Localization is a tricky business, and it only gets tougher when the sub for a legendary series is known as much for the performances by the cast as the story it tells. How could one ever dream to size up to the overwhelmingly embraced aspects to the juggernaut that is Steins;Gate? Today, we’ll take a look into the cast for the dub of the 2011 blockbuster dubbed by FUNimation Entertainment.
These are not reviews of a series or their dub, but rather opinion articles for the high notes from how the individual cast did, their overall chemistry, and/or the things that the dub brought to the series that benefited the source material. It is understood that dubs are not the most embraced means of viewing, so please refrain from commenting over the preference to the format as a thesis to an opinion. It is okay to not like dubs, but don’t ruin everyone else’s fun because you don’t agree. Articles will be tailored as spoiler-free as possible, with only vague notes on how an actor’s performance progresses as the story goes on, so feel free to read even if you haven’t seen the source material.
One of the most important things to remember when gauging the outing from our main here is just how outlandish he is- regardless of his spoken tongue in the rendition being watched. While it is true the line delivery (and goofy Engrish) goes a long way in the early stages of the sub, Rintarou is an incredibly flawed, borderline childish character. “Endearing” might not be the first word someone rattles off about a crazy college student yelling into his turned off cell phone and raving on about fictitious conspiring suits, but I think that the more off-put people are by the first act Rintarou, the better the acting must be. It would be one thing if Tatum continued to drive the crazy sounding wagon all the way off the cliff, but the development in the character is manifested so smoothly, that by the end of the second act of the show, his far cries feel like they were done light years ago.
The hardships the once immature man has to endure throughout Steins;Gate are downright unnerving, and they each take a chunk out of the self-proclaimed mad scientist until he is left broken down to dust, left to scatter through time. In this struggle is where the funny business ends and Tatum shines with his performance. As he learns of the freakish new reality, all of the hope in him circles down a dark, dark drain. Instead of tooting his own horn through every square foot of his apartment, somber thoughts and exhaustion pour out from wherever he finds solace. Tatum doesn’t turn in the cliché “Why me?” whiny sounding lines here, but rather hits the right subtle notes that allude to actual pain in a man’s voice. As he learns of a way to solve the horrific nightmare scenario he is placed in, this spark turns into conviction and blind determination for his cause. Somewhere between one of the most tense monologues delivered whilst struggling with someone on a floor over a cell phone and being so fed up with things that he started vomiting in a quarry, I really began to feel like this was a truly special role and had to have a degree of difficulty involved to execute correctly. Thankfully, Tatum stepped up to the plate.
One of the more appealing parts to the character of Kurisu Makise can be found in how perfectly she plays opposite to Okabe throughout the chaotic story here. Obviously it wouldn’t work to have two maniacs running about a lab, but at the same token the role couldn’t be filled by a passive individual. The real challenge in voicing here comes in this requirement; there has to be a balance struck between sounding passionate and rational to not only sell the performance, but also succeed in it. Nishimura not only delivers some solid explanations to the “science” of the show, but she also bickers with Tatum to really hammer home the independent genius found in the character.
Being cast as Kurisu had to be a great experience, as she has some really compelling moments throughout. Someone who can put up with the “sudden” behaviors of their friend multiple times (for the first time each time, if you catch my drift) and express a wide variety of reactions and opinions to reach the same heartwarming support countless times isn’t just an ordinary character. There were, give or take, about three characters that were essential to get right in this dub, and while she might not be my favorite of the bunch, I think Nishimura did an outstanding job.
(It was really strange going from hearing her last week as Mari in Evangelion 2.22, dropping the big “F” bullet to this immediately afterward!)
Depending on who you ask, you’re going to get some wild answers to how Rinehart did in this one. Those unfazed by the difficulties of localization will probably tell you “Oh, yeah he did fine.”, while others will loudly scream from a horseback that this was the very reason they hated the dub. Where does that all stem from? Well, pretty much it boils down to two things primarily: Rinehart’s work on writing for another dub (one that came out years later) and the general replacement of dialogue in this series, mostly spoken by Daru.
When the anime Prison School aired its dub, there was a controversial line that made a Gamergate joke and, much like anything tagged to that cyclone, it set the scene ablaze. I’m not here to talk into it, but it is helpful to know that this guy (and the dubs he has been involved with) has been in the crosshairs pretty hard since last year. Somehow perfectly setting itself up in one ugly alley-oop, the Internet slang used in the dub was written with some creative liberties since the original sub was full of 2chan references. Instead, Doctor Who, 4chan, Reddit, and Star Trek references are delivered primarily through the character of Daru. From what I’ve read, these have really set people off into cringe comas, but it really wasn’t a big issue when I was watching it. Firestorm outside of the booth aside, a character like Daru is typically one of those hit-or-miss kind of comic relief guys. Most of the time with characters written like this, I kind of roll my eyes and just let their commentary pass over. I understand some people really go for that perverted kind of humor, so I don’t like to get hung up on it (unless it is really detrimental to the story). Again, credit to the writing of the story and characters, but Daru simmers with his wisecracks as the story progresses (although there are some weird moments later because of his humor mixed in with plot developments) and a much more considerate side of the hacker is showcased. Like all decent voice actors should always do, Rinehart followed suit I’m not saying he was an MVP or anything, but I thought he was fine in this one.
A dead ringer for the character closest to how I would describe my own mother with, the energetic Mayuri provides some of the most fascinating layers to the story of Steins;Gate. Not only is she the key to the call to adventure for Rintarou, but she also proves to be the main cause for his ordeal, and delivers the last push he needs to complete his journey. Through it all, she is almost constantly cheery and bridges together conflict between the various lab members. After a handful of shows about love triangles that discard their odd member’s out personalities for their roll of the dice, it is incredibly refreshing to see the third major character in a trio being reasonable.
