Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage

Warning: spoilers ahead! Do not read this full article if you haven't seen Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage.

To quote reviewer Ed Liu at ToonZone, "If Cowboy Bebop is the anime equivalent of a sly, sexy come-on from the coolest human being you have ever seen, Black Lagoon is the equivalent of a punch in the face from a brash, abrasive biker." That seems to be the most apt description I can think of when preparing to talk about this awesome, awesome show, especially the second season. Like the first season, Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage is perhaps one of the finest efforts ever by Ocean Group, the Canadian voiceover/dubbing company behind Beast Wars, Death Note, Gundam Wing, Ranma 1/2, Escaflowne, Inuyasha and many others. While they occasionally lack the consistency of some of the best LA or Texas dubs, their stronger efforts are frequently incredible. This is certainly true for both the first and second seasons of Black Lagoon, but they still manage to outdo themselves on The Second Barrage.

This review will be divided into two main sections: a discussion of the regular characters and their dub performances and then reviews of the three Season 2 arcs which will cover all the new/returning guest characters introduced in those arcs. Yes, this will be long.

The Regulars
ROKURO "ROCK" OKAJIMA (Brad Swaile)-Swaile tends to play most of his roles in a pretty similar vocal range, and that's true here as well. What he varies is his acting choices; for example, in the equally superb Death Note dub, he plays the lead Villain Protagonist Light Yagami, who goes from a well-intentioned, freakishly intelligent young man to a complete psychopath over the course of the series, and Swaile plays it all beautifully. Contrast that to his role as Rock, where he stays in roughly the same vocal range but offers a completely different performance. Rock is simultaneously not fit and perfectly suited for living in Roanapur, and Swaile's performance reflects that. Yes, Rock is often kind, caring and optimistic, but every so often he displays a surprising ruthlessness or profane streak, which always feels like both a shock and yet completely right (i.e. we're shocked but we still totally buy it) thanks to Swaile's acting. Two of his best moments come in the "Fujiyama Gangster's Paradise": his meeting with Balalaika where he manages to talk his way out of getting shot with chilling ease, and his note-perfect "(Bleep) you!" after bashing the vile Chaka in the head with a bowling pin.

REVY (Maryke Hendrikse)-Miss Hendrikse was not an actress I was familiar with prior to watching Lagoon, so I'm perhaps even more impressed by her work even though I eventually learned that she was no newcomer to the business. Hendrikse, much like Revy herself, completely dominates her scenes, swearing up a storm in a semi-gravelly tone that works beautifully for the emotionally conflicted gunslinger, and she manages the balance between Revy's brash exuberance and her darker, moodier moments. She also seems legitimately angry almost all of the time, with none of it feeling forced (well, from an acting standpoint; I have my doubts about the legitimacy of some of Revy's outbursts), and an especially good moment is when she threatens to kill Gretel after the latter.... disturbs Rock. Full marks for Miss Hendrikse.

DUTCH (Dean Redman)-Would you believe that this was Dean Redman's first anime dub? Yeah, me neither. Redman simply is Dutch, completely at ease and natural in the role. His performance helps Dutch transcend the "giant, cool black man" stereotype and into a legitimate character. Redman doesn't get as much to do this season, but each moment he does have is absolutely perfect.

BENNY (Brian Drummond)-As in the first season, Drummond's performance is a nice blend of easygoing charm and general geekiness, which suits Benny perfectly. No complaints.

EDA (Lisa Ann Beley)-Beley's spirited, enthusiastic performance fits this unorthodox nun perfectly, although she does do quite well with Eda's rare serious moments.

BALALAIKA (Patricia Drake)-While she doesn't really sound Russian (sounds more like a British accent to me), Drake is otherwise superb as the frightening-but-beautiful crime boss Balalaika. She nails every aspect of Balalaika: her dark sense of humor, her sense of duty to her men, and her seeming utter lack of morals, especially in the final arc where we see just how far she's willing to go to gain power.

"THE VAMPIRE TWINS COMEN"
HANSEL (Ashleigh Ball) and GRETEL (Jocelyne Loewen)-"Creepy" is hard to play: it can often be either too much or too little, and this applies to voice acting as well. Thankfully, Ball and Lowen manage to avoid the various pitfalls of "playing it creepy" as the main antagonists of Lagoon's most purely unsettling story. Part of the challenge is that Hansel and Gretel, while deeply disturbed and depraved (alliteration is fun) thanks to their horrible "upbringing", are still children, and thus have a different outlook on life than the adult characters. Ball and Loewen are both excellent at portraying both sides of their characters, and on occasion even manage to make you feel some sympathy for these little monsters (Ball's pathetic whimpering as Hansel slowly bleeds to death is a great example). Loewen also shows off her lovely singing voice in the final episode of the arc, and I'm glad they let her do it.

VERROCHIO (Scott McNeil)-Verrochio doesn't last long, but what little time he does have is massively entertaining thanks to McNeil's hilariously over-the-top Italian accent.

BORIS (Mark Acheson)-Acheson continues to be rock-solid as Balalaika's utterly loyal lieutenant, and he has a nice moment near the end of the arc where even he's shocked at her ruthless nature.


"GREENBACK JANE"

JANET BHAI (Kelly Sheridan)-Admittedly, the titular Jane is kind of annoying, but Sheridan does a good job of making her not too annoying, as well as portraying her smug braininess.



"GROOVY GUY" RUSSELL (Brian Dobson)-Dobson is a lot of fun here as the increasingly frustrated cowboy, with funny moments coming from both his frustration at essentially being ignored and his exaggerated Southern accent/mannerisms. He also gets a great hyperbolic statement near the end of the arc that is, alas, too naughty to post here (well, probably) that involves what he's going to do after this mess is over.

SHENHUA (Saffron Henderson)-A lot of the fun of this arc comes from the various colorful bounty hunters who show up to catch Greenback Jane, and one we've met before is Shenhua, the beautiful but deadly knife-wielding Taiwanese woman who speaks broken English that is probably very offensive but still hilarious. Henderson continues to be a hoot in this role, and her gusto manages to make me overlook the stereotype factor.

FREDERICA SAWYER "THE CLEANER" (Venus Terzo)-Aided by an electronic filter of some sort since Sawyer speaks with a voicebox, Terzo is nicely creepy but fun as the chainsaw-wielding goth.

LAWTON "THE WIZARD" (Sam Vincent)-Vincent doesn't have many lines as the overdramatic-but-benevolent gunslinger, but he nails all of them, especially Lawton's hilarious speech interrupted by Revy's bullet.

