Contrary to what extremists say, not all dubs are uniformly bad. There are dubs that are superbly acted and still remain as fresh and fascinating as they were the first time around. There are also dubs which, although not perfect, are still entertaining. And then there are dubs which are flawed in places but still have merit... as well as dubs that may have seemed passable at one time, but ultimately lose their appeal and are hard to even listen to again without cringing.
Streamline Pictures' dub of Vampire Hunter D, a 1985 B-grade OVA based on a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi and featuring character designs by Final Fantasy's Yoshitaka Amano, is a dub that falls into this last category. Released around 1992, at a time when dubs were, at best, of poor quality, it does sort of stand out as being "not so bad". Of course, this is typically what most newcomers to Anime who stumble upon this dub without hearing a wide variety of them would think. However, after listening to many modern dubs or even some older ones that happen to hold up well, then Streamline's dub of Vampire Hunter D seems quite outdated. And by that I don't mean that it is simply bad, but both technically and emotionally, it feels like a chore to listen to after being spoiled by so many other better ones.
The actors who participate in Streamline's dub are good voice actors. Honestly, they really are. Yet sometimes circumstances beyond their control, poor vocal direction or rushed takes, can cause them to turn out performances that are nowhere near the caliber of superior work. And this is exactly what Streamline's Vampire Hunter D is: a case of fine actors all sounding off their mark and/or not as effective as they should be.
Flash forward thirteen years later. Sentai Filmworks, remnants of ADV, have since picked up, repackaged, and even redubbed this new classic. So how did it turn out? Well, I do have a few minor quibbles, but on the whole I was quite pleased with the results. Helmed by longtime ADV Films director and scriptwriter Matt Greenfield, this redub aims to bring the movie back to its roots as a genuinely scary film with the occasional moment of humor. With the exception of one character, the casting of the voices and the acting in the Sentai version are far superior to their Streamline counterparts.
D (Michael McConnohie, Streamline Version; John Gremillion, Sentai Version) -- The title character of this post-apocalyptic western-themed slasher is a very tall, mysterious, and often stoic man clad in a long cloak and a tall hat. (SPOILER ALERT: It turns out that he's actually a half-human/half-vampire, the son of Count Dracula!) He is devoted to rid the world of all vampires and protect the innocent. Since D is not a very emotional and often stiff character, it's probably easier to lay off on McConnohie's portrayal. He does have a fairly deep voice and his often monotonous delivery isn't too detrimental. On the flip side, however, his performance often veers into "newscaster reading from cue cards" territory, particularly the scene where he's comforting Dan from crying; other times it feels like one of those cheesy old-fashioned record albums of Batman (from Power Records) in which the title character speaks in a similarly robotic tone (hence my phrase "superhero syndrome"). McConnohie also comes across as rather stilted, too, although that is more of a problem of both lackluster direction and the rather choppy animation. In all fairness, he does manage to put more emotion toward the end for moments such as D's "death" scene and at the beginning of the final confrontation with Magnus Lee (particularly his energized "Back to the abyss... OF OBLIVION!"), but even then it feels TOO over-the-top, even for such a character. Who knows how well he could have played the character if he was better directed? We probably may never know, but as it stands, Mike's overall performance as D is only so-so.
Andrew Philpot defined the character a lot more in Yoshiaki Kawajiri's semi-sequel Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. As someone who demands vocal continuity when it comes to dubbing, it's a bit of a let down that Philpot didn't return to reprise his role for Sentai. Perhaps because of this, it took me two viewings to get accustomed to John Gremillion's turn in the new dub. His voice is a bit more "lighter" than either McConnohie or Philpot, often verging on sounding somewhat whispered and husky. Certainly not what I would expect from a character like D. Only when he utters lines like "I would prefer not to kill you" did I have the vision of D in my mind, but otherwise his voice is a new take on the character. What ultimately canceled out my reservations was his acting, which warrants a shout-out. John does a solid job of making D reserved and conflicted, refraining from overacting in his action scenes. His delivery is much more understated and focused than McConnohie. It helps, too, that he has better written dialogue to support him; a lot of the dialogue from D's end verged into cheesy territory in the Streamline version, and luckily, Gremillion succeeds in steering around this pitfall. Much of the credit should also go to Greenfield for making the weakest moments of McConnohie's dialogue more believable as well.
