Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spice and Wolf

Spice and Wolf is a tricky show to dub; the main thrust of the show is, surprisingly, economics, and many of the long conversations in the show are the equivalent of verbal warfare as one character tries to convince another to agree to some sort of business dealing. Add in the fact that Holo has a very formal, archaic accent and style of speaking in the original Japanese version, and you have some quite large potential headaches. Thankfully, Funimation has met the challenge head-on and produced a fantastic dub for the show. In fact, I would actually recommend watching the show in English prior to watching the Japanese since the conversations are much easier to follow without having to read the subtitles. Onto the cast!

CRAFT LAWRENCE (J. Michael Tatum)-Tatum has quickly become one of Funimation's stock actor, and he's shown to have both massive reserves of talent and range. Lawrence is probably his most down-to-earth role yet, and Tatum is unsurprisingly excellent in the role. He brings an amiable, "horribly good-natured" (to quote Holo for a moment) charm as well as a much lighter voice than we're used to hearing from him to the role (most of Tatum's characters tend to have very deep voices), and he sounds completely natural in the role. He also handles Lawrence's moments of anger, sadness or embarrassment beautifully, never overacting any of them. It's another great notch to add to Tatum's belt.

HOLO (Brina Palencia)-As good as Tatum is, Brina Palencia completely steals the dub with her magnificent star turn as Holo. It helps that Holo is one of the best-written, most fascinating female anime leads in recent memory, and Ami Koshimizu's performance was admittedly quite memorable to begin with (I say "admittedly" because I tend to not be much of a sub fan). I called Palencia's work here a "star turn" because it may be her best performance yet, as she gets to run the whole gamut of emotions, sometimes in a single episode! The difficulty of playing a character like Holo is that her moods are quite fickle; by turns she can be playful, vain, arrogant, furious or even unintentionally insensitive, such as when she goes too far in teasing Lawrence about wolves possibly eating him early on. Thankfully, Palencia matches Holo beat-for-beat with a formal, almost regal tone that often has an air of arrogance or haughtiness about it, though that certainly doesn't negate Holo's likability. One of her most memorable moments comes early on when Holo eats a potato that is too hot and she grumbles "Stupid potato!" in a way that is simply hilarious that print cannot accurately convey; you have to see it for yourself. Palencia also plays off of Tatum so wonderfully that it almost seems like they're actually recording in the same room. In short, Palencia's performance alone makes this dub worth watching.

CHLOE (Jamie Marchi)-While Holo and Lawrence carry the lion's share of the show between him, the supporting cast has some equally memorable players. The first is Marchi's Chloe, who seems nice at first but turns out to have an incredibly nasty streak later on, and Marchi sells it all, with her best scene being her cruel taunting of Holo when the latter has been captured. Marchi makes it her mission to make the audience completely hate Chloe by the end of this scene, and she succeeds so well that her comeuppance is even more satisfying than it already was.

ZHEREN (John Burgmeier)-Burgmeier's always had a certain sleazy quality in his performances, and Zheren is perhaps his sleaziest, a young man who attempts to con Lawrence and Holo in the first half of the series and nearly succeeds. Burgmeier is great here, and he made me suspicious of Zheren long before Lawrence did, which was almost certainly intentional.

NORA (Leah Clark)-Clark uses a very light, soft voice to the young shepherd who falls in with Lawrence and Holo in the second half of the series, and it works quite well. Clark also brings a great air of mystery as we're not quite sure of Nora's motives until almost the end. Is she really as nice as she seems, or is she hiding something and can't be trusted? Clark is perfect in this area as well as Nora's genuine kindness.

The rest of the cast consists of one-to-three shot characters, such as Chris Sabat's ultimately helpful Marlheit, Kent Williams' nervous Lemerio, Chuck Huber's distrustful Liebert or Eric Vale's womanizing Weiz. All the above actors perform perfectly, as do the many other one-shot or minor performers. Overall, Spice and Wolf is a great dub that I give my full seal of approval.


  1. This really is one of the best dubs I have ever heard. Palencia absolutely knocks it out of the park with Holo.

    You make a good point about Leah Clark's performance as well.

    That type of unassuming softspoken (but not weak)female character seems to be very rarely done right in English language productions. She really did a good job.

  2. Great review. I also agree that this is one of the best (if not the best) dubs I have ever heard in my opinion. I'm not even a big anime dub fan at all, and I still consider this an excellent dub.

    Brina sounds really sweet and likable by playing as Holo, and I'm very impressed how well Brina performed Holo. She captures Holo's personality very well.

    Spice and Wolf has been one of my favorite anime I've watched, not only because of wonderful voice acting, but it also has its unique plots and great character dynamics.