Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis

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....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Record of Lodoss War—Chronicles of the Heroic Knight

Since my last review covered the Lodoss OVA dub, I figured it would be fitting to do another entry for the follow-up, subtitled Chronicles of the Heroic Knight; even though it would be ideal to attach it to the OVA dub review, both the TV and the OVA series are different entities and should be treated as such.  The former dub received mixed reviews but it proved to be quite popular with the casual fanbase. So much so, in fact, that anticipation for ROLW TV, which is what I'll refer Chronicles as from now on, was high. Unlike the OVA dub, however, ROLW TV's dub is not remembered or relished as highly as its predecessor. Part of this may be due to the fact that the TV series itself is less popular than its OVA counterpart, but there were also other problems, too. While scriptwriter Michael Alben (who did not direct ROLW OVA but did this one) and most of the returning cast signed up, the dub was recorded not at National Sound, but at a new studio called Headline Sound, located in Irvington, NY. Back then, its founder, Joe DiGiorgi, had no experience in dubbing Anime, and so this was a first time experience for him. (He later admitted at an Anime convention that he learned how not to dub the show.) Over the course of a year, the dub was released on nine VHS tapes, three episodes each, and during the recording period, several members of the cast dropped out. Some of these drop-outs were permanent, while others lasted a few episodes (more on that later). Also problematic were the occasional awkward-sounding line and a few scenes where the dialogue is unsynched. Had this been recorded in 1996, this flaw would be excusable, but considering that this was a more recent dub (1999-2000), it's less so.  (It should also be mentioned that as with a lot of dubs from this era, the ROLW TV dub was rushed, which could explain its problems.)

It is difficult to gauge the overall reputation the dub has among Anime fans using a limited source like the Internet (where most of the more vocal fans dominate the forums), but the reviews I noticed were wildly divided. Some, like Mike Toole, Chadwick Ngan, Chainsaw on AnimeWorld, and one DVDTalk.com review spoke favorably of ROLW TV (so have some on initial VHS releases on pages like Amazon.com and RightStuf.com--the latter of which was taken down), but others were negative--two Reader Reviews of ROLW TV on Mania.com have said to have despised the TV dub, calling it one of the "worst dubs of all time". While this statement has not been equalled among everyone, the general consensus is that ROLW TV's dub falls short in comparison to its OVA counterpart (which, granted had its share of problems, too, but somehow it managed to overcome them).  Even today the few who have seen it refuse to do so again.

Still, in all fairness, ROLW TV isn't an altogether bad dub, and it certainly isn't the worst around. (Then again, this is coming from someone who has heard dubs that offended me far more so than this one.)  A better adjective for it might be "variable". Compared to other NY dubs like, say, Slayers, The World of Narue, His and Her Circumstances, Now and Then Here and There or even the first ROLW, the TV dub does not come close to reaching the high standards of those titles. As mentioned, its biggest asset is the return of most of the voices from the original (the total opposite of the Japanese language track, which basically replaced all the seiyuu).
 
That said, the dub gets off to a very, very rough start; even though it's great to hear most of the voices return, the quality of the acting in the first eight episodes is a notch below that of the OVA, with dialogue which, more often than not, runs into stilted and occasionally stale territory. (Part of that problem can also be attributed to the lower-quality of the animation and the actual script of the series, which reduce many of the principal characters from the original to deadpan shadows of their former selves; on that level, it's hard to see how exactly that imperfection could be improved upon.)  Another issue are the vocals of some of the newer characters. However, once this first arc passes and the second story begins, the dub eventually finds its stride, even though there are still the occasional odd-sounding dialogue (with at least one Shatner-esque "Stay alert! Spark!" that I detected).
 
THE NARRATOR (Dick Rodstein) -- Rodstein once again lends his deep, resonant voice to the faceless voiceover who introduces the tale. I've always loved hearing him recite "Lodoss, the Accursed Island", and it's gratifying to have him back. I had no issues with him.
 
PARN (Billy Regan) -- Bill Timoney has stated that Parn is one of his favorite Anime characters; so much so, in fact, that he took approximately nine flights from his (then) new home in California to New York to record the role for the series. Since this tale sets five years after the original for the first eight episodes and another ten years for the final nineteen, it was decided to deepen Parn's voice. Logically, the choice is sound (and Billy stands behind his decision even after all this time)... but his initial appearance in the first couple of episodes are another matter. In trying to sound mature, he unfortunately sacrifices most of the enthusiasm he brought to the character in the OVA, and, more often than not, comes across as stiff-sounding. This annoyance gradually disappears in the second half; I don't know if it's because he finds his stride or whether it grew on me, but I thought he came across as better in the second half, although I did detect some missed lines. I know there were those who found him annoying in the OVA, but I personally prefer the performance there. Not that his TV performance is a total loss, but it does take some getting used to.

DEEDLIT (Lisa Ortiz; A.J. Parks, episodes 20 & 21) -- By contrast, Lisa continues to do an excellent job as Deedlit, bringing out the character's mystical qualities when reciting magical incantations or in normal situations. Like Billy, she also matures the character's voice, but does so in a way that still keeps the character's charm afloat. Unfortunately, for at least two episodes (20 and 21), Ortiz was unable to voice the character due to illness and so a last-minute replacement was hired to stand in, that of A.J. Parks. Needless to say, her take on Deedlit is far duller than Lisa's. I personally wish that I could go back in time and have Lisa dub her lines for those two episodes.
 
SLAYN (Al Muscari) -- Muscari continues to do a fine job as Slayn as well. His performance, like that of the OVA, is very low-key and soothing and rarely ever treads into monotonous territory. His spell recitations are classic (particularly the "Vanna fulame ve igloss!", which may sound like overacting, but considering the nature of the material it's more than appropriate). I think I did detect a vocal change for at least episodes 22-24, but it's not that far off from Muscari to be so dramatically aversive.

LEYLIA (Simone Grant, episodes 1-9; Alyssa Beaux, episodes 22-24; Meg Frances, episodes 25-27) -- Grant only plays this kindly priestess (and her mother, Big Neese), for only the first nine episodes, and throughout she is solid if weaker than her OVA appearance... although the opening conversation between Neese and Ashram comes across as surprisingly limp.  Leylia does not speak again until the final six episodes, and two times during that period, her voice actress is replaced. The first, Alyssa Beaux (22-24) is very, very lame, sounding quite out of place for the first couple of minutes. And just when one gets accustomed to the replacement, Meg Frances steps in for 25-27. Frances fares marginally better, but even then there are places where she comes across as too whiny-sounding. Too bad Grant's no longer with us to redub her missing sections.

ETOH (Ed Paul) -- Some reviewers of the ROLW OVA dub have singled his surprisingly high-pitched voice out for being the weak link, but here in the TV dub he deepens the character. (I actually didn't realize it was the same actor; I had checked the closing credits and only after I met the actor in person did I realize that he did do both.) Not only is this an improvement over the original, it works very well, especially considering that his role is that of a noble king.
 
SHIRIS (Karen Smith) -- One of the other returning voices is that of Karen Smith, who plays the impulsively rowdy, headstrong mercenary. Her voice is very fitting and she does a great job throughout, despite at least one weak breakdown moment in episode 6 and the occasional missed line. One of her best moments is in the last few minutes of episode 7 where she literally breaks down in tears after a heartwrenching sacrifice--it always makes me cry, even if her dialogue during that moment sometimes veers on over-the-top.
 