CLAUDE "TORCH WEAVER (Jason Simpson)-Simpson makes the corpulent pyromaniac into a threatening figure thanks to the sheer disconnect between his light, calm voice and his divorced-from-reality attitude and lines.

"FUJIYAMA GANGSTER'S PARADISE"

YUKIO WASHIMINE (Lalainia Lindbjerg)
-Miss Lindbjerg has a difficult role to play here: she has to seem convincing as both a book-loving high school student and a budding crime lord. Thankfully, she meets that challenge head-on, with the highlight of her performance being the speech she makes to Rock that deconstructs his motivations after the bowling alley confrontation.

GINJI MATSUZAKI (Michael Adamthwaite)-Adamthwaite manages to make the tall, imposing swordsman into a compelling figure with his authoritative performance, and he manages Ginji's quieter moments equally well.

CHAKA (Jonathan Holmes)-Chaka is a truly despicable creature even by Lagoon's fairly lax standards, and Holmes goes all-out in both sleaze and arrogant machismo, matched only by his glorious panicking and empty threats as he dies in a truly pathetic way.

The other Washimine gangsters are voiced excellently, and Ashleigh Ball does a good job as Yukio's friend Maki.

In conclusion, The Second Barrage is a great show and a great dub. Check it out.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sites Which Are AGAINST Dubs

Finding sites which review dubs in a very fair light is a rarity, especially on the internet.  There, people can post all kinds of opinions, no matter how ridiculous they may be.  Here are some sites which I find totally offensive and a slapping insult to dub fans.  Be forewarned!

http://www.fuzakenna.com/ -- "There are no good Anime English dubs"?  Seriously?  How can you expect me to believe that?  Seeing this entire post made me angry; OK, so he DOES acknowledge Vic Mignogna's performance as Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist, but everything else about this site?  Don't even bother wasting your time.

http://ghiblicon.blogspot.com/ -- I really, really dislike this website.  The owner of this place practically hates every dub Disney has done except for Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo.  To say that they're consistently horrible and that Ghibli should only be in Japanese is both a very unfortunate, one-sided argument and a slapping insult both to fans of these movies in English as well as Miyazaki--he personally had NO PROBLEMS WITH ANY OF THEM.  Yes, this guy does make recommendations to obscure movies, but dub fans, AVOID AT ALL COSTS.  And as a sidenote to a certain comment I received recently about how this site makes "excellent" reasons why the dubs are "bad"—to me, a person who makes comments such as "I am firmly against ever dubbing a foreign movie" is NOT someone whose reasons I would consider valid for any reason.  Especially since so much of his "arguments" are over such trivial issues.

Dub Haters at MyAnimeList -- They even dare to put a cross on Crispin Freeman, one of the best voice actors of all time.  He was terrific as Spark in Lodoss TV, Tylor, Zelgadis in Slayers, Regal in Tales of Symphonia, and just about anything else I've heard his voice in.  That should tell you something about this place.  Luckily, this place DOES have a Dub fan section.

And there are lot of others that I won't even dare to mention.

I'll be honest.  I confess to hearing some truly hideous English tracks such as Demon City Shinjuku, M.D. Geist, Love Hina, Roujin Z, and the Streamline distributed dubs of Akira and Laputa -- both of which are thankfully available in newer and more improved versions courtesy of Geneon and Disney, respectively.  But a good majority of the dubs I've heard (which may not be as many as other "anime experts" declare) are at least passable to great.  This is why sites such as these only compel me to stand behind my position as a dub fan.

At the same time, though, it is unfortunate to see how narrow-minded a lot of internet Anime fans have shown themselves to be when regarding dubs; a good many of these so-called "unlistenable" dubs have performances that naysayers are truly missing out on.  (Seriously, half the time I listen to said "horrible" dubs makes me wonder if the "reviewers" in question saw the same English version.)

Ultimately, I shall say this:  whether a dub is good or bad is dependent on the viewer.  It's totally subjective.  There is no "only way" to watch Anime; nor are there any rules for dissing English dub actors and fawning over the Japanese actors, talented though they may be.  Dubs, and translations, for that matter, are a form of art.  They are here to stay, no matter what purists may feel about them.  Fans who watch dubs are just as much Anime fans as sub-fans are; there's no superiority contest.  It's just a preference.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis

OK, I know I said I would do part II of Giant Robo next, but I honestly haven't had the time to sit down and watch the whole thing again. So my next few entries will probably be movies. Anyway, on to Metropolis.

The film: It's simply beautiful. Next to obvious choices like Miyazaki's canon, Akira or Ninja Scroll, it's one of the best anime films I've ever seen. Are there some flaws? Yeah. The CG, while incredibly utilized, is pretty conspicuous, and one character seems to exit the film too early, but these are minor complaints at best. The apocalyptic climax set to Ray Charles' "I Can't Stop Lovin' You" is one of the most haunting, beautiful things I've ever seen.

The dub: I don't really have any complaints scripting or direction-wise in regards to Animaze's dub. It's a pretty solid, excellent dub.

Second Take (by Jon Turner):  Metropolis is interesting in that it's another case of a major Hollywood studio (Sony Pictures Entertainment) giving a Japanese animated film wide exposure through a theatrical release.  Oddly enough, rather than applying Disney's practice of supplying a dub complete with big-name stars, it was decided to release the film subtitled theatrically.  On DVD, however, there is a dub, provided by AniMaze, inc..  AniMaze is a very reliable studio for producing top-quality English dubs, and this is no exception.  I do, however, want to take to task a grating flaw in Sony's treatment of the dub:  there are no credits for the dub cast on the DVD.  Not even a mention of the ADR director, scriptwriter, studio, or production staff.  It is a practice that I've found very annoying on every Anime DVD Sony has released with a dub.  Regardless of what hardcore Anime fans feel about dubbing, it is important for the English dubbing crew to be recognized instead of being reduced to anonymous territory.

That said, onto the performances!  (Word of note:  the review is primarily written by Fighting Dreamer, but my comments will be included in the "second take" category.)

