I don’t usually write stuff about animation and voice acting–plot and characters are more my thing–but since I just watched both versions of Rurouni Kenshin‘s Kyoto Arc, I’ve found myself with a little something to say. As far as voice acting goes I can’t really compare the two because they’re in different languages, but I can certainly comment on them.
Although at first I wasn’t a fan of Richard Hayworth as Kenshin, he kind of grew on me. He’s got a softness and gentleness that suits Kenshin’s manner, but his voice can be deeper and harsher at just the right moments.Sano’s dub voice also kind of got to me but now it seems absolutely perfect. He sounds cool and collected, like an adult, but he doesn’t sound so old that you don’t believe he’s nineteen. And it’s funny when he gets angry. =D
But Soujiro’s dub voice shows way too much emotion. He’s supposed to be a deadpan snarker, which is why he’s always smiling. His voice should be a lot lighter and as expressionless as possible until his breakdown with Kenshin. The voice actor did a good job with that part, because that’s when you see Soujiro actually showing emotion.
The voice that really bothers me in the dub is Misao’s. She sounds more like she’s 40 than 16 (and why they change her age to 18 for the anime I don’t know). The deepness of her voice just doesn’t fit. Especially since Misao’s a genki girl.
I think most of my problems with the dub aren’t with the actors’ voices as the script and how it was used. I suppose in dubs you try to get what your’e saying to match the mouth movements of the characters as much as possible, which is difficult since the Japanese speak so much more quickly than we do. The result can sometimes be really awkward acting and inflection and over-the-top melodrama (there’s a scene in one episode where Yahiko yells “stop it!” nearly ten times in a row without stopping *cringe*). I don’t typically notice how subs are melodramatic because I don’t have a grasp of the subtleties and inflections of Japanese, but somehow it usually just sounds better to my ears than the English. Also, the script just likes to hit you over the head with a life-message in dialogue rather than visually, which is ok to a point–but when the script gets a bit clunky and people are talking in rushed tones it makes you want to cringe. Fortunately, the overall story of the show is so good that I don’t really care and I’m enjoying watching it.
I like how the character designs seem to have cleaned up a bit–I like how we get to see serious Kenshin a lot more this arc. I wouldn’t want to mess with those eyes. And his hair seems to get longer–and sometimes more volumized (what shampoo does he use? I want it!) and his face a bit thinner. It’s kind of funny in some ways–definitely makes him look more his age when he doesn’t have his usual wide eyes (I do miss the shoujo-esque style though).
Quick digression: I never actually thought about the significance of Kenshin’s eyes much. I know that wider eyes are used to show youth or innocence, and Kenshin isn’t young enough that they’d use those eyes for him– he’s 30, not 13. Whenever he’s got Battousai eyes, his eyes are usually much narrower, more like Saito’s, Sano’s, Shishio’s, and Hiko’s. However, after he’s learned his new sword move and isn’t in danger of going into Battousai mode, sometimes his eyes only narrow a little bit–for the most part they still remain wide. I suppose I’m probably reading a bit too much into this, but I think that the eye shape/size here is supposed to represent the two different lifestyles Kenshin has lived: one involving lots of heaviness and harshness; the other, gentleness, kindness, and peacefulness.
Back to what I was saying: The characters just generally seem less rough and the lines more clean and defined. And is it just me or did Sano, Saito, Aoshi, and Kenshin suddenly become more…bishie, all of a sudden? I also kind of like the light in the eyes effect which they seem to be using a lot in this arc. What I DON’T like are all the crazy inverted colors used when a character is shocked. It just seems…tacky and distracting. Once or twice is kind of effective, but every. freakin’. time.
I liked the Shishio fight: I felt it had just the right number of episodes, and I liked some of the actual swordplay (despite having no knowledge of what is realistic or not). I think my favorite fight in the Kyoto Arc, though, was Kensin vs. Aoshi. Those episodes have crisp animation and I felt like you could actually see some of the fighting that was going on. (Shishio is a different story altogether: you can see some of the moves and stuff, but he’s pretty much invincible until he burns up. I guess that goes along with the idea that evil ends up consuming itself even if the good guys don’t seem to win against it…).
SO, for the reanimation:
I liked being able to hear the Japanese voices for the characters, even if I didn’t like all of them. It’s still weird to hear Kenshin voiced by a woman even though you do get used to it. I just think they should’ve had a bit of a manlier voice. Even though Kenshin could be mistaken for a woman it’s usually pretty clear he’s supposed to be a man. So I kind of want him to sound a bit more like one. And Sano’s voice in this sub just seems a little too old for his 19 years (to my ears).
The art was wonderful and pretty, definitely a bit different from the manga and anime style: this reanimation has things a bit more proportionate (in an anime way) and delicate and detailed, much prettier and more…effeminate is the wrong word but I can’t think of the right one. Prettified. That’s what I’ll go with.
I feel, though, that the animators were just like, “the audience knows the story so to HECK with making the story COMPELLING we’re just going to prettify EVERYTHING.” The way in which the story deviated from its source material made it less effective, and the fight with Shishio was anti-climatic. The original anime doesn’t really change anything that happens. It’s like they just sacrificed everything to art in the OVA.
One way they DID use visual imagery to convey something, which I thought was a nice touch, was the rattle Arai Seiku made for his son. It seemed so much more effective than him just wanting to sell knives and added force to his words without bludgeoning you over the head with them.
Minor Points on the Story, the Reanimation, and Stuff
In the end, I was disappointed with the new Kyoto Arc because it seemed generally anticlimactic and changed too much of the story. I mean, Kenshin and Shishio fighting on the ship, barely trading blows because the ship is heaving in the sea, and then Kenshin slicing Shishio’s head in half? What about the rurouni’s no kill policy? And then that totally unnecessary sex scene which leaves both little and entirely too much to the imagination. I suppose I’m more sensitive to sexual content in media, but considering that the scene is not in the manga and besides having some dialogue from Shishio that could have been delivered in a different situation, I’m not very forgiving of it.
And this revamped arc was so dark! In the series there’s hope, and even some comedy, but the OVA was extremely serious, with no levity that I remember. I know if I watch Trust & Betrayal I’ll get darkness too. I suppose as long as there is something meaningful in a darker portrayal I can appreciate it (I like King Lear and much prefer it with Cordelia’s death because it shows how life is and doesn’t try to sugarcoat things), so I’ll have to try T&B sometime.
*zones out for a minute as eyes widen*
I just had the most interesting epiphany. Shishio’s a little bit of a hypocrite. Just a little. Firstly, he takes in Soujiro Seta, someone who he acknowledges as weak, and helps to make him stronger. I thought the flesh of the weak was the food of the strong…and yes one could argue that Shishio saw a certain kind of strength in him, or potential for it. But that doesn’t explain why he would decide to help a weak person become strong, considering that he doesn’t seem to have done that before AND that it goes against his philosophy. You don’t help a weak person, you destroy them–or eat them. Blech. Secondly, (don’t quote me on this because I’m only going by the dub and not the manga) he claims he’s an honorable fighter but then uses different fighters to wear his opponents down before he actually fights them. If he really wanted to be honorable, he should face them all in peak condition–if he’s as powerful as he says it shouldn’t matter. Now I’m not saying that what he was doing wasn’t smart or anything–it just seems very cowardly of Shishio because of how he presents himself.
Ok. Wow. I have SO MANY other posts in the works. I’ll eventually get to the second part of my Betches rant. And those Doctor Who posts I’m writing. Then there’s the one on fanfiction. And I want to start doing Quick Take Fridays….why oh why do all the best ideas come when I have other pressing matters to attend to?
*sigh* Yet I shall endure.