ASRHAM (John Knox) -- Knox returns to take on everyone's favorite Black Knight antagonist as well. And throughout he does a good job of maintaining the "bad-ass" attitude that makes his character so intriguing.  The only issues I had were a few flat line reads in the first few episodes and at least one uncharacteristically goofy and over-the-top laugh in episode 6.  Otherwise, though, he does bring gravitas and weight to his part.  It's a solid performance overall.

PIROTESS (Meg Frances; A.J. Parks, episode 21) -- The good news is that Frances reprises the opposite of Deedlit, and she doesn't fare too badly, acting-wise... unfortunately, her voice is not as good as her OVA counterpart; while she sounded appropriately sultry and husky, here she comes across as too whiny--although she does handle her confrontation scenes with Deedlit very well. (Like Deedlit, A.J. Parks steps in for Pirotess for episode 21--I really don't know what was going on with the switching of the actors, but the continuity issue is one of the problems of this dub.  Joe DiGiorgi told me at one point that there were a lot of difficulties involved during production, which partially explains the switching actors/actresses.)

WAGNARD (Oliver Wyman; Bruce Winant, episode 18) -- Only in one episode does the original VA, Bruce Winant, return, and that is in episode 18. As far as I'm concerned, he simply is Wagnard, what with the evil laugh and the "I'm going to rule the world" attitude he provides to the character. (OK, so it's cliche, but it works.) Unfortunately, that's the only time he voices the character. Throughout he's replaced by Oliver Wyman, who doesn't fare too badly for the most part, but his voice is much more scratchy-sounding than one would expect--and his first two appearances (episodes 4 and 5) are very weak.  There are a couple of mediocre reads as well, particularly one monologue in episode 21 where he describes his exile from the Academy of Sages.  Despite these two quibbles, Oliver does manage to provide an appropriately evil (if over-the-top) laugh and does an amazingly loud and agonizing scream for his obligatory death scene in his final episode (#26).

KASHUE (Anthony Cruise) -- Sadly, Kashue is another matter. Here he is given a new voice, and unfortunately it gets off on the wrong foot. The problem isn't that he does a bad job, but his voice sounds a little too much of a "weary old man" and he lacks the charisma that Chris Yates brought to the role. He does, however, manage to get into character as the show progresses, bringing the performance of his later appearances to "passable" quality. (I could tell he got more into it by about episode 8 or so, because his screams at Shooting Star provide a dramatic contrast to his more deadpan initial appearance.)
 
ORSON (Oliver Gregory) -- Like Wagnard and Kashue, Orson is completely recast for the TV series, by one Oliver Gregory. Unlike those two, though, Gregory is actually the best of the replacements. While his emotionless "normal" self may seem off-putting, this is justifiable in that his character is basically one who has lost all but one of his emotions--anger. When he becomes released from his curse, Gregory provides the opportunity to flesh out his character who has trouble dealing with the new feelings he hasn't experienced in years. Even if he does come across as a whiner, he still manages to wrench a tear out of this viewer's eye when he decides to cast aside his newly awakened humanity... and his life (sorry if I'm spoiling the story), to save Shiris from death.
 
KARLA (Simone Grant, episode 2; Meg Frances; A.J. Parks, episode 21) -- There are two different Karlas in the show; both hosts of this character are anonymous female bodies; the former is voiced by Simone Grant, with the appropriate amount of commanding regality minus the scary malice of the OVA, while the latter is by Meg Frances from episode 18-27. She seems to be well suited to the role and intones pretty much as you'd expect, even though her overall performance is a bit below that of the original. Still, it's not too bad. (Like Pirotess and Deedlit, A.J. Parks takes over for her for one episode --21-- but she thankfully only has one or two lines.)

These are the principal characters we know from the original ROLW. The newer characters are as follows:  

CECIL (Harry Krause) -- This guy is a somewhat arrogant, hotheaded mage serving as something of an apprentice to Slayn who gets into quarrels with Shiris and occasionally Maar, too. But Krause's voicing comes across as too "rough" sounding, even for this character. He also tends to overact (or underact) in most of his scenes instead of providing genuine enthusiasm.  It's an average performance, at best. (He becomes a minor character in the Spark arc, only showing up for one scene.)
 
HOBB (Cliff Hangar) -- Vocally, Hangar is sound for the role of this easily deceived priest (who has trouble with loyalty), but his actual performance is not one of the more praiseworthy ones of the show. He sings the "Song of Battle" adequately, but his acting sounds more like reading instead of emoting. Even in some of the more exciting parts of the show, he comes across as forced. Fortunately, he's only in a few episodes.
 
MAAR (Crispin Freeman) -- The self-appointed "comic relief" character in the show, an elfish little "grass runner" is one of the many characters to be voiced by Crispin. Here he raises his voice to a somewhat nasally pitch to sound mischievous and annoying, and it works pretty well. Some may find this to be grating, but I felt it was appropriate for the character and he provides some of the livelier moments during the first eight episodes. (The only exception is his ballad in episode 9, which you can thankfully skip past without having to suffer through it.)

LITTLE NEESE (Roxanne Beck) -- There are two different Little Neeses in the show; the first is that of a sweet little girl of about four (and she sounds appropriately and authentically like one), and later on in the series, where she is portrayed by Beck. Her performance is mixed; when she is talking normally or involved in her chemistry with Spark (or even screaming in insufferable pain), she is decent, but some of her other scenes aren't emoted as strongly as they should (particularly one confrontation scene with Wagnard which isn't made any easier by at least one groanworthy one-liner "You're a sick man!").   That her voice also treads into saccharine territory at times is also an issue.
 
SPARK (Crispin Freeman) -- Some of the harshest detractors of the ROLW TV dub is that the performances lack emotion, but the same can never be said for Spark, as voiced by Crispin Freeman. (The first time we see him he's a reckless young boy with a voice that sounds a little too much like a woman pretending to be a boy, but never mind that.) Taken as a character, this could be seen as the least interesting of the show (he's basically a more stripped down version of Parn), but Freeman provides a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and emotion, fleshing him out so well that one finds himself rooting for him. Vocally, his character doesn't sound much different from that of Tylor or his first ever dub appearance (a minor character in Slayers), but there is no doubt that his performance as Spark is the highlight of the dub; he brings a lot of much needed life to the show and makes what could have been an otherwise pedestrian second arc compelling. (On a side note, one can almost subtitle this dub as the "Crispin Freeman" show! He not only plays Spark and Maar, but Garrack -- more on that later, but also two of Ashram's comrades for at least one episode!)
 
GARRACK (Michael Gerard, episodes 10-14; Crispin Freeman, episodes 16-27) -- The first time we meet this muscular wise-guy with a heart of gold in episode 10, he is played by Michael Gerrard. He has the sort of lazy, laid-back yet goofy kind of voice that fits the character, but it isn't until about two episodes in that he finds his stride... but by the time he finally does (after episode 14), Crispin Freeman takes over from episodes 16-27. At first the change is jarring, but I found myself liking Freeman better; he brings out the more "bad-ass", burly aspect of the character and is very enthusiastic throughout (a couple of missed lines not withstanding). (It is somewhat funny to hear the scenes where he's communicating with Spark--since he's basically talking with himself.)
 
