Yup it’s finally that time. The be all end all of dubbing. The Alpha and the Omega. The pinnacle of all human accomplishment in dub form. The dub so good that it can actually delete the Japanese audio from existence if the two tracks ever get too close to each other. The one dub that is generally considered to be at the very least “bearable” even amongst the most vile and vicious of dub haters. Now, I normally try my best to completely omit the Japanese track when I’m deciding whether or not I hated a dub, because I frankly don’t care about how well the two compare to each other, they’re two different things and I judge them as such. However, since the Bebop dub is generally labeled as “better” than the Japanese track, I’ve decided I’m going to forgo that rule and not even bother considering the English track its own thing. Yeah it’s petty and trite but I’m a petty and trite person and on the scale of annoying, vehement Bebop dub enthusiasts rank somewhere just below people who spend all day masturbating to Avant-Garde bullshit and hipsters.
Is the dub good? Yes. Is the dub great? Sure. Is the dub a fucking Godsend when compared to the dubs of its time? Yeah. Does it hold up as the pinnacle of all dubbing? No. Is it incomprehensibly better than the Japanese track? Fuck no!
I’m not surprised that this dub failed to live up to its hype, but I am surprised by the level it failed to live up to its hype. I never thought it would reach levels where I could agree that the dub is superior to the Japanese track, but I did think (or more accurately… hope) that the dub would at least be dead-even with the Japanese track in terms of overall quality. Unfortunately, the dub falls short of that. Now it’s not a bad dub and if I wasn’t comparing it to the Japanese track I probably would have more than enough nice things to say about it… but again, after spending years hearing about how amazingly awesome this dub is, I’m going to bitch about it for not being apex it was supposed to be. Side note: I also watched the movie which I enjoyed the dub for more than the TV series.
Spike Speigle (
David Lucas Steven Blum). The more I expose myself to American voice acting and actually pay attention to the actors, the more I discover Steve Blum is the voice acting version of Christopher Walken or John Caradine. If you make a product that requires voice acting and you record that voice acting within 1,000 miles of Steve Blum, I’m pretty sure by law he has to be in it. Now, Steve Blum has an awesome voice, I will not argue this. (In fact even beyond the realm of anime acting Steve Blum has an awesome voice.) My problem comes from the fact that a voice actor needs more than a cool voice, they need to act. Steve Blum doesn’t ever seem to act. He’s like John Wayne, he always seems to be playing himself and the few times where I’ve heard Steve Blum as someone other than Steve Blum it’s really, really wrong. Don’t get me wrong, Steve Blum is really good at being Steve Blum, I can understand why he has such a fandom, but the problem I have is that it means his performances often don’t have a lot of depth. He can do emotions, but I never get a feeling of something beneath his performance. Which brings us to what I can complain about in his Spike. Blum hits all of the right notes with Spike but he doesn’t have an underlying worn feel to him like Yamadera does. He doesn’t have the suppressed “I’ve been through some shit in my day” tone needed for some of the moments in the “story” episodes. I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like a little more modern Clint Eastwood in the dubbing.
Jet Black (Beau Billingslea). Anime Morgan Freeman is a good Jet, he has a cool voice and has the rundown feel beneath it that I felt was missing from Blum’s performance. (Again, aged men in dubs seems to automatically be good.) My problem with Billingslea is that he sounds a little too old. Yeah Jet’s supposed to look and sound older than his age, but Billingslea is still just a tad too seasoned for me.
Faye Valentine (Wendee Lee). Wendee Lee’s performance is like Blum’s but without the cool voice. She hits on the exterior notes just fine, but when it comes time to be vulnerable, I find her performance doesn’t hold together all that well, especially when compared to Hayashibara’s Faye. I’d say that this performance suffers from a lot of the problems I have with Tiffany Grant’s Asuka in ADV’s Evangelion dub, the lack of emotional depth underneath the superficial callous exterior. This really damages the moments when the character is supposed to be sympathetic. Also Wendee Lee doesn’t seem to get the character balance quite right at times, drifting too far into annoying bitch territory when attempting to simply be “strong”.
Ed (Melissa Fahn). When I first read the English cast and saw that Ed was voiced by the same person who voiced Frau Bow in the assault on human decency that was the MSG Trilogy dub, I immediately curled up into the fetal position and began openly weeping. Thankfully, and I do mean thankfully, her performance as Ed is immeasurably superior to the genocide of taste that was dub Frau Bow. It’s a little annoying at times and didn’t have as much sincerity to it as I would have preferred, but beyond that I felt she fit the character, had energy, and was the right balance of stupid and irritating.
Other People (Actors and stuff). I actually have no problems with the side characters. In fact I think some of the side performances outshine the main cast. Henry Douglas Grey isn’t as intimidating as Wakamoto, but few men are.. Mary Elizabeth Mcglynn was a good Julia. I liked dubbing for the three old guys. I couldn’t find the name of the guy who dubbed Pierrot (because I’m too lazy do hit ‘control’ plus ‘F’ on the ANN page) but I enjoyed his performance quite a bit. Tom Wyner (credited as Abe Lasser – yes, I do sometimes bother checking for aliases) was really enjoyable as the Teddy Bomber. Dave Wittenberg’s Lee Sampson made me laugh every time he showed up on screen, mainly because of the accent (was he trying to imitate Don Cheadle from Ocean’s 11?). Daran Norris is a pretty good Cowboy Andy and he does an excellent job as Vincent Volaju. Femshep was a decent Elektra. So on and so forth. If I had any complaint about the secondary cast, it would be that the hosts of the bounty hunting show were pretty annoying in English, but they were so minor that I can ignore them.
In conclusion, the Bebop dub is good, but it lacks depth. The voice actors are really good at sounding the part, but many of them don’t feel the part at critical moments. The performances have enough flaws for me reject the notion that this is the greatest dub ever. Yes, it is miles above the rest of the shit released at the same time as this. For fuck’s sake, this dub came out the same year that the Mobile Suit Gundam movies were dubbed, and compared to those auditory holocausts, this dub is a gigantic shinny gold cock of perfection to be admired by all. But for me, Bebop doesn’t hold up as well when compared to today’s standard’s of dubbing. With that said… while I am still bitter over all the hype this dub gets, I’m not going to deny that it’s a classic. It’s rough around the edges, but so are all classics. I love The Godfather but I can still point out tons of things in it and Part II that haven’t weathered the test of time very well.
Final Scores – Show: A-, Movie: A.