LEFT HAND (Michael McConnohie, Streamline Version; Andy McAvin, Sentai Version) -- D's only companion is his left hand--that is to say, there is some sort of face engraved on his hand who often chides his master, but also proves to be quite an independent and powerful character in its own right. It can inhale mist-like creatures, and gobble them up, and, when D is (temporarily) murdered by Ray Ginsay, after being cut off, it crawls back to its host and even whacks D's body to awaken him! That leads to a major problem: what kind of voice would you give an unusual character such as this? I do like the idea of McConnohie voicing the left hand as well; it gives a duality to the nature of D's character. He does so with a rather nasally, high-pitched, prissy tone. On one level this approach can be seen as valid, as it does provide for a somewhat "creature"-like character, but his delivery is another matter. It is literally all over the place, ranging from irritating to condescending ("You're not in LOVE with her, are you?"). He's also saddled with a vocal amplifier that not only sounds artificial, but unfortunately also emphasizes how hokey the effect of this dub is. There are a couple of places where McConnohie does manage to evoke a few laughs (his urging of D to stir "Wake up!"), but otherwise it's not his best work by any means.
Again, I mostly prefer Michael McShane's turn as the Left Hand from Bloodlust, and so it was initially disappointing that he didn't return for the Sentai redub. That said, I quickly got accustomed to Andy McAvin in no time. He sounds appropriately sarcastic and thankfully not whiny. He even gets one of the best lines in the show "I swear, this guy is SUCH a handful." Very fitting and amusing. The only thing I'm not quite a fan of is the electronic voice alteration to make this character sound more "creature-like". Without it, I think the character would have been more convincing, but on the other hand, that's nitpicking.
DORIS LANG (Barbara Goodson, Streamline Version; Luci Christian, Sentai Version) -- We first meet Doris at the beginning of the movie, when she is stalking lizardly mutants in her garden. Here, she is brave but also vulnerable. Soon after, however, she is reduced to screaming and helplessness when Count Magnus Lee confronts her. When we see her again, there are two puncture marks on her neck, and unfortunately this is where her personality starts to veer all over the place. Sometimes she is tough and vicious (in moments such as when she lashes with her whip, or even fends off Grecco's advances), other times she's hopelessly smitten (with the title character), at one point defiant (when she's brought to Magnus Lee's room), and then, ultimately, more whiney, whimpy moments. Given all this, Doris does not come across as a very consistent character, and so that does create problems for any attempt to portray her character. In all fairness, however, Goodson does make an effort, although her performance, like the character, is a mixed bag. When she is in her "strong" mode in moments such as telling Grecco off or even speaking normally, Goodson is decent. However, the scene where she initially strikes D with the whip (to test his skills) does come across as stilted as not as forceful as it should. She also overacts during most of her "crying" and "screaming" scenes--granted such moments are very demanding to pull off to begin with, but either because of poor direction or the confused nature of her character, they don't feel strong enough. She also utters "Oh my god!" one too many times, which sometimes recalls Kate Capshaw's character in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. (It doesn't help either that her dialogue sometimes consists of lines such as "I'll bite off my tongue and bleed to death!") All of this makes for a very uneven and sometimes stiff result, but even so, Goodson does try, and for that I have to give her points.