LEAF (Debbie Rabbai) -- This is my other favorite voice from the dub. For this playful, mischievous half-elf, Debbie gives her a squeaky, but charming voice that is not only cute, but sassy. She really seems to be enjoying herself in the role, and any of her lines are a delight. And like Freeman, she brings just the right amount of enthusiasm to the role (with the exception of at least one missed line, but it's not glaring enough to detract).
 
GREEVUS (Greg Wolfe) -- The dwarf member of the group is also voiced by the same man behind Ghim in ROLW OVA. His performance is pretty much what you'd expect; gruff, gutteral, and full of wisdom and energy.  I had no problems with him.  A word of note:  in episode 19, there is one line which obviously sounds like Crispin Freeman dubbed in for him.
 
RYNA (Meg Frances; A.J. Parks, episodes 19-21) -- I think Frances must have decided to give this spunky thief character her Pirotess voice from the OVA, because that's pretty much what she sounds like. Save for her parting scene with her former love the first time she appears, Frances does a fine job, alternating between sassiness, maternal warmth, toughness, sexy (her flirting scene with Spark in episode 14 is especially funny), and friendly. Again, no problems, other than that A.J. Parks takes over for her for episodes 19-21 (although she isn't too bad there; at least her voice is closer in tone to Frances).
 
ALDONOVA (Steve Patterson) -- The final member of the "heroic" (no pun intended) team of ROLW TV is this fussy mage (nicknamed "Aldo") who spends most of the time with his eyes shut and trying (unsuccessfully) to keep watch on Little Neese. Vocally, Patterson is suitable for the role, and does well in several magic spell chanting scenes (although the "Spell of Sleep" chant comes across as somewhat laughable, but that's more of a problem of the dialogue than the performance) and normal dialogue. However, his constant "Lady Neese!" whining in the latter half does get a tad too tedious, and his crying scenes aren't as strongly emoted as they should be.  Particularly weak is when he breaks down in tears when he describes Little Neese's predicament to Spark's comrades in episode 14--he still intones his lines in the same monotonic delivery.  In Episode 21, he at least does a little better in the sobbing department, but even then it's too overdramatic to be genuinely effective.  Again, it's an average performance, at best.
 
GRODER (Walter Hershman; Crispin Freeman, episodes 7 & 8) -- Ashram's dark sorcerer buddy from Marmo is one of the more lackluster performances in the series. Most of the voices I mentioned are either good or average, but this is one of the "bad" ones.  Hershman has the sort of "harsh" voice that might work for a demonic sorcerer, but he sounds way too deadpan.  Incidentally, Crispin Freeman takes over the role in one episode; vocally he miraculously matches Hershman's tone, yet whether that's complimentary or not is debatable.  Freeman fares a little bit better, acting-wise; all in all, though, neither actor particularly stands out for this rather forgettable character.
 
PRINCE REONA (Walter Hershman) -- Hershman's take on this heroic fighter for Lodoss is even worse. I don't know if the idea was to make him less charismatic than Ashram or if this was a case of last-minute casting, but Hershman's tone is too harsh for this character (and ill-fitting, too).  A less jarring voice would be preferable, especially for someone with long blonde hair; considering the more monodimensional characterization of this role, however, it's really hard to say how this guy could be any better.  His performance is totally annoying (one victory cry at the end of episode 15 is particularly laughable and grating), but thankfully he only speaks for at least four episodes and doesn't have many scenes.

It's the minor characters that have the weakest voices in the dub; in the OVA dub the incidental characters were somewhat cheesy-sounding, too, but they were nowhere nearly as bad as these guys here. These include Ashram's four minions from Marmo (Gaberra, Astar, Smeddy, and Gilram), Governor Rabido (a two-episode baddie with a loud and much too blustery kind of voice), soldiers, and the dragons Shooting Star and Abram (yes, they both TALK in the show!).  All come across as eleventh-hour casting and that they did their lines in one take. Rabido, Smeddy, and Astar are especially bad--and the dragons' super-deep, growly voices come across as laughable (the Japanese VAs of the dragons are just as lackluster). (Excluded from this are Alexander J. Rose's Governer Randall and Daybreak Mercenary Captain in episode 19, Oliver Gregory as the treacherously sly Jay in episodes 16-18, Roxanne Beck as Naneel the evil priestess, and Debbie Rabbai's Marfa the Earth Mother at the end, because all four of these minor roles are good, or at least fairly effective.) Most NY dubs around this area tended to have a trend of having solid major characters and lackluster minor roles, and ROLW TV is unfortunately a part of that trend.

It's a shame, too, because stripped of this problem and the sometimes awkward sounding dialogue (which this time around comes across as less memorable, due mainly to the fact that the subtitled script wasn't that inspired to begin with), most of the dub for ROLW TV is of a passable quality. I'm sure it's because I'm a pretty serious Lodoss fan and one who doesn't mind this dub as much as others, but there are far worse dubs around.

One thing that also bears noting is that at the end of each episode, there are these four-minute Super-Deformed shorts called "Welcome to Lodoss Island", in which the characters become pint-sized and engage in goofy skits consisting of bad jokes and playful silliness. Honestly, I only saw one episode of this and that was pretty much all I could take. In all fairness, though, the idea behind the shorts is that the cast all raise their voices and embellish their stoic characters with wacky cartoonishness. This is handled very well, but the lines they say are often very... dumb. Since much of the humor is derived from Japanese-based jokes, the ADR script tries to Americanize them with Brooklyn-based humor... with wishy-washy results. Some of them are pricelessly funny while others are a major groaner. I've honestly been too afraid to see another one of these after being so annoyed with the first one, although there are some who found them to be hilarious.

All in all, ROLW TV's dub isn't an altogether disaster, but it falls short of greatness. Had its consistency issues been fixed and most of its minor cast members replaced, it probably wouldn't have been forgotten; as it is, however, it's an uneven result. The performances by most of the returning cast and especially Freeman and Deb are its strongest points, but there are too many other mediocre to bad performances to elevate its quality to anything greater than inconsistent.  For Headline Studios, though, ROLW TV was a learning experience, and most of its subsequent dubs from there all uphill.  

Record of Lodoss War

Nowadays it seems as though people are so accustomed to top quality dubbing; this is more of the standard these days rather than the exception, which wasn't necessarily how things were in the '90s.  Around this period, the consensus was that dubbing just wasn't very good at all, and "efforts" such as most of the output from Streamline and Manga UK often fell into truly dreary territory. However, there were some notable exceptions to the rule, and Record of Lodoss War OVA, dubbed by National Sound for Central Park Media in 1996, was one of them. That said, reactions to this dub have been wildly divided; as with another famous fantasy Anime series, Slayers, Lodoss's dub has gone on many fans' best or worst dub lists.  In spite of the naysayers, though, it has had its share of loyal fans over the years (Mike Toole on AnimeJump.com, for instance).


