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Lost in Translation
By Allen Divers
February 05, 2004
Yes, I know, it's been a whole two weeks since my last column. I have a good excuse, really! Wait a second here... I'm actually writing another column fairly soon after my previous one. Well, this won't last long, so enjoy it while you can!
This week its back to basics with some reviews on actual dubs. I know, the actors thing was pretty exciting, but sometimes you have to stick with the basics. This week, I'm going to take a look at three very different projects. The first one is different because it's not actually anime. It has a lot to do with anime, but nope, no anime to be seen. It could be described as animated, but I'll get into that in a minute. The other two are actual anime series and are two great dubs to start the year with. Well, enough of my yammering, on with the reviews.
The Dub Club Volume 1
A Bean Dip Production
For the folks unfamiliar with the name of Kyle Hebert, he's a voice actor for FUNimation. Best known as the voice of Teen Gohan (in Dragonball Z) and Grown-Up Gohan (in Dragonball GT) Kyle's made a name for himself with his larger than life personality. Taking that personality on the road, Kyle sat down with some voice actors and had someone record the thing. The result is the first in a series of what he hopes becomes a long running series of DVDs dedicated to all things dub. The first DVD, ironically named The Dub Club Volume 1, focuses on interviews with four of ADV's voice actors. Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first; the production values on this homebrewed DVD are poor. There's questionable lighting, low sound and no exciting cut takes and reaction shots as Kyle banters back and forth with the various actors. The other downside is, Kyle only questions three of the four actors and the questions are a bit dated, relating to many of the actors' projects for 2003.
But there is goodness at the heart of this DVD. Kyle is a natural at the art of the interview. This alone makes the interviews entertaining and enlightening, and help you to ignore the static view of the scene. The other upside is, unlike most actor interviews that tend to be static text; you get to put a face to the voice you hear. And lastly, as this is not a promotional interview for a particular series, the actors are more relaxed and more likely to expound on the questions that are presented. Kyle and his crew have also tried to give it that true DVD experience with nice menus and a few extras like a running commentary. In his commentary, Kyle goes into what lead to the creation of this DVD and even shares his hopes for future volumes.
In short, The Dub Club volume 1 is an entertaining and enlightening experience that will give you the giggles. Fans of the actors featured on the first DVD will have a chance to catch them in their natural habitat, a room at a convention. Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but the interviews are solid and entertaining and quite animated (see, I told you I would get in an animated comment). If you want to get your hands on this one, you'll need to visit Kyle's site at www.kylehebert.com or catch him at a convention. You can also view a cool trailer promoting the DVD at his site, so check it out.
Geneon/Bang Zoom! Entertainment
When you're dealing with one of the most visually striking shows to hit the airwaves in Japan and soon in North America, you need to put together a strong cast to keep the energy going. For this task, Geneon went to Bang Zoom for the job. With Eric Sherman handling the directing duties, the cast features some of the top names found in the California scene. There's a lot to love in Last Exile, starting with the visuals, moving to the musical score and finishing off with this fantastic English interpretation. The script is also very solid, sticking very close to the original intentions of the Japanese side only deviating for the standard lip flaps and pacing. Much like the Japanese track, the dialogue melds well with the musical score to create a solid audio experience.
On the casting side of things, best to start with the one name everyone expected; Crispin Freeman. No stranger to the brooding enigmatic type characters, Crispin takes on the role of Alex Row. Sure to garner a lot of attention, Crispin plays the part sparingly, keeping the character emotionless and dark. While Alex is a popular character, he's not the main focus of this story. Johnny Young Bosch, known to many as the voice of Vash from Trigun, falls into the lead role of Claus Valca. Wide-eyed and a bit naïve, Claus is a bit of a dreamer and Johnny's performance helps to highlight these traits. By volume 2, Claus is beginning to mature and Johnny alters his performance to reflect the changes going on. The second of the main duo is Claus' childhood friend, Lavi Head voiced by Kari Wahlgren. The role of Lavi proves to be the emotional anchor for this series, and Kari's performance reflects this. A lot more emotional volatile than a few of the other characters, it's essential to have an actress who's flexible enough to go from laughing to crying in an instant. Kari fits well with the role, rolling with the punches as they come. As a duo, Johnny and Kari's voices play well off of each other, and helps reflect the relationship that is obvious between their characters.
Doing double duty in the cast is Michelle Ruff, cast as Alvis and Tatiana Wisla. These two characters are on the opposite side of temperaments with Alvis being the young cute girl and Tatiana serving as the loner almost uppity tough girl. Michelle has proven herself quite capable in the role of cute girl, so it's nice to see her have the chance to play a familiar type of role and also be given time in a role playing against her norm. Making his appearance in volume two is Dio, voiced by Joshua Seth. Usually cast as the hero, Joshua gets the chance to play a role that's a bit ambiguous as far as hero or villain. Rounding out the cast are a few other familiar names such as Dave Lelyveld in the role of Mullin Shetland and Julie Ann Taylor as Sophia.
With such a visually stunning series, it's only appropriate that it have a stellar cast of actors to back it up. Bang Zoom has done just that with a ton of familiar names, cast perfectly for each character. They come together to compliment the exciting action and story that has already made Last Exile one of the most highly anticipated series of the new year. Dub fans every where should be ready to make this one an important part of their collection.
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
ADV Films/Industrial Smoke & Mirrors
I've already taken a look at the first volume of this series, and just wanted to chime in again after getting my hands on the second volume. While the energy remains high throughout the cast, there is a bit of a detour for everyone as the last two episodes begin moving in a slightly different direction. Borrowing a bit from the emotion of the first episode, the last episode takes a step back into the history of the original Shopping Arcade. Unlike other high energy series, such as Excel Saga, there is a real story in the background, and it begins to peek out now. The cast makes the appropriate adjustment and the series moves well with the change of pace. Abenobashi continues to be one of the best dubs out there, with a crew and staff doing their best to entertain.
Now having said that, the real reason I'm talking about the second volume this week is the inclusion of a set of outtakes. While nothing new to the world of DVD, this is a bit of a leap for the little company that is ADV. Ok, they've done outtakes before, but those have been dubs handled by outside companies. This time it's the folks at ISM yakking it up a bit for the sake of entertainment. It's a bit of a misnomer to really call these outtakes as the method ISM uses to record is digital. It usually means they have to go out of their way to save true mistakes and gaffs. So to be fair to these "outtakes" they come out a bit setup. And they also present Chris Patton's strange fascination with Michael Jackson. Presented in the format of "real take" "out take," fans get to view the actual scene from the episode. While a bit contrived, they are still fun to watch and listen to. Hopefully ADV will be up for more of this in the future.
And for the record, Abenobashi makes me laugh and feel funny all at the same time.
So much for this week...
Well, that should be plenty for this week. I'll end this column with a few important links to various websites where you can find more information about the shows I talked about. As always, got questions or comments, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kyle Hebert.com - http://www.kylehebert.com
ADV Films - http://www.advfilms.com
Geneon - http://www.geneonanimation.com
So long and thanks for all the fish!
Freelance Writer & Adventurer