Sentai's new dub casts Luci Christian in the role. At first I wasn't quite so sure if her voice was right for the part, but part of that might have been me being overly familiar with Goodson. But after seeing the dub in its entirety, I changed my mind. Doris is technically supposed to be around 17 years old, and Christian's voice sounds much younger and convincing. She also puts a lot of emotion and passion into her part, and her dialogue thankfully never crosses into the aforementioned Capshaw territory. Her aggressive scenes are handled with unbridled energy, and the tender, frightful moments Doris displays are also very warm and well handled. In short, Christian succeeds in making Doris sympathetic, natural and more believable than Goodson ever did; her delivery is far more consistent.
DAN LANG (Lara Cody, Streamline Version; Shannon Emerick, Sentai Version) -- Very seldom are there roles which totally grate on me to the point that it takes me out of a dub, but this is one exception. One of the more useless characters in the film, Doris' younger brother is approximately five years old. And that is part of the problem with Cody's performance. She doesn't even sound like a young boy, but instead falls into the obvious "little boy sounding like a woman" trap. It's made all the more so by the feminine tone in Dan's voice. (For a much more convincing example of a woman trying to sound like a boy, try Brianne Siddall's Kenichi in Metropolis.) His dialogue ranges from surprisingly intelligent for his age talk to sniveling. One particularly cringeworthy delivery is in the scene where Dan is trapped on a rock: "Oh pleeeeeeease help meeeeeee!" What makes it even worse is that Cody doesn't put enough emotion into that moment, rendering it both ineffective and lifeless. Even when she's not stuck with moments like that, her "normal" scenes sound very off, both in terms of vocal tone and in delivery. Lara has had other fine roles, but Dan ranks as one of the lowest points in her career.
Sadly, Dan is also the weakest voice in the Sentai redub, although this time it's not due to the acting. In Shannon Emerick's defense, she does a great job of bringing toughness, spunk and life to Dan without coming across as cheesy. And luckily the aforementioned cringeworthy bit when Dan is trapped by Rei Ginsei is delivered less so. Oddly, even though Doris has a neutral accent, Dan, like the rest of the villagers of Ransylva, speaks with a Southern twang. On one hand, the approach is understandable since this is a "Western" vampire story, but it feels very odd considering the differences in the style of both characters. I'm not totally sold on her voice for the character either; as mentioned, Lara was distractingly feminine, and while Shannon is less so, I still found her vocal tone somewhat distracting; it's just not quite seamless enough to give off the illusion. Luckily Dan has a few scenes, and as mentioned, Emerick's turn is less grating than Lara, so for that I give her points. But this character is still my least favorite voice in both dubs.
COUNT MAGNUS LEE (Jeff Winkless, Streamline Version; David Wald, Sentai Version) -- The late Winkless' voicing of the centuries old villain fares no better than his Streamline co-stars. Oh sure, he has an evil chuckle and a deep voice, but his performance is handicapped by many other elements. To make him sound like a vampire, the sound engineers try to amplify his voice through some kind of "vocal effects". Unfortunately, it only comes across as artificial instead of frightening. The other major problem is that his dialogue is either corny or just laughable, particularly an added-in monologue at the beginning of the film that begins with the stereotypical "Permit me to introduce myself!" This only succeeds in providing unintentional humor. Furthermore, the delivery of his lines is obviously stilted, like he's concentrating on the mouth movements, and whatever traces of emotion he tries to put out sound either forced or nowhere nearly strong enough. It's just too cartoonish. That he's saddled with a phony-sounding Transylvanian accent also drives the final nail in the coffin. (This could have been an effective if the accent were executed more fluently, but as it is here, it only provides more laughs, and that is a real detriment.) Chalk this one up as yet another misfire on Jeff's career.
David Wald fares miles better as this villain; he has a smooth, natural baritone with a touch of regal-ness that is perfectly suited to the count's aristocratic nature. There's much more emotion and nuance to his acting as well. It never crosses into stereotypical evil or cheesy territory either, which is a huge plus. In fact, at times he sounds like Keith David! Also worthy of note is that he provides the Count with a somewhat "upper-class", light British accent, which, again, conveys the character's "noble" status and upbringing. Every single second of his performance is a winner, his lines oozing with dripping menace and charisma. Wald is definitely my favorite voice in the whole redub; he really steals the show here. Kudos!
