The OVA: Ah, Giant Robo. Next to the Miyazaki canon and Cowboy Bebop, this is probably one of my favorite anime series/films of all time. It is epic and awesome in every sense of the word, mixing gorgeous animation, wild fight scenes, personal drama and sheer hot-blooded awesomeness into one great package. Really, watching it will be more instructive than anything I have to say about it. Go see it. Now.
The dub: This is the first of a two-part series where I'll examine the recent New York re-dub, the original LA dub, and how they stack up to each other (in my opinion, of course). Since GR has a huge cast, I'll primarily be looking at the already-large cast of important speaking characters within the Experts of Justice and Big Fire. Let's get started!
First, the direction and script. Director Mike Sinterniklaas (best known to non-anime fans as Dean Venture, the current Leonardo, and Kappa Mikey) does an excellent job, coaxing great performances out of people like Dan Green, Wayne Grayson and Addie Blaustein who've mostly had to deal with 4Kids crap in their acting careers. Overall, the acting and writing (which removes a lot of the added profanity from the 90s dub) is much more consistent than the LA dub, though I still have a good deal of affection for that dub. Full marks here. Now, onto the cast.
THE EXPERTS OF JUSTICE
DAISAKU KUSAMA (Michelle Newman) -- It's a fairly well known fact amongst animation geeks that female actors often voice young boys in animation, Western or otherwise. Usually, they're pretty good, especially folks like Kath Soucie or Tress MacNeille, though one can occasionally a certain straining for effort to sound younger and higher-pitched (being top-of-the-line people that they are, Soucie and MacNeille have this problem less than others). Newman has that problem sometimes, getting a little too high-pitched and even slightly whiny at certain points, but she's otherwise really good in the role. She does a good job with Daisaku's required plucky youthfulness, as well as his more serious, introspective side. She also nails Daisaku's big emotional scenes, such as when he tries desperately to free Ginrei from the tube in Episode 6, or when he declares that "Too many people have died!" to let Genya's rampage continue as he straps himself to Giant Robo for the final confrontation. Newman's not the best performer in the dub, but she's still pretty excellent.
GINREI (Eva Christensen) -- I suspect that it's really hard to play a character like Ginrei. She's a conflicted character of conflicting moods, alternately gung-ho and cautious, flirtatious and reserved. Thankfully, Christensen rises to the challenge with a performance that matches those traits perfectly.
TETSUGYU (Sean Schemmel) -- Ah, finally, someone I've heard of! Schemmel is best known as Dragonball Z's Goku, though he has plenty of other roles to his credit. Thankfully, Schemmel does not merely recycle his Goku voice for Tetsugyu, which would've been easy. Schemmel plays Tetsugyu about like you'd expect: gruff, deep, and smarter than his initially doofy actions would suggest. His best scene is his big speech where the bleeding warrior explains why he hated Daisaku so much at first, but now vows to protect the young boy at even the cost of his own life. Schemmel nails this scene, as well as everything else Tetsugyu does. I particularly like the scene where a drunken Tetsugyu is causing a traffic jam; Schemmel performs what sounds like an improvised drinking song that's pretty funny. No complaints here.
TAISO (Marc Thompson) -- Thompson perfectly captures Taiso's fatherly attitude towards Daisaku as well as his badassery when he fights Alberto and, later, when he sacrifices himself to buy Daisaku time. Not much more to say here.
INSPECTOR KENI MURASAME (Marc Diraison) -- Despite an occasionally goofy French accent, Diraison is excellent as Murasame. We're not always quite sure what to think of Murasame; sometimes we like him, and sometimes we hate him. It's actually very close to what Daisaku feels about Murasame, since the man applies a very "tough love" approach. Diraison captures that ambiguity quite well, and he does give Murasame's big Heroic Sacrifice near the end an appropriate heft and weight (well, there's two sacrifices, but the second is better).
