Unless you’ve been living underneath a rock for the past year, chances are you have at least heard of the juggernaut of a film Your Name. and just how much it has won over fans worldwide. Released 7 April 2017 for a U.S. theatrical run, many had their first taste of the wild romance that crosses time itself. Compared to a lot of the dubs I cover for this series, I went into this one almost completely blind to who was cast. Needless to say, I was wowed by this FUNimation Productions dub. So what all worked? Let’s find out.
While it was a fact I learned afterward, one of the most incredible parts to this dub was how the two lead roles were also the directors running things in the entire process. Given how much dialogue the duo had throughout, it doesn’t particularly surprise me that at least one of them had a lot to do with the direction, but both of them being behind it all makes things all the more admirable in consideration.
Chances are when a lot of anime fans hear Sinterniklaas’ name, there aren’t many bells being rang for them. As soon as they hear him, however, it is hard not to recognize the talent. Where most of his distinguishing roles come from, however, break the normal mold for a voice actor. Typically a voice talent not circled on a cast list for fans has had background with an outlet like video games, but Sinterniklaas has paved his way with pushing out fantastic work in various Western animated works. The easiest roles for anyone who grew up through the early 2000s are his (arguably lead) performance as Leonardo in the 2003 rendition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the hysterical Dean Venture in The Venture Bros. Using those two as prime examples, it is easy to tell just how there is a great fit into his roles, no matter how overlooked they are. Without sounding biased, one of my personal favorite anime films, Patema Inverted, also featured the talent as the lead role (this was actually on my short list for future Dubs w/ Dil articles).
His comfortable voice fits right in with any cast, but the audience is simply spoiled by having him for this entire film. Even as things take wild, dramatic turns, Sinterniklaas stays right on beat with every curve and helps the dubbing polished in a way that I can’t seem to remember in recent dubs. There’s just enough fire in his voice to tell he can be hot headed at times, but it doesn’t insult the intelligence of the audience with loud, hasty tantrums. Even when in a body swap, the adjustments to his voice feel just enough without getting out of hand (no need to pop up nine octaves). There are so many different ways to convey emotion without cookie-cutter declarations or tonal shifts, and the awareness to such points is a commendable bit by the directing duo.
Speaking of directing, Sinterniklaas has put up quite the resume as an ADR director. With this film, he sits at seventeen total projects in the position, speaking volumes to his awareness to what works in a dub. His success in this role should really come to no surprise when it is learned that he is a veteran in his own right. Hopefully with the international success of this film, there will be more of this skilled talent/director in the near future.
At this point, there isn’t much else I can really say about Sheh’s performances as a voice actress that I have not made clear in the past. Between the incredible range and control she exhibits flawlessly for even the smallest of supporting roles and her track record in paving the way for aspiring voice actors the past two decades, it is hard to dispute there is a certain swagger she brings into a project. On potentially the biggest stage not only anime has been on in recent memory, but also the biggest one that a dub has been viewed (with a large fraction of fans usually sticking to subs and cursing the name of dubs), it is hard to imagine leaving Sheh off of the short list for voice talents to be involved.
When it comes to the actual content, the actress was in rare form as the shrine maiden Mitsuha. Similarly to Sinterniklaas, whenever a body swap is taking place, the adjustments to the character’s voice are just enough to sell the point without doing too much. In fact, I felt that Sheh managed to work in one of the most impressive ranges in the moments where Taki was in control of Mitsuha. Often times, if you hear a voice actor enough- be it from playing a super long RPG or long running series- it is impossible not to identify them as the longest running role in your mind. For example, when Mitsuha is herself, I hear just enough of the same voice Sheh used as Yui in K-On! (primarily why I credited that has one of her roles above). When swapped with the Tokyo boy, however, there is a unique role that doesn’t automatically click for me. This might sound like an oversight by myself (it could very well be that there is a role she has done that sounded identical), however there is a lot to be credited to the fact that after all this time there can be performances pulled out of her sleeves. She hits the highs when they are prime for the picking, and brings the freight train of emotion down on the big scenes the film is known for (seriously, that scene was the best dubbed emotional moment I’ve ever heard).
While I usually don’t go into the actors themselves, but with two invested leads/directors, it feels unfair not to highlight the talents themselves. Simply put, I don’t think there will ever been enough to be said on exactly what Stephanie Sheh has done for English dubbing in anime and video games. As early as Sailor Moon and as recent as this film, there has been a distinguished footprint left. Her page (linked above) has her roles currently at 309 credits for 290 titles. There is a legacy of voice acting there. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that there might be other actors with larger figures than that, so I mean this to no discredit of their accomplishments. What I’m trying to say is that we are never going to truly appreciate what this outstanding talent has done for voice acting until it is all said and done. Not to always bring it to sports analogies, but she is a lot like active basketball legend LeBron James- fans are given immortal like production year after year without fail by what could possibly be the greatest of all time without even realizing they are taking it for granted. Thousands of fans have exhausted themselves in backyard hoops with the slightest hope to match the passion the star forward brings to his games. In parallel, aspiring voice actors have exhausted themselves in makeshift closet recording booths with the slightest hope to match the passion the star talent brings to her roles. It’ll be impossible to fully appreciate what James has done for his craft until he retires and there is no longer a LeBron James in basketball. Identically, it’ll be impossible to fully appreciate what Sheh has done for her craft until she retires and there is no longer a Stephanie Sheh in voice acting.
