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A Look at Texhnolyze
By Allen Divers
April 04, 2004
Language when applied to animation is an important tool that helps convey the deeper meaning of the story. Utilizing the native language of the target audience allows them to experience the story on a different level. There's a bit more than simply conveying what the original script had in it, it's also a matter of presenting it in a fashion that makes sense and flows with the overall action on the screen.
When judging an English track, there are a lot of factors that are often considered. They vary in importance from individual to individual but everyone seems to agree on what these factors are. Some look at the dialogue used and how closely it matches the original intent of the Japanese writer. Others look at what actors are cast in the critical roles. Still others harp on the technical aspects of matching lip flaps, directionality of the sound in the environment and whether or not a closing door sounds like a door if heard through a plate glass window.
Despite all that, occasionally a title appears that defies all normal expectations. These shows go beyond being simple entertainment, daring to push the limits of true artistic expression. Of course, much like anything, what one considers a masterpiece is a load of garbage to someone else. Occasionally a show dares to push what is acceptable by presenting a tale that is strictly visual in nature. Dialogue is secondary, only serving to move the story along so that more grandiose visuals can carry the true story along.
In that particular vein comes Texhnolyze. Born from collaboration between Yasuyuki Ueda and Yoshitoshi ABe, the staff grew to include Konaka Chiaki, known for scripting Serial Experiment Lain, and Hamazaki Hirotsugu. Yoshitoshi ABe provided input on the original character designs, with scripting duties going to Konaka Chiaki and directing handled by Hamazaki Hirotsugu. What grows from this is a surreal tale of an underground city that has come to rely on the use of technology to replace lost limbs. Power is expressed between the classes by the taking on someone's limbs, much like in ancient times where rulers would turn certain subjects into Eunuchs to dominate them. Characters are introduced at a slow pace, with no indication of their true nature until they move into action. Relying on its visuals to convey the story, Texhnolyze keeps dialogue to a minimum, only falling back on actual conversations to move the story forward when the visuals can't get the job done. After watching the first volume of the series, viewers are left entranced with the dark world of Texhnolyze, but have little insight into its true nature. With such a solid dream team of creators behind it, Texhnolyze is sure to be an e-ticket. Geneon can rest assured that this one will be in many top ten lists for 2004.
For the English soundtrack of this surreal series, Geneon went to New Generation Pictures. NGP is no stranger to many of ABe's previous works, having just finished the dub for Haibane Renmei and having worked previously on Neia_7. Jonathan Klein handled both the scripting and directing duties for this soundtrack. NGP has built quite a reputation in terms of dealing with the quirky and strange anime titles. Beyond that, they've garnered a lot of attention due to handling many of the higher profile titles that Geneon has released such as Hellsing and the upcoming Read or Die T.V. NGP tends to bring something different to the field of dubbing by often going that extra mile, using accents and honorifics at the appropriate times and even adding the missing details that should have been in the original Japanese. There aren't that many studios out there that would hire real British actors to get a real British accent.
Another area that NGP excels in is casting many unfamiliar names. Bringing in new talent helps generate variety in a world that seems to be populated with overly familiar voices such as Crispin Freeman and Wendee Lee. The most familiar name in the cast is Carrie Savage who takes on the role of the enigmatic Ran. Somewhere about halfway through the first disc, we get Carrie Savage's first line, "flowers." While a few of the other actors get to express much more wordiness, very little in terms of emotion is expressed in the dialogue. There is quite a bit of heavy breathing throughout the disc, which does test the limits of an actor's ability to create foley.
As far as casting goes, no actor seems out of place with their character. Through four episodes on the first volume, no one seems to have had their acting ability pushed either. Following the tone of the original Japanese, most lines are performed in a simple, unexaggerated tone, giving enough emotion to get the basic meaning across. The only actor even close to pushing any true acting limits is Justin Gross in the role of Ichise. Even then, the emotions are being pushed through heavy breathing and not really being expressed through the dialogue. Sam Regal takes on the challenge of the most talkative character, Kazuho Yoshii. An outsider, Yoshii has come to explore this world. Who and what he is remain unspoken, but his attitude seems to imply he's there for a purpose. Yoshii's lines are kept near monotone, even when he jumps into action.
After four episodes of Texhnolyze, I'm not sure how I feel about the entire experience. While I can appreciate the creative talent behind the animation and the talent behind the English soundtrack, I'm left wondering if I truly like this show as a whole. These episodes have intrigued me enough to want to pick up the next volume, but I'm not entirely convinced this is great series. Texhnolyze has enough creative talent and artistic buzz to make it one of the top releases of 2004, but the dub doesn't really stand out from the crowd. New Generation Pictures has put out some quality dubs before, but in this first volume, Texhnolyze is more focused on its visual story rather than what can be learned from the dialogue. When it comes down to it, the English track does nothing to hold back the story expressed visually and for those more focused on that, it frees them up from having to find hidden meaning in the scrolling text.
The downside to this first volume is the fact that New Generation Pictures hasn't really been pushed to what they are truly capable of. With such a high profile title, I'll be watching the next few volumes and hoping the soundtrack gets a chance to shine. For now, the English soundtrack for Texhnolyze is passable, but nothing really different at this time. With other upcoming titles, such as Ikki Tosen, Read or Die T.V. and Tenshi no Shippo, New Generation Pictures should have more time to shine right from the start.