So, it's Black Friday today. Time to get out to the stores, if you dare. While you are there, why not pick up a nice new dub? To help you decide, I have put together some thoughts on several recently released dubs, which I plan to make into a regular feature to match with the single in-depth review of one recent release I plan to write every month. So, twice the EK goodness per month! And so, without further ado:
Lucky Star v.4 (Bandai Entertainment Inc.)
BangZoom! Entertainment, Los Angeles, CA.
Continuing with the adventures of the Fearsome Foursome…okay, not so fearsome…of Konata, Kagami, Tsukasa, and Miyuki, comes the next installment of otaku comedy Lucky Star. In this batch of episodes, we are introduced to Konata's even smaller cousin, Yutaka Kobayakawa, voiced by Hynden Walch. As she is a real little cuties, Walch provides a suitably cute and sweet voice. Also entering the scene is that taciturn Minami Iwasaki, played by Michelle Ruff. Here, she is clearly channeling her inner Yuki Nagato. In addition, we get the first appearances of a few other minor players who are sure to factor in future episodes (since we have already been seeing them in the OP animation from the start): Kagami's classmates Misao Kusakabe (Lara Jill Miller) and Ayano Minegishi (Peggy O'Neil); and in her finest Mikuru Asahina cosplay outfit comes Patricia Martin (Patricia Ja Lee), Konata's co-worker at the café.
The dub continues to shine, and the new voices only add to the range and variety of amusement to be had from this show. Wendee Lee continues to impress as Konata, delivered with a nasal flair that well suits the character. In fact, in the infamous cosplay café scene, where she needs to switch between her Haruhi Suzumiya voice and her Konata Izumi voice, she seems more natural as Konata than Haruhi, even though Konata is a greater vocal stretch from her normal voice. Kari Wahlgren is still stealing the spotlight just about every moment she comes "on stage," with her Kagami Hiiragi, a seething volcano of indignation and exasperation, but one that has begun to give up in frustration. Yet we also start to see another side to the character, especially in the internal monologue she delivers after learning that she will continue to be in a separate class from her sister and her friends: in this scene, Ms. Wahlgren is able to shift gears quite subtly, showing us a longing, a desire to be with her friends and the anguish and loneliness of separation, that we might not have expected to see in her character.
With continuing good work from many others, especially in the unheralded small roles played by some very recognizable names (Richard Epcar, Bridget Hoffmann, Derek Stephen Prince, Crispin Freeman, Vic Mignogna), director Alex Von David maintains a very high level of consistency and polish, with fluid line readers and plenty of believable emotion.
Karin v.5 (Geneon Entertainment)
Odex Private Ltd., Singapore.
As we come to the final volumes of vampire schoolgirl comedy Karin, the dub stays on the same level that it has been: adequate and little more. Fortunately, it does nothing to distract the viewer enough to want to hit the Audio button on the remote, but it also does nothing to draw the viewer deeper into the story. The main cast is likeable enough, for the most part, with much rougher patches among the second tier and more incidental voice performances.
Chelsea Curto continues to be the sweet and chipper lead; Yahav Rom, her would be knight in shining armor, there to save her from her "unique" predicament. What is lacking, sadly, is any real sense of chemistry between the two. It does not help that Rom has a very deadpan delivery that is, mainly, dead, and Curto shows a few more rough patches in her line reads than I had noticed in the two previous volumes. In general, there seemed to be a slight deterioration from volume 4, where the deliveries seemed much more natural, as if the cast were finally getting into a rhythm and hitting their stride. For whatever reason, that feels like it has fallen apart a bit in this volume.
The highlight, if there is one, is perhaps in the final episode on this disc, where Anju (Marian Elizabeth Spencer) has a very tough decision to make. Normally a very flat and monotone in her delivery (this is intended and is the correct interpretation of the character), she manages to infuse a touch of emotion into her normally placid voice, a reflection of the inner turmoil the character must face, and which I will not reveal in detail here. Otherwise, there really is not much to recommend this dub. It is fairly average, but not quite up to the standards that most people would desire in a dub these days.
School Rumble: Second Semester Part I (FUNimation Entertainment)
FUNimation Productions, Flower Mound, TX.
Break time is over, and Tenma, Harima, and the entire gang are back for more School Rumble. This time, the stories are far more varied and wild in their content including: a survival game that goes very far off track, a showdown on the basketball court, and the fight over what class 2-C should do about the school's Culture Festival: Café or Play?
