There is a confounding discovery that never ceases to amaze with anime- a heavily rich series in its own right sometimes has a direct influence on many others that had come after it. Suddenly, there are dots connected between various shows and video games near and dear and it leaves us shaking our heads with a grin, practically saying “Of course. Why didn’t I know about this sooner?” The David Production 2012 smash hit JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a poster child for such a dawning that not only I personally had, but plenty of fans of anime in general came to. With no prior knowledge of the franchise, the roots became obvious seeing the manga outdated myself all the way to the late eighties! Imagine all of the beautiful media projects that have come after JJBA did, and ponder how many of them borrow a lot of elements from the various journeys of the Joestar name (Persona, for example, has had a great influence by parts three and four of JoJo).
While this might be growing old to hear, there were pretty massive shoes to fill in bringing together a wild world that spans multiple generations. Co-directors Kevin McMullan (Coppelion) and Patrick Seitz (Your Lie in April, Fire Emblem: Awakening) really brought a Hamon filled punch with this 2015 Viz Media dubbing.
It feels like Bosch has been all over anime and games for quite some time. The former Power Ranger landed the lead role in two of the mid-2000s biggest hits out west (Code Geass and Bleach) and proceeded to lend his recognizable voice in a majority of the following years’ top dubs. At one point, he even landed the role as not only the protagonist, but also the antagonist in the PS2/Vita classic Persona 4 games. For such a decorated star in voice acting, what could possibly be next? The answer is what you’d least expect- JYB hit the mark with the most over the top British accent that somehow works incredibly well within his vocal range.
In several books over voice acting, there is a general consensus that accents should never be messed with unless they are executed really well. While I’m not ready to call Bosch’s performance something worthy of getting The King’s Speech level of accent speaking praise, it most certainly was more charming than half of the American actors who miserably tried to flex a British accent over the years. What it lacks in mechanics, it makes up for in safety and camp. Throughout the heat of the battles, deep story and fascinating visuals of Phantom Blood, there is so much going on that the accent is almost lost in the ride. Short of actually casting someone who speaks it naturally, not hamstringing a talent with it is the literal best case scenario here.
Starting off as child in the first part of JJBA (known as Phantom Blood), it isn’t hard to get a read on the original Joestar hero- he comes off as a little rude despite being a gentleman at heart. Spanning his adolescence and growth into the classiest man to ever box an apocalyptic vampire into submission, Bosch does a remarkable job evolving his tone and drive in the character’s words accordingly. Life throws pretty rough punches at Jonathan (albeit supernatural ones) that fuel a passionate fire brighter and brighter in his heart. Keeping the same steady voice would have gotten by just fine, but there is so much to commend Bosch in turning up the dial with each hardship.
Think about the last time a director stole his own show with a performance. What comes to mind? Ben Affleck, Clint Eastwood, and Sylvester Stallone all come to mind for recent years’ films for sure, but what about in anime? Correct me if I’m wrong, but there hasn’t ever really been someone who stepped into the booth and said “I got this.” to nail the role. Plenty of top tier actors moved to the other side of the booth after success, but an active director starring is a real unicorn in the industry. Seitz grants a gift to all of voice acting with the chillingly awesome hateful man turned fiend Dio Brando.
Right from the jump, Seitz owns the role and every scene he is in thanks to a deep range that is so audibly smooth that it gives nothing shy of goosebumps. Toying with desperate people at the end of the barrel, cursing over the fortune of his most hated rival, and feigning innocence in his youth, Dio leaves an uneasy fog in the air that keeps the viewer on their toes. In hitting every violent mood swing and diabolical laugh perfectly, Seitz supplements an already stellar character. One of the biggest surprises was how he took a hailed catchphrase in “MUDA MUDA MUDA” and made it just as fun in English with a crescendo “USELESS USELESS USELESS”. It would be tough to decide who would be my top choice for “voice I wish I had”, but Seitz is on my Mt. Rushmore of voices after hearing him in this.
Serving as Jonathan’s mentor for a good chunk of the first cour, Will A. Zeppeli introduces the powers of breathing and energy in Hamon (AKA Ripple). Accompanying the new side of the show, I felt that Ochman did a really good job wearing the hat (no pun intended) of being a role model for the young hero. When someone is being a good mentor, they typically sound friendly enough to be approached and learn from, but not giving enough slack to ease their training. Sometimes cold, but always moving for his pupil in the ends, Ochman brings the old Zeppeli to life.