All that being said, the amazingly versatile Ashly Burch tackles the challenge of taking on the Internet hate for someone replacing the idolized Kana Hanazawa (who, again much like everyone in it, did a great job in the sub) full speed without so much as flinching. Without sounding too much like a Skip Bayless hot take or anything, I think she actually does a better job as Mayuri than Hanazawa. While she is the epitome of innocent individuals in a gut wrenchingly dark situation, she definitely is far more cognizant of situations than she would lead on. While certainly lacking in book smarts, the character can read people really well. I feel like as dialogue progresses in the story, Burch does well reflecting the situation reading with her vocal inflections whilst maintaining that Mayuri charm. Maybe I’m just not great at voice acting awareness with subs since it is easier to pick up on things in a natural tongue, but I feel like Burch’s performance packs a punch needed to play ball in this one.
Fun fact I learned about Ashly Burch while researching for this article: While she has hasn’t been in much anime so far, she is quite active in the gaming voice acting scene (I actually recognized her as Rei in Persona Q) and has actually been nominated for both a Primetime Emmy for her writing in cartoons and her individual voice acting performances by the BAFTA! She also has a pretty successful Youtube series.
Oh, right, I almost forgot.
Chris Sabat (Every Dragon Ball Z character you loved) as Yuugo “Mr. Braun” Tennouji almost won the “X Factor” here, but don’t let the snub fool you- he kicks the whole game up a few more notches past its craziness. Unfortunately, his character didn’t get much screen time until really late in the show, which is dang shame. Combined with a downright unsettling (I seriously had to grab my headphones to make sure my roommates didn’t come knocking on my door) meltdown Jessica Cavanagh (Aquarius in Fairy Tail) gives as Moeka Kiryu, the third act of the story finishes off the job of chilling you to the bone if the events before it don’t already. Probably one of the best moments in the entire show comes from the “endgame” of these two character involvement with the plot; a rock quarry conversation that built up in such a stomach-destroying tense way that it gave me some kind of vibe right out of Seven (not linked for obvious reasons). Interestingly enough, I was hoping a variant of said scene was going to be included from the visual novel, because I had thought we might have seen a much different performance by Brina Palencia (Touka in Tokyo Ghoul) as Nae Tennouji (a little nod to the visual novel to whoever might be onto what I’m getting at there).
Lindsay Seidel (Ruuko Kominato in Selector Infected WIXOSS) solidifies her ability to be cast unisex with a unique performance as Ruka Urushibara. Saying much more would be a spoiler, but I genuinely feel like if one were to swap out 95% of other females cast as males of a certain vocal range, it would be a big upgrade. It is so easy to miss, but the way she shifts gears throughout the different events of the show in vocal inflection is pretty impressive to whoever is paying close enough attention.
Similar to the whole thing with Daru, there is another character in this show that has a...unique reason for being in there. Jad Saxton (Nona in Death Parade) plays Rumiho “Feyris” Akiha and performs this...unique role for....the unique demographic. She really isn’t in the show that much, but for what is worth, I think the directors and Saxton took the role and made it flash some pretty great bits, making as much as they can out of the character.
(Kent Williams crushes your soul as Nakabachi)
Probably one of the more complex characters, Suzuha is an absolute product of all of the great parts of Steins;Gate. On the surface, she is a carefree part-time worker beneath Rintarou’s apartment who only seems concerned with ditching work for riding her bike or attending conventions. As she catches wind on what the gang is discovering, she carries a much different reaction than the others surrounding the situation. Rather than altering things, she plays devil’s advocate to just about everything the scientific duo of Okabe and Makise (with particular disdain for the latter) is building. An oracle of sorts to the second and third acts, she becomes a mentor for the wild landscape and new realities with all of the same spunkiness.
Spunk is the word for sure, as Leigh pops solid hits into the crowded stage of invested performances here. What could very well just be a decent/above average outing turns into something special as every line and scene featuring her work feels like there was a lot of fun being had in the booth. The spunk and swagger is one of the most distinguishable signs of this, as she hums lines and pushes a very believable act. Without her, this dub would be just “Good”, but this performance made it “Excellent”.
In case you haven’t picked up on it, I really like this cast. With all of the hype and pressure on them, they were practically destined to be deafened in the flood of negative opinions for the name they had to live up to. It is ironic that the quickest criticism the English dubbing takes on from the fans is that the characters are defined as “annoying” when in actuality they are just doing exactly what should be expected of imperfect characters. There won’t be some savvy, down-to-Earth main character delivery by Tatum to start off. The entire cast plays the hands they were dealt, and played them well through it all. I really like to think there was a “Nobody believes in us!” vibe going around the office during the entire dubbing process that drove these extremely gifted voice talents, technicians, and directing team to mesh things together so well. For such a crazy ride, it has to feel really rewarding to add another tab in the outstanding legacy that is Steins;Gate.
Steins;Gate 0 is right around the corner, meaning this is the time to either replay the visual novel or rewatch the anime for the original. If people are going to watch it, chances are the sub is on the menu. Maybe there is hesitation from a previous trial run of the dub, or just being unsure to the quality. If you don’t mind waiting for the characters to develop (which you should know how long that takes if you have watched it before) or want to watch it for the first time, you won’t be discounting yourself with this invested dub. Most importantly, this dub is the epitome of the underdog story. Everybody loves an underdog story.
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