Lost In Translation (Mania.com)
Date: Friday, December 26, 2003
It's the holiday season, and while people are taking some time off from work, and beginning to look back at the past year, fans can walk away confident that 2003 produced a large amount of quality shows. 2003 ends on a high note of over 700 titles released, most sporting an English dub. There were even a couple of classics like Urusei Yatsura and Aura Battler Dunbine that got a fresh English soundtrack. So at the end of the year, you may be thinking about a few stocking stuffers for the anime fans in your household. Ok, I'm just using that as an excuse to write about three titles I've been meaning to talk about for a while.
Cardcaptor Sakura The Movie 2: The Sealed Card
Ah, Cardcaptor Sakura, one of those series with a rough English soundtrack record. While a top quality series from the creative minds at CLAMP, Cardcaptor Sakura received some rough treatment when it first went under the knife to receive an English dub. Re-titled Cardcaptors, the show was cut up and the script altered to appeal to the male-dominated Saturday morning cartoon arena. After two seasons, the folks at Nelvana finally gave up on their English version, allowing sales of the original Japanese subtitled version to go on to completion. As the original series came to a close, word came out that Pioneer (now Geneon) had the rights to the second movie and intended to release it soon after the last volume of the TV series came out. Surprising was the announcement that it would feature an English dub.
Handled by the folks at Bang Zoom! Entertainment, the new English dub has nothing to do with the Cardcaptors dub created by Nelvana. Instead, great care was taken to follow the original Japanese script with a push to have the actors mimic the original tone of the characters they portrayed. What they managed to do is finally bring justice to a great series that should never have been tampered with in the first place. Unfortunately, fans of this series have been listening to the 18 volumes of CCS in Japanese, so they may not feel comfortable with this new dub at all. Still, it does stand out as one of Bang Zoom's finest works and is well worth listening to at least once.
L/R Licensed by Royalty: Mission File 1: Deceptions
Licensed by Royalty, unfortunately, isn't one of those titles that seems to have a bad track record when garnering attention with its trailer. In fact, the trailer seen on many of Pioneer's recent releases does the show a great disservice by confusing the audience. It's interesting to note that the trailer was originally created by the Japanese studio and included a rather poorly written English script. While the intent was to hype up what is actually a decent series, the trailer simply falls flat.
L/R is a series with a lot of potential. There's international intrigue, secret agent spy gadgets, dashing heroes, kooky sidekicks and dangerous villains; well, at least in the first few episodes. Episode 1 comes across as a bit of a misnomer, as the series moves away from the super sleuth style introduced and becomes more of a gun for hire type show throughout the rest of the disc. L/R remains entertaining, but can be seen as a slight disappointment as viewers keep waiting for the real story to take off.
So why am I talking about this title in a year end column? Well, it wouldn't be a year end roundup with at least one title coming from the folks over at New Generation Pictures. With L/R, New Generation Pictures continues to stand out as a niche studio, concentrating more on quality than quantity. Once again, NGP went out of their way to bring in the right actors to properly portray the parts in yet another British series. L/R is set in a small kingdom off the coast of England, so all the characters should appropriately have British accents. Many of the voice actors in L/R also worked with NGP's dub of Hellsing. Direction duties as well as one of the lead voices fall to JB Blanc. The acting and the delivery of the dialogue feels very much like a standard British production. British humor revolves around a bit of sarcasm and a calm delivery and this dub follows that flow nicely. People used to a more animated form of acting may be turned off by the delivery of lines in this show, but those more familiar with top quality British productions should feel right at home. While the show itself may fail to deliver, L/R delivers a high-quality dub which outstrips the original Japanese in many ways.
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi: Volume 1
There are few shows that make me grimace and drag my feet on my way to watch them, then bowl me over to a point that I want more. Abenobashi just happens to be one of those shows. I honestly didn't know what to expect with this show, and to be honest, if you only watch the first episode, you'll be missing out on one of the best shows to come out of the Gainax production cycle in quite a while. Abenobashi is manic. Abenobashi is insane. Abenobashi is a clever parody that clamps down on the jugular of humor and doesn't let go.
Helping to carry over the wackiness of the original script into the English soundtrack is a spectacular cast and crew. Don Rush takes on directional duties. Don's previous works include Full Metal Panic and Neo-Ranga which include a few solid comic moments, but nothing on the scale of Abenobashi. Playing Sasshi, the boy hero with no shame, is Luci Christian. Luci's previous roles include Kaname from Full Metal Panic and Ran from SuperGALS. To be honest, I didn't even know it was Luci until I saw her name in the credits. She plays the part well, and comes across well as a 12-year old boy. Working off of Luci is Jessica Boone in the role of Arumi. Up to this point, Jessica has played a lot of supporting roles, but really stands out in the role of Arumi. The rest of the cast is filled with the standard go-to guys of ADV, including Chris Patton as a sorcerer going through a bit of a mid-life crisis (Call me Bro!), Monica Rial as Sasshi's big sister and Jason Douglas as a cross-dressing male named Ms. Aki.
While the script remains hilarious and very hyper, there is one small downside. To emulate the Osaka dialect used in the original Japanese script, many of the characters speak with a bit of a Texas drawl. Having grown up in and around Texas, the drawl started at the bottom of my spine and slowly worked its way to that little area at the base of my neck. Then by episode 2, when the true insanity begins, I was ok with it. In a lot of ways, it really helps to describe the simple backgrounds that Sasshi and Arumi come from. They're hometown folks just trying to get back home.
To borrow from a cliché, if you only buy one DVD around the holiday season, buy Abenobashi. If you buy more than one, get L/R and Cardcaptor Sakura as well!
End of the year Spectacular
2003 has been a great year for English soundtracks. Quality studios continue to crank out some of the best in dubs month after month, and 2004 sound be even better. To see in the New Year, I've got a special treat for you all. Next time it's all about the top ten actors of 2003. I'm still compiling the list, but it'll be the best from all the major studios in North America.
Freelance Writer & Adventurer