REI GINSEI (Kerrigan Mahan, Streamline Version; Andy McAvin, Sentai Version) -- If the Count comes across as a rather minor villain, Rei Ginsei is a much more effective one. He is driven by a desire to become a nobleman, willing to go to any extreme to acquire his wishes, even if it means kidnapping. Of course, his efforts are hampered by both D's intervention and his master's own disdain. As such, he may not really be considered a total baddie, especially since toward the end he saves Dan from falling to his death (a surprise move considering he had kidnapped the latter earlier on) and even tries (unsuccessfully) to kill the Count. Kerrigan Mahan provides the character with a considerably nasally yet slimy sounding tone which does convey the character's treacherous nature and "mutant" origins. But his overall performance, while otherwise fairly decent, suffers from a lot of very stilted delivery--much of this problem is attributed to the similarly stilted lipflaps, but the sometimes choppily written script also contributes to the problem. In his defense, he does cackle wickedly and handles his killing of D (and subsequent amputation) effectively (he also gets the best line: "An eye for an eye, and a hand for a hand"). However, other moments such as a rather laughably delivered and hokey-sounding "Now you die" (during his first fight with D) and the abruptly harsh tone in which he says "Stop! Release them immediately!" when his face is still cool and casual while closing his eyes work against such effective moments, especially when said reaction doesn't mesh with the visuals. It's a mediocre performance, at best.
McAvin does double-duty not only as D's left hand, but as this villain as well. Honestly, it's hard to tell the difference between the two other than the fact that one character has "electronic voice distortion" while the other does not. His version of Rei sounds surprisingly more scratchy and raspy and not as "slimy". Simultaneously, however, his acting is far more consistent and believable, and thankfully devoid of any hokey moments. (He does utter a cliched "Now you die!" line before he attacks D, but McAvin somehow manages to nullify whatever cheesy maybe attached to it.) When Rei Ginsei is in action mode, exuding bitterness, or making threats, McAvin sounds like he's having a blast. Another improvement: Rei does not tell his demon comrades to release Dan and Ferringo while speaking with Doris. Note that his character is a bit more blunt and "rude" than Mahan, though; he's fond of shouting "Quiet!" to Doris and Dan. The one thing I found a bit odd at first was how he handles the scene where D cuts off his hand. Mahan went all out to the point where he screams "Damn you! I hope you burn in HELLLLL!" (On the other hand, it's also more unintentional humor.) Here McAvin delivers it less aggressively, shouting in a less laughable manner "Damn it! Do you have to be condescending as well?!" This is a bit more closer to the translation, but it did strike me as a bit strange. Oh well, that aside, everything else about his Rei Ginsei otherwise excels. One final thing that I should mention is that unlike the Streamline version when Rei confronts the Count for the last time, Sentai's translation has him expressing rage over having lost his arm and friends. This more "noble" approach is closer in spirit to the original Japanese version as opposed to Streamline's more greedy Rei, who declares that he will have his reward regardless in the Streamline dub.
