OK, I know I said I would do part II of Giant Robo next, but I honestly haven't had the time to sit down and watch the whole thing again. So my next few entries will probably be movies. Anyway, on to Metropolis.
The film: It's simply beautiful. Next to obvious choices like Miyazaki's canon, Akira or Ninja Scroll, it's one of the best anime films I've ever seen. Are there some flaws? Yeah. The CG, while incredibly utilized, is pretty conspicuous, and one character seems to exit the film too early, but these are minor complaints at best. The apocalyptic climax set to Ray Charles' "I Can't Stop Lovin' You" is one of the most haunting, beautiful things I've ever seen.
The dub: I don't really have any complaints scripting or direction-wise in regards to Animaze's dub. It's a pretty solid, excellent dub.
Second Take (by Jon Turner): Metropolis is interesting in that it's another case of a major Hollywood studio (Sony Pictures Entertainment) giving a Japanese animated film wide exposure through a theatrical release. Oddly enough, rather than applying Disney's practice of supplying a dub complete with big-name stars, it was decided to release the film subtitled theatrically. On DVD, however, there is a dub, provided by AniMaze, inc.. AniMaze is a very reliable studio for producing top-quality English dubs, and this is no exception. I do, however, want to take to task a grating flaw in Sony's treatment of the dub: there are no credits for the dub cast on the DVD. Not even a mention of the ADR director, scriptwriter, studio, or production staff. It is a practice that I've found very annoying on every Anime DVD Sony has released with a dub. Regardless of what hardcore Anime fans feel about dubbing, it is important for the English dubbing crew to be recognized instead of being reduced to anonymous territory.
That said, onto the performances! (Word of note: the review is primarily written by Fighting Dreamer, but my comments will be included in the "second take" category.)
KENICHI (Brianne Siddall) -- We've got another "adult woman voicing a small boy" role here, but Siddall does this sort of thing pretty often, so she's gotten good at it. It's not my favorite performance in the dub, but Siddall's good nonetheless, especially since there's a lot of ADR "grunt 'n' groan" stuff that Kenichi does.
Second Take (By Jon Turner): Contrary to his Japanese counterpart, the lead character of Metropolis is surprisingly younger sounding, almost like a 12-year-old boy. The only thing is that it's a woman voicing him, none other than Siddall. Casting women as young boys is a risky decision, as it can sometimes veer into obviously feminine-sounding territory, making it less authentic than it aims to be. Miraculously, Siddall steers around that trap. Hearing Kenichi speak, you wouldn't even know that it's voiced by a female, as it sounds authentically close to that of a boy's. That's how seamless her performance is. There's a lot of "action scenes" in which Kenichi does a lot of shouting, grunting, and screaming, and Siddall handles this in a way that is very natural and convincing.
TIMA (Rebecca Forstadt) -- Forstadt is working in familiar territory here, but she pulls it off very well, making Tima high-pitched but not annoying. She's also seriously intimidating when Tima's programming kicks in and she goes into "crazy kill-all-humans" mode.
Second Take (By Jon Turner): Aside from Kenichi, the other important character in the show is Tima. There are two different versions of her. The first is her initial appearance, an inquisitive child who acts very much like a baby unused to the world around her. (This is obvious in the scene where Kenichi teaches her how to talk and write.) The second incarnation occurs at the film's climax--a dangerous killing machine who threatens to exterminate humanity as punishment for their misuse of robots. While Siddall's Kenichi is seamless, there is a bit of an artificiality in Forstadt's Tima; one can very slightly sense that it is a woman trying to sound young. However, it works well in the case of this character, who is, in fact, an android girl. What ultimately makes her performance is how natural Forstadt sounds, both as the sweet child (she does this without venturing into saccharine territory), and as the avenging angel (where she clearly sounds harsh and cold; her voice is also amplified by electronic sound processing equipment).
SHUNSAKU BAN (Tony Pope) -- The late Mr. Pope does an excellent job as Kenichi's uncle, making him both gruff and tough yet also warm and compassionate. No complaints.
Second Take (by Jon Turner): The courageous private eye who also happens to be Kenichi's uncle is voiced by a very talented actor who unfortunately is no longer with us. Tony gives him a gruff but gentle tone which is just right for the character. Even at the moments where he is in action, he handles himself very well. His performance makes this character all the more loveable. It's also interesting to note that this character's design is not that much different from Dr. Moustache in Jungle Emperor Leo; ironically enough, Mike Toole of AnimeJump.com, who panned the dub, said he would have preferred Moustache's VA, Mike Pollock, to voice this guy instead. Personally, though, I think it works well to have both characters sound distinctly different from each other.