KENICHI (Brianne Siddall) -- We've got another "adult woman voicing a small boy" role here, but Siddall does this sort of thing pretty often, so she's gotten good at it. It's not my favorite performance in the dub, but Siddall's good nonetheless, especially since there's a lot of ADR "grunt 'n' groan" stuff that Kenichi does.
Second Take (By Jon Turner):  Contrary to his Japanese counterpart, the lead character of Metropolis is surprisingly younger sounding, almost like a 12-year-old boy.  The only thing is that it's a woman voicing him, none other than Siddall.  Casting women as young boys is a risky decision, as it can sometimes veer into obviously feminine-sounding territory, making it less authentic than it aims to be.  Miraculously, Siddall steers around that trap.  Hearing Kenichi speak, you wouldn't even know that it's voiced by a female, as it sounds authentically close to that of a boy's.  That's how seamless her performance is.  There's a lot of "action scenes" in which Kenichi does a lot of shouting, grunting, and screaming, and Siddall handles this in a way that is very natural and convincing.

TIMA (Rebecca Forstadt) -- Forstadt is working in familiar territory here, but she pulls it off very well, making Tima high-pitched but not annoying. She's also seriously intimidating when Tima's programming kicks in and she goes into "crazy kill-all-humans" mode.
Second Take (By Jon Turner):  Aside from Kenichi, the other important character in the show is Tima.  There are two different versions of her.  The first is her initial appearance, an inquisitive child who acts very much like a baby unused to the world around her.  (This is obvious in the scene where Kenichi teaches her how to talk and write.)  The second incarnation occurs at the film's climax--a dangerous killing machine who threatens to exterminate humanity as punishment for their misuse of robots.  While Siddall's Kenichi is seamless, there is a bit of an artificiality in Forstadt's Tima; one can very slightly sense that it is a woman trying to sound young.  However, it works well in the case of this character, who is, in fact, an android girl.  What ultimately makes her performance is how natural Forstadt sounds, both as the sweet child (she does this without venturing into saccharine territory), and as the avenging angel (where she clearly sounds harsh and cold; her voice is also amplified by electronic sound processing equipment).

SHUNSAKU BAN (Tony Pope) -- The late Mr. Pope does an excellent job as Kenichi's uncle, making him both gruff and tough yet also warm and compassionate. No complaints.
Second Take (by Jon Turner):  The courageous private eye who also happens to be Kenichi's uncle is voiced by a very talented actor who unfortunately is no longer with us.  Tony gives him a gruff but gentle tone which is just right for the character.  Even at the moments where he is in action, he handles himself very well.  His performance makes this character all the more loveable.  It's also interesting to note that this character's design is not that much different from Dr. Moustache in Jungle Emperor Leo; ironically enough, Mike Toole of AnimeJump.com, who panned the dub, said he would have preferred Moustache's VA, Mike Pollock, to voice this guy instead.  Personally, though, I think it works well to have both characters sound distinctly different from each other.

PERO (Dave Mallow) -- Mallow is one of my favorite underrated dub performers, and he gets some good stuff to play with here as robot detective Pero. His calm, mellow tone brings just a touch of humanity to Pero, which makes his eventual, uh, exit from the film more effective. He also gets a lot of exposition, which is never fun or easy to perform; props to Mallow for making it fun to listen to.
Second Take (by Jon Turner):  Since this detective is a robot, it would be tempting to give him a stereotypically robotic voice--monotone and emotionless.  However, Mallow goes in a different direction, setting a new standard for characters of this type.  He brings a calm, even tone to Pero without venturing into dull territory.  It is also interesting to note that his voice is slightly amplified by electronic equipment (you'll have to listen extremely carefully to notice).

ATLAS (Scott Weinger) -- Now here's an interesting performance. Weinger is known to most animation fans as the speaking voice of Disney's Aladdin, a role he's played off and on for over fifteen years. As Aladdin, he's your standard cocky-but-clever hero, and it's a role he does very well. Rebel leader Atlas, on the other hand, is strong and compassionate, but also prejudiced and violent (a fact he is aware of). Weinger plays Atlas in the same vocal range as Aladdin, but from an acting standpoint the two performances are completely different. It's a small-but-key role, and Weinger performs magnificently.
Second Take (by Jon Turner):  Have you ever wished that the voice behind Disney's Aladdin would ever perform in an Anime dub?  Well, no need to ask a genie; this dub gives Weinger an opportunity to do so.  The tone that he uses for this rebel leader isn't that much different from his more famous role for Disney, but what ultimately makes his Atlas distinctive from Aladdin is that the former is a more complicated role to perform.  Weinger must have been aware of this, which is why, despite the initial familiarity, he manages to turn this minor character into a major highlight for the dub.  It's a very solid performance all around; one hopes that Weinger will participate in another production of this kind.

DUKE RED (Jamieson Price) -- Price has a nice clear, deep voice that's well-suited for smooth villainy, so his performance as Duke Red is an example of how typecasting can work for you.
Second Take (by Jon Turner):  For the central "bad-guy" of the show, it was decided to cast Jamieson Price, a deep-voiced actor who has often been typecast as authoritative roles (his take on the Colonel in the superb re-dub of Akira being one such notable example).  The tone he uses for Duke Red is recognizable, but very fitting, and he delivers his lines with the sort of stern attitude and ruthless nature that this character requires.  His opening monologue about how Metropolis will usher in a new age thanks to the completion of the Ziggurat sets the stage for his overall performance, and it stays on that level throughout.

ROCK (Michael Reisz) -- Given that Rock is the best, most interesting character in the film, it's unsurprising that Reisz walks away with the dub. Like most of the other actors, Reisz is working within a familiar vocal range, but his acting is just... wow. Rock is a full-blown psychotic, with a devotion to his "father" that borders on fanatical, and Reisz captures that creepy insanity perfectly. His best scene is undoubtedly his conversation with Tima, particularly his boisterous, disturbing laughter after Tima calls Kenichi her father. Full marks for Reisz.
Second Take (by Jon Turner):  Fighting Dreamer pretty much says it all for me (I know, that's not much of a review, but when an opinion like this obviously sums up how I feel about a particular character, I really see no reason to say much else).

DR. LAUGHTON (Simon Prescott) -- Laughton's not around for long, but Prescott does a nice blend of "grandfather" and "mad scientist".
Second Take (by Jon Turner):  This character is important to the plot in that he serves as Tima's creator, but he only is in one scene.  Still, from the start, we obviously get the impression that he is a brilliant inventor who is also greedy and desires only to keep Tima for himself.  Prescott has the sort of voice that is very well-suited to characters of this type, and he effectively manages to pull off Laughton as an old man bordering on alternatingly maniacal and fatherly territory.