To fully appreciate Lodoss OVA as an overall dub, one must evaluate it as a product of its era, because, as much as I love this dub, I will admit that it does have its share of drawbacks, one of which is the uneven lip-sync. Most of this can be attributed to the technology of the time (reel-to-reel in contrast to the ProTools software we know today), but the animation sometimes results with some stilted mouth flaps which sometimes makes the flow of the dialogue sound choppy (not by much, however).  And speaking of the script, while the late Mike Alben can be applauded for staying as faithful as possible to the original Japanese, there are occasional moments when his lines come across as awkwardly written or delivered.  Then there are the performances by the incidental characters (soldiers, courtiers, villagers, etc.), which come across as cheesy sounding (although in all fairness, they're nowhere nearly as embarrassing as the minor bit players in the follow-up Lodoss TV dub).  There's also one brief goof-up in episode 6 where King Kashue's mouth is moving while we hear Fahn's instead during a conference scene.

In spite of its weaknesses, though, Lodoss OVA has its share of memorable vocal performances which really carry the dub as a whole. It's interesting to note that at the time, most of these actors were unknowns, but most would go on to have fairly successful careers in dubbing. The man responsible for bringing them in is none other than Bill Timoney, who not only voices the young hero, Parn (more on that later), but happened to help scout out the talent for the dub and even directed the first eight episodes. The previous ADR director had been called off to do another project, hence why Timoney had to fill-in.  That said, the dub starts out somewhat stiffly in the opening three episodes, but by episode 4, the actors all settle into their roles and turn in fine work.  Of the performances, here are the ones that really captivate me the most:

THE NARRATOR (Dick Rodstein) -- is the first to speak in the dub. He has a deep, authoritative voice which aptly sets the tone for the epic tale; hearing him utter "Lodoss, the accursed island" always makes the hair on my skin tingle. His role is sparse, but it is always a pleasure to hear his vocal whenever he is brought in.

PARN (Bill Timoney) -- No, it wasn't Bill's first role in Anime, but the actor claims that it was his breakthrough and one of his favorite characters. Billy has a very good "young leading man"'s voice which works well for heroic roles of this type. Unlike his television counterpart in Lodoss TV, Timoney provides range and enthusiasm; his scenes with Deedlit (particularly the dance scene in episode 5 as well as everything from episodes 11 to the end) and his action bits are among the highlights of his performance. Some might argue that his voice is a bit "rough" sounding, but this works in favor of the character as a reckless, impulsively heroic knight wanna-be.  There are a couple of places in the beginning which sound somewhat tentative, but otherwise it's a solid performance overall, and, as mentioned, it is superior to that of the TV series.

DEEDLIT (Lisa Ortiz) -- Without a doubt, the voice that everyone remembers best from the Lodoss OVA dub. This was her first voice acting role, and while there are a few places where it's obvious, note that I stress the word few. It's a lively performance, with just the right amount of emotion and sassiness. Her voice is distinctively different from that of Yumi Tohma, and yet it suits this mystical high elf very well. Her acting, too, is quite effective, whether she is flirting with Parn, casting spells, or becoming gradually weaker in the final episodes as her life force is nearly drained to resurrect the Dark Goddess.  (When she breathlessly utters, "Stay back, save yourself, Parn" one feels a tingle up their spine.)  While Lisa has gone on to be better known as Lina Inverse from Slayers, to me, she will always be Deedlit.

ASHRAM (John Knox) -- This is yet another role that really stands out. I don't think Knox has done much Anime other than Lodoss, which is a shame, because his role of this ruthless yet honorable knight is amazing. He has an appropriately deep voice which is more than appropriate for the character, and while he comes across as rather stoic sounding, this is how Ashram should be.  Only in several moments do a few lines come across as cold reading, but somehow this works in favor of the character instead of against him.

ETOH (Ted Lewis) -- Like Ortiz, this was Ed Paul's first Anime voice-acting role, and is often signaled out as the weak link of the show.  He raises his voice to a surprisingly high pitch to sound somewhat boyish.  This tone works in favor of the character being a bookish priest, although I did detect a couple of missed lines at the start (mostly the first half of the opening episode).  As the show progresses, he gets more into character and becomes more confident with his subsequent appearances.  He's mostly soft-spoken, save for the penultimate episode where he gets to fight a ghoulish wraith.  (It should also be noted that I do have a soft spot for his performance in spite of its shortcomings.)

GHIM (Greg Wolfe) -- Of course, how could I forget this guy?  Gruff, tough, and stony, Greg's burly-sounding voice lends itself well to the grizzled old dwarf with an axe to grind (pun intended). He has an infectiously hearty laugh and a wry sense of humor ("Pathetic! You can hardly even handle a sword."), but also a deep, emotional side which he often displays when reminded about the missing priestess he is searching for. There are several places where he comes across as a bit stiff, but not enough to detract from his overall performance.  The last we hear of him is in Episode 8, and the actor really hits the marks there.  (I won't get into that, however, because doing so would provide spoilers.)

SLAYN (Al Muscari) -- Mike Toole has mentioned that this was one of his favorite performances from the Lodoss dub. Muscari has a calm, yet dramatic sounding voice that is easy to visualize belonging to a benevolent magician. He delivers his lines in an understated tone without sounding monotonous (his spell recitations, in particular, are both fantastic and priceless), raising his voice only at the appropriate moments. It's a shame that we haven't heard much more from this actor.

KARLA/LEYLIA (Simone Grant) -- A sorely missed actress, fans probably remember her best for her role as Boogiepop Phantom. Her performance as Karla, the unstable witch who threatens Lodoss, is something of a precursor to that role. She intones her lines in a cold, icy monotone, which emits both a devilish aura and commanding presence that sends chills up one's spine. Her sinister cackling is spot-on, too. This lasts until episode 9, where she becomes the kind, gentle priestess under the witch's control. There are also several instances where she can be heard as several different female characters: the Zaxon mayor's daughter Liara, Princess Fianna of Valis, etc., and while this does cause for some disconcertation, there's no denying that it's unfortunate that Grant is no longer with us. Lodoss is a fine example of her talent.

WOODCHUCK (Jacques LeCan) -- Another unknown with not much of a career, LeCan gives this surly thief a smarmy, "gangster"-like voice which is distinctively different from his Japanese counterpart, but fitting nonetheless.  For the most part, he seems to be enjoying himself... although I did notice several places where he misses some of his lines.  One such case is in episode 4, when Woodchuck is trying to escape from a dark void, his "help me!" isn't as strong or emotional as the scene demands.  In all fairness, it doesn't spoil the performance and there are plenty of other moments where he gets to have fun (episodes 1 and 3, as well as the dice scene in episode 5).  When his character becomes possessed by Karla, though, he really shines.  There he sounds spooky and deeper-voiced, with a hair-tinglingly frightening sinister laugh. Note that a trace of his "gangster"-like persona remains at times in lines like "I gamble. My purpose is to preserve Lodoss."


KASHUE (Chris Yates) -- Although essentially a key figure, Kashue has a somewhat small part, but Chris plays it pretty much as you'd expect: commanding, with dignity, warmth, discipline, and occasional humor. It's a very nice performance overall, particularly in his action scenes.  Only in a couple of places does his dialogue come across as somewhat unsynched, but not jarring enough to detract.
 

