Once again a Prince steps in to give me a night off! As you may know, I don’t listen to anime dub tracks. ( And in the case of Revolutionary Girl Utena, with Mitsuishi Kotono, Kawakami Tomoko and Hisakawa Aya in the Japanese voice cast, there is nothing that can convince me to listen to it, sorry.) Luckily, Okazu Superhero and long-time Friend and Supporter of Yuricon, Eric P has gallantly kneeled before us and offered his services as a dub reviewer! Thank you so much Eric! The floor is all yours…
Before we get started, and so everyone knows, this is a review of the English dub by itself, and not as it is compared to the original Japanese acting (which I have watched). Alright, now let’s get started:
After getting the whole Utena Central Park Media set through a special mailing order for just $100 back in the day, I didn’t know what to expect diving into this series. I watched the first episode subbed for about seven minutes or so, before I decided to start all over and switch to dub. It was not because I disliked the Japanese voice acting. Everything about Utena within those seven minutes—its opening theme song, its animation, artwork, tone, atmosphere, characters—charmed and enchanted me from the get-go. The problem was I felt reading the subtitles distracted me a little too much from taking in the full experience. So the English version was what I watched first, and at the time it worked for me—the mostly low-key acting fitted the story’s weird, surreal tone.
With RightStuf’s re-release I watch the dub again for nostalgia (and for this review), and by now I can acknowledge its flaws. It is a mixed bag, with few weak links sprinkled throughout that gives it a feeling of flucating. It hardly mattered for me the first time since I was so invested in the story and the magic. But for any viewer with high expectations, it could be those weak links that would turn them off and make even the stronger performances sound less strong. The best (worst?) example would be the English voice for Nanami. When talking plainly, she sounds like a spoiled rich girl probably would, but after a short while she comes across too flat in too many moments.
Thankfully the two lead characters, Utena and Anthy, get well-suited English voices. Rachael Lillis as Utena is sufficiently spot-on, and Anthy’s voice by Sharon Becker has a kind of charm to it for me; I always liked how she said “Miss Utena.” There are still points where it seems like the ADR director and the actors were looking at the imagery, interpreting it as vaguely low-key, and were directed accordingly. Unfortunately that does not always work. In the scene where Anthy calls out to Utena during her duel with Miki, the restrained tone just doesn’t fit well at all. Speaking of Miki, while he is not acted badly, his voice still an example of one of those dub voices sounding far older than he’s supposed to be (although , in my opinion, all the characters look like they are in their early 20’s, even though they’re supposed to be 13-15). Fortunately for some, fan-favorite Jury receives a cool-sounding voice. Saionji, the wife-beating creep, sounds suitably creepy, and the shadow-girls sound as mysterious and strange as they come across in the animation. But, without a doubt, the single strongest performance is Toga as voiced by Crispin Freeman, the future veteran of many stellar roles, among them including Alucard from Hellsing and Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya.
In the end, the dub feels dated, which some may either find oddly charming or off-putting. But, no matter what, the series itself remains as multi-layered and wonderful as it always has been.
It was actually kind of hard determining the final ratings, so here goes…
Overall – I dance between 6 and 7 on this, so I’ll give it a 6.5
Erica here: Thanks again Eric! Much obliged.