With Persona 5 dropping this month, it is understandable that April 2017 will go down in the book as notable for Morris for her role as the talking cat, Morgana. This isn’t a knock on her performance in the hit PS4 game (I quite enjoy the entire English cast), but I’m a little disappointed that not many will pay attention to a really solid support role in this film as Mitsuha’s school friend, Sayaka. For as few of roles there are to go around outside of the main duo, everyone gives really convincing lines with their limited time in the dub. Digging into the same applaudable approach that Sheh took with her character, I noticed a pretty unique voice for Morris’ role here. At a lot of times, it was the familiar sounding acting, but there were just enough differences in mannerisms that set Sayaka apart from the other Morris roles. I’m not saying audiences need to throw their copies of Persona 5 out the window, but take a minute to appreciate the other Morris role this month.
Hebert is one of the best action voices around in anime, but it is a fun change of pace to see the high energy, poster-worthy line reading wonder take on a tame role as another friend of Mitusha’s, Katsuhiko. Instead of aiming for the stars and rallying people or doing battle with a lifetime rival of martial arts with that unforgettable voice of his, Hebert scoffs and bickers with the other cast members in the village of Itomori. Whereas the other actors surprise with new sounding roles, I’m thoroughly impressed how well Hebert’s go to voice works here. I would wager that if he were to try it more often, he could make a killing as a slice of life lead sometime soon.
Rather than squeak by as the crush character that a male protagonist loses interest in for someone else, I really liked how significant Ms. Okudera was in the story. Fittingly, Post gives voice to a young woman who is insightful and concerned for a younger co-worker. Exchanges with her sound like there is a lot of thought into how Taki isn’t quite himself sometimes or how he isn’t losing his mind when their trip to the mountains takes an unexpected turn. A lot of the attention to details are subtle, but enough to win me over with the role. My awareness of her work was previously restricted to the antagonist (which I won’t go into details over for spoiler’s sake) in the fantastic dub to Kill la Kill. That being said, this was a very different role that left me curious to hear her in projects to come.
As extremely limited as Taki’s friends were, I liked what I heard from Ben Pronsky and Ray Chase as Tsukasa Fujii and Shinta Takagi respectively.
I looked around good for more roles with them cast, but I couldn’t find anything for Catie Harvey and Glyins Ellis whom play the little sister (Yotsuha) and grandmother (Etsuko) of Mitsuha. A real shame too, because I was quite amused by Harvey’s backtalk and exposition by Ellis.
There are a lot of minor roles that had a line or two with pretty noteworthy names, but I won’t list them all here for the sake of keeping it concise. Just know that there aren’t any bad lines to be found here, which can be rare for a film.
Chemistry is the name of the game in this film. Between Sinterniklaas and Sheh there are a lot of great supporting pieces that compliment the moments perfectly. With all of the swapping going on, there are four different characters driving the story really, posing an interesting challenge for maintaining a nucleus. Not unexpected of the fantastic direction, things never miss a beat as all logic goes out the window and feelings rule the narrative. Romances live and die based off of how well they can sell the couples, and Taki/Mitsuha are positioned for a magical opportunity a lot of romances don’t get to get with their pairings. The characters get to be one another, taking the expression “learn another by walking miles in their shoes” to new, literal heights. What starts as the obvious fear of the unusual change between the duo builds into heart throbbing love for not only one another, but also the dreams of one another. In addition, Morris/Herbert quietly make their characters have a ton of chemistry with all of their bickering and support of their best friend. The subtle duo, along with the two AAA voice actors step up and hammer home every note in a masterful way, demanding this dub be experienced over and over again.
I wrote recently in response to a film based off of a popular manga/anime that we were an indefinite time away from anime reaching the States in an impactful way. It would be delusional of me to say this film champions the cause for making that vision any closer (unfortunately), but this certainly is the right step. The film flirts with perfection, and can say it has every element down pact. For those who look towards the sort of thing, this is bar none the dub experience of a generation. I was moved to tears not by the film or the actual acting as the credits rolled, but rather the reality that this was a truly remarkable opportunity I received to go see such a breathtaking dub in theaters. I looked over to the others I came with, and they were still soaking in the experience themselves. Overwhelmed with feeling ranging from amazement to raw determination to voice act, I was the first of our party to stand up (granted, I was in such a daze that I ended up being the last one to actually leave).
It might not be from this past weekend’s premier or the initial home release to come, but this work is going to inspire people. As with most anime, writers and animators will admire it- but thanks to this dub, aspiring vocal talents will take flight.
Please let me know if there is a dub you’d like to see, and I will give it a shot. I appreciate all of the support and hope you have a great day.
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