Sunday, May 4, 2008

Butterflies Opened My Eyes

My Twitter thoughts on Blogger backups and Blog 2 Blog were oddly enough prompted by my watching of Red Garden. I started thinking of where Seeking Avalon has come and where I want it to go, or grow or continue and all of a sudden I realized/remembered I don't have one button syncing for Blogger. Seriously Google, fix that. As much as I dislike Livejournal, someone made LJ Archive and with one button back up (with comments) it is soothing as all heck.

But back to Red Garden. I'm not sure I like it.

I'm curious about it. I want to watch more. But I'm not sure it's actually something I want to continue to watch.

In More Depth

I want to know what happens to the characters. I am curious as to the story. But watching the show was not an enjoyable experience for me, for a number of reasons; the seemingly sexualized violence, the victimization of the girls and the pacing of the mystery.

But the goad for my lack of enjoyment was watching the show in English dub.

Hearing American voice actors throws me off. I'm seeing Japanese style animation and stylized characters; So my brain immediately goes 'Willow, you forgot to switch languages and put in the subtitles.'

But I know that sometimes when I'm reading subtitles I can miss subtle things. So I watched it all the way through, all of the first four episodes in English. My conclusion is that the English voice actors lacked nuance. They had inflection, they could get the broad strokes right; anger, sadness, fear, emotional upset. But the whole thing was very plodding and cloddy somehow. There's one scene in particular where I didn't realize one character was supposed to be upset and in denial for several long moments - I thought she was just a bubble brain.

Now I know voice acting is as much a career in the US (and Canada and Europe) as it is in Japan. But I think Japanese Voice Actors and the profession are seen differently in Japan. Whereas most people have no idea why I'd have an unholy fan girl squee for one Rino Romano and why I'm so disappointed that I find the animated seres "The Batman" to be so much coddswaddle. I think in Japan, voice actors get enough attention that there'd be no difference between a Rino Romano and a Jensen Ackles.

Aside: Dear Rino Romano and Jensen Ackles, please to be picking projects from now on that I can actually stand. It's been two series in a row for you, Jensen. My patience is wearing thin!

Hearing the American voices and watching the animation, and having just read Hack/Slash I was made EXTREMELY uncomfortable with the violence. Broad vocal strokes aren't enough when some things are happening on screen; when scenarios are being played out that have as much to do with mystery and the supernatural as violence and fear. Which is to say the voice acting made me think of Hack/Slash the movie and how it'd be ruined by Scream Queens. It doesn't take acting to scream, or sound angry or sound scared.

But I am grateful I watched the whole thing through in English dub first. Because I wonder if I would have noticed the violence in the same light, if I'd been concentrating on the vocal acting the way I usually do; with the pictures as mere backup to the translated words.

And the violence is shocking and disturbing.

The premise is akin to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and how from a certain type of evil infection/possession/etc, comes an individual to take back the night. But while we didn't hear about what created Buffy for several seasons, in Red Garden, we know from the very beginning that something very, very bad happened to these four girls and it's not over yet.

We watch them try to piece together what happened, and then try to deal with the truth and what it means for them now. We watch them in total panic and fear, thrown head first into confrontation with bad things. And we see what happens when individuals in their circumstances aren't strong or determined enough. That scene in particular was incredibly disturbing to me, possibly because the main voice all through it was just so incredibly bad I couldn't help but focus on the animation and the scene was brutal.

There's another scene in the fourth episode, where the difference between a voice projecting shock, anger and fear vs just random screaming, makes a world of difference in relatability to the character. But after watching it, I found myself wondering at the difference. English voices, and I focused on the violence being done. Nuanced, acting, Japanese voices, and I focused on the trauma of the character and her emotional state.

I'm left to wondering about that. How much violence against women in anime have I seen where it didn't register because I was focused on the character; strength of voice, gasping breaths, mettle of tone; and not the actions going on around them? What does that mean? What do I do with this information now that I'm aware of it? How will this change what I watch?


  1. Hmmm, Red Garden is an interesting beast. The Japanese production did something virtually unheard of for anime; they recorded the voices first, then made the animation to fit the voices. The English dub, of course, was constrained by trying to match the voices to already-existing animation, as all dubs are by nature.

    Mmm, if it gives you any more confidence in the series, I will say this: The sexualization of the violence lessens significantly over time, and some of the pacing issues are resolved later. Basically, the girls stop running around and screaming, and seriously get their act together. The theme of women being victimized doesn't really go away, though. Instead of "attacked by monsters" we get different kinds of victimization, i.e. women at the mercy of doctors and mad scientists. And eventually the story gets kind of, well, silly.

  2. Nenena:

    Silly? The call of silly from the woman who did a Sakura Taisen Appreciation Retrospective?

    Red Garden must be seriously full of WHOA.

  3. Ah, Red Garden. The sexual nature of the violence is definitely there, and if you manage to stick with the series long enough it does tie heavily into the plot.

    Personally, I loved the series. THe slow burn always made the bits that were violent stand out even stronger. And you have to admit, the characters carry the story. Love 'em or hate 'em, you really want to know what happens to the girls.

    My interests have mostly been focused on the Lisa-Kate subplot.

    Lastly, I LIKED the English dubbing on this one. I thought they evoked the appropriate emotional responses without trying to ape the Japanese dub. Few things cause an English dub to fail more than trying to ape the Japanese dub.