krpalmer: (anime)
[personal profile] krpalmer
The "Anime News Network" site has had a streaming video feature for a while now, but I've never got around to watching anything on it until now. The first step was seeing a notice of a special presentation on "Dubs that Time Forgot" (in two parts), but even then I didn't jump at it. As I've admitted before, the foundation of my anime fandom at my university's club seems to have left me conditioned to almost always listen to the Japanese language track and only try out English dubs with the highest and widest recommendations, not out of any "traumatic experience" in my past but just from the worried thought that I might come to find some random experience "traumatic..." Then, though, in glancing at the discussion thread about the feature on the site's message board, I noticed that the presentation included one "forgotten dub" that I had seen long years before... but more about that later.

The feature was presented by Mike Toole, who ran a site called "Anime Jump," which combined entertaining reviews (with a general interest in the English as well as the Japanese language tracks) with a definite awareness of and interest in the "kitsch" side of anime, past and present. It unfortunately hasn't been updated for a while, and I have to admit that I eventually stopped reading its message board after I got the sense that the good qualities of its community seemed for me to have become outweighed by a numbing yet somehow threatening sense of general burnout about anything new. Still, it was good to see that Mike Toole hadn't "Got Away From It All," as potentially peculiar as it might be to have not just a face but a voice attached to someone experienced for a long time just through writing. As for the feature itself, a good part of it was a presentation given at an anime convention, starting with clips from black-and-white shows from the 1960s, their line of connection to the way anime looks today just detectable to me (although, of course, I would emphasise that there's no single "anime look") and packed with plenty of strangeness. The clips progressing into colour and the 1970s continued to seem to be from things that might not be proclaimed "anime" at the first glance (although I can understand how an "international" approach would make something more likely to be brought across the Pacific those days), including an adaptation of "Heidi" famous in Japan and translated to a wide audience seemingly everywhere but in North America and some sort of feature set in ancient Greece and ridiculous in an unintentional way from what was shown. What added to the entertaining quality of all of it for me was that there seemed no trace of the clips being presented just to ridicule the "dubs" themselves, but rather as simple examples of the "unusual and amusing." The convention presentation wrapped up with two different dubs of the same scene from "Urusei Yatsura," an anime series of historic significance. The first was from an unfortunately brief dub from the early 1990s, which did give me a sense of how the pickier anime fans of the time could have formed the implacable conviction that dubs were then being ground out by the unqualified for a limited speciality-video audience, and the second was done by the BBC, which led to bizarre yet entertaining thoughts of a fusion of "English comedy" and "Japanese animation."

Then, just when I was wondering if maybe I'd misread the comments in the thread, Mike Toole appeared with special bonus segments, including the one I'd been waiting for. More than twenty years ago, one of the local small-market television stations that my family could pick up where we lived had a slate of cartoons on at noon, just when my family had bought its first VCR and could tape them. One of those cartoons was named "Thunder Sub," featuring an enormous submarine with bits of aircraft carrier and battleship in its construction (and a smaller, more conventional submarine docked underneath it), Earth's last weapon against alien invaders. It seemed to me a bit like Robotech, on TV at the same time, in that it didn't try and argue away in its dialogue that people were dying in the war. Perhaps, though, one of the things that made it stick in my mind is that I managed to miss the last episode, because back then I was still young enough to be scared of the thought of all the good guys getting killed at the end... Aggravation, it seems, can be just as effective a spur to memory as anything else.

I did eventually sort out that the program had started as an anime series, made by one of the people who had created the famous "Space Battleship Yamato" and generally dismissed in a breath as that person's attempt to keep repeating success. Not having seen "Star Blazers" in my youth, I supposed I had no standard of comparison. In any case, though, I did get to see that bit of actual nostalgia at last... but had the very ambiguous thought that, in fact, the English voice acting didn't seem nearly as exciting as some of the other stuff I had heard in the presentation itself. Perhaps I really have run into one of those mythic "things which aren't as good as I remembered them."

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