LAMIKA / L'ARMICA (Edie Mirman, Streamline Version; Brittany Karbowski, Sentai Version) -- If there is any performance in Streamline's dub that emerges anywhere near close to "effective" (aside from Goodson), it's Mirman--of course, that's mainly because that her character, Lamika, is the most interesting character in the whole movie. As Count Lee's only daughter, she is jealous of her father's infatuation with Doris and even attempts murder on the latter at one point... but Lamika is not a purely "evil" character. Her main concern is the purity of her bloodline: she detests the idea of having a "country girl" mating with her noble father, fearing (correctly) that it will disgrace her household. At first she is merely acting to save her own father from his own desires, but when she is both spared by D and later learns that her own mother is not of noble birth, Lamika feels betrayed and quickly declares that the House of Lee must fall. Mirman gives the character an appropriately sultry sounding tone and for the most part, she handles Lamika's nature fairly well, from her initially smug first appearance to her jealousy and finally her resolved resign of defeat. This could make her the best voice in the whole dub; alas, there are four problems that cause Mirman to fall short of that mark. The first and most obvious problem is the Transylvanian accent. Sometimes it seems effective, but at other times it does verge into cheesy territory. Secondly, there are places where her dialogue sounds stilted and/or not as strongly delivered as it should (for instance, her chiding of Ray Ginsay is surprisingly weak and a scream of "Kill me! Kill me now!" sounds both forced and stilted--of course that latter problem is attributed to the animation.) The third problem is that she sounds a bit too mature, although it isn't really clear in the movie how old her character is supposed to be. Finally, a lot of her delivery comes across as rather monotone and lacking in passion. Which is unfortunate, because Mirman's Lamika, otherwise, is probably the only thing that comes anywhere near close to being a saving grace.
Sentai's version retranslates the character's name to "L'armica" and her name is pronounced differently. Whether it's more truer to the Japanese pronunciation I can't say, but either way it did strike me as a bit jarring at first. It took me a few viewings to get accustomed to. That aside, Karbowski's take on the character is interesting. Like her father, she speaks with an upper-class accent instead of a goofy Transylvanian one, and her voice sounds considerably younger. She comes across like an angry teenager roughly around 16-17ish. As mentioned, it's not clear what age the character is supposed to be, but her voice works fine. She also brings a snide quality to her part, particularly when she approaches the sleeping Doris. "THIS is the slattern you chose to take my mother's place?!" Finally, Brittany puts more emotion into her part, and somehow manages to make L'armica a more conflicted character with a conscious instead of an outright contemptuous villain. Although there are places where she comes across as more aggressive than Mirman (in scenes where she's arguing with Count Lee about his misguided wedding), I didn't mind at all. Very well done all around.
DR. FEHRING / FERRINGO (Steve Kramer, Streamline Version; John Swasey, Sentai Version) -- This character, who serves as the medical man of Doris's village, is a kindly man who sympathizes with Doris's plight and tries to offer support, only to become corrupted into a demonic monster by Count Lee. The quavering tone that Kramer uses for the character is fine. However, a lot of his dialogue comes across as very choppy and stilted, and as such, he doesn't get to emote as much as he would like. Even in the scene where he's cautioning Doris about her affections for D, there is something about his delivery that feels very pedantic. The worst moment of his performance is when he becomes a vampire; like Count Lee, his voice is given an electronic amplifying device which, again, comes across as very artificial, and his dialogue is acted laughably, particularly the guffawing and his opening line "Yes, that's who I used to be until yesterday". Thankfully, this only lasts for a few minutes, because once he is stabbed, he returns to his "normal" tone where he begs for Doris' forgiveness before finally falling to his death. In short, Kramer is OK during Fehring's normal moments but not great, but his "evil" transformation scene could have been much better executed.
In Sentai's dub, John Swasey speaks for the doctor with a voice that doesn't sound too different from his work in the Rebuild of Evangelion movies as Gendo Ikari. Nonetheless, while it is a bit of a jarring change to this viewer, I soon got accustomed to it. He sounds surprisingly more aggressive during the scene where describes the tragedy of Ransylva's interment camp which lead to a brutal slaughter on behalf of Count Lee, while Kramer was more restrained. Otherwise I didn't have any major problems with his turn as the doctor; he sounds more down-to-earth and warm otherwise. But the real triumph here is how Swasey handles his transformation into a vampire. It's much more believable and less cheesy. There are no electronic vocal effects to alter his voice, just a raspy change of vocal tone on Swasey's part. Instead of guffawing, he gives a creepy chuckle, and his dialogue sounds like this: "Oh, I WAS the doctor, dear. But I've changed!" Swasey's rendition of this moment is all the more convincing because of it. One thing that struck me as odd is his death scene; I liked that Kramer reverted to his natural voice for the doctor when he utters his last line "Doris, please forgive me!". Here, Swasey shouts "Doris, please!" which doesn't sound all that different from his vampire one. It's not a major detriment, just an interesting change of pace. Otherwise, I had no major issues.