ORSON (Chris Yates) -- Chris also voices Orson, a "Berserker" warrior possessed by the Spirit of Rage, making him prone to burst out in vicious attacks.  His voice is considerably deeper and tone and he doesn't use much emotion, but considering the nature of his character (where he must keep all his emotions under control), it is more than appropriate.
 
PIROTESS (Meg Frances) -- The opposite of Deedlit, character-wise, Pirotess is a dark elf who serves as Ashram's love interest. Frances has a husky, sultry voice which brings a quality that is alternatingly alluring and dark.  There are a few moments that come across as cold reading, but otherwise she acquits herself fairly well, and her final scene in episode 10 is appropriately effective.

SHIRIS (Karen Smith) -- Rough and ready, with an aggressive quality and understated sassiness. That sums up Karen's Shiris, in a nutshell. There are several places where she overacts, but since her character screams quite a bit in her first appearance (and with occasionally mellodramatic dialogue), it's unavoidable.  Her exasperation provides a nice contrast to her more stoic partner's deadpan responses.

WAGNARD (Bruce Winant) -- This is another one of my favorite performances from the dub. Bruce has a voice which fits this meglomaniacal sorcerer to a tee, but what really sells his performance is the laugh: it's terrifying, overflowing with pure evil and malice that never gets boring. (Some of my friends/family members were quite scared by this laugh, effectively so.) As far as his acting goes, there isn't much depth to the performance, but there doesn't have to be. All Bruce has to do is be despicable and chew the scenery with glee as his character gets gradually crazier, and he does that wonderfully... particularly in the final episode where he gets to do a lot of maniacal laughing, shouting, and screaming.  (The actor admits he couldn't talk for weeks after recording that very episode!)

I neglected to mention the performances of Bob Barry as the raspy-sounding Emperor Beld, J.W. Gunther as King Fahn (who at times sounds a bit like Patrick Stewart), and Dick Rodstein as the great sage Wort (who is really just a more weary-sounding version of his narrator voice, albeit effective overall); all three are decent, but they don't really strike me as memorable as the guys I mentioned above.

One thing I neglected to mention is that the opening and ending theme songs for Lodoss OVA are translated and sung into English.  Mike Alben and Peter Fish somehow manage to transform the Japanese-written lyrics into something palatable (if at times a tad cheesy), but it is the beautiful voice of Lisa DeSimone that really make these new reinditions soar.  She sings with a lot of emotion and passion, giving these tunes the sort of "timeless" quality they deserve.  Like the dub, these songs are grossly underrated and always a pleasure to listen to for each episode.

No one will argue that Lodoss OVA's dub is on par with today's standards, but even having said that, it has aged fairly well for a 1996 production.  In today's light it probably doesn't compare, but as an older dub, it's above many other English tracks from its era.  And it is superior to the more uneven (and inconsistent) Lodoss TV dub, Chronicles of the Heroic Knight, which followed approximately four years later.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nadia—The Secret of Blue Water (ADV and Streamline Versions)

In the mid 1970's, prior to obtaining his well-deserved status as Japan's greatest animator ever, a young Hayao Miyazaki was hired by Japanese movie giant Toho to develop ideas for TV series. One of these concepts was "Around the World Under the Sea", based on Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, in which two orphan children pursued by villains team up with Captain Nemo and his mighty submarine, the Nautilus. Although it was never produced, Toho nonetheless kept the rights to the story outline. Miyazaki would reuse elements from his original concept in later projects of his, notably the Sci-Fi series Future Boy Conan and the action-adventure feature Castle in the Sky (this explains why Anime fans often find similarities between the show I'm about to review and the latter film).   Flash forward about ten years later. Animation studio GAINAX was appointed by Toho in 1989 to produce a TV series which would be broadcast on the Japanese educational network NHK (the equivalent of PBS). Miyazaki's outline for "Around the World Under the Sea" captivated GAINAX's interest.  Under the direction of a brilliant but angst-ridden (and some might argue, eccentric) Hideaki Anno, the animation studio took the central story and setup Miyazaki had developed and touched it up with their own creativity. The result was Nadia:  The Secret of Blue Water, which has since become a longtime fan favorite with many followers of Anime. (Incidentally, Anno had previously worked for Miyazaki; his most notable credit for animating the climax from NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind.) The show was a tremendous success in its initial 1990 Japanese broadcast; the title character, Nadia, showed up on the Japanese Animage polls as favorite Anime heroine, dethroning Miyazaki's own NausicaƤ, the previous champion.

The show has been dubbed into international languages around the world, but its English premiere in America was another matter.  In the early 1990's, Carl Macek and his company, Streamline Pictures, produced an English version which only got about as far as eight episodes.  Interestingly, Macek has stated that he had planned to make some cuts in the latter half of the show (notably the "island/Africa" sequence, which, aside from episode 31, fell short compared to the show's superb 22 opening episodes and final five) to eliminate what even the original producers felt was a lot of padding.  Due to financial difficulties, however, Streamline was unable to complete the dub, and in 1996, they went out of business and their license expired.  Since then, the show has been acquired by ADV Films (now known as Section 23), and provided a new dub at their now defunct Monster Island studios in Austin, Texas.  All 39 episodes (plus the lesser-known, often maligned theatrical film -- which I will not cover here, nor will I the filler arc) were dubbed under the production period of a full year.

Although the website containing detailed information about how the present-day dub was produced is no more (one made by diehard Nadia fan Marc Hairston, who conducted interviews with the cast for a memorable article in a 2001 issue of AniMerica -- which this writer still holds onto to this day), it is a shame that Monster Island's version has never gotten the recognition it deserves.  There are naysayers who have given this dub the cold shoulder (including DVDTalk and the initial reviews of the first volumes by AnimeNewsNetwork -- the latter volumes were more positively reviewed by Allen Divers), declaring it as a dub to avoid.  However, I think that doing so would deprive you of a charming, delightful dub that matches the tone of the show. According to the aforementioned source, the dub directors, Charles Campbell and Lowell Bartholomee, cared about the quality of the show and worked hard to ensure that the dub would match its tone.  It's not perfect, but considering that this show is set in Europe, watching this show in Japanese would seem odd. No offense to the original Japanese voice actors, but there are many things about this dub which add in many ways to the show, particularly in the use of the accents for each character. While some, like Jean's, are shaky in places, others, like the crew members of the Nautilus, work in their characters' favor, as they are supposed to be survivors from around the world.

I have only heard samples of the Streamline dub on CrystalAcids Database due to the difficulty of finding it.  As such, I will be focusing mainly on the performances of the principal characters from that version and the current one in this review.

