In 2016 I heard about the Kickstarter for a new English dub for my all-time favourite anime, The Vision of Escaflowne. A fan group on Facebook had posted the link to the Kickstarter on their page, so of course I had to check it out. I loved the original English dub and didn’t really see the need for a new dub, but ended up participating in the Kickstarter anyways (more for the backer rewards than anything).
A little backstory: Escaflowne was originally dubbed in English by Bandai/Ocean Studios in Vancouver, BC (Canada). (I’m listing both studios because Escaflowne’s Wiki pages have both listed, but on different pages. The main Escaflowne wiki page says Bandai but other pages say Ocean.) However, because the FULL, uncut series was never released and aired in North America as it was in Japan, fans outside of Japan had only ever had the “western version” of the show. As I came to learn, the Kickstarter’s purpose was to:
- Release the entire series as it was intended to be shown, including all deleted footage (aka what was originally shown in Japan).
- Give both this new version of the series and the 2000 movie a new dub, and include the original Japanese dialogue track with HD sound
- Put Escaflowne on HD Blu-ray for the first time
So, that’s why Escaflowne was getting a new dub; I could now see the reasoning behind the idea. However as someone who is a diehard fan of the original English dub, how would this new dub hold up to my expectations?
The answer is that it’s something of a mixed bag. Some thoughts contributing to that conclusion are based on personal preference and others are based on how the new dub was actually delivered.
First things first: the cast. It’s easier for me to overlook the repetitiveness of certain seiyuu in Japanese dubs because Japanese is not my first language. I am often able to pick up on a seiyuu who has played a role in another title I’ve already seen, but I assume that because it’s not in my native English the issue doesn’t irritate me like it does when I can distinguish between English voice actors. I was pleased to see that this new Funimation dub was a nice mix of both seasoned voice actors and people whose names I didn’t recognize. Great, fresh blood!
And before you jump all over me for being irritated about “the same 12 people being used in most English dubs”, this video does an amazing job at exploring why that sometimes happens. It doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like hearing the same voice actors over and over (especially when their characters sound similar to each other), but I watched the video and came to better understand why it happens. #babysteps
The other downside to the new cast is… I honestly am not a fan of Vic Mignogna’s voice acting style. Please don’t hate me. I am not saying that he is not talented or skilled at what he does, because he definitely is, I am just saying that I tend to lean away from projects he voice acts in. I think part of that is because TO ME (perhaps even subconsciously) some of his characters sound similar to each other? [ shrugs ] THAT BEING SAID I do think he does a decent job with Folken’s character in this new Funimation dub.
Anyways, onto the review. Last year I sat down to watch the first 4 episodes (with the new Funimation dub) with a handful of friends who love Escaflowne as much as I do, and these were my thoughts and observations:
1– I fully admit that I love the Bandai/Ocean dub of Escaflowne so much that it’s one of maybe 2 or 3 titles that I will willingly watch in English over watching it in Japanese with subtitles (which is my norm). Thus going into this new dub analysis I worked hard to try to overcome my biases towards the original English voice actors.This is where my mixed bag description comes in. I enjoyed the new cast (the characters introduced up to episode 4 anyways), but felt that some characters had “changed” better than others. For example in the new dub, Caitlin Glass has the role of Hitomi. She does a good job but listening to her as Hitomi made me realize that I think the reason why I’m so drawn to Kelly Sheridan’s voice is the emotion she puts into Hitomi’s character. Hitomi is a very emotional character, especially in the beginning as she’s thrown into Gaea and has to adjust to people, places and situations she’s never seen before. Caitlin’s Hitomi is a bit more level in her temperament. Is there anything wrong with this? Nope, just a matter of personal preference.
With Van, I think Kirby Morrow will just always be Van to me. I am very used to Van having a deep, rough voice, and Aaron Dismuke’s take on Van doesn’t quite meet that tone. Again, does this mean it’s bad? Absolutely not. I tried hard to overcome this bias but this might be one of the few examples where I think I just prefer what I prefer. Kirby’s Van has a rougher, deeper voice that (to me) reflects the pain and guilt associated with losing his family and having to deal with high expectations being placed on him from a young age.