PERO (Dave Mallow) -- Mallow is one of my favorite underrated dub performers, and he gets some good stuff to play with here as robot detective Pero. His calm, mellow tone brings just a touch of humanity to Pero, which makes his eventual, uh, exit from the film more effective. He also gets a lot of exposition, which is never fun or easy to perform; props to Mallow for making it fun to listen to.
Second Take (by Jon Turner): Since this detective is a robot, it would be tempting to give him a stereotypically robotic voice--monotone and emotionless. However, Mallow goes in a different direction, setting a new standard for characters of this type. He brings a calm, even tone to Pero without venturing into dull territory. It is also interesting to note that his voice is slightly amplified by electronic equipment (you'll have to listen extremely carefully to notice).
ATLAS (Scott Weinger) -- Now here's an interesting performance. Weinger is known to most animation fans as the speaking voice of Disney's Aladdin, a role he's played off and on for over fifteen years. As Aladdin, he's your standard cocky-but-clever hero, and it's a role he does very well. Rebel leader Atlas, on the other hand, is strong and compassionate, but also prejudiced and violent (a fact he is aware of). Weinger plays Atlas in the same vocal range as Aladdin, but from an acting standpoint the two performances are completely different. It's a small-but-key role, and Weinger performs magnificently.
Second Take (by Jon Turner): Have you ever wished that the voice behind Disney's Aladdin would ever perform in an Anime dub? Well, no need to ask a genie; this dub gives Weinger an opportunity to do so. The tone that he uses for this rebel leader isn't that much different from his more famous role for Disney, but what ultimately makes his Atlas distinctive from Aladdin is that the former is a more complicated role to perform. Weinger must have been aware of this, which is why, despite the initial familiarity, he manages to turn this minor character into a major highlight for the dub. It's a very solid performance all around; one hopes that Weinger will participate in another production of this kind.
DUKE RED (Jamieson Price) -- Price has a nice clear, deep voice that's well-suited for smooth villainy, so his performance as Duke Red is an example of how typecasting can work for you.
Second Take (by Jon Turner): For the central "bad-guy" of the show, it was decided to cast Jamieson Price, a deep-voiced actor who has often been typecast as authoritative roles (his take on the Colonel in the superb re-dub of Akira being one such notable example). The tone he uses for Duke Red is recognizable, but very fitting, and he delivers his lines with the sort of stern attitude and ruthless nature that this character requires. His opening monologue about how Metropolis will usher in a new age thanks to the completion of the Ziggurat sets the stage for his overall performance, and it stays on that level throughout.
ROCK (Michael Reisz) -- Given that Rock is the best, most interesting character in the film, it's unsurprising that Reisz walks away with the dub. Like most of the other actors, Reisz is working within a familiar vocal range, but his acting is just... wow. Rock is a full-blown psychotic, with a devotion to his "father" that borders on fanatical, and Reisz captures that creepy insanity perfectly. His best scene is undoubtedly his conversation with Tima, particularly his boisterous, disturbing laughter after Tima calls Kenichi her father. Full marks for Reisz.
Second Take (by Jon Turner): Fighting Dreamer pretty much says it all for me (I know, that's not much of a review, but when an opinion like this obviously sums up how I feel about a particular character, I really see no reason to say much else).
DR. LAUGHTON (Simon Prescott) -- Laughton's not around for long, but Prescott does a nice blend of "grandfather" and "mad scientist".
Second Take (by Jon Turner): This character is important to the plot in that he serves as Tima's creator, but he only is in one scene. Still, from the start, we obviously get the impression that he is a brilliant inventor who is also greedy and desires only to keep Tima for himself. Prescott has the sort of voice that is very well-suited to characters of this type, and he effectively manages to pull off Laughton as an old man bordering on alternatingly maniacal and fatherly territory.
Fighting Dreamer: That's about it, really. Most of the supporting roles are well-cast with Animaze veterans such as Steve Blum (the President's assistant, Lamp), Dan Woren (the traitorous State Minister Skunk), Robert Axelrod (Ham & Egg, the Zone 2 guard that Rock kills), Peter Spellos (the Mayor of Metropolis, Leon), and Barbara Goodson (Duke Red's maid, Enmy). Overall, the Metropolis dub is excellent, solid work.
Second Take (by Jon Turner): There really isn't much else that I can say about this dub other than that it is proof that AniMaze is a solid "go-to" studio for quality dubbing. From the smooth, natural scriptwriting to the well-cast, believeable performances (even from the minor supporting roles), and spot-on lip sync. If only Sony could give these guys more credit....