GRECO (Steve Bulen, Streamline Version; Jay Hickman, Sentai Version) -- The final major character to the story is the spoiled, arrogant elder's son from Doris's village of Ransylva. He is sort of like Gaston from Disney's Beauty and the Beast: he wants Doris for himself and uses bullying to get his way (first, from informing everyone in the village about Doris's contamination, and later on, threatens to kill Lamika while blinding Doris with a blaring candle). At one point, he is also flanked by two girls. Ultimately, however, his role is rather small, and he gets bumped off even before the story is over. Bulen's vocal tone for the character is a bit too wispy sounding, although he handles his "villainous" moments fairly well (particularly when he screams about Doris' condition). Simultaneously, however, he is also handicapped with lots of stilted dialogue (including one very rushed "You want to play rough, huh?") and also speaks with a rather phony and laughable accent. Again, it's an average performance, at best.
When I first heard Hickman's take on the character, I was surprised. He provides Greco with a Southern drawl which I found odd initially, at least until I realized that the setting of Ransylva is in some ways, similar to an old Western town. I soon got over that discomfort because aside from this new choice of style, Hickman gives Greco a lot more character than Bulen ever did. His voice fits Greco's appearance just right, and he does a fine job of bringing out Greco's smugness. He even delivers a couple of funny lines such as "I'll leave you with Fangey here" and "That kid jus' called me a stinkin' liar!" There's a slight comical edge to his Greco that Bulen lacks, which makes the character arguably more interesting than just another run-of-the-mill suitor.
MAYOR ROHMAN (Tom Wyner, Streamline Version; David Wald, Sentai Version) -- The mayor of Ransylva only appears in one scene, and his primary role is to initially sentence the contaminated Doris to the internment camp until Ferringo and D intervene on her behalf. Streamline's version casts Wyner in the part, and while his voice is OK, his few lines are hampered by stacatto-sounding dialogue and a vague accent, which, again, comes across as unconvincing. It's not a BAD performance, but it's not as good as it could have been.
Wald, by contrast, gives the character a much more authoritative tone and sounds very more natural in his delivery. Luckily, he also disguises his voice enough to the point that the viewer doesn't even realize that he's also voicing Count Lee. One thing I initially wasn't sure of was the Southern accent, again from my over familiarness with the first version. At least until I remembered what the setting was supposed to be.
SHERIFF DALTON (Kirk Thornton, Streamline Version; Mark X. Laskowski, Sentai Version) -- This character only has one or two lines, so I'm not sure if this really counts. But both Thornton and Laskowski seemed fine to me; neither outstanding nor dreadful, but functional.
SNAKE WOMEN / MEDUSA (Joyce Kurtz, Streamline Version; Tiffany Grant, Sentai Version) -- When D storms Count Lee's castle for the first time, he is cast into the catacombs where he comes across this trio of beautiful, sultry women strumming lyres who turn out to be ravenously dangerous lamia. Compared to most of her other co-stars in the Streamline dub, Kurtz doesn't come across too badly as these characters. The low-pitched tone as the sisters works fine and she cackles with demonic relish during the transformation. Only quibble is that sometimes she overacts and the death scream is weaker than the rest of her take. Otherwise, she's more or less OK.
Sentai, meanwhile, makes the unusual decision to cast the woman best known as Asuka Langley Sohryu from Evangelion. As it turns out, it couldn't have been a more fitting choice. Like Kurtz, she gives the sisters a very sultry tone dripping with delicious evil. Not a single moment during her brief screen time does Grant show any vocal cuing to her more better known role, which makes her unrecognizable turn all the more complimentary. One thing she does differently is that she doesn't cackle as madly as Kurtz and whatever she does is very… understated, but she does do her death scream more convincingly, if a tad annoyingly. Tiffany should play more roles of this type, this performance really shows that I've underestimated her as a voice actress.
