Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Azumanga Daioh

Ah, Azumanga Daioh. This, along with Fruits Basket, was one of the first "non-mainstream" anime/dubs I ever watched, and for that I will always be grateful. It's kind of like an animated version of Seinfeld, where conversations can drag on or go off on weird tangents, and not much of consequence really happens aside from the girls building their friendship and graduating school. Still, it's easily one of the better anime comedies out there, and it remains a favorite. The dub's flaws are more apparent than they were when I first watched it, but so are its virtues, thankfully. So, onto the dub:

CHIYO MIHAMA (Jessica Boone) -- I'm still sad that Boone appears to have permanently retired from voice acting, because she's such an excellent performer. That said, her performance here has some occasional flaws; while Chiyo-chan is indeed supposed to be high-pitched and cutesy, occasionally Boone gets a little *too* cutesy and veers into "annoying" territory. Thankfully, it's not that often, and Boone is otherwise wonderfully endearing and funny in the role.

SAKAKI (Christine Auten) -- Weirdly enough, this is one of my favorite performances in the dub, despite the fact that Sakaki doesn't have nearly as much dialogue as some of the other characters. Still, she gets more and more dialogue as the show goes on, and Auten nails it all, from Sakaki's default deadpan mode to her joy as she rolls around on the floor with Maaya near the end of the series. Granted, I'm a huge Auten fanboy anyway thanks to her performance as Izumi Curtis in Fullmetal Alchemist, but her work here is just as good.

TOMO TAKINO (Mandy Clark) -- This is another performance that hasn't aged quite as well, but it's still pretty solid. Like Boone, Clark certainly nails the energy and annoyance factor of Tomo, but that works a little too well sometimes, so she occasionally grates on the eardrums. Still, she definitely gets across that "sugar high" energy of Tomo, as well as her jerkiness, quite well.

KOYOMI "YOMI" MIZUHARA (Nancy Novotny) -- Like Auten, Novotny completely nails her character and sounds totally natural in the part. As a result, Novotny gets some of the funniest moments in the show, such as whenever she scolds Tomo (which is often) or complains about her weight.

AYUMU "OSAKA" KASUGA (Kira Vincent-Davis) -- For the dub, Davis decides to adopt a soft Southern accent for the Osakan native, and using accents to adapt characters from different regions of Japan is not an uncommon practice in dubbing. It's a choice that works for the most part, and Davis backs it up with some great acting. Osaka is terminally clueless, providing many of the aimless conversations in the show, and Davis brings a nice floating, dreamy quality to her voice in addition to the accent that suits Osaka perfectly.

KAGURA (Allison Sumrall) -- Kagura doesn't join the main cast until about halfway through, but Sumrall's likeable, energetic performance makes an instantly winning impression. She also gets a great, purely character-driven conversation with Chiyo-chan later in the show, and Sumrall nails it.

KAORIN (Tiffany Grant) -- Tiffany Grant really makes this character shine; what could have been (and admittedly still kind of is) a stereotypical "schoolgirl lesbian" instead becomes hilarious, and I especially love Grant's performance when Kaorin goes into hyperactive, panicky mode.

YUKARI TANIZAKI (Luci Christian) -- And now we come to the star of the show, ladies and gentlemen. Luci Christian is perfect as the spectacularly unqualified schoolteacher, and I dare you to stop yourself from laughing or at least giggling whenever she opens her mouth. Nearly every moment of Christian's performance is comedy gold, and I daresay it's both one of her shining roles and one of the best dub performances in history. Her performance alone merits the dub a listen.

KIMURA (Andy McAvin) -- McAvin is probably the second funniest actor in the dub, with his perverted deliveries hitting the mark every time. A particular favorite is his legendary delivery of "CAUSE I LIKE HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS, THAT'S WHY!"

MINAMO "NYAMO" KUROSAWA (Monica Rial) -- Miss Rial is sweet, likeable and down-to-earth as the similarly level-headed gym teacher, although she gets plenty of funny, hyper moments as well.

CHIYO-FATHER (Jason Douglas) -- Douglas' deep-voiced performance is just as weird and memorable as the dream cat himself.

Overall, Azumanga Daioh is both an excellent show and a fairly excellent dub. If you haven't seen it, check it out.

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