Dubbing over the beginning of a family

From the Fall 2007-Winter 2008 anime season TBS aired the show Clannad for 23 episodes. The show was released on 8 DVDs with an additional OVA included on the final DVD volume in Japan throughout 2008. In October of that year Sentai Filmworks acquired the license to subtitle and distribute the show in North America via Section 23. Due to the unlikely probability of a television airing as well as a cost-saving measure the show would be released in two volumes that would only have the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

The two sets sold well and since there was enough demand for an English dub, Sentai announced on March 13,2010 that a “complete collection” including the dub would be released encompassing all 24 episodes. They have since adopted a similar strategy for the sequel, but that will be reviewed in April.

The Clannad Complete Collection was released on June 15th, 2010 and I finally got around to acquiring it last December as a present. I’ve previously reviewed the Japanese Blu-Ray Box and that encompasses my thoughts on the show itself, so this will be a short review on my thoughts about the Region 1 Complete Collection.

The set itself comes in one DVD stackpack case with the show on 4 DVDs. Each disc has 6 episodes with the first and second disc containing the bonus features. The stackpack makes it rather difficult to get any of the non-first discs out from the case. Personally, after these images I moved the discs to other cases for easy access.

On the front is the standard promotional image with the main five heroines (also used for the OP/ED single) while the side uses the JP Volume 1 RE cover of Nagisa and the back has the JP volume 2 RE cover of Ryou. Inside on the discs are the Volume 3 RE Fuko, Volume 4 RE Sanae, Volume 6 RE Mei, and Volume 7 RE Kyou cover arts. With the exception of the first disc re-using the Nagisa artwork, each disc matches the menu and disc artwork. No artwork of the Volume 5 RE (Kotomi) or Volume 8 RE (Tomoyo) were used in this set. Also included is a styrofoam insert designed to hold the discs in place during transit.

Visually the DVD has good quality image-wise. Due to format limitations the animation hints at being extremely high quality but never achieves it. By itself the presentation looks well when upscaled via my Blu-Ray player, but falters when not upscaled as evidenced by the screencaptures provided. There is an obvious lack of definition with close objects (such as hair to eyes and hands to objects) that are present, but that is due to the format rather than anything Sentai did.

Included on this set is the original Japanese 2 channel audio as well as a new English 2 channel audio mixture. Both formats sound technically fine to my ear with no obvious technical issues. Disc 1 has some trailers for other Sentai Filmworks products and disc 2 has the clean opening and ending.

And now the big reason to (re-)purchase this set: the English dub. While I prefer the original Japanese if given an option, I don’t mind listening to an English version of a show. With that out of the way, I’ll say that this is an average dub with both problems and successes. The quality improves over the set as the actors/actresses become accustomed to their roles and the Tomoyo arc episode is the highlight of the set.

Tomoya, Nagisa, Tomoyo, Fuko, and Kotomi are all well casted for their roles and carry over the meaning of their character well. David Matranga’s rough “loner in depression” voice fits Tomoya for an English voice but distracts when presented with a softer scene at times. I have absolutely no problems with Luci Christian’s Nagisa voice as it is extremely well done. Tomoyo is also well performed by Kathra Coker who captures her “bored” expression perfectly. Fuko is well represented by Hillary Haag when she is to be in her daze or childish modes but, like Tomoya, sounds weird in sentimental scenes. I was timid about an English voice for the difficult role of Kotomi but Emily Neves does a very good job at making her sound normal compared to the original voice. The role of Ryou was also well done by Brittney Karbowski.

Conversely, I felt the voices of Kyou, Youhei, and Kouko were off enough for me to be slightly annoyed. Shelley Calene-Black had a few scenes near the beginning where she sounded like a mother-type role than a teenage girl, but did well in the last part of the show. I can see what the type of role Youhei was presented as for an English voice and appreciate the great work Greg Ayres did, but the voice did get annoying when Youhei had a lot of lines. Kouko’s role was performed by Stephanie Wittels well, but it sounded weird in a way I can’t quite say.

It’s somewhat of a cop-out to say that the other characters neither surprised me nor annoyed me with their performance, but I can’t say anything exceptionally positive or negative for any other roles. I’m curious to see what Serena Varghese does in episode 3 of After Story with the “Oni-chan” scene, but nothing else piqued my curiosity for the sequel.

There was one scene that stands out to me in particular of this dub: the 3-on-3 basketball scene. At the beginning, the captain of the basketball team speaks loud and hollow as being in a gymnasium, but then the voices of Tomoya and Youhei sound fine when they use the same voice level. That inconsistency also occurs when Nagisa, Mei, Ryou, and Kotomi are talking to one another. During the match the voices lack the hollowness, but yet the captain still has that hollowness in his voice when talking to the two players next to him. That would have been easily fixed with some re-takes.

Along those lines, it feels like if the earlier episodes had been re-done with the voice actors/actresses when they had become accustomed to their roles, the overall product would be much better. I hope the next volume sounds like the later half of this set as it would be a very good quality dub with that attention to detail.

It may sound as if I complained a lot, but the dub is adequate to listen to. This was the fourth time I’ve watched Clannad this year and it still was as enjoyable as every other time I watched it. I have high hopes for the next set and can’t wait to hear it in April.

To easily compare image quality, I took screencaptures of the same scenes that I did for the BD-Box and placed them in this Photobucket album.

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3 thoughts on “Dubbing over the beginning of a family

  1. The only voice actor name I recognize is Hilary Haag. Sentai must be using a lot of new people…or maybe I’ve just been out of the dub anime loop for too long =P (not that’s there’s been much dubbed anime in recent years…)

    There are many series I’ve seen where it takes the dub voice actors/tresses a while to get into their roles. I can’t usually get that into the dub until I feel that they’ve grown accustomed to their characters. I felt similarly about the Inuyasha dub, not liking it much until the episodes hit the 20s-30s, then it became fantastic (in addition to the voice acting, the script writing improved as well).

    I personally can’t understand spending so much on multiple copies of ultimately the exact same series/episodes, especially when it’s not a big-time favorite, but hey, to each their own – your support through buying DVD collections makes up a little bit for the many who don’t support in any way. I would imagine you’re the kind of fan that anime companies wish everyone was like 😄

    • As I have little experience with dubs I shall have to take your word on if Sentai is using new people.

      From what you’ve said about Inuyasha it seems similar to this series. Once each person settles into their role (with a couple exceptions mentioned above) the show becomes very good. I’m really looking forward to After Story.

      One to own, one to lend out. I didn’t plan on purchasing the BD-Box, so this was originally the only time I would purchase Clannad, but you know what happened. It feels nice that I can lend a copy of this to a co-worker and not have to worry that they would have difficulties reading subtitles. It’s the least I could do in order to support this industry. If there were the interviews from KyoAni included, I’d at least get another copy.

      • Apart from Hillery Haag, Brittney Karbowski and Greg Ayres, I didn’t recognize any names either, so they might very well have cast new people in this dub.

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