The rest of the cast are mostly just minor roles in both dubs. One thing that I will say is that Count Lee's monsters, the bat like Gimlet, the hunchbacked "spider" monster Chullah and the titanic Golem all sound less cheesy than their Streamline counterparts. (The latter monster utters a very cheesy "GOING SOMEWHERE?!" in the former version, whereas here he simply roars his name.) There isn't any major dialogue here, just vocal sound effects, and their respective actors in the Sentai version play them more convincingly.
Performances aside, there are other issues with Streamline's dub. One of them is the script adaptation, as applied by Wyner and Macek. It is a very liberal translation with quite a lot of alterations from the subtitled script and a fair share of added-in dialogue. I often don't have a problem with this approach for dubs like Disney's Kiki's Delivery Service
and Castle in the Sky
or Funimation's Fullmetal Alchemist
-- mainly because all three somehow manage to still maintain the essence of the original and are executed with skill and professionalism. With D
, however, the liberal/added-in approach suffers not just in the fact the extra dialogue is either cliche or corny, but that the dialogue doesn't flow very smoothly. As mentioned earlier, much of the script is choppy and stilted, with lines that are either forced or laughably delivered. Of course, considering the nature of the source material, it would be difficult to imagine how it could be improved, but one listen to modern dubs and this, well, it only shows how far dubbing has come since the early '90s.
By comparison, Matt Greenfield's script is much better written and sounds nowhere nearly as stilted. It's more faithful as well, dialing back most of the added in dialogue that Wyner's script suffered from. Count Lee no longer talks in the opening scene, for instance, and Doris thankfully doesn't scream so much. Fans who found fault with Streamline's treatment of that scene should rejoice. What's also notable is that Greenfield's version restores much of the nuance and subtlety that Streamline's version misses out on. Example #1: the scene where Count Lee learns about the existence of D. In the Streamline version, he acts as though he knew about D from the start and as such, comes across as monologuing to himself. This time, Lee communicates with the shifting mist in his throne room as if he is having a conversation, and is surprised to find out about his newest foe and anticipating something to relive his 10,000 years of boredom. Better still is the writing of that scene; it's not as "on the nose" as the Streamline version, which struck many as "dumbing down"; it sounds more fluent and less choppy. Example #2: the scene where Doris implores D to bite her. The Streamline version ends that scene with an exchange that is ripped off from The Empire Strikes Back.
(Doris: I love you. D: I know.) Sentai handles this bit much more closer to the translation with less corny dialogue. (Doris: D, please. D: I can't.) The scene feels less "on the nose" and all the more genuine because of Sentai's choices. The new dub script also bears the distinction of getting D's species right. For the first time, the character is referred to as a "dhampir." Both the Streamline dub and the otherwise superior Bloodlust
mistranslated this term as "dampiel" and "dunpeal". There are a few moments when Greenfield does add in lines, but luckily, they are brief and not out of character with the material. For instance, Count Lee uttering "Behold, your hero!" to Doris when he's showing the latter an image of D being tortured by the Snake Women being one such example. Cliche though that line may be, both Wald's natural delivery of it and the timing dilutes any potential negatives. Likewise, Lee's additional uttering of "How invigorating!" after he murders Rei in a most repulsive manner, although not part of the subtitles, is again, brief and handled well. The only minor quibble about Sentai's otherwise superior script is one line being undubbed, which is D telling L'armica to go back to the castle during the scene where he, Dan, and Doris all return after a frightful confrontation with Greco and the converted Dr. Ferringo. Streamline's version, in its defense retains that line, but Sentai's doesn't. I'm not sure if this was a case of Greenfield overlooking that line or an intentional omission to make the movie less "dumbed down", but either way, it's an insignificant, but nonetheless curious change.
