Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Brunch -- The Forbidden Dub

I like this picture. It looks like Nagi is carefully considering having a Brunch with Hayate and Maria, who are waiting for her response with bated breath.

This is a tale of woe and futility, one that it pains me to say I failed to accomplish, at least in the way I'd intended. Find out what I destroyed my finals week trying to do after the break.
I suppose I should start this story about four years ago, because it was around that time that I started wondering about an English  language option for Hayate. You know, one that was legal versus the fansubs I'd been watching. Soon after that, I learned that Hayate had been licensed by Bandai entertainment. I was fine with that, honestly. Sure they were probably gonna cast Johnny Yong Bosch as Hayate, but it also meant that Michelle Ruff was going to show up somewhere. I like Michelle Ruff's timbre. Dunno who she'd play-- I'd probably get lynched for suggesting Maria, but as long as I got my dub (with dual language option just in case) I'd be okay. I'm still getting my dub right?

Flash forward a little bit to when we found out the details of the licensing. Bandai announced that the release of Hayate DVDs would be a sub-only volume set with 7 episodes on each disc. For a 52 episode series that boiled down to around 7 or 8 DVDs at full price. That's how Bandai does it. I don't condone piracy, but even dumb teenage me knew that was a bad deal.

It also didn't stop dumb teenage me from making a knee-jerk reaction video declaring combat action against Bandai. It was embarrassing and awful. Basically I called on people to take a survey on Funimation, where they were asking what series fans would be interested in, Hayate season 2 being among them. This would mean I could get what I really wanted and have Luci Christian play Yukiji, thus reprising her role as Yukari Tanizaki in Azumanga Daioh.

Essentially the same person.

Surprisingly enough, nothing ever came of Funimation's interest in securing season 2 of the anime, which came out a little bit after news of Bandai's Hayate drop was released. I just sort of forgot about it. I mean, I had my manga and I had free (legal) access to all the Hayate I could want on Crunchyroll, so gross teenage me eventually grew up, dropped ten to fifteen pounds and became sexy present day me. With the Funimation thing a bust and Shogakukan obliterating any fandub from youtube within days of them being uploaded, I gave up on a Hayate dub.

Then two weeks ago happened.

I was performing my weekly google search of my current obsession (Hayate being mine ever since I started watching Can't Take My Eyes Off You) when I discovered something I'd never come across before. Apparently, a channel called Animax Asia had... well it's best to see for yourself.

"WHAT!?" I bellowed. "How did I not know about this!? When did this happen!?" I did some digging and found out that Hayate had indeed been licensed by Animax Asia (a station which we, naturally, do not have access to in the states) and that a dub had been commissioned.

My knee jerk reaction was to try to import a copy of this dub, but I then found out that the Animax dub was only licensed for broadcast. They had no distribution rights for the series which meant that there were no physical copies to buy on amazon or trade for sexual favors on Craigslist. Not liking the idea of something existing that I can't somehow get a hold of, I turned to the internet to hook me up with some series downloads. You know what I found?

NOTHING! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! I thought for sure I'd be able to get a hold of this show in some form, but the closest I came was a download link container that didn't work and some links to megaupload, which has currently been seized by the United States government. Uncle Sam stole my combat butler!

I can find the legendarily bad Nelvana dub of "Cardcaptors" but I can't find this anywhere? How could this happen? It was like I was Bobo from the misleadingly-titled "Finding Bigfoot" searching for something I only knew existed from unreliable third-party accounts.

"We've got some but' action going on around here!"
-- My impression of James "Bobo" Fay if he hunted anime butlers instead of Sasquatches.
This thing just doesn't exist. It's like the Ark of the Covenant for crazy people who are a fan of bad entertainment like me. I looked. It wasn't there, and yet I found accounts online of people who had claimed to see the elusive show. There were links, but they were either dead or protected, and once I'd cracked the protection those links only lead to the aforementioned dead download link containers.

I caught a break a few nights ago and was able to find one episode readily available: Episode 30 of season one. The quality is so bad it resembles a VHS recording, with grainy, out-of-sync audio and cloudy visuals. The audio is so bad that all of the narrator's lines are completely unintelligible because his voice peaks out the bass and produces a crackling sound.

I have now seen the forbidden dub... and all I can say is... It's weird.

It is so weird. I mean, it's like a fever dream that I only half-remembered. Everything looks familiar, but the differences tug at the back of your mind like a demon centipede trying to eat your cerebellum.