Earlier I mentioned British accents being pulled off well, and this project managed to make not one but two main characters effective. Probably best known for his role as “Numbah One” in Cartoon Network’s Codename: Kids Next Door, Diskin plays the mischievous goofball Joseph Joestar exactly how you would expect hearing a silly natured foreigner visiting North America. His classic antics are often put down in the dub for how they sound to critics, but there really is not any better way to draw it up than what they do in the second part of the series, known as Battle Tendency.
Wherein someone like Jonathan abandoned the streak of mischief after adversity strikes, there really isn’t a point where Joseph outright abandons his ways (he even uses them for some of the endgame fights), welcoming the challenge of acting a fool in the midst of life or death conflict. Switching between clowning around and bringing out a high amount of energy in lines sounds like an exhausting thing to do, but there really isn’t a point in the series Diskin feels particularly worse than before. Chalk it up partially as the dubbing team doing an amazing job, but kudos to him for keeping the fun in Joseph for the journey.
Everything that Will A. Zeppeli was in a cool head that matched the gentleman Joestar, Caesar is the same for the hot headed Joseph- prideful, sharp and expecting. Fueled by his convictions, Caesar attempts to take on battling the antagonists of Battle Tendency alone. Such fire and distancing from others feels accurately judged by how much Papenbrook puts into the role. From romantically wooing women in expensive restaurants to looking death in the eyes, Papenbrook pops off the lines with a very unique identity.
The character development of the duo in part two really match one another, as they come together and open up more of their once tunnel vision ways for something that feels entertaining to see however brief it might last. Papenbrook has been one of my favorite voice actors popping up far more frequently since the turn of the decade, and I expect more great performances from the talent.
Due to her character being a very stoic individual, it can be easy to discount Lee’s performance as the master Hamon user hidden away from most of society. Until towards the last act of Battle Tendency, there is a ton of mystery about who Lisa Lisa is and where her focus lies. Such character is really hard to get right in a dub, because a lot of direction will have the voice actor/actress be as short as possible for yank emotion from their lines. It might get passing marks and go down as a normal dub, but there are huge risks to pulling a move that could suck chemistry right out of the air. The worst part of it all? Usually when it happens, it isn’t noticed until the whole product is looked at in retrospect. With that being said, it is commendable that Lee forgo a bland cold performance in place for something mature and calculated sounding.
There is a ton of strength in Lisa Lisa’s lines that give hints of internal convictions that have slowly boiled for years without outright screaming them on the screen. By the time the audience learns of her past, it comes as no surprise what she took upon herself afterwards since we not only see (the actual anime itself) but also hear the incredible dubbing by Lee. Could be one of the most sneaky good roles I’ve ever heard in an already crowded talent show of acting.
The Dio Brando of sorts for part two, Kars is a villain that doesn’t really flex his muscles (no pun intended) until after the other antagonists are defeated in a very video game-esque fashion. To feed off of that concept, the expectation of a last bad guy in a video game is to sound like the collection of all of the evil faced so far and be the most memorable personification of the journey’s adversity. While I do not feel that Kars fully manifested this structure, it is hard to argue that the final episodes of the series did not set him up as a pretty vile character. For what it is worth, it is pretty hard to be a follow up act to something like Dio Brando as well.
All of the “Pillar Men”, the bad guys of Battle Tendency, sound really good for their respective roles and leave it really hard to try to single one out from one another. However, John DeMita strikes the “developing evil” kind of character type right on the head with the horrific result of a German experiment with ancient evil. I was particularly fond of the exchanges he had with Diskin’s Joseph Joestar role in the epic finale- a highly intellectual being going back and forth with a man who had equally strong street smarts and iron wit. An otherwise stereotypical villain feels right in place with the rest of the cast thanks to the clutch performance by DeMita.
What, did you really think I forgot about the best character (objectively) of the entire JJBA franchise?!
Getting the role of Speedwagon down might be one of the most critical things to take in consideration for an English telling of the odd epic. In many ways, he serves as the voice of the first part and a large contributor to it in the second. The criminal turned honorable business man follows the Joestar family from the very beginning of the war with Dio and all the way until the Pillar Men are taken care of. Shy of the first few episodes, there are pages of dialogue that need filled with his role as the supernatural John Madden of sorts.
