given me two shows which are among the best dubs I have heard: Comic Party and His and Her Circumstances, the latter of which, in my opinion, has one of the finest English dubs ever produced, period. So, I had a lot of goodwill towards both companies and towards this show. 

 

Set in a post-apocolyptic future where most of the world's surface seems to be covered in uninhabitable (to humans) desert, The Third follows one Honoka, a jack-of-all-trades who goes from town to town taking on odd jobs (most often disposing of the horrible mutant creatures that infest the deserts), accompanied by her tank with a sentient AI, Bogie. While it sounds from this that it is simply the tale of a mercenary doing odd jobs, there is a deeper mystery to the world. For there is a mysterious and powerful group known as The Third who have complete control over the level of technology allowed to the humans who remain alive on the Earth. Through a series of events, Honoka starts to delve deeper into some of the hidden secrets which have been lying quietly for a long time, but which now are beginning to awaken, all the time engaging in a careful dance with The Third, who seek to control access to higher technology, and knowledge of these secret things. 

 

So, what about the dub? It was a bit disappointing, though I do not entirely blame the cast and staff for that. For the fault begins with the show itself. In some ways, the show never really found its feet, as it could not fully embrace being either a deadly serious action show, or a character-driven dramedy. The acting suffered for that to a great extent. Anna Morrow did a very good job with Honoka’s playful side, giving her some real spark and energy in conversations revolving around her love of fine weaponry, her lack of above the waist assets, and her friendships with various people. But when it came to the dramatic side, the slow moments where she was reciting poetry, somehow she seemed more bored than elegiac.

 

This was a show where scene stealers seemed more in control of the dub than anything else. Patrick Seitz’s Joganki was reliable as always to get one’s attention. Angora Deb’s Millie was just soooo darn cute. Others, however, seemed to be lacking. Carol Jacobanis, an actress who can do sexy with the best of them, seemed somehow off as Paife. The voice she used was not quite sultry enough. It did not drizzle and ooze the kind of sexual allure that you would normally expect from the character with oversized breasts. Steve Cannon’s Iks was fine for the role, but the role was so deflated that it affected the way I listened to him at times. If you have a character who is unimpressed by everything, eventually you become unimpressed with him.

 

The casting was fine, but this is not a dub that I was excited to hear. I was bored, to be frank. It is not, by any means a bad dub, but it lacked any dynamism, that spark that makes you sit up and take notice. 

 

 

There were many good dubs produced in the past decade, dubs that should be heard by anyone who pays attention to a well-dubbed show. With all of the re-releases that are being done of late, do not be afraid to go back and buy something you might have passed on the first time it was released. You might just discover a hidden gem. 



Series: Air TV/Movie, Third, The, Beck, Kanon