Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wolf's Rain Part 1: The Regulars

You know a dub is something truly special when people who don't even like the show it's for are praising it, you actually bother to watch the "next time on..." previews just so you can hear more of it, and people are still praising it to this day.

That seems to be the case with Wolf's Rain, a show that definitely has a "love it or hate it" status amongst anime fans (for the record, I'm of the former group who thinks this show is amazing). Yet no matter how many people I've run across who either like or dislike this show, everyone seems to agree that the dub is terrific. It's certainly one of the best I've ever heard, a "gold standard" if there ever was one, and most of the cast has rarely been better.

Because I love this dub so much and because there are so many minor/supporting characters I'd like to discuss in addition to the leads, this review will be divided into two posts in order to fit all of them in. Also, this will be a long one in both cases, with MASSIVE SPOILERS. Do NOT read either part of the review if you haven't seen the whole show.


KIBA (Johnny Yong Bosch) -- Bosch's performance here is interesting because it's not quite what we're used to hearing from him. His distinct voice is still recognizable, and he's not stretching his vocal range terribly (though he is a bit more soft-spoken than usual), but his acting is curious because it's much less energetic and more low-key than Bosch's usual timbre. This is entirely appropriate, however, because Kiba is more conflicted and uncertain than the more heroic everyman Bosch usually plays, and he nails everything about Kiba with his performance. Besides, he still gets some great "shouty", angry moments, so everybody wins!

TSUME (Crispin Freeman) -- Ah, I finally get to discuss one of my favorites! Freeman has stated several times that out of all the projects/roles he's worked on over the years, Wolf's Rain is still his favorite, and it's easy to see why. Again, Crispin's working in a pretty familiar vocal range, that of scene-stealing, deep-voiced badass, but as with Kiba (hell, everyone in the series), Tsume is more complex than he initially appears. As time goes on, Freeman gets to play around with Tsume's insecurities and self-doubt while still being totally awesome, so it's little wonder that he ends up being a highlight of the dub, although there's so many of them that might not count for much. His grief in the final episodes regarding two deaths is just astounding from an acting perspective.

TOBOE (Mona Marshall) -- Let's face facts: Mona Marshall has played a lot of young boys. From the super-smart Izzy in Digimon, to the fantastically creepy Wen in the Cowboy Bebop episode "Sympathy for the Devil", to the hotheaded Wolfram from Kyo Kara Maoh, she's all over the place. She's so ubiquitous as young boys in anime, in fact, that it always throws me off whenever she plays an actual female character, if only because they sound freakishly similar to her male roles. Anyway, her shining moment as a VA has to be Toboe (who, amusingly enough, is already kind of feminine-looking within the show). Toboe is possibly the most purely huggable/adorable character in the show, always earnest and willing to believe the best of people, and Marshall does it all wonderfully, as well as Toboe's more insecure, "whiny" moments. I can also say with no shame that her beautiful rendition of Toboe's death scene (yeah, there's a lot of that going around in this show) actually made me cry. This has NEVER happened to me before; I've welled up before at movies and TV, but Mona (with the help of the animation and music, of course) actually made tears flow. So I have to give her massive props for that alone.

HIGE (Joshua Seth) -- It's a shame Mr. Seth seems to have permanently retired from voice acting, as he's always been a favorite of mine, with that distinct, youthful, instantly recognizable voice and terrific acting even in silly kid's shows like Digimon (and I LIKE Digimon, but man can it get silly). Hige is his finest role, bar none, and it's another interesting study of vocal range vs. acting range. As noted before, Seth has an instantly recognizable voice in nearly all of his roles, and that holds true here, but the acting is just on a completely different level than anything else he's done (except possibly the 2001 redub of Akira, where he stole the show with a terrific Tetsuo). Seth gets a lot of heavy stuff later in the series, and he plays it for all it's worth, and his death scene is gut-wrenching.

CHER DEGRE (Kari Wahlgren) -- My jaw dropped when this credit popped up. Cher is nothing like anything the lovely Ms. Wahlgren has played before (at least in my experience); rather than the usual high-pitched young girl Wahlgren excels at, Cher is a career-minded, divorced scientist with a husky voice, and Wahlgren is astoundingly good here. In addition to showing off her vocal range something fierce, her acting is note-perfect in both Cher's default "trying to figure things out" mode as well as her more wistful, tender scenes with her ex-husband Hubb (who we'll get to in a moment). Wahlgren frankly needs more roles like this, because they show she can play adults just as well as the kids.

HUBB LEBOWSKI (Robert Buchholz) -- Unlike Ms. Wahlgren, Buchholz sounds much like he usually does, but yet again it's the acting that truly distinguishes his work here. Unfortunately, I don't have as much as to say about Buchholz's work here other than that, like everyone else, it's fantastic, and one particularly great moment is his muffled screaming over Cher's lifeless body. No complaints.

QUENT YAIDEN (Tom Wyner) -- This is quite frankly the role of a career for Wyner, who's had a long history in the anime industry as both an actor and a director/writer for dubs as well as shows like Power Rangers. To reiterate a familiar refrain, he's never been better, and his rough, scratchy voice serves as a perfect complement to this grizzled old hunter. I especially like his performance when he travels with Hubb, and Wyner's voice adds to the authenticity of Quent's seen-it-all advice to the younger man.

LORD DARCIA THE THIRD (Steve Blum) -- Another favorite of mine, Blum is working in the "smooth and sinister" part of his vocal range, and his work here is on par with Spike Spiegel for sheer awesomeness. As the primary antagonist for the series, Darcia goes through a lot of, shall we say, "mood swings" during the show, and Blum captures the gradually slipping sanity perfectly. He even manages to slip in some great psychotic cackling in the final episodes.

CHEZA (Sherry Lynn) -- Lynn manages to make a potentially uninteresting "wallflower" (pun not intended) fascinating thanks to that strange, wispy voice, and her acting is (sing it with me if you know the words) just magnificent.

BLUE (Jessica Straus) -- Admittedly, Straus doesn't become a regular until later in the series, but it would otherwise feel weird for me to not put her here. I'm surprisingly unfamiliar with Straus, but her work here is excellent, making Blue a formidable "action girl" while keeping her femininity intact.

Next time: the supporting cast and any minor roles I feel fit to mention.


  1. Just out of curosity, what are the chances of reviewing the English dubs of Ranma 1/2 and InuYasha?

  2. That review you wrote really inspired me to check out the first volume of [i]Wolf's Rain[/i], and I really feel embarrassed to admit that I have missed out on it. So far, it looks like a very nice show, and the dub is indeed top-notch. Kudos to FightingDreamer for getting me to check it out!

  3. Its hard to pick a favorite between Crispin Freeman and Steve Blum. In the end I think I would go with Blum. As awesome as Freeman is, I found his voice a little too recognizable(I had the same problem with Koichi Yamadera in the Japanese version of Cowboy Bebop)I just can't get the Freeman's head out of my mind when I hear him.