Silverstein brings a very warm and endearing voice to Speedwagon that charts the emotions of the conflicts and travels scarily accurate. Proclaiming a jaw dropping feat of strength by Jonathan or heartbreaking mourning for what appears to be the end of a dear friend, Silverstein makes an already genuine character all the better. There are so many little moments he supplements the mood or ups the chemistry between characters like a caring friend might ease the mood between a couple of individuals at odds with one another. When the logical way of thinking has to be discarded for the insane action, he pops off a campy mixture of obvious observations and awesome one liners that compose scenes almost as smoothly as the vocal direction already has. More projects could use a Speedwagon aboard, which is to say they could use someone like Silverstein, too.
As someone who knew nothing outside of the Internet memes going into my watching of JJBA, I assumed that the character of Erina was going to be a “one and done” kind of performance (the way that they sell it, Dio all but drives her away from Jonathan before the big time jump and things burn the house down). I was certainly surprised she came back, and even more surprised she made an appearance in the second part for her grandson, Joseph. Ruff does a great job selling the romance of the first cour and generally leaves one of the fans’ favorites in Erina on the right foot by the end of her outing.
There comes a time where a character is so campy in a series that they simply cannot be omitted. Sometimes they work (Mr. T) and sometimes they are the worst things to happen to entire fan-bases (Jar Jar Binks) with a majority of chances leaning towards the Jar Jar territory. Thankfully, von Stroheim and all of German science provide genuine laughs throughout otherwise serious conditions for Joseph, Caesar, and the others. If it speaks any to his effect on the mood, von Stroheim shows up literally moments after it appears a major character is about to die and somehow detaches the audience away from the stakes in such a way that doesn’t overdo it.
Dan Woren is not shy of oddball roles- he nails appearances and establishes such a unique voice that leaves an immediate realization as to who he is. The accent mixed with his wacky style is heaven-sent and beckons for a project that collects well known talents to do over-the-top accents to a serious plot.
This is the last time I make the point about the accents, I swear. You could take anyone and throw them into the minor role of Suzie-Q here, but they really made a gutsy call by using Sheh. If nothing else, getting to hear the usual voice that she dominated roles with the past decade with a goofy accent was oh so worth it. To all of the people upset about the accent commentary, I must say “Now, now, let’s not get all clicky fingers.”
Robbie Daymond made a pretty likable character in Smokey who accompanies Speedwagon in providing commentary to the fights (after all, someone needs to accompany a man who draws comparisons to John Madden to prevent certain things from happening).
In addition to DeMita as Kars, Chris Jai Alex, Paul St Peter, and Kaiji Tang turned out outstanding performances as the base toned bad guy team of Pillar Men representing Esidisi, Wamuu and Santana respectfully.
Dave Mallow gives a vastly different character between parts as Straits, albeit a small one.
There are a ton of extra minor roles in this series, and not one stood out as poor, however I would kick myself if I didn’t say that David Vincent is on my wishlist for “Guys I want to narrate my life” with what he did for narrating the few spots that needed narration in JJBA.
Compared to the dramas, thrillers, and slice of life anime we have covered so far, there really hasn’t been any conflict between the characters cast. As much as how well voices feed off of one another in those others is essential, in something like JoJo, the chemistry is entirely on how well the marquee matchup feels. Enemies better either hate one another to the fabric of their being and generations to come or have compelling reasons for playing opposite to one another or else the chemistry won’t feel anything less than a casualty of the cliché.
Bosch and Seitz take part in some twisted dance that has everything you want to hear in a passionate hatred for one another- passionate slugfests, awkward rugby matches, and lifetime blood feuds. One of the best beefs in anime needs two grade A performances for it to work, and it sure does.
As for the second part, a majority of the chemistry comes from Diskin and Papenbrook with their different outlooks on their battle with evil. Admittedly one of the worst clichés for a team aspect (you know, the disaster of a team butting heads and coming together after things get real), the duo manages it nonetheless. It is no beautiful dance between the first duo, but there is plenty to like here.
With each passing day of becoming more and more familiar with the world of anime, I quietly dread the day there won’t be overwhelming moments of greatness and discovery like the ones I had experiencing JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. With only a couple test episodes done (which is a shame, because it sounded amazing) for the third part of the series, Stardust Crusaders, it is hard to say if there will be a dub for the franchise any further past part two (more than likely because of the size of the entire third part of the series). Even if it meant skipping to part four, Diamond is Unbreakable, I really would like to see a dub come around for this slam dunk of a series. Without a doubt, McMullan and Seitz have to be at the helm though, because they did a masterful job adding another layer to JoJo appeal.
Thanks for all of the suggestions for dubs! I have tons to watch and analyze thanks to your support. Hope the new year is off to a good start, and I’m glad to have you here today. Have a great one!
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