The Gang

Hayate himself is the worst offender of this weirdness. He sounds like Ash Ketchum. I'm being serious.

Nagi doesn't sound that bad, but the more I hear the voice cast in this episode, the more convinced I am that her VA is voicing like six other characters. Compare her voice with Izumi, Shiori, Yukiji, and 8. They sound VERY similar with only slight differences.

However, I really like Maria's voice. They gave her a British accent and it's absolutely adorable. Zero complaints about that one.

The Student Council Trio

As I said before, Izumi sounds suspiciously similar to Nagi. Miki (right) has the best voice of the bunch, and Risa's voice is equally listenable. Nothing really stands out about their English voices, which is a shame since they're arguably among the funniest characters in the show.


The narrator is also British and it works very well. It's like the entire story is being narrated by a sassy butler. His comedic timing is excellent and he does a good job of playing that sort of aloof "I'm only here because I'm being paid to do this" storyteller.


This is the dealbreaker. I knew it going in. There was no way I was going to like any English voice for Hina. I'm not a sub snob, but this is my favorite character and for the past five years I've only known her as being voiced by Shizuka Itou. This actress had a lot working against her.

To my relief, her VA wasn't awful. It was a bit too husky for the character, however. Hina is a tricky one to get a bead on. She's tough, but she also has a feminine side that she doesn't like to actively display. One clue to this fact is her voice. She often speaks harshly to Hayate, but she has a very feminine timbre that belies her true feelings for our favorite butler. Or maybe I'm talking out of my ass. Either way, the voice was okay. Just too deep for my interpretation of the character.


Here's another thing that I'm probably not qualified to talk about (not that it ever stopped me before). This is actually something you can see for yourself in that Animax PV from earlier in this post. I can't claim to know how to pronounce Japanese names, but I'm pretty sure that ain't it.

high-AH-tay? I'm pretty sure it's pronounced HIGH-ya-tay, emphasis on the first syllable. Am I wrong? I'm probably wrong too, but the point is I know that can't be right.

A scene where Yukiji said Hinagiku's name felt like a chainsaw hitting a rusty nail.

HEE-nuh-GEE-koo. I have no room to talk as I am physically incapable of pronouncing Hina's name correctly, but I'm at least 90% sure that they butchered the pronunciation of her name. My guess was hee-NAH-gi-koo (emphasis on the second syllable, VERY soft third syllable) but I'm also 90% sure that isn't right either.

Sundry Ephemera

Now this isn't one that I'd grade a show on, but it is worth mentioning because it makes this dub unintentionally hilarious. Hayate is one of those shows where they make references to other anime and make japanese pop-culture references that sidestep copyright by bleeping out references. For example, if they mentioned Sony, it would come out as S*ny. I don't get it, but it's cute and harmless.

Do the same thing in English and the results are ripe for parody. There's a scene where everyone is on a cliff overlooking the ocean in some sort of Detective Conan reference. They remark on the situation and Risa says "It'd be better if we had Conan here."

HOWEVER... Since the references remain bleeped out, all the viewers at home hear is, "It'd be better if we had c*** here". This has the unintended effect of making Risa sound like some kind of lustful succubus and I laughed harder at that than anything else in the episode. More than the visual gags. More than the scene with Klaus in drag. I was rolling at this little hiccup in the translation.


It was weird, not much else to say. Not much is different between this dub and the original episode 30. Go watch that on Crunchyroll if you want to know what happens in the episode. I don't know that I hated it, necessarily, but I didn't think it was very good. This whole thing taught me something kind of important, though. I now have a better understanding of what the sub snobs mean when they say that no anime should be dubbed because the Japanese version is always superior and English is a profane insult against these marvelous animated series.

I still don't agree with them, mind you, but maybe they're coming from the same place I did when I watched this one. I've been watching and reading Hayate since 2007. I've only known the Japanese voice cast for the past half-decade and I just dove headfirst into an entirely new voice cast. You can't jump into a freezing cold river and expect to have a pleasant time.

Would I like to see an English dub of Hayate in North America? Yes I would. Again, I don't like the idea of something existing that I can't have a copy of. If Funimation defied logic and got the rights to Heaven is a Place on Earth or Can't Take My Eyes Off You I would definitely buy it.

Good or bad, this dub was one mystery I'd never intended to find. I now wash my hands of this so that it may lay buried forever in the depths of the internet.

Remember, I'm taking this weekend off for Christmas, but I'll be back on the 29th with a fresh batch of shows to watch!

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