Fighting Dreamer:  That's about it, really. Most of the supporting roles are well-cast with Animaze veterans such as Steve Blum (the President's assistant, Lamp), Dan Woren (the traitorous State Minister Skunk), Robert Axelrod (Ham & Egg, the Zone 2 guard that Rock kills), Peter Spellos (the Mayor of Metropolis, Leon), and Barbara Goodson (Duke Red's maid, Enmy). Overall, the Metropolis dub is excellent, solid work.

Second Take (by Jon Turner):  There really isn't much else that I can say about this dub other than that it is proof that AniMaze is a solid "go-to" studio for quality dubbing.  From the smooth, natural scriptwriting to the well-cast, believeable performances (even from the minor supporting roles), and spot-on lip sync.  If only Sony could give these guys more credit....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Record of Lodoss War—Chronicles of the Heroic Knight

Since my last review covered the Lodoss OVA dub, I figured it would be fitting to do another entry for the follow-up, subtitled Chronicles of the Heroic Knight; even though it would be ideal to attach it to the OVA dub review, both the TV and the OVA series are different entities and should be treated as such.  The former dub received mixed reviews but it proved to be quite popular with the casual fanbase. So much so, in fact, that anticipation for ROLW TV, which is what I'll refer Chronicles as from now on, was high. Unlike the OVA dub, however, ROLW TV's dub is not remembered or relished as highly as its predecessor. Part of this may be due to the fact that the TV series itself is less popular than its OVA counterpart, but there were also other problems, too. While scriptwriter Michael Alben (who did not direct ROLW OVA but did this one) and most of the returning cast signed up, the dub was recorded not at National Sound, but at a new studio called Headline Sound, located in Irvington, NY. Back then, its founder, Joe DiGiorgi, had no experience in dubbing Anime, and so this was a first time experience for him. (He later admitted at an Anime convention that he learned how not to dub the show.) Over the course of a year, the dub was released on nine VHS tapes, three episodes each, and during the recording period, several members of the cast dropped out. Some of these drop-outs were permanent, while others lasted a few episodes (more on that later). Also problematic were the occasional awkward-sounding line and a few scenes where the dialogue is unsynched. Had this been recorded in 1996, this flaw would be excusable, but considering that this was a more recent dub (1999-2000), it's less so.  (It should also be mentioned that as with a lot of dubs from this era, the ROLW TV dub was rushed, which could explain its problems.)

It is difficult to gauge the overall reputation the dub has among Anime fans using a limited source like the Internet (where most of the more vocal fans dominate the forums), but the reviews I noticed were wildly divided. Some, like Mike Toole, Chadwick Ngan, Chainsaw on AnimeWorld, and one DVDTalk.com review spoke favorably of ROLW TV (so have some on initial VHS releases on pages like Amazon.com and RightStuf.com--the latter of which was taken down), but others were negative--two Reader Reviews of ROLW TV on Mania.com have said to have despised the TV dub, calling it one of the "worst dubs of all time". While this statement has not been equalled among everyone, the general consensus is that ROLW TV's dub falls short in comparison to its OVA counterpart (which, granted had its share of problems, too, but somehow it managed to overcome them).  Even today the few who have seen it refuse to do so again.

Still, in all fairness, ROLW TV isn't an altogether bad dub, and it certainly isn't the worst around. (Then again, this is coming from someone who has heard dubs that offended me far more so than this one.)  A better adjective for it might be "variable". Compared to other NY dubs like, say, Slayers, The World of Narue, His and Her Circumstances, Now and Then Here and There or even the first ROLW, the TV dub does not come close to reaching the high standards of those titles. As mentioned, its biggest asset is the return of most of the voices from the original (the total opposite of the Japanese language track, which basically replaced all the seiyuu).
 
That said, the dub gets off to a very, very rough start; even though it's great to hear most of the voices return, the quality of the acting in the first eight episodes is a notch below that of the OVA, with dialogue which, more often than not, runs into stilted and occasionally stale territory. (Part of that problem can also be attributed to the lower-quality of the animation and the actual script of the series, which reduce many of the principal characters from the original to deadpan shadows of their former selves; on that level, it's hard to see how exactly that imperfection could be improved upon.)  Another issue are the vocals of some of the newer characters. However, once this first arc passes and the second story begins, the dub eventually finds its stride, even though there are still the occasional odd-sounding dialogue (with at least one Shatner-esque "Stay alert! Spark!" that I detected).
 
THE NARRATOR (Dick Rodstein) -- Rodstein once again lends his deep, resonant voice to the faceless voiceover who introduces the tale. I've always loved hearing him recite "Lodoss, the Accursed Island", and it's gratifying to have him back. I had no issues with him.
 
PARN (Billy Regan) -- Bill Timoney has stated that Parn is one of his favorite Anime characters; so much so, in fact, that he took approximately nine flights from his (then) new home in California to New York to record the role for the series. Since this tale sets five years after the original for the first eight episodes and another ten years for the final nineteen, it was decided to deepen Parn's voice. Logically, the choice is sound (and Billy stands behind his decision even after all this time)... but his initial appearance in the first couple of episodes are another matter. In trying to sound mature, he unfortunately sacrifices most of the enthusiasm he brought to the character in the OVA, and, more often than not, comes across as stiff-sounding. This annoyance gradually disappears in the second half; I don't know if it's because he finds his stride or whether it grew on me, but I thought he came across as better in the second half, although I did detect some missed lines. I know there were those who found him annoying in the OVA, but I personally prefer the performance there. Not that his TV performance is a total loss, but it does take some getting used to.

DEEDLIT (Lisa Ortiz; A.J. Parks, episodes 20 & 21) -- By contrast, Lisa continues to do an excellent job as Deedlit, bringing out the character's mystical qualities when reciting magical incantations or in normal situations. Like Billy, she also matures the character's voice, but does so in a way that still keeps the character's charm afloat. Unfortunately, for at least two episodes (20 and 21), Ortiz was unable to voice the character due to illness and so a last-minute replacement was hired to stand in, that of A.J. Parks. Needless to say, her take on Deedlit is far duller than Lisa's. I personally wish that I could go back in time and have Lisa dub her lines for those two episodes.
 
SLAYN (Al Muscari) -- Muscari continues to do a fine job as Slayn as well. His performance, like that of the OVA, is very low-key and soothing and rarely ever treads into monotonous territory. His spell recitations are classic (particularly the "Vanna fulame ve igloss!", which may sound like overacting, but considering the nature of the material it's more than appropriate). I think I did detect a vocal change for at least episodes 22-24, but it's not that far off from Muscari to be so dramatically aversive.

