Archive for February 16th, 2008

Yutaka bopping with headphones.

"I never got into drama CDs, so I don't care who's in the cast. If the voices match the characters in the original series, I'm okay."

I am quite well aware that the Lucky Star dub trailer might have its status as news revoked for being past its time, thus making it olds or some such. Even so, I did not actually get a chance to watch it until very recently. If you'd like to see it for yourself (and do not trust Youtube), it's one of the randomly-displayed trailers on the front page of Bandai Entertainment.

The whole sub vs dub thing has been around for a long time, ever since the advent of anime translated, in one form or another, into English. Possibly foreign films in general have had such a situation even before then, but it was mostly the influence of highly-opinionated and loud fans, used more to passion than reason, that brought the debate into the gutter level, or even below that, into the fiery pits of Internet Serious Business. All the arguments have been raised at one point or another, whether or not they actually make any sort of sense. This is a not-very-subtle notice to commenters that if the same arguments are brought up here without anything new, I may have to take drastic measures.

All complaints about translations aside (witness the description on the official site of Kagami being "aloof-chummy"; I don't blame them, since I don't know how to translate "tsundere" for the casual viewers either), personally my view is just about parallel to Kagami's (dubbed) line used as the post quote: I can watch subs, and I can watch dubs, and for the simpler non-jargon series I can even watch them raw, but if the voices don't seem to fit the character, whether in English or Japanese, then I'm going to notice.

Now, as is often raised for the matter, if one is using the R1 US releases on DVDs, one can usually choose one's preferred poison. I almost always watch the subbed version first, because I'm used to it, no more and no less; it is a mere habit which I picked up early on, and which I do not see any need to change. If the subbed version is all that is available, I will not feel any great sense of loss. But just as often, after I have finished watching the episodes on that DVD in its original Japanese language, I will find a time to watch the whole thing again, this time with the English dub.

Call it curiosity. The days of stilted, amateur-sounding dubs have long passed, and the dub actors are quite competent, at least for the majority of cases. For a great many series, I found nothing wrong with the English voices, although, as mentioned, I'm used to the Japanese audio. But to make that decision, first I have to listen to both tracks with an open mind unprejudiced by earlier examples, which is probably why I don't feel as strongly about the whole issue.

This is not to say that everything comes up hearts, though. I've noticed, in a lot of anime, that the dubs seem to be missing something for a certain character type, or at least a certain range of character types.

Take the Lucky Star dub trailer for example. Konata and Kagami aren't too bad, in my opinion: they have the feel of laid-back slacker-ness and no-nonsense practicality respectively, which I believe English dubs have well in hand, along with the suave ladies' man sort, as well as the loud enthusiastic types (I can imagine Lina Inverse from Slayers with Lisa Ortiz's voice as easily as Megumi Hayashibara's).

But Miyuki is… off. She sounds more arrogant than she should be, which is probably a problem with the intonation. When she mentions that she can't swim well because she can't keep her eyes open underwater, I couldn't help but imagine that voice adding "but I'm still better than you, hmph!" It's especially jarring, because, as mentioned, the voice does not match the character.

I've also noticed the same thing in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where Mikuru's English dub actress doesn't quite seem to be able to keep the high-pitched tone "cute" instead of "forced". Annoyingly cute they can manage, but sweet cute not quite. This is, incidentally, not entirely unique to English dubs. While myco has a strong singing voice in Full Moon wo Sagashite, that voice is much deeper than what 12-year old Mitsuki should have, and you can clearly hear her forcing the falsetto during the non-singing portions, especially in the early episodes.

I don't quite know why this is so, but I suspect it could be something to do with what is, at base, a limited pool range. There may be a lot of very talented voice actors and actresses for plenty of character types which they "fit", but as the character curve ascends towards the more blatantly moe, the number of suitable voices peters out; whereas in the Japanese seiyuu industry, the sugary-cute moe voice has become something of an industry, with Rie Kugimiya, Haruko Momoi, and Yukari Tamura coming immediately to mind, or perhaps Mamiko Noto, Ayako Kawasumi, and Yui Horie for the slightly less loli incarnations. And then we have the motherly roles with Kikuko Inoue, Kansai-ben with Kana Ueda, and Megumi Hayashibara Is Everywhere.

Compare with the Old Man voice roles in Japanese being almost entirely taken by Kenichi Ogata, Mugihito, or, if they are badass enough, Norio Wakamoto. The pool is also weighted, but just differently.

This would probably be something for a more dedicated scholar to research, since there are just too many variables for me to think about at once without getting a headache. We could look at the moe-less Cowboy Bebop and its fan-acclaimed English dub, and we can look at the very moe Card Captor Sakura and its equally fan-despised dub, but then that would ignore the different approaches to adaptations, where Cowboy Bebop is supposedly kept very close to the original during the transition to English, while Card Captor Sakura was the result of a Macekre into Cardcaptors; perhaps the dub actors and actresses were chosen based on those.

And of course, it could very well go both ways, and some English-language series could have received less-than-stellar dubs in Japanese. But then that is way outside the scope of this blog.

I'm actually looking forward to the Lucky Star dub, because a series with that much talking should provide lots of dub material to compare to the original. Considering how much I've already watched the series (fan)subbed, I'm tempted to jump right into the dub. I might not like it, but at least I'm willing to listen.

Comments 6 Comments »