Thursday, March 7, 2013

Demon City Shinjuku

I'm embarrassed to admit that I even viewed this dub.  Not very often do dubs offend my ears or leave me with a bad aftertaste, but I knew there was something very, very, very odd about the English track of Demon City Shinjuku when I first saw it, and now years later, I regret doing so.

Central Park Media published this dub in the early '90s, but they had nothing to do with it; it was produced by the infamous Manga Entertainment UK, who has had a poor reputation with their dubs (from what I've heard).  If Shinjuku's dub is any indication, then it's not hard to see why.

There are so many problems with this dub that I don't know where to begin.  Perhaps it's best to start with George Roubicek's script adaptation.  There are times when I DO love liberal adaptations (Disney's Kiki and Laputa come to mind), but with Shinjuku, it backfires due to outrageously cheesy lines (which, granted, is somewhat appropriate for this show), but also with the overemphasis on harsh profanity: two such lines being "I've got better things to do than saving the world's a**hole" and "I'm gonna tear his head off and shove it up his a**!"  Oh, and how about, "Like f*** I will!"  Reading this, one wonders, what were the English staff thinking?  Aren't there better ways to present a "mature" run-of-the-mill slash and hack demon action adventure from Yoshiaki Kawajiri than throwing in profane phrases every one or two seconds?  Other problems include the naming of Shinjuku "Monster City", which feels somewhat odd.  (This is partially because in the U.K., this film WAS distributed as Monster City.)

What really brings the dub down, though, is the use of accents.  I like when accents are used for shows that require them or to add a bit more flair to them.  But for this one, it is totally detrimental for several reasons.  One, the show is set in Japan, and so having characters sound American, Irish, British, Spanish, Southern feels bizarrely out of place.  Two, the accents are badly faked , and matters aren't helped much by the dialogue.  Even though the idea of having one character (the leading lady, Sayaka) sounding British due to her not being in Japan for a long time is intriguing, the idea works better on paper than it does on screen.  Even a supposedly mysterious character (Mephisto) comes across sounding very cheesy with the Transylvanian accent.

There are only five actors credited for the dub.  None of them turn in particularly memorable performances, although for the sake of my standards for my review, here goes:

KYOYA (Brad Lavelle) — This is probably the only voice that sounds fairly decent.  It's a good "punk" young man's voice that works in favor of the character's perverted, fresh-talking nature, and his delivery is fairly solid throughout.

SAYAKA (Theresa Gallagher) — As mentioned, employing a British accent for Sayaka is an interesting idea, but it works against the character onscreen.  That aside, she isn't TOO terrible in her delivery, or at least from what I remember.

MASTER RAI (George Little) — I have the feeling that whoever played this character tried to make his voice sound elderly, because that's exactly what the performance emphasizes.  His dialogue is very stilted, too.

REBI RAH (Bob Sessions) — I actually like the voice as a gruff street worker, but for Rah, it just isn't menacing or scary enough, even though the laugh is passable.  Then again, considering that this villain doesn't have much of a personality (he's just your typical guffawing, power-hungry badguy with powers), it'd be hard to do any kind of justice to this character.

CHIBI (Alan Sherman) — In the Japanese version, this little street kid with a two-headed Doberman is not named, but in the dub he is named "Chibi".  He has a nasally sounding voice that would probably be fine for a smart-ass sidekick, but considering that this is a boy, it works against it.  The Spanish accent doesn't help either.  (And there's also one moment in the film where his mouth moves... and no sound is heard!)

MEPHISTO (Gareth Armstrong) — The lower-pitched voice gives this ambiguous character a charm, but the Transylvanian accent feels forced.  It also lends to the "so bad it's funny" quality of the dub.

The acting isn't so much the problem as is the dialogue, but there are some minor characters who do sound rather dull or overacted.  But who's to blame for this dub?  Is it Manga's attempts to sell this to 18-year olds?  Or maybe that the material is not all that special to begin with?  The bizarre use of accents?

Whatever the reason, Demon City Shinjuku's dub obviously shows that it is a product of its era--a hastily produced, sub-par affair lacking in anything inspiring or memorable.  In other words, it's a dub you can pretty much pass and not miss much at all.