LEYLIA (Simone Grant, episodes 1-9; Alyssa Beaux, episodes 22-24; Meg Frances, episodes 25-27) -- Grant only plays this kindly priestess (and her mother, Big Neese), for only the first nine episodes, and throughout she is solid if weaker than her OVA appearance... although the opening conversation between Neese and Ashram comes across as surprisingly limp.  Leylia does not speak again until the final six episodes, and two times during that period, her voice actress is replaced. The first, Alyssa Beaux (22-24) is very, very lame, sounding quite out of place for the first couple of minutes. And just when one gets accustomed to the replacement, Meg Frances steps in for 25-27. Frances fares marginally better, but even then there are places where she comes across as too whiny-sounding. Too bad Grant's no longer with us to redub her missing sections.

ETOH (Ed Paul) -- Some reviewers of the ROLW OVA dub have singled his surprisingly high-pitched voice out for being the weak link, but here in the TV dub he deepens the character. (I actually didn't realize it was the same actor; I had checked the closing credits and only after I met the actor in person did I realize that he did do both.) Not only is this an improvement over the original, it works very well, especially considering that his role is that of a noble king.
 
SHIRIS (Karen Smith) -- One of the other returning voices is that of Karen Smith, who plays the impulsively rowdy, headstrong mercenary. Her voice is very fitting and she does a great job throughout, despite at least one weak breakdown moment in episode 6 and the occasional missed line. One of her best moments is in the last few minutes of episode 7 where she literally breaks down in tears after a heartwrenching sacrifice--it always makes me cry, even if her dialogue during that moment sometimes veers on over-the-top.
 
ASRHAM (John Knox) -- Knox returns to take on everyone's favorite Black Knight antagonist as well. And throughout he does a good job of maintaining the "bad-ass" attitude that makes his character so intriguing.  The only issues I had were a few flat line reads in the first few episodes and at least one uncharacteristically goofy and over-the-top laugh in episode 6.  Otherwise, though, he does bring gravitas and weight to his part.  It's a solid performance overall.

PIROTESS (Meg Frances; A.J. Parks, episode 21) -- The good news is that Frances reprises the opposite of Deedlit, and she doesn't fare too badly, acting-wise... unfortunately, her voice is not as good as her OVA counterpart; while she sounded appropriately sultry and husky, here she comes across as too whiny--although she does handle her confrontation scenes with Deedlit very well. (Like Deedlit, A.J. Parks steps in for Pirotess for episode 21--I really don't know what was going on with the switching of the actors, but the continuity issue is one of the problems of this dub.  Joe DiGiorgi told me at one point that there were a lot of difficulties involved during production, which partially explains the switching actors/actresses.)

WAGNARD (Oliver Wyman; Bruce Winant, episode 18) -- Only in one episode does the original VA, Bruce Winant, return, and that is in episode 18. As far as I'm concerned, he simply is Wagnard, what with the evil laugh and the "I'm going to rule the world" attitude he provides to the character. (OK, so it's cliche, but it works.) Unfortunately, that's the only time he voices the character. Throughout he's replaced by Oliver Wyman, who doesn't fare too badly for the most part, but his voice is much more scratchy-sounding than one would expect--and his first two appearances (episodes 4 and 5) are very weak.  There are a couple of mediocre reads as well, particularly one monologue in episode 21 where he describes his exile from the Academy of Sages.  Despite these two quibbles, Oliver does manage to provide an appropriately evil (if over-the-top) laugh and does an amazingly loud and agonizing scream for his obligatory death scene in his final episode (#26).

KASHUE (Anthony Cruise) -- Sadly, Kashue is another matter. Here he is given a new voice, and unfortunately it gets off on the wrong foot. The problem isn't that he does a bad job, but his voice sounds a little too much of a "weary old man" and he lacks the charisma that Chris Yates brought to the role. He does, however, manage to get into character as the show progresses, bringing the performance of his later appearances to "passable" quality. (I could tell he got more into it by about episode 8 or so, because his screams at Shooting Star provide a dramatic contrast to his more deadpan initial appearance.)
 
ORSON (Oliver Gregory) -- Like Wagnard and Kashue, Orson is completely recast for the TV series, by one Oliver Gregory. Unlike those two, though, Gregory is actually the best of the replacements. While his emotionless "normal" self may seem off-putting, this is justifiable in that his character is basically one who has lost all but one of his emotions--anger. When he becomes released from his curse, Gregory provides the opportunity to flesh out his character who has trouble dealing with the new feelings he hasn't experienced in years. Even if he does come across as a whiner, he still manages to wrench a tear out of this viewer's eye when he decides to cast aside his newly awakened humanity... and his life (sorry if I'm spoiling the story), to save Shiris from death.
 
KARLA (Simone Grant, episode 2; Meg Frances; A.J. Parks, episode 21) -- There are two different Karlas in the show; both hosts of this character are anonymous female bodies; the former is voiced by Simone Grant, with the appropriate amount of commanding regality minus the scary malice of the OVA, while the latter is by Meg Frances from episode 18-27. She seems to be well suited to the role and intones pretty much as you'd expect, even though her overall performance is a bit below that of the original. Still, it's not too bad. (Like Pirotess and Deedlit, A.J. Parks takes over for her for one episode --21-- but she thankfully only has one or two lines.)

These are the principal characters we know from the original ROLW. The newer characters are as follows:  

CECIL (Harry Krause) -- This guy is a somewhat arrogant, hotheaded mage serving as something of an apprentice to Slayn who gets into quarrels with Shiris and occasionally Maar, too. But Krause's voicing comes across as too "rough" sounding, even for this character. He also tends to overact (or underact) in most of his scenes instead of providing genuine enthusiasm.  It's an average performance, at best. (He becomes a minor character in the Spark arc, only showing up for one scene.)
 
HOBB (Cliff Hangar) -- Vocally, Hangar is sound for the role of this easily deceived priest (who has trouble with loyalty), but his actual performance is not one of the more praiseworthy ones of the show. He sings the "Song of Battle" adequately, but his acting sounds more like reading instead of emoting. Even in some of the more exciting parts of the show, he comes across as forced. Fortunately, he's only in a few episodes.
 
MAAR (Crispin Freeman) -- The self-appointed "comic relief" character in the show, an elfish little "grass runner" is one of the many characters to be voiced by Crispin. Here he raises his voice to a somewhat nasally pitch to sound mischievous and annoying, and it works pretty well. Some may find this to be grating, but I felt it was appropriate for the character and he provides some of the livelier moments during the first eight episodes. (The only exception is his ballad in episode 9, which you can thankfully skip past without having to suffer through it.)

