Anime Presents Curious Choices

Ghost-In-The-Shell-2-InnocenceGhost in the Shell 2: Innocence
(Bandai)

There has long been a debate among English-speaking anime fans about the best way to watch Japanese cartoons. While some believe they should only ever be watched in the original Japanese with English subtitles (assuming you haven’t learned Japanese…yet), the other has no qualms about watching these ’toons with a dubbed English voice track.

It’s a debate that’ll undoubtedly resurface with the release of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, which is being issued on DVD, Limited Edition DVD, and, for the first time, Blu-ray, with not one but two different English voice tracks (in addition, of course, to the original Japanese one). Except that this debate will be especially spirited because of who they got to do the English voices.

Released in 2004, Innocence was the long-awaited sequel to the pioneering 1995 anime Ghost in the Shell, which has influenced and inspired everything from The Matrix to Britney Spears’s “Break the Ice” video. A cyberpunk sci-fi tale, Innocence follows an ex-cop and his cyborg sidekick as they investigate series of murders seemingly committed by robotic dolls.

When it was originally released on DVD, Innocence came only with the original Japanese voice track and English subtitles (and, of course, such extras as a director’s commentary, making-of featurette, and the trailer). But the new version — which has all the same extras on the DVD and BD, and a soundtrack CD and metal snapcase added for the limited edition version — also has an all-new English dub as well as a British one done for a U.K. DVD.

But while the very inclusion of an English dub will annoy purists, they’ll probably be further infuriated by who actually dubbed the English. While such characters as Batô and Chief Aramaki are voiced by the same people as in the original Ghost (Richard Epcar and William Knight, respectively), the actors who voiced the Major and Togusa (Mimi Woods and Christopher Joyce) have been replaced for this sequel. Further complicating (and possibly irritating) matters is that their replacements are Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Crispin Freeman, who do the voices of the Major and Togusa for the TV show Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which isn’t a sequel or TV spin-off of the Ghost movies. Confusing, I know (and made more so by the fact that Complex uses the same art style as Innocence), but the TV show is actually unconnected to the movies, save for the fact that they’re all inspired by the same manga. (And we won’t even talk about how Epcar and Knight do the voices of Batô and Aramaki for Stand Alone Complex as well.)

There is, however, one thing both sides will agree on: the British dub is just bad. Laughably bad. Batô sounds like the voice actor decided to take a handful of barbiturates and then did an impression of Epcar, while the rest of the cast sounds equally off kilter, almost like it was done as a joke and no one told Bandai.

What does any of this mean for fans of this visually arresting animated cyberpunk flick? Nothing, really. If you’re a purist, you can still watch it with the original Japanese voice track (with or without the English subtitles), while those who’d rather hear it in their native tongue can opt for the English dub (which is very well done, as McGlynn, Freeman, and the rest of the English cast are well versed in these characters). Heck, you can even watch it with the British dub if you’re looking for some unintentional laughs. Either way, though, the movie is still as exciting and exhilarating, and still looks just as cool as it did when it came out, especially in high def on Blu-ray. How you chose to hear it, though, is up to you. - Paul Semel

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Mr. Semel watches anime in English. But he feels very bad about it.

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