So, with the 2008 Dubbies now awarded, we can at last look back at the best of the year past.
But what about the future? It's not all sunshine and light in the dubbing world at the moment. For all intents and purposes, the studio that gave us the Best Dub of 2008, Amusement Park Media (ADV's in-house studio) appears to be shuttered. Clannad, the latest of the Key/Kyoto Animation powerhouses (following AIR TV and Kanon), was released sub-only by ADV, which was very disappointing for dub fans, since we had hoped to hear another great dub from Kyle Jones and the talented people in Houston. It is all the more disappointing, since Clannad is a show with even better characters and much greater emotional depth (especially when one takes After Story, as yet unlicensed but still a realistic possibility, into consideration). With ADV's move to sub-only releases, we have lost one distributor from whom it was always taken for granted that a dub would be provided.
This is just the latest in a series of retreats the dubbing world has had to face, which started with the fall of Geneon USA (who did not produce their dubs in-house, but employed several prominent dubbing studios, mainly in California and Canada). With the disappearance of Geneon and ADV, two of the old "Big Three" of yesteryear have now passed from the dubbing scene. The third remaining player of the old "Big Three," Bandai, has become rather erratic in their dubbing decisions. On the one hand, they have poured a lot of resources into dubbing Ghost in the Shell, in fact, perhaps too much of their resources. When they released the compilation movie versions of the Stand Alone Complex television series (both the first and second series), they contracted Ocean Productions in Canada to provide new dubs for them, instead of trying to reuse the Animaze dub which the television series had. I do not, of course, understand the intricacies involved, but I would have thought that it would have been less costly to recut the TV dub, and call in the actors to do the required "pick up" lines that would have been needed where the compilation movies either use new animation or recut certain scenes which would throw off the original audio track.
Then there is the curious case of Innocence (the second GiTS movie). Since the first English dub for that was originally created for a PAL (European) video release, the audio would have to be reprocessed in order to be transferred to NTSC format (what is used here in North America). Apparently, it was too difficult to engineer that properly, and a new dub was commissioned, using Animaze and the TV series actors (who had largely been involved in the UK dub that could not apparently be transferred properly). This could not have been a small expense. To continue with Bandai's "erratic" dubbing behavior, there is Clamp School Detectives and Galaxy Angel X. For the former, Bandai decided to contract Coastal Carolina Studios to provide a new dub to a 12-year-old show that had originally been released years ago on VHS sub-only. If you were to ask me how many 12-year-old shows with a previous VHS release that was sub-only get a new DVD release with a shiny new dub…I can't really give you another example. And then there was poor Galaxy Angel X. While apparently the franchise has not been doing well, Bandai decided to cut funding for the dub, a dub which they had been funding from the very first GA series, now only 1/3 of the way into the final season of the show. So, we have dubs for GA, GA Z, GA A, GA AA, but only 1/3 of GA X is dubbed. If the franchise was doing so poorly, why not stop at, oh, I don't know, Z?
The only major player left in dubs is the company that at first joined the "Big Three" to make a "Big Four" for a while, FUNimation. Once derided as nothing more than the "Dragonball" company, we all now know that FUNi has risen to the position of dominant player in the entire North American anime industry. As such, they have the corporate resources to continue dubbing all of their products, so far. I respect the level of quality that FUNimation manages to provide for their dubs, but if they become the only game in town, this game is going to get old fast. All monopolies result in a much more monochromatic, or perhaps in this instance, I should say monoauric, world. I'll throw out one more "mono" word: monotony. If you hear the same 10 voices again, and again, and again…their freshness and vitality, no matter how talented, will begin to wear thin.
Among the smaller companies, it has not gone unnoticed that Media Blasters have curtailed dubs as well. They have not abandoned them. Tweeny Witches, of all things, got not just a good dub, but a very good dub from BangZoom! in California. The T&A show Ah! My Buddha (Amaenaideyo!!) got a dub. But their successful yuri (lesbian-themed) line of shows have all been sub-only. A niche market, certainly, but any more niche than some other narrow interest genres of anime?
The greatest shame has been the disappearance of Right Stuf, whose production division is now called Nozomi Entertainment. The old Right Stuf was responsible for funding several not just good, but superior quality dubs. The Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Ninja Nonsense, and Comic Party all had superior dubs. His and Her Circumstances has possibly what is one of the single best dubs ever created in the modern anime dubbing era. And yet now, we have nothing from them but sub-only releases.
There are no villains here, other than the lack of buyers for anime DVDs and the cruel logic of the market. There is no conspiracy by a cabal of dub-haters who wish to force us all to have to read our anime instead of being able to see it. It is the lamentable result of the downturn of the home video market in general, which preceded the great financial mess that the world seems mired in right now. It is the result of many "fans" preferring to watch the shows in pirated form, and not wishing to buy legitimate product.
I am afraid that there is little I can do except mournfully look onwards to a future that is far bleaker for any dub fan.
Tags: anime, dubs