NADIA (Meg Bauman, ADV dub; Wendee Lee, Streamline dub) -- The first thing that struck me about ADV's dub is that the three young protagonists who propel the plot are all voiced by actual children.  While there is an understandable air of inexperience in their performances, it also adds an intangible aura of realism and charm to the dub.  It's also a refreshing change from hearing actors/actresses straining their voices to sound like children (no offense to said people, of course, it's just nice to hear children sound like children for a change).  Of the three, it's Bauman as Nadia who gives the stand-out performance.  This character is a very complicated one; moody, temperamental, stubborn, and suspicious about everything, yet has a kind, caring side that gradually transforms her as a result of her relationships with her new friends (notably her growing love for Jean).  There's a complex array of emotions to be had with this character while maintaining a fragile childlike innocence, and Bauman nails all these emotions perfectly... to the point where it is hard to imagine anyone else voicing her.  It is also interesting to note that, like Nadia, she was fourteen at the time she recorded the part.  She even speaks with a neutral accent--a surprising choice, but it works well.
Lee's take, on the other hand, I'm of two minds about.  I like the voice she uses, but on the flipside, it doesn't come across as convincing to be a fourteen-year-old girl.  This aspect proves to be a major plot point toward the end of the show, as both she and Jean age by about a year.  Disappointing enough, but she also doesn't emote as strongly as she should.  Especially cringeworthy is her confrontation scene with Gargoyle, "You are murderer!" she shouts, in a tone which is both lifeless and enough to make one cringe.  Unlike ADV's Nadia, Lee also uses a French accent for the character.  It's one thing for Jean to have a French accent since the boy is, after all, French, but considering the nature of who Nadia turns out to be (and essentially appears to be at the start), I don't think this is a particularly ideal choice.  Wendee Lee is a talented actress, but if there's anyone who I'd rather hear as Nadia, it's Meg; she does the better job all around.

JEAN (Nathan Parsons, ADV dub; Ardwright Chamberlain, Streamline dub) -- Okay, here's the voice which determines wheteher you like ADV's dub or not.  Like Bauman, Parsons (aged 12) has a very daunting task in his voice acting debut as Jean.  He has to be enthusiastic, genuinely charming, and express growth over the course of the show... all while speaking with a French accent.  As mentioned, this accent is on the thick side.  Viewers have made the mistake of writing off Parsons' performance alone due to the accent, as there are places in the early episodes where he obviously struggles to pull it off without sounding fake (he drops it at several points for select lines, too, at least in the early episodes).   There's also the occasional missed line, although it happens rarely. With each subsequent episode, though, Parsons grows more and more into his character... to the point where his accent sounds completely natural.  In a way, this, and a few moments where his inexperience shows, is complimentary to his overall performance at portraying Jean's innocence and naive view of the world.  This issue aside, Parsons brings an infectious exuberance and determination to the character which is impossible to dislike, coming into his own especially around episode 9.  Like Bauman, it's hard for me to imagine anyone else other than him voicing this character.  One of his best moments, if not his best, is in Episode 15, in which he bears witness to the death of a lovable sailor.  While he admits on the DVD interview that serious scenes are not his specialty, he obviously gives his all to this moment, and his breaking-down at the end is genuinely heartrendering.  Another major important factor of his performance is the chemistry betwen him and Bauman -- it's absolutely terrific and a huge plus.  Interestingly, both knew each other in real life as students at the Austin Musical Theatre; perhaps because of this, their interactions feel so natural and organic in ADV's dub.
He is also better than Chamberlain's take on the character in Streamline's version.  While this guy has more experience as a voice actor, there are several things that work against his performance as Jean.  No, it's not the French accent, which is less shaky than Nathan, but his voice sounds too mature, giving off the affect of a stereotypical French butler character.  I often steer around the argument of needing boys to sound young to represent children, especially if their acting is sound (in dubs such as Vic Mignogna's Edward in Fullmetal Alchemist and, perhaps to a lesser extent, James Van der Beek's Pazu in Castle in the Sky).  With Nadia, however, this flaw is detrimental to Chamberlain as the character is supposed to age by about a year by the end of the show, and as such, it works against the character.  Not only that, but his emoting sounds more artificial instead of genuine, a trend not uncommon with most dubs of the early 1990's.  So for that, even though Nathan rarely gets the credit he deserves for his work as Jean, he gets my vote.   To me, Ardwright and Wendee are both miscast.

MARIE (Margaret Cassidy, ADV dub; Cheryl Chase, Streamline dub) -- The third of the child trio, little Marie, is also voiced by a child actress, 11-year-old Margaret Cassidy.  That's approximately seven years older than her onscreen character, but you wouldn't even know this by hearing her performance.  From the start, she brings an intangible cuteness and charm to the character which makes her presence onscreen a delight.  For the most part, Marie gets to be happy and cheerfully childlike (especially when she's playing with King), although she also does have scenes where she has to be serious and in tears.  One such moment in particular, ironically enough, is the episode where she is introduced.  This scene, in which she describes her parents being shot (and her subsequent heartbreak from learning that they are dead) is utterly believeable, and really makes the audience share her trauma.  It must have been a lot of hard work for Cassidy to pull it off, especially since it was her first episode, but she does it beautifully.  Elsewhere in the show, she obviously relishes her character, and it pays off.  Her interactions with Parsons and Bauman also deserve a shout-out; she went to the same musical theater they did, which is why there's a genuine attachment between all three that really comes across in the ADV dub.  Since the whole show rests on these three children, Monster Island deserves commendment for bringing that extra punch of effort for their version.
In Streamline's version, Marie (Mary) is voiced by Cheryl Chase, better known to viewers as Angelina Pickles but unforgotten by many as Mei in Streamline's own dub of My Neighbor Totoro (arguably Carl Macek's finest moment ever).  The tone of voice she uses isn't that much different from her Mei, and while she doesn't do a bad job, Cassidy ultimately provides the more convincing performance, because she sounds more natural and cuter.

GRANDIS (Sarah Richardson, ADV dub; Melanie MacQueen, Streamline dub)
SANSON (Martin Blacker, ADV dub; Steve Kramer, Streamline dub)
HANSON (Corey Gagne, ADV dub; Tom Wyner, Streamline dub)
Aside from the children, the other main characters in the show are the "Grandis gang", who start off as villains but ultimately turn into allies.  And like the children in ADV's version, the three actors chosen to play their parts couldn't have been better.
From the start, Richardson simply is Grandis.  She recreates the character's fiery temper, amorous fickleness, and secret soft nature to a T and beyond.  It's an over-the-top performance which works very well in her nature, making her all the more hilarious when things goes wrong... which they often do.  It is interesting to note that while her character is Italian (or Spanish, it's debatable), she speaks with a somewhat disciplined English accent.  This was because when she auditioned for Italian and Spanish accents, it sounded too much like she was in a pizza parlor(!), according to Hairston's interview.  It doesn't matter, though; it fits her character marvelously, and her grandiose relish for the role really comes through.
Likewise, it is very obvious that Blacker had a lot of fun voicing Sanson, who, like Grandis, uses a veddy British accent.  He also has a goofy, yet vain and expressive voice that works wonderfully with the character, and he lets loose every time Sanson goes over the top.  Blacker also excels in the more quieter moments, such as a moving, tender scene where he tearfully worries about Marie potentially dying from a tropical illness.  In short, every second of Blacker's rendition is an unbridled delight.
The third member of the trio, Hanson, is voiced by the rather down-to-earth, sometimes scrappy sounding tones of Gagne.  There's a certain "nerdy" quality to his delivery which is fitting for his character.  When he raises his voice, he is a hoot, but Gagne also handles the quieter moments very well.  I also found his scenes with Electra very sweet and heartbreaking.  One other interesting aspect is that he has a somewhat neutral accent.  I'm not sure why this was done, but strangely, this doesn't detract from his character at all.
What really makes these three come alive is their chemistry; it is so natural you'd swear they were all in the recording studio together.
But what about Streamline's counterparts?  Well, I had no problems with either of them.  McQueen, Kramer, and Wyner all sound pretty good with their roles, and are roughly about on par with ADV's dub, but I think I prefer the current voice actors for these parts a bit more.  Perhaps it's because it's bias, but that isn't to discredit Streamline's actors of these guys; they're decent in their own right.

