Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why I dislike the Haruhi dub

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was the series that convinced me that I was a no-hope otaku. I had just gotten into TV Tropes and had begun to rekindle my love of anime that had flagged the past few years, and saw it referenced everywhere. It's one of the wiki's pet series, along with Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (also quite good) and most of Joss Whedon's work. I had gotten such a good overview of the plot and peculiarities of the characters and whatnot, that I started commenting on the series like I was in the know (that happened over at the Giant In The Playground boards- there was a thread on what fictional universes you'd like to restructure, and someone commented "This one. It's getting boring". The person above them had an SOS-dan signature, and I commented that the juxtaposition amused me.) After that, I figured I should just watch the goddamn show. I did- some dude on Youtube had the entirety of it- and I loved it. It was just as funny, had just as many moments of What Do You Mean, It's Not Awesome?!, and characters as awesome as everyone said. I liked the series so much, I felt compelled to go out and buy the DVDs. I'm missing...two or three episodes, I think- the one with that bigass cricket and the two on the island. One DVD boxset (The second) had the first five episodes of broadcast order subbed-only, in addition to episodes 4-6 and the Baseball game in chronological order. That one boxset for $40 or so got me the entirety of the main plot, plus episode 0 and the baseball game episode- about half the series. Not too shabby.

Now, I watched the dub, and objectively, I should have loved it. Every member of the SOS-dan is played by an experienced VA who I have loved in other roles. The translation is faithful, almost to a fault, and each actor seems to know their character very well. But I don't like it. Or, I mean to say, I prefer the Japanese version. I'll break it down character by character.

Kyon- Played by Crispin Freeman in the dub, one of the big names in voice acting. See also- Orange-kun (Jeremiah Gottwald from Code Geass) and Regal from Symphonia, which is where I know him from. TV Tropes tells me that he was Alucard in Hellsing and a bunch of other roles. He's got a great voice, fairly deep, perfect for that big, kinda quiet badass role. My main problem with Mr. Freeman, and with probably anyone who took this role is simple- they're not Tomokazu Sugita, Kyon's Seiyuu*. Kyon's Japanese performance is incredible. There's such a marvelous tone to it that you can hear right from the opening monolouge that Kyon gives in Episode 1. It flows perfectly, and you can hear the different levels of exasperation, fear, and excitement that Kyon gives, which is hard for me to oftentimes do when I listen to the Japanese. Kyon feels both like he'd really talk that way- it's completely natural, and never awkward or inconsistent. So Mr. Freeman has huge shoes to fill, and unfortunately he doesn't manage to make it. His Kyon is good- he captures exasperation (so, so important for Kyon) very well, but he doesn't have that same flow, that same rhytm that Tomokazu managed to pull off. It's just not the same...

Haruhi- Aya Hirano in Japanese, Wendee Lee Dubbed. Wendee Lee is known for Faye of Cowboy Bebop and about a million other things. The most recent thing I recognized her in was a couple of bit parts in Tales of Vesperia. Aya Hirano brings a shitton of energy to Haruhi, which is really necessary to the character. She also legitimately sounds like a teenage girl, whereas Wendee Lee, who's pusing 50, sounds...like a 50 year old trying to pass off for 16. It's the same problem I have with Jun Fukuyama's Lelouch Lamperouge- s/he doesn't sound like they're 16.

Yuki- Minori Chihara in Japanese, Michelle Ruff in English. Now we get to VA's I fanboy a bit over. Michelle Ruff is Rukia Kuchiki, Yukari Takeba (Persona 3, knowlege gained through Let's Plays), and Rita Mordio (Vesperia) and she's fantastic in all of them. Rita in particular is great. Yuki is your stereotypical "emotionless girl" and both voices reflect that. Yuki's Japanese voice is quiet, simple, and calm. It fits her perfectly. Michelle Ruff sounds like she's trying just a bit too hard to deaded all the emotion, and sounds like they did something artificial that makes Yuki seem more like a computer. It doesn't really work for me.

Mikuru- Yuko Goto in Japanese, Stephanie Sheh in English. I know Stephanie Sheh as Orihime and Hinata Hyuuga. Her voice fits the character perfectly, and sounds almost the same as the Japanese version. High-pitched, breathy, just like Mikuru. And yet it irritates me. That sort of thing doesn't work to my tastes in English.

Koizumi- Daisuke Ono in Japanese, Johnny Young Bosch in English. I really fanboy over Johnny Young Bosch- he's Ichigo Kurosaki, Lelouch, and a bunch of others. He's got a great "timid" voice, and a kickass angry voice. He works fine for Koizumi, but I don't have much to say about Koizumi's Japanese voice, either. So meh.

The dub's not bad. I just don't like it. I love other works of these folk, just...not here.

And on a sidenote here, either I (who was supposed to be listening for the timer) or my roommate (who may have forgotten to set said timer) screwed up and we nearly burned our dorm down. He comes back to his burger cooking and calmly tells me "You forgot to turn the oven off...and now it's on fire". Despite what looked to be a grease fire, he threw water on it, and miraculously it went out. Didn't set off the fire alarm or anything. I don't know. Amusing that I was just sitting here while the oven lit on fire not ten feet away.
* Seiyuu is the Japanese term for voice actor, dontchaknow.[/weeaboo]

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