Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sailor Moon Viz: The Good, The Bad, and Those Ugly Nostalgia Goggles

On September 5-6, depending on your time zone, Viz Media released the first few episodes of their dub of the original 1990's Sailor Moon anime. To think it was only about three months ago that Viz made the announcement of acquiring the rights to this series and the reboot Sailor Moon Crystal. While we waited for the DVD and Blu-Ray release, we were treated to clips of the new dub audio. There was excitement, there was skepticism, there were fanboys raging at the very idea that the entirety of the 90's anime was being redubbed when a majority of the series was already dubbed. I'll get to the nostalgia goggles issues later, but for now let us look at what Viz did right, and what they did wrong in this highly anticipated redub.

The Good

Viz said that they would keep true to the original Japanese release and keep it uncut and uncensored. Considering how heavily edited the original dub was under Dic, this would surely be an improvement over Dic's version. Viz did not fail in keeping their word. Dropped episodes from the first season have been given the dub that they deserve, originally released episodes got the much needed corrections, with no cuts to any scenes or footage from future episodes being repurposed for what the dubbers thought would serve as an enhancement of the story. I remember those changes being one of my biggest gripes regarding Dic's dub of season one, especially since some of those scenes that got deleted could have been repurposed with their censorship changes or they removed some key story elements, such as the original introduction of Sailor V.

Another thing Viz did right was the writing for the dialog. At last, no more awkward dialog that seemed like lines were skipped, no more lines that didn't fit the emotions that were shown in the animation. Viz's dialog seemed to flow more like what we got out of the subtitles for the series, making it sound more like they followed the original scripting than just making up their own lines and hoping they stick.

The Bad

Even the best dubbing companies have their flaws in their work. Sometimes it's an audio thing, other times it's acting/actor choices, and there are mistakes that can make a 4Kids dub look like an Emmy winning piece of art. Viz has made some mistakes, but nothing really on the 4Kids level as Viz has a much bigger focus on accuracy and overall quality while 4Kids... Well, just look at what they did to One Piece and I think you'll get the point. Anyway, let's see what Viz did badly on this one.

The most notable, even in the pre-release clips Viz posted on their YouTube account, is the overall audio quality. While Viz did opt to keep the original soundtrack and sound effects of the Japanese version, the English dialog track is too clean, crisp, and highly defined compared to the other two tracks. This means that Viz either forgot to upconvert the other audio tracks when they were preparing the dub, or they forgot to downgrade the audio of the dialog track to fit to quality of the other two tracks. This is a careless mistake that can make or break a dub, and right now this sounds almost like a low-end fandub than a professional level dub. Hopefully this gets fixed before the DVD and Blu-Ray release in November.

Another element of the work done badly with this is the casting choice, most notably for Usagi's little brother, Shingo. While I can give props to Viz and to Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takeuchi for making good English voice casting decisions, my personal favorites being Stephanie Sheh as our titular character Usagi Tsukino, Michelle Ruff as Luna, and Christina Vee as Rei Hino (Still waiting for her first episode so I can hear this wonderful new voice), there was an issue that came with Shingo's voice actor that bugged me. Shingo's actor, Nicolas Roye, gave him a voice that makes the younger brother sound much older than he actually is, and while there are some young 8-10 year old boys with deep voices, this one is kinda hard to forgive.

Those Ugly Nostalgia Goggles

Couldn't have said it better myself, Rei.

Oh man, where do I begin on this one? While I can understand the skepticism that revolved around the voice cast for this new dub, I found it hard to believe that some of it was so bad they would ask "Why redub this series when the original dub was so perfect?" ARE YOU F***ING KIDDING ME?! There were so many problems with the old dub that I cannot call it anything but garbage. The acting quality of both the Dic (Seasons 1 & 2) and Cloverway (Seasons 3 & 4) dubs was so bad that it made the acting in The Last Airbender movie seem worthy of an Oscar. The writing was worse, the plot holes due to dropped scenes and episodes were big, the censorship had double standards throughout (How can you allow a guy who is in a puddle of his own blood to be in, yet you decide to get rid of a scene where Sailor Mars literally slaps some sense into Sailor Moon?), I could go on but I don't think the blog will work if I do.

One comment that came up on the Amazon pre-order page for the new Viz DVD and Blu-Ray asked "Why can't Viz leave the already dubbed episodes alone and focus on dubbing the ones that weren't?" I can tell you why right off the bat, and it's because of something called "consistency." Do you want a constantly changing voice cast and alternating levels of what's allowed or what names the characters are given? Viz wanted to keep the original Japanese names, while Dic and Cloverway Americanized the names of almost all the characters. In addition, both Dic and Cloverway switched out actors as the series changed hands. Dic even changed Sailor Moon's voice actress partway through the series as her original voice first went on maternity leave (At least, that's what the internet says) before leaving entirely. Would you really want to hear three different casts through 5 seasons of Sailor Moon? No? Good, then be happy that there will be consistency throughout each season.

Final Thoughts

Despite the two issues that were mentioned in the bad section, I found the new dub enjoyable. Viz has done a quality job with the writing and casting. They just need to fix their audio mixing issues and do something about Shingo's age crisis and the whole thing will be great. I can finally swear off the old English theme song and calling Sailor Moon "Serena" and welcome Moonlight Densetsu and Usagi Tsukino! Final score: 8/10

Until the next review, have a nice day!