PROFESSOR GO (Kevin T. Collins) -- Collins plays Go as a very light-voiced intellectual most of the time, and musters up the appropriate passion for the professor's rare moments of anger or sorrow.
YOUSHI (Erica Schroeder) -- Schroeder overdoes the toughness of Youshi's character occasionally, but she's otherwise quite good.
ISSEI (Mike Pollock) -- Pollock gives Issei a nice mix of authority and wisdom. I'll say more about Pollock when his other, more substantial role comes up later.
CHIEF CHUJOU (John Campbell) -- Campbell is perfectly gruff and badass as Chujou, with the highlight being his declaration that he's not going to let anymore of his friends die as he preps his Forbidden Punch.
KOSHIN (Addie Blaustein) -- The late Mr./Mrs. Blaustein (in case you're unaware, Blaustein was a transgender/transsexual) is another 4Kids veteran. Sadly, I've never felt Blaustein ever rose above 4Kids material that much, but here he/she's pretty good as the stern general who attempts to slap some sense into Daisaku in the final episode.
BIG FIRE/THE MAGNIFICENT TEN
GENYA/EMANUEL VON VOGLER (DAN GREEN!--sorry, couldn't resist that little YGO Abridged reference) -- Here we have the highlight of the dub. Like Jon, I often find that particular performances in dubs tend to stand out for me, whether it's a comic character like Yuri Lowenthal's Leo in Scrapped Princess (a dub I plan to review eventually) or Green's work here. This is undoubtedly the best work I've ever heard from Green, who invests Genya with the smooth, suave coolness of a Bond villain as well as his emotional motive. But he's also great at capturing Genya's gradually slipping psyche, especially in the final episode when he discovers the true meaning of his father's last words and rails against the unfairness as well pleading to Daisaku when he shows up ("TELL ME!"). Green's always been one of the better actors who's worked on projects by the dreaded 4Kids (this also applies to Marc Diraison), but here he's just astonishingly good.
LORD ALBERTO (Lex Woutas) -- Woutas nails Alberto, whether he's in his default mode of suave and threatening, or when he sacrifices himself to give Daisaku a chance to kick Genya's ass.
IVAN (Wayne Grayson) -- Grayson makes Ivan threatening as well as bumbling, and he gives the moment where Ivan briefly tears up over the loss of his home in Bashtarle some good gravitas.
HANZUI (Eric Stuart) -- It's a little weird hearing a much gruffer Seto Kaiba, but Stuart does a good job with the not-so-evil Hanzui.
The rest of the Magnificent Ten is well cast, from Mike Pollock pulling triple duty as Jyujouji, Christopher Kromer doing a sleazy turn as Fitzcarrald, and Vic Mignogna as both Zangetsu and Red Mask (he's not credited for the latter, but it sure sounds like him to me). I can't seem to find who voices the dastardly planner Komei; whoever it is, he does an excellent job of making you hate the coward.
PROFESSOR SHIZUMA (Mike Pollock) -- Pollock is simply excellent here, capturing both the current frazzled, repentant Shizuma and the more arrogant, younger Shizuma perfectly. His work as present-day Shizuma is interesting from an acting standpoint because the story, at this point, is telling us that Shizuma is a modern hero. So why is he so nervous and twitchy? Well, the eventual true Bashtarle flashback shows us why, though I'm not going to spoil the revelation there. Let's just say that it adds real weight to current-day Shizuma, and that Pollock does wonders with it.
PROFESSOR VON VOGLER (Zachary Alexander) -- Alexander has a hard role to play: he has to seem evil and sinister at first, but as more revelations about the past come to light, we get more of an idea of what Von Vogler was really like as a person. Thankfully, Alexander nails both parts of his performances.
OK, next time I'll cover the LA dub and how it stacks up to the NYAV Post dub. See you next time!
Other upcoming reviews: Ninja Scroll, Metropolis, Jungle Emperor Leo, Genshiken, Scrapped Princess, The Big O and the Pioneer, Greg Weisman-directed dub of 3x3 Eyes.