LITTLE NEESE (Roxanne Beck) -- There are two different Little Neeses in the show; the first is that of a sweet little girl of about four (and she sounds appropriately and authentically like one), and later on in the series, where she is portrayed by Beck. Her performance is mixed; when she is talking normally or involved in her chemistry with Spark (or even screaming in insufferable pain), she is decent, but some of her other scenes aren't emoted as strongly as they should (particularly one confrontation scene with Wagnard which isn't made any easier by at least one groanworthy one-liner "You're a sick man!").   That her voice also treads into saccharine territory at times is also an issue.
 
SPARK (Crispin Freeman) -- Some of the harshest detractors of the ROLW TV dub is that the performances lack emotion, but the same can never be said for Spark, as voiced by Crispin Freeman. (The first time we see him he's a reckless young boy with a voice that sounds a little too much like a woman pretending to be a boy, but never mind that.) Taken as a character, this could be seen as the least interesting of the show (he's basically a more stripped down version of Parn), but Freeman provides a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and emotion, fleshing him out so well that one finds himself rooting for him. Vocally, his character doesn't sound much different from that of Tylor or his first ever dub appearance (a minor character in Slayers), but there is no doubt that his performance as Spark is the highlight of the dub; he brings a lot of much needed life to the show and makes what could have been an otherwise pedestrian second arc compelling. (On a side note, one can almost subtitle this dub as the "Crispin Freeman" show! He not only plays Spark and Maar, but Garrack -- more on that later, but also two of Ashram's comrades for at least one episode!)
 
GARRACK (Michael Gerard, episodes 10-14; Crispin Freeman, episodes 16-27) -- The first time we meet this muscular wise-guy with a heart of gold in episode 10, he is played by Michael Gerrard. He has the sort of lazy, laid-back yet goofy kind of voice that fits the character, but it isn't until about two episodes in that he finds his stride... but by the time he finally does (after episode 14), Crispin Freeman takes over from episodes 16-27. At first the change is jarring, but I found myself liking Freeman better; he brings out the more "bad-ass", burly aspect of the character and is very enthusiastic throughout (a couple of missed lines not withstanding). (It is somewhat funny to hear the scenes where he's communicating with Spark--since he's basically talking with himself.)
 
LEAF (Debbie Rabbai) -- This is my other favorite voice from the dub. For this playful, mischievous half-elf, Debbie gives her a squeaky, but charming voice that is not only cute, but sassy. She really seems to be enjoying herself in the role, and any of her lines are a delight. And like Freeman, she brings just the right amount of enthusiasm to the role (with the exception of at least one missed line, but it's not glaring enough to detract).
 
GREEVUS (Greg Wolfe) -- The dwarf member of the group is also voiced by the same man behind Ghim in ROLW OVA. His performance is pretty much what you'd expect; gruff, gutteral, and full of wisdom and energy.  I had no problems with him.  A word of note:  in episode 19, there is one line which obviously sounds like Crispin Freeman dubbed in for him.
 
RYNA (Meg Frances; A.J. Parks, episodes 19-21) -- I think Frances must have decided to give this spunky thief character her Pirotess voice from the OVA, because that's pretty much what she sounds like. Save for her parting scene with her former love the first time she appears, Frances does a fine job, alternating between sassiness, maternal warmth, toughness, sexy (her flirting scene with Spark in episode 14 is especially funny), and friendly. Again, no problems, other than that A.J. Parks takes over for her for episodes 19-21 (although she isn't too bad there; at least her voice is closer in tone to Frances).
 
ALDONOVA (Steve Patterson) -- The final member of the "heroic" (no pun intended) team of ROLW TV is this fussy mage (nicknamed "Aldo") who spends most of the time with his eyes shut and trying (unsuccessfully) to keep watch on Little Neese. Vocally, Patterson is suitable for the role, and does well in several magic spell chanting scenes (although the "Spell of Sleep" chant comes across as somewhat laughable, but that's more of a problem of the dialogue than the performance) and normal dialogue. However, his constant "Lady Neese!" whining in the latter half does get a tad too tedious, and his crying scenes aren't as strongly emoted as they should be.  Particularly weak is when he breaks down in tears when he describes Little Neese's predicament to Spark's comrades in episode 14--he still intones his lines in the same monotonic delivery.  In Episode 21, he at least does a little better in the sobbing department, but even then it's too overdramatic to be genuinely effective.  Again, it's an average performance, at best.
 
GRODER (Walter Hershman; Crispin Freeman, episodes 7 & 8) -- Ashram's dark sorcerer buddy from Marmo is one of the more lackluster performances in the series. Most of the voices I mentioned are either good or average, but this is one of the "bad" ones.  Hershman has the sort of "harsh" voice that might work for a demonic sorcerer, but he sounds way too deadpan.  Incidentally, Crispin Freeman takes over the role in one episode; vocally he miraculously matches Hershman's tone, yet whether that's complimentary or not is debatable.  Freeman fares a little bit better, acting-wise; all in all, though, neither actor particularly stands out for this rather forgettable character.
 
PRINCE REONA (Walter Hershman) -- Hershman's take on this heroic fighter for Lodoss is even worse. I don't know if the idea was to make him less charismatic than Ashram or if this was a case of last-minute casting, but Hershman's tone is too harsh for this character (and ill-fitting, too).  A less jarring voice would be preferable, especially for someone with long blonde hair; considering the more monodimensional characterization of this role, however, it's really hard to say how this guy could be any better.  His performance is totally annoying (one victory cry at the end of episode 15 is particularly laughable and grating), but thankfully he only speaks for at least four episodes and doesn't have many scenes.

It's the minor characters that have the weakest voices in the dub; in the OVA dub the incidental characters were somewhat cheesy-sounding, too, but they were nowhere nearly as bad as these guys here. These include Ashram's four minions from Marmo (Gaberra, Astar, Smeddy, and Gilram), Governor Rabido (a two-episode baddie with a loud and much too blustery kind of voice), soldiers, and the dragons Shooting Star and Abram (yes, they both TALK in the show!).  All come across as eleventh-hour casting and that they did their lines in one take. Rabido, Smeddy, and Astar are especially bad--and the dragons' super-deep, growly voices come across as laughable (the Japanese VAs of the dragons are just as lackluster). (Excluded from this are Alexander J. Rose's Governer Randall and Daybreak Mercenary Captain in episode 19, Oliver Gregory as the treacherously sly Jay in episodes 16-18, Roxanne Beck as Naneel the evil priestess, and Debbie Rabbai's Marfa the Earth Mother at the end, because all four of these minor roles are good, or at least fairly effective.) Most NY dubs around this area tended to have a trend of having solid major characters and lackluster minor roles, and ROLW TV is unfortunately a part of that trend.