Another word of note: the opening prologue in this new version is accompanied by a sonorous voiceover, probably David Wald or Andy McAvin. This was something that the Streamline dub didn't do, but keep in mind the Japanese version of Vampire Hunter D
also had voiceover. So this isn't a case of adding in dialogue for the heck of it, but staying true to the original.
Streamline's version of Vampire Hunter D also made a couple of minor alterations to Tetsuya Komuro's moody score. Most of it is just stretching the music tracks from the original OST, making them longer to the point where they drift into scenes involving dialogue. I am not necessarily vehemently against this practice, as there are times when it can be tastefully done. However, there are two instances where the extension of the music comes across as out of place with the visuals: 1) When D falls into the catacombs and passes by skeletal corpses (referred to by his left hand as the remnants of a war ten-thousand years ago). 2) After D gores Golem to death and escapes into the forest, with Rei Ginsei on his trail, leading to the latter to do a surprise attack while he witnesses his comrade Gimlet impaled to a tree. Here the extended tracks sound triumphant and distinctively calmer, as if the hero has escaped to safety. The resulting changes make the scenes jarring. Whether this was due to the music and effects track having them or a case of practices to make the movie less quiet and more "accessible", it's a curious choice. If you're going to add more music do it properly to the point where it matches the action on screen, not just for the sake of it. Sentai's version does away with all that, and the silent scenes are now scoreless. This makes the two aforementioned scenes play much more effectively.
The final major nail in the coffin for the Streamline dub of Vampire Hunter D is on a technical level. The dialogue itself has a very hollow, flat quality which almost gives the impression that the dub was recorded in a sound studio with poor acoustics. Or perhaps with outdated audio equipment. Either way, it results for a sound mix that is lacking in dynamic range and clarity--remixing it to Dolby Digital 5.1 as the DVD release does only succeeds in highlighting these technical faults. Considering that the dub was made in 1992, part of this is understandable, but that is also is very unevenly synched to the mouth movements further excacerbates its overall dated quality. The dub was originally a mono recording, and the remix itself feels very unnatural; the center channel conveys the quality of the dub in its form while the artificial attempts to remix the dialogue/music into stereo in the left and right front channels and muddy sound effects in the rear channels only succeed in making the Streamline dub sound muddy. The Sentai dub sounds much more crisply recorded and clean by comparison; of course it helps that technology has come a long way since the 90's. But more importantly, the music and sound effects sound fantastic and are no longer artificial. There are even subtle reverb effects in certain scenes that Streamline's version doesn't provide, giving it a much more dramatic and "complete" presentation.
All in all, Streamline's Vampire Hunter D has not aged very well; perhaps it may have been marginally better than many other dubs made during its era, but due to the laughable accents, stiff performances and dialogue and poor sound quality, it comes across very amateurish, especially when a good majority of today's dubs have set much higher standards. I can just imagine this dub being highlighted on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. 2001's Vampire Hunter D--Bloodlust, helmed by Jack Fletcher, is a much better effort and more easy to listen to.
Sentai's redub of this title has a couple of imperfections, too (the use of Southern accents for certain characters, for instance, one weak performance and a curiously undubbed line), but on the whole it's a very welcome improvement over the original. It does a better job of bringing Vampire Hunter D closer to its intended roots as a serious film with only occasional humor. As mentioned, critics and the anime community in general were not kind to the Streamline version, staking it with scathing reviews. Time will tell how Sentai's newer version will be received (either way, old-school fans of the Streamline version will find it jarring and make complaints about how the former dub is "superior" to the newer one). Personally, however, I am quite pleased with the end results of Sentai's version and for me, it enhanced a mediocre movie into a flawed minor classic. I still maintain Bloodlust is superior, but Sentai nonetheless deserves kudos for dusting off the original Vampire Hunter D and providing a fresh new coat of paint… er, blood. Newcomers should be fine with it.