KING (Shawn Sides, ADV dub; Carl Macek, Streamline dub) -- This character is a grey-colored lion cub who doesn't speak a word at all.  Rather, he does a lot of growling noises, roars, or even purrs.  There have been lots of animated features where traditional voice actors have provided animal noises, such as Frank Welker as Abu the monkey from Aladdin and John Kassir as Meeko the raccoon from Pocahontas.  The voice actress behind this little guy is none other than Sides, who adds a bit of a high-pitched gargle to emphasize how much of a cub he is.  This is a very difficult task, and she manages it superbly.  (It is also interesting to note that she recorded all her lines before Cassidy's Marie, which is what makes their playful relationship all the more natural.)
Interestingly enough, in Streamline's version, King is voiced by none other than Carl Macek, who also serves as the opening narrator for the first episode.  Not having access to any clips of King's performance, I cannot evaluate him altogether.

AYERTON (Jason Phelps, ADV dub; Bob Bergen, Streamline dub) -- When we first meet this character in episode 3, he is a flamboyant and charismatic, but flakey and arrogant man whose main characteristic is bragging about himself.  He doesn't show up again until much later in the island arc (where the writers clearly decided they needed another character); the Ayerton portrayed there is every bit as boastful, but he also becomes a bizarre whacko, ranting about ridiculous happenings on an island and trying to act like he is a Count from England.  Phelps is clearly having fun with this character, and, for all of the stupidities Ayerton is reduced to doing in the filler arc, he really lets loose and shows enthusiasm throughout.  One oddity is that he uses an American accent--which is somewhat strange when he is revealed to be from England.
Bergen is less manic in his approach with Ayerton, but then again he's only featured in one episode in Streamline's version (which stopped at 8 episodes).  The little bit of him I heard there sounded more like a mellow, easy-going but slightly over-the-top guy.  He sounded fine, but I prefer Phelps.

CAPTAIN NEMO (Ev Lunning Jr., ADV dub; Jeff Winkless, Streamline dub) -- A professional accent coach and graduate of Yale, Lunning lends his voice to the mysterious leader of the futuristic submarine, Nautilus.  As required for the character, he brings a sense of intrigue and aloofness for his initial appearances.  It should also be noted that Lunning uses a sophisticated Indian accent, providing an exotic tilt to his performance.  This was a decision on the voice directors' part, as they were trying to link Nemo to the origin of the "Mysterious Island" story (where he's revealed to be a lost Indian prince).  It is not only an ingenious touch, it works excellently in the character's favor.  There are moments where his delivery comes across as stiff, mostly in the opening episodes, where it comes across as though Lunning is still trying to figure out where he wants to go with the character.  As the show progresses, however, Ev really gets into his role, sounding especially good in the final four episodes, whether he's belting orders to his crew, or engaging in tense debates with Gargoyle.  One other thing that deserves mention is that in real life Lunning was Parsons' director in a play the latter participated in, and he coached the boy into pulling off the accent.  Learning about this, the scenes where Nemo is educating Jean gave me the impression that I was listening to a real-life schooling session between Ev and Nathan.  I like this, as it brings a very natural touch to the performance as a whole.
In Streamline's version, Nemo does not use an Indian accent, but he still has a deep voice.  This is provided by Jeff Winkless, who has had a career of being cast for random roles with varying degrees of success.  His Muska in the older dub of Castle in the Sky was a dreadful misfire, and he sounded rather cheesy (and artificial) as the evil Count Lee in Vampire Hunter D.  However, this is one of his better roles, in that he does succeed in bringing an edge of mystery to the character.  He's also less stiff than Lunning, although it's primarily because the latter was dubbing an Anime for the first time.  Having said this, though, Ev still gets my vote; despite a shaky beginning, he nonetheless rises to the challenge. But I have nothing against Jeff's turn.

ELECTRA (Jennifer Stuart, ADV dub; Edie Mirman, Streamline dub) -- The first thing you'll notice upon hearing Stuart's performance as Nemo's pretty but multi-layered first officer in the ADV dub is that she speaks with a British accent.  Again, this was a creative decision on the part of the directors.  Since Electra is a complex character, complete with a "no-nonsense" attitude, and an overcontrolled nature she tries very hard to display, it adds a depth of dimension to the role.  This is an excellent performance throughout, sounding very natural and distinctively memorable.  There are a few places at the beginning where her accent wavers, but I emphasize the word few.  Particularly spectacular are her explosive catfights with Grandis--she and Richardson obviously relish those scenes--and her emotional breakdown in Episodes 21 and 22.  The latter, especially, is utterly engrossing and powerful.  (Interestingly enough, Stuart, who was pregnant while recording the part, was going through labor at the time she delivered this particular moment; no wonder she nails it so beautifully.)  Anyone who says that English voice actors cannot emote should hear these two examples in the ADV dub--it's the stuff of absolute excellence.  (While some may compare it unfavorably to Kikuko Inoue's performance in the original Japanese version, in my opinion, both versions excel in their own right.)
In Streamline's dub, Mirman plays the character pretty much the same way, with the same light tone and also with a British accent.  While the performances in the older dub vary, I will say that she ties with Stuart.

GARGOYLE (David Jones, ADV dub; Steve Bulen, Streamline dub) -- This is probably the only voice that took me a long time to get used to in the ADV dub.  Considering that Gargoyle is the major villain of the show, one would expect something menacing and vile-sounding.  Instead, Jones opts to give him a deadpan, casual sounding tone which I initially found off-putting.  As his performance develops, however, Jones begins to bring a depth of haughtiness and sarcasm, which actually works in favor of Gargoyle's arrogance and his condescending attitude about humanity.  He even gets to do some really evil cackling in the last two episodes, to the point where you'll be surprised that it's the same actor.  Nowadays, I can't imagine Gargoyle in English without Jones' voice.
And that represents the problem with Streamline's Steve Bulen, who takes on the challenge of the character.  While he has the right "sinister" tone, he plays him too much like a straightforward, run-of-the-mill villain instead of an arrogant being obsessed with restoring Neo-Atlantis to its former glory.  I don't think this would work very well for the character, particularly in the final episode where he finally drops his mask.

These are all the principal characters that make up Nadia as a show.  The additional characters are similarly well-cast and give genuinely lively performances.  My favorites in particular include:  Edwin Neal as Jean's fun-loving, jovial uncle (a deliciously funny role which only appears in episode 1), Lana Dietrich as the sourpuss aunt (episode 2), Eric Henshaw as the blustering Captain Melville, Maurice Moore as the doomed sailor Ensign Fait (a genially charming one-episode role culminating with a truly heartbreaking death scene), Robert Rudie as the gentle whale Irion (his voice slightly amplified to emphasize his spirituality as a creature), and Russ Roten as the stentorian robotic voice of Red Noah, also amplified by electronic effects (this character is in the only "island" episode that Hideaki Anno would have saved, episode 31; as it ties in better with the central plot than the rest of the island/Africa episodes, I couldn't agree more).