It's a shame, too, because stripped of this problem and the sometimes awkward sounding dialogue (which this time around comes across as less memorable, due mainly to the fact that the subtitled script wasn't that inspired to begin with), most of the dub for ROLW TV is of a passable quality. I'm sure it's because I'm a pretty serious Lodoss fan and one who doesn't mind this dub as much as others, but there are far worse dubs around.

One thing that also bears noting is that at the end of each episode, there are these four-minute Super-Deformed shorts called "Welcome to Lodoss Island", in which the characters become pint-sized and engage in goofy skits consisting of bad jokes and playful silliness. Honestly, I only saw one episode of this and that was pretty much all I could take. In all fairness, though, the idea behind the shorts is that the cast all raise their voices and embellish their stoic characters with wacky cartoonishness. This is handled very well, but the lines they say are often very... dumb. Since much of the humor is derived from Japanese-based jokes, the ADR script tries to Americanize them with Brooklyn-based humor... with wishy-washy results. Some of them are pricelessly funny while others are a major groaner. I've honestly been too afraid to see another one of these after being so annoyed with the first one, although there are some who found them to be hilarious.

All in all, ROLW TV's dub isn't an altogether disaster, but it falls short of greatness. Had its consistency issues been fixed and most of its minor cast members replaced, it probably wouldn't have been forgotten; as it is, however, it's an uneven result. The performances by most of the returning cast and especially Freeman and Deb are its strongest points, but there are too many other mediocre to bad performances to elevate its quality to anything greater than inconsistent.  For Headline Studios, though, ROLW TV was a learning experience, and most of its subsequent dubs from there all uphill.  

Record of Lodoss War

Nowadays it seems as though people are so accustomed to top quality dubbing; this is more of the standard these days rather than the exception, which wasn't necessarily how things were in the '90s.  Around this period, the consensus was that dubbing just wasn't very good at all, and "efforts" such as most of the output from Streamline and Manga UK often fell into truly dreary territory. However, there were some notable exceptions to the rule, and Record of Lodoss War OVA, dubbed by National Sound for Central Park Media in 1996, was one of them. That said, reactions to this dub have been wildly divided; as with another famous fantasy Anime series, Slayers, Lodoss's dub has gone on many fans' best or worst dub lists.  In spite of the naysayers, though, it has had its share of loyal fans over the years (Mike Toole on AnimeJump.com, for instance).


To fully appreciate Lodoss OVA as an overall dub, one must evaluate it as a product of its era, because, as much as I love this dub, I will admit that it does have its share of drawbacks, one of which is the uneven lip-sync. Most of this can be attributed to the technology of the time (reel-to-reel in contrast to the ProTools software we know today), but the animation sometimes results with some stilted mouth flaps which sometimes makes the flow of the dialogue sound choppy (not by much, however).  And speaking of the script, while the late Mike Alben can be applauded for staying as faithful as possible to the original Japanese, there are occasional moments when his lines come across as awkwardly written or delivered.  Then there are the performances by the incidental characters (soldiers, courtiers, villagers, etc.), which come across as cheesy sounding (although in all fairness, they're nowhere nearly as embarrassing as the minor bit players in the follow-up Lodoss TV dub).  There's also one brief goof-up in episode 6 where King Kashue's mouth is moving while we hear Fahn's instead during a conference scene.

In spite of its weaknesses, though, Lodoss OVA has its share of memorable vocal performances which really carry the dub as a whole. It's interesting to note that at the time, most of these actors were unknowns, but most would go on to have fairly successful careers in dubbing. The man responsible for bringing them in is none other than Bill Timoney, who not only voices the young hero, Parn (more on that later), but happened to help scout out the talent for the dub and even directed the first eight episodes. The previous ADR director had been called off to do another project, hence why Timoney had to fill-in.  That said, the dub starts out somewhat stiffly in the opening three episodes, but by episode 4, the actors all settle into their roles and turn in fine work.  Of the performances, here are the ones that really captivate me the most:

THE NARRATOR (Dick Rodstein) -- is the first to speak in the dub. He has a deep, authoritative voice which aptly sets the tone for the epic tale; hearing him utter "Lodoss, the accursed island" always makes the hair on my skin tingle. His role is sparse, but it is always a pleasure to hear his vocal whenever he is brought in.

PARN (Bill Timoney) -- No, it wasn't Bill's first role in Anime, but the actor claims that it was his breakthrough and one of his favorite characters. Billy has a very good "young leading man"'s voice which works well for heroic roles of this type. Unlike his television counterpart in Lodoss TV, Timoney provides range and enthusiasm; his scenes with Deedlit (particularly the dance scene in episode 5 as well as everything from episodes 11 to the end) and his action bits are among the highlights of his performance. Some might argue that his voice is a bit "rough" sounding, but this works in favor of the character as a reckless, impulsively heroic knight wanna-be.  There are a couple of places in the beginning which sound somewhat tentative, but otherwise it's a solid performance overall, and, as mentioned, it is superior to that of the TV series.

DEEDLIT (Lisa Ortiz) -- Without a doubt, the voice that everyone remembers best from the Lodoss OVA dub. This was her first voice acting role, and while there are a few places where it's obvious, note that I stress the word few. It's a lively performance, with just the right amount of emotion and sassiness. Her voice is distinctively different from that of Yumi Tohma, and yet it suits this mystical high elf very well. Her acting, too, is quite effective, whether she is flirting with Parn, casting spells, or becoming gradually weaker in the final episodes as her life force is nearly drained to resurrect the Dark Goddess.  (When she breathlessly utters, "Stay back, save yourself, Parn" one feels a tingle up their spine.)  While Lisa has gone on to be better known as Lina Inverse from Slayers, to me, she will always be Deedlit.

ASHRAM (John Knox) -- This is yet another role that really stands out. I don't think Knox has done much Anime other than Lodoss, which is a shame, because his role of this ruthless yet honorable knight is amazing. He has an appropriately deep voice which is more than appropriate for the character, and while he comes across as rather stoic sounding, this is how Ashram should be.  Only in several moments do a few lines come across as cold reading, but somehow this works in favor of the character instead of against him.