Following up on one of the best comedy dubs of 2007, Brina Palencia returns to the director's chair for the next group of episodes. The dub pretty much picks up where the first season left off, with fluid, natural, and energetic performances from the entire cast, with very few faults in sight. While the stories are very episodic in nature, with little to tie them together into any sort of overarching plot, the actors maintain a consistency in their characterizations, which helps to connect what is otherwise a rather disjointed group of adventures, that might work better watched a few at a time rather than in a long marathon session as I did.
Luci Christian gives lead female Tenma Tsukamoto a freshness and vibrancy that I have found to be lacking in some of the other roles I have heard from her in recent dubs. Here, there are all of the qualities that made me an admirer of her talent and skill. It is not simply that she does cute and simple well. It is that she gives those traits a living quality to them, a sense that we hear Tenma's thoughts and feelings in Ms. Christian's voice. Brandon Potter continues to provide one of the best male comedic performances as seeming tough guy Kenji Harima. His gruff growl belies a sensitive, poetic soul, even if he (Harima) is also an incredible dumbass. Mr. Potter walks that fine line between sincerity and exaggeration that keeps his character from wandering into the realm of parody.
In addition to the two ostensible leads (they are the central figures, though not always the center of attention), we are fortunate to get a broad range of excellent performances from the other major players and even the more minor figures in the dub. Leah Clark's Eri Sawachika is a model of haughty repressed emotion, while occasionally breaking down that wall of reserve to let us see some of the yearnings inside her. Brina Palencia's Mikoto Suou is both the fierce, competitive tomboy and also the good friend. Trina Nishimura gives Akira Takano a sly, mischievous wit, hidden underneath a deadpan veil. Chris Cason steals the show with his irascible Haruki Hanai, prone to blow a gasket whenever challenged by Harima or faced with the appearance of the beautiful, demure Yakumo Tsukamoto, Tenma's younger sister. Caitlin Glass, of course, provides Yakumo with an evenness that contrasts perfectly with Hanai's spastic energy. A small little gem in this set of episodes is one place where Ms. Glass gives us a taste of
her Haruhi Fujioka voice, which is fitting with the situation that Yakumo is placed in at that time. I will leave that for you listeners out there to find for yourselves.
With solid performances all around and a manic energy that helps to brighten up a show that occasionally goes off the rails, School Rumble remains one of the better executed anime comedy dubs out there.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Kadokawa Pictures USA/Bandai Entertainment)
Ocean Productions, Vancouver, Canada.
Have you ever wanted to be able to avoid an embarrassing situation? Did you ever wish you could hit the Rewind Button of Life, be able to go back in time and prevent a minor mistake from ruining your day? For Makoto Konno, a young high school student in Tokyo, that desire has become reality thanks to a strange ability she has discovered: the power to travel through time. How does she use it? To engage in some very silly rearranging of the past in order to "fix" minor matters. When a much more serious problem arises, does she have the time to fix it?
Okay, that was deliberately vague and misleading, but as this is a feature length animation, I have less room to play with if I do not want to give away too much. Oh, you want to know about the dub? It is very fluid. Director Karl Willems and his cast of both well known Ocean regulars and some names that are new to me, have done a very nice job of bringing these characters to life. Emily Hirst, as Makoto, has a lively, natural feel to her voice and performance. She makes a believable teenager; perhaps she is one? If not, she has a youthful quality to her performance that makes the portrayal work. Andrew Francis (Chiaki) and Alex Zahara (Kousuke) are her two best friends, a study in contrasts: Chiaki is a free spirited loner, carefree and "cool," who has somehow formed a close bond with the spirited and naïve Makoto, along with the much more serious, though laid back and easy-going Kousuke. The three of them interact very freely and comfortably, with a playful camaraderie that tells you much about their relationship merely through their intonations without the need to explain it fully in words.
The minor and incidental roles are also carried off with a smooth and polished sound and tone. Notable is Saffron Henderson as Makoto's "auntie witch," Kazuko Yoshiyama, who apparently has some experience with the ability to leap through time herself (those who are familiar with the original novel that this story derives from will know). Her voice, the voice of wisdom gained through going through similar events herself, is laced with both a calm, soothing feel to it, while also striking notes of wistful nostalgia at times, as she looks back upon her own experience. As to be expected from a well crafted dub, we do not encounter any odd or awkward deliveries in the "blink and you miss them" roles which might ruin the natural flow of this dub.
Overall, the word to describe this dub is fluid. Like time, it passes by smoothly, helping one to spend 98 minutes without minding too much.
That's all for this half of the month. Come back in two weeks time for another full-length review, most likely of the highly anticipated release of Lyrical Nanoha by Geneon Entertainment.