By and large, I prefer to watch anime dubbed rather than subtitled. Most of the stuff I've seen, especially when I was running aNIme, was on DVD and I watched it dubbed first, so that's the voice I associate with the character.1
That's changed a lot since I began my Crunchyroll subscription, however - I've not seen anything for the first time dubbed in years.
I've previously written about how brilliant Kids on the Slope is, and having rewatched it through once (as well as revisiting my favourite episodes - 1, 7 and 12 - on multiple occasions) it's still firmly in the "best show ever" slot.
So it was with some trepidation I put the dub on today. I'd always had trouble imagining it in English, and the announcement of Steven Foster as the ADR scriptwriter and director wasn't reassuring. Foster has always been a polarising element; he's known for playing it a bit fast-and-loose with translations, which makes him great for comedy scripts, but not such a steady hand for drama.
The script is generally uneven as a result; some of the lines are tweaked to add slang and (jazz) references, but others are awkwardly formal. Narration, which is open for the broadest reinterpretation without animation to match, is often frustratingly literal.
The cast, by and large, are solid2; Chris Patton is a predictable but reliable choice for Kaoru, but I'd not heard much of the other leads' work before this show. Rebekah Stevens is unreservedly great, but I'm still warming to Andrew Love. Sentaro was always going to be a tough one to get right, and while I think there are elements of Love and Sen that match up it doesn't quite gel.
Part of the problem is the direction; in Japanese, Sentaro has a pretty thick accent and doesn't have great diction, slurring consonants at the end of sentences. In English, he's far too well spoken, with the exception of some contractions which sound obvious and forced as a result.
There are also a few irritating mispronunciations, with Kaoru's name getting the brunt. The vowels sound like they've been swapped in his first name, so Ritsuko sounds like she's given him the nickname "Coruscant"; the wrong syllable is emphasised in "Nishimi".
I'm not sure how many of these problems I'd have if I wasn't so familiar with the Japanese cast, though. If I'd been used to the dub for several months before hearing it in Japanese, maybe there'd be bits of it that bug me just as much.
I can't help but feel disappointed, though. The dub strikes me as rushed; I'm sure the affection I have for the show is influencing my opinion, but I really think it deserved a more measured approach - or at least someone to read over the script before recording.
1 At the beginning, I would watch both language tracks for reviews, but eventually came to the conclusion that people who only watch subtitles wouldn't care how good the dub was, and if you're watching it dubbed then you probably aren't bothered by them.
2 The only horrific mistake in the cast - although this, again, comes down largely to Foster's uneven direction - is what they've done to Seiji Matsuoka. There's a hint of camp in the Japanese actor's performance, but it's cranked all the way to uncomfortable stereotype in the dub.