ETOH (Ted Lewis) -- Like Ortiz, this was Ed Paul's first Anime voice-acting role, and is often signaled out as the weak link of the show.  He raises his voice to a surprisingly high pitch to sound somewhat boyish.  This tone works in favor of the character being a bookish priest, although I did detect a couple of missed lines at the start (mostly the first half of the opening episode).  As the show progresses, he gets more into character and becomes more confident with his subsequent appearances.  He's mostly soft-spoken, save for the penultimate episode where he gets to fight a ghoulish wraith.  (It should also be noted that I do have a soft spot for his performance in spite of its shortcomings.)

GHIM (Greg Wolfe) -- Of course, how could I forget this guy?  Gruff, tough, and stony, Greg's burly-sounding voice lends itself well to the grizzled old dwarf with an axe to grind (pun intended). He has an infectiously hearty laugh and a wry sense of humor ("Pathetic! You can hardly even handle a sword."), but also a deep, emotional side which he often displays when reminded about the missing priestess he is searching for. There are several places where he comes across as a bit stiff, but not enough to detract from his overall performance.  The last we hear of him is in Episode 8, and the actor really hits the marks there.  (I won't get into that, however, because doing so would provide spoilers.)

SLAYN (Al Muscari) -- Mike Toole has mentioned that this was one of his favorite performances from the Lodoss dub. Muscari has a calm, yet dramatic sounding voice that is easy to visualize belonging to a benevolent magician. He delivers his lines in an understated tone without sounding monotonous (his spell recitations, in particular, are both fantastic and priceless), raising his voice only at the appropriate moments. It's a shame that we haven't heard much more from this actor.

KARLA/LEYLIA (Simone Grant) -- A sorely missed actress, fans probably remember her best for her role as Boogiepop Phantom. Her performance as Karla, the unstable witch who threatens Lodoss, is something of a precursor to that role. She intones her lines in a cold, icy monotone, which emits both a devilish aura and commanding presence that sends chills up one's spine. Her sinister cackling is spot-on, too. This lasts until episode 9, where she becomes the kind, gentle priestess under the witch's control. There are also several instances where she can be heard as several different female characters: the Zaxon mayor's daughter Liara, Princess Fianna of Valis, etc., and while this does cause for some disconcertation, there's no denying that it's unfortunate that Grant is no longer with us. Lodoss is a fine example of her talent.

WOODCHUCK (Jacques LeCan) -- Another unknown with not much of a career, LeCan gives this surly thief a smarmy, "gangster"-like voice which is distinctively different from his Japanese counterpart, but fitting nonetheless.  For the most part, he seems to be enjoying himself... although I did notice several places where he misses some of his lines.  One such case is in episode 4, when Woodchuck is trying to escape from a dark void, his "help me!" isn't as strong or emotional as the scene demands.  In all fairness, it doesn't spoil the performance and there are plenty of other moments where he gets to have fun (episodes 1 and 3, as well as the dice scene in episode 5).  When his character becomes possessed by Karla, though, he really shines.  There he sounds spooky and deeper-voiced, with a hair-tinglingly frightening sinister laugh. Note that a trace of his "gangster"-like persona remains at times in lines like "I gamble. My purpose is to preserve Lodoss."


KASHUE (Chris Yates) -- Although essentially a key figure, Kashue has a somewhat small part, but Chris plays it pretty much as you'd expect: commanding, with dignity, warmth, discipline, and occasional humor. It's a very nice performance overall, particularly in his action scenes.  Only in a couple of places does his dialogue come across as somewhat unsynched, but not jarring enough to detract.
 

ORSON (Chris Yates) -- Chris also voices Orson, a "Berserker" warrior possessed by the Spirit of Rage, making him prone to burst out in vicious attacks.  His voice is considerably deeper and tone and he doesn't use much emotion, but considering the nature of his character (where he must keep all his emotions under control), it is more than appropriate.
 
PIROTESS (Meg Frances) -- The opposite of Deedlit, character-wise, Pirotess is a dark elf who serves as Ashram's love interest. Frances has a husky, sultry voice which brings a quality that is alternatingly alluring and dark.  There are a few moments that come across as cold reading, but otherwise she acquits herself fairly well, and her final scene in episode 10 is appropriately effective.

SHIRIS (Karen Smith) -- Rough and ready, with an aggressive quality and understated sassiness. That sums up Karen's Shiris, in a nutshell. There are several places where she overacts, but since her character screams quite a bit in her first appearance (and with occasionally mellodramatic dialogue), it's unavoidable.  Her exasperation provides a nice contrast to her more stoic partner's deadpan responses.

WAGNARD (Bruce Winant) -- This is another one of my favorite performances from the dub. Bruce has a voice which fits this meglomaniacal sorcerer to a tee, but what really sells his performance is the laugh: it's terrifying, overflowing with pure evil and malice that never gets boring. (Some of my friends/family members were quite scared by this laugh, effectively so.) As far as his acting goes, there isn't much depth to the performance, but there doesn't have to be. All Bruce has to do is be despicable and chew the scenery with glee as his character gets gradually crazier, and he does that wonderfully... particularly in the final episode where he gets to do a lot of maniacal laughing, shouting, and screaming.  (The actor admits he couldn't talk for weeks after recording that very episode!)

I neglected to mention the performances of Bob Barry as the raspy-sounding Emperor Beld, J.W. Gunther as King Fahn (who at times sounds a bit like Patrick Stewart), and Dick Rodstein as the great sage Wort (who is really just a more weary-sounding version of his narrator voice, albeit effective overall); all three are decent, but they don't really strike me as memorable as the guys I mentioned above.

One thing I neglected to mention is that the opening and ending theme songs for Lodoss OVA are translated and sung into English.  Mike Alben and Peter Fish somehow manage to transform the Japanese-written lyrics into something palatable (if at times a tad cheesy), but it is the beautiful voice of Lisa DeSimone that really make these new reinditions soar.  She sings with a lot of emotion and passion, giving these tunes the sort of "timeless" quality they deserve.  Like the dub, these songs are grossly underrated and always a pleasure to listen to for each episode.

No one will argue that Lodoss OVA's dub is on par with today's standards, but even having said that, it has aged fairly well for a 1996 production.  In today's light it probably doesn't compare, but as an older dub, it's above many other English tracks from its era.  And it is superior to the more uneven (and inconsistent) Lodoss TV dub, Chronicles of the Heroic Knight, which followed approximately four years later.