-Z- (z@gundam.com)
Fri, 9 Feb 2001 20:37:08 -0800


>> Unfortunatly, my contact with non-Wing gundam has been limited to the
>> dubbed (euck) movie adaptations of the origional series.
>
> What's peoples problems with dubbed anime? it's dubbed well, and the Gundam,
> at least, is uncensored.

I've always disliked dubbing, no matter how good it was, but I didn't figure out
just why until recently, when I bought the multilanguage DVDs of Gundam Wing,
Cowboy Bebop and Gasaraki.

I have a really terrific DVD player called PowerDVD that puts a complete control
panel on your screen, allowing me to do all sorts of things while the playback
is going. Among other things, it lets me switch between languages on the fly.
I can listen to the English soundtrack one moment and the Japanese soundtrack
the next, the closest thing to side-by-side comparison possible.

The problem, I discovered, is that the voice and delivery is as much a part of
the character as the animated image. Dubbing, no matter how good, distorts the
character. Shows like Princess Mononoke, which are scripted to supply a
coherent story and use name actors to deliver full characterizations, are less
distorted than those that bring in voiceover artists who just want to make the
words they're given to read fit the time marks they've been assigned to read
them, but the character is changed nevertheless.

The voice actress who plays Faye Valentine is competent enough, but she isn't
remotely like the Faye Valentine I hear in the original Japanese. She's not the
same person at all and, after listening to the Japanese Faye I find the American
one quite irritating.

There's more to voice acting than coming up with an appropriate serious or funny
voice and being as consistent with it as possible. Character involves shadings
and nuances and overtones and subtexts -- delivery is as important as the words
themselves.

I've been watching a lot of Cartoon Network lately and I've noticed quite a
difference between any of the dubbed anime shows and the American made
"cartoons" like Batman The Animated Series and Powerpuff Girls. Compare the
characterizations in those shows and other American shows like The Simpsons with
any dubbed anime and you can literally hear the difference. Imagine any of
those American "cartoons" dubbed by the same voice actors who do, say, Outlaw
Star or Tenchi Universe or Dragonball Z.

Frightening, isn't it?

But you don't even have to compare American "cartoons" and anime. Just imagine
what the Star Trek Animated series would've been like had Filmation used its
usual cast of regulars instead of getting the original actors to read the lines.
Imagine Mr. Spock voiced by Gary Owens or Casey Kasem.

Some American "cartoons" have lousy voice acting; others are terrific. Whatever
faults Disney may have, it hires great voice actors -- Tale Spin is one of my
favorites just because of the wonderful George Sanders stylings used to voice
Shere Khan. It's so perfectly in character that I can see that smug expression
even with my eyes closed.

Meanwhile, I often lose track of who's speaking if I'm looking down at my
keyboard while dubbed anime is playing on the TV.

When I was stationed in Turkey in 1978, I used to watch an American show called
Switch dubbed in Turkish on the local. The show starred Robert Wagner (Hart to
Hart) and Eddie Albert (Green Acres) and a "reformed" thief and his policeman
overseer. The man who dubbed Wagner's part sounded so much like Wagner that you
wondered if Wagner had learned to speak Turkish -- he even had the mannerisms
down pat. The producers went to great lengths, it seems, to capture the
character as closely as possible. But whoever was in charge of the production
apparently decided the Eddie Albert didn't sound manly enough to be an authority
figure, because they dubbed him using a basso profundo voice like something out
of a Sergio Leone western. We laughed every time the character opened his mouth
to speak.

If Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had been dubbed the same way every other
martial arts film from the Mandarin Circuit is dubbed, I don't think it would be
winning all of the awards it's garnered. Getting it to American audiences with
the lines delivered by the original actors, with all the nuances intact, must
surely have been a factor in its success.

It works both ways, though. I also have a videotape of Star Trek: The Motion
Picture dubbed into Japanese. It's truly awful dubbing, some of the worst I've
ever heard.

For this reason, I won't be buying First Gundam on DVD until I can get subtitled
Japanese in addition to dubbed English.

-Z-

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