Animeigo is an Anime distribution company that's been around since the relatively early days of anime distribution in the West; it's always had a rep for being a scrappy little company, by fans, for fans. That's cool. And recently they released domestic versions of the Urusei Yatsura movies. That's cool. Urusei Yatsura is a goofy comedy series created by Rumiko Takahashi of Ranma 1/2 and Inu-Yasha fame, but the second Urusei Yatsura movie (from the future director of gloomy SF art anime like Ghost in the Shell) was moody and weird in a way I really enjoyed. The second one was the only one I could find until recently, so I was eager to see the others.
Recently Netflix delivered the first one to my mailbox, and in typical Aaron fashion I watched the behind-the-scenes feature of the English dubbing before I watched the film. It's simply footage of the English dub voice actors recording lines, and I found it reassuring; anime dubs are a crapshoot, but these actors mostly seemed like the real deal. Lovely voices and the line readings had integrity.
Then I watched the film, and found the dub disappointing. It was like a patchwork quilt in which the patches were mostly good but they'd been poorly stitched together. The level and nature of the emoting didn't match the visuals very tightly, and that's the directors' fault (there are two credited dub directors) since the director's supposed to be responsible for making sure the actors' efforts are matching up.
Plus there was a lot of "indicating" in the dub. You know how, when you're telling a story about something that happened to you, you'll demonstrate what people said with "angry voice" or "confused voice" or whatever? They're not convincingly angry or confused voices, and they're not supposed to be; they just communicate the idea of anger or confusion. Well, that's called Indicating in thesp-talk and it works in a story but not as a theatrical or cinematic performance. When an actor does it, it seems half-baked and phony. There's a lot of that in this dub.
But that's not why I'm angry at Animeigo; like I say, cruddy dubs are common in anime. I'm angry about another bonus feature on the DVD. It's a half-hour collection of dub auditions that didn't make the cut; it opens with humorous opening titles and hollerin' sound FX that communicate we're about to hear something really painful. Then we're treated to a bunch of audio auditions, some of them actually bad, some just odd. The implication is that we should spend a half-hour scorning the auditionees who weren't picked.
Well. Every working actor has auditioned and been turned down before. Your Favorite Actor has auditioned and been rejected. It's part of the deal, so holding up unchosen actors for scorn is simply wrongheaded. It's also callow and swinish; how would you like it if you applied for a job or school and later found your application on their website under the heading "Check out the essays that didn't make the cut LOL!" A company that treats applicants with such contempt is a company that doesn't deserve to stay in business. Actors should be able to audition without fearing that any uninspired performances on their part won't be trotted out for the sneering amusement of others.
One more thing: although putting this audition reel on the DVD would be rotten even if the actors on it all stank, some of them seemed about as good as the folks who DID get selected, which suggests the real reason Animeigo put this reel on the DVD at all; it's the classic insecure person's tactic of elevating oneself by pushing others down. "Look what a good job we did! After all, we didn't hire these losers!" Actually, Animeigo, you did a poor job on that dub, even with some pretty good actors on there, so screw you. I won't be buying or renting anymore Animeigo products.