I already mentioned that I think Vic Mignogna does a good job with Folken, a lot better than how I thought the character would sound using his voice. As for Dilandau I think his change was the most drastic BUT in a good way. In the original Bandai/Ocean dub, Dilandau sounded just as unbalanced as he looked and behaved. His voice was higher-pitched and maniacal. In this new Funimation dub Dilandau is voiced by Joel McDonald and while I think some of that instability is gone, now Dilandau sounds like a much darker character. His voice is deeper and he sounds almost… haughty? Arrogant? Regardless of how you want to describe this new Dilandau, Joel gets a big thumbs up from me.
And Merle’s finally not a whiny, annoying little shit. xD
2– Having been privileged to grow up with Japanese culture and anime in my life for 20+ years now, I am a huge stickler for following Japanese phonetics when dubbing anime. The original Bandai/Ocean dub did this brilliantly: He-toh-me. A-mah-no. Dih-lan-dau. Everyone’s names sounded the way they would be pronounced in Japanese, minus the obvious conversion of sounds to compensate for the sounds Japanese doesn’t make (th, v, l, ch).The Funimation dub? For the most part it’s ok….? ^^;; From my limited notes (having only seen the first few episodes), the names and terms which stood out to me as sounding awkward were: Amano (Am-ano), Dilandau (Dill-an-dow), and guymelef (guym-elef). There might have been a couple others, but those were the ones that stood out enough that I made note of them. (Actually, Dilandau’s in particular made me giggle because I’ve seen the nickname “Dilly-sama” used in fanfiction and on other sites, and Funimation’s pronunciation of Dilandau’s name reminded me of that.)
Is this a dealbreaker in terms of whether this makes the Funimation dub good or not? No, but it’s something that I think should have perhaps been researched and executed a little better. I’m also aware that this may only be an issue for me, so if you’re not bothered by some of the pronunciations in the new dub then please take this point with a giant grain of salt, or just ignore it entirely.
3– A big plus for me is that many conversations in the Funimation dub are much more detailed. For example, in episode two Van and Hitomi are found on Gaea by Van’s furry friend and brought to Fanelia on the back of a giant ox-like creature. Van’s friend goes into detail about how the light of the Mystic Moon has been brighter than usual and makes reference to some of Fanelia’s legends, which apparently mention how some of Fanelia’s people have traveled to the Mystic Moon and back. This is information which was left out of the original dub (as far as I can remember), and I’ve been thrilled to re-watch the series and hear details which were not included in the original western release. (On a side note, that example I just gave – it explains why Hitomi finds a CD from Earth in the Asturian marketplace a few episodes later, something I’d always wondered about when I was younger but wasn’t able to connect the dots on.)
Oki mentioned in their review of the new Sailor Moon dub that the Sailor Moon English cast had three sets of previous dubs to base their characters off of, and it makes me grateful that Escaflowne only has two (the original English and Japanese dubs, respectively). If there were multiple casts to compare voice actors to (think Dragonball Z airing in North America), I don’t know if I’d been quite as receptive to the new Funimation dub. To borrow a few of Oki’s words: will this new Escaflowne dub please all fans? No. Should it? Honestly, yes. Even though I have some peculiar issues with some issues like pronunciation, they’re specific to me and not indicative of the quality of this new Funimation dub. Given that this new dub was funded entirely by fans I think that the people participating in the fundraiser got their money’s worth. (And we got some awesome swag!)
Plus you know, if you watch this new dub (or listen to it in Japanese, whatevs) you get to see all of the unedited, previously unreleased footage in all of its brilliant HD glory. Pair that with new, fleshed out conversations which add extra details to the plot and you have yourself a wonderfully immersive experience. (Nevermind the gorgeous OSTs, OMG!) If you have never seen The Vision of Escaflowne I very highly recommend that you give this new re-release (and the 2000 movie) a watch. I’m only up to episode 4 of the TV series myself but I fully intend to finish watching the rest of it.
Final Dub Score: 8.75/10