The crew members of the Nautilus are initially stiff in their first appearances, but they gradually get more comfortable in their roles as they go on.  It should be noted, though, that Dan Bisbee as the Primary Helmsman is replaced for the final four episodes by Brian Yanish.  The voice from the latter is slightly higher, although since we don't see him again after episode 22, it doesn't really matter.  Aside from that, other crew members which show distinctive performances are Greg Gondek as the Sonar Officer (who reveals himself to be a survivor of the ship Jean's father captained), Lowell Bartholomee as the German-accented doctor, Amie Elyn as his granddaughter Ikoli, and Douglas Taylor as the cook.  Another performance that deserves mention is Billy Hardin as the Chief Engineer; he has a great character voice for this role and sounds very natural throughout.

I was unable to evaluate the performances of the supporting characters in the older dub, although most of them consist of Streamline regulars such as Cliff Wells, Michael McConnohie, Kerrigan Mahan, and Milton James... a considerably smaller ensemble compared to the dozens of actors assembled for the "walla" moments in the current dub.

One performance I neglected to mention is the disembodied voice whose gentle narration opens each episode (save for 36-39).  This voice belongs to the late Karen Kuykendall, whose elderly intonations give one the impression of a grandmother telling a child a bedtime story.  This is a nice touch and also works better than the opening narration in the first episode on Streamline's version.  No offense to Michael McConnohie, but while he does a credible job, his deadpan delivery gave me the feeling that I was hearing a typical newscaster giving a cold read.

Vocal performances aside, the script adaptation, penned by Lowell Bartholomee, warrants a shout-out.  Rather than providing a literal word-for-word transliteration, he somehow skillfully manages to transform the literal, dull subtitle script into convincing, believeable English with little touches that give the characters more personality.  Even some occasional awkwardnesses in the original script, such as Gargoyle's speech about the destruction of Sodom and Gamorrah, is corrected to fit better with the original Bible story.  There are also several moments where the characters in the original Japanese version speak English phrases.  Wisely knowing that using these phrases directly would feel out of place in the dub, Bartholomee rewords them into jokes that are still very much in line with the original intention yet pleasing to the English ear.  In other words, his script succeeds as both being smooth and natural while remaining faithful in tone to the original.

That said, I did have two minor quibbles in the final two episodes.  In previous combat scenes involving the Nautilus, a European-accented sailor sends his voice through the radio reporting the status of the submarine.  For the climactic battle between the newly supercharged spaceship and the crimson-colored flying saucer, there are lines from the Status Sailor in the Japanese version, but mysteriously they are not spoken at all in the dub.  Not that it affects the episodes too badly, but one moment in which Nemo reacts verbally to an announcement about the barrier weakening comes across as odd without the voice.  Furthermore, a space satellite, Slave Star Michael, is nuked in one blast from the aforementioned spaceship in a previous episode, but when Gargoyle and his minions decide to raise the saucer into outer space to use the more deadly Slave Star Lucifer, one technician says "transferring power to Slave Star Michael"!  This is an obvious error that will make even casual viewers scratch their heads.

Otherwise, Bartholomee's script job is a very commendable effort.  Even the songs in the (thankfully) last of the filler episodes (34, which is mostly a sequence of recapped footage accompanying character songs, although one of them serves as the focal point of this episode's "plot") are very well translated into English without diverting from the original intent.  As a nice bonus, too, the dub cast rises to the challenge of singing them!  Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's Bauman's Nadia's songs that fare the best; as with her overall performance, her reindition of the original Japanese written songs are both beautiful and very haunting.  Not that the rest of the songs aren't any well handled.  the Grandis Gang's song is a hoot (particularly Blacker's opening line), and Cassidy obviously has fun with her musical rant about grown-ups (there are a few places where she strains her notes, but I emphasize the word few).  Parsons' vocals have trouble hitting high notes, but he acquits himself very well in the final two songs, particularly in the former where he's supposed to sing off-key.  While this entire episode is not considered one of the best in the show by many (myself included), I do have to give Monster Island a shout-out for their efforts at translating the songs.

As mentioned, Carl Macek has stated that if he had been able to complete his dub of Nadia, he would have pared down the dozen filler episodes into something shorter and less time-consuming (a sentiment that even director Hideaki Anno shares).  As much as hardcore fans have detested his editing practices on previous shows (in fact, some have even termed such moves as "Macek-re"s, rather unfairly), this editing choice probably would have been one of the few decisions that even detractors of these episodes would agree with.  Since he no longer has the rights, we probably may never know how that would have turned out.  Not that it compares favorably to the ADV version overall, however.  While far from the total writeoff fans made it out to be, it falls short of greatness.  Even though it has its share of good voices, the overall weaknesses of the Streamline dub (including the miscast voices of the leads) outweigh any assets this version may have had.  It's not surprising that it isn't very well remembered.  At best, it is an average quality dub.

As for ADV's dub of Nadia, reception has been mixed.  Aside from Allen Divers and Marc Hairston, there have been a share of reviewers who have provided praise (Bob's Anime Corner Store, as well as Roman Martel , Brett Barkley, and Bryce Coulter of Mania.com, Bryan Hansen of AnimeJump, and Jeremy Conrad at IGNDVD).  Unfortunately, others, such as the guys at the aforementioned DVDTalk, AnimeInferno, Digitally Obsessed, Sequential Tart, AnimeBluRayUK, UK-Anime, and DVDVerdict have been unkind.  There are few, if any, online Anime fans who elect ADV's dub as one of their favorites.  In fact, there are fans who labeled it as a dub to avoid during its first release in 2001 (despite a successful premiere at 2001's A-Kon in Texas) and even some newer Anime fans spoiled by today's efforts have been similarly negative.  This is unfortunate, because Monster Island's Nadia deserves better recognition.

Despite the divided reaction, Nadia has nonetheless proven to be something of a turning point in terms of quality for Monster Island.  Most of their previous productions have been poorly received by critics and fans alike, ranging from a bottom-barrel train wreck in Sonic The Hedgehog:  The Movie, a disappointingly wooden and often monotone undercutting of the otherwise powerfully dramatic Ruroni Kenshin:  Trust and Betrayal, and overbaked, overacted and awkwardly scripted misfires like Lost Universe.  Perhaps because of the dramatic range of its cast and the passion Campbell and Bartholomee poured into this project, being huge fans of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Nadia, in spite of the sometimes inconsistent accents and somewhat sketchy initial episodes, is otherwise thankfully free of any such major defects, emerging as one of the studio's first truly good efforts.  This would eventually be followed by other efforts such as Steam Detectives, Cosplay Complex, Jing:  Bandit of Kings, and their swan song Petite Princess Yucie, all of which are great to excellent dubs.  While debates on the effectiveness of the accents may rage on, and opinions divided, Nadia remains a grossly underrated achievement in Monster Island's repertoire.  Bartholomee and Campbell have every reason to be proud of their work on the show, as it has aged fairly well over the years.  It's also refreshing to hear from fans who have given it a second chance.