December 15, 2009

Keronus Americanus

The Anime/Manga franchise and merchandising juggernaut that is Sgt. Frog was commented upon by virtually everyone in 2005 when the anime started up. The show is still going strong in Japan and has been exceedingly successful. The oddball comedy has been surprisingly successful at appealing to audiences of all ages and has a lot of similarities to the long running Urusei Yatsura series from the 80s (which, indeed, was the stated intent of the Mangaka). The main difference is that the characters tend to be more likeable.

The show concerns several frog like aliens who are trapped on earth after their ill-conceived invasion attempt went awry. Their leader now lives in secret as the sort of housekeeper for a comic book creator and her children.  Other members of his squad are scattered around the neighborhood and similarly ensconced with various  humans...all of whom possess significant normalcy deficits. Every week he contacts his teammates and they join forces to conquer the planet Pekaponia (Earth)... hilarity ensues. As an aside, the show teaches younger viewers important life lessons as well...such as the fact that women are scary and dangerous and best avoided....even if they are wearing sweatervests.

Given its spectacular success and very broad demographic appeal in Japan it was natural that somebody would try to bring this show to the U.S.A. The theoretical potential of the show to be a genre crossing hit was immensely appealing at first blush. However, there were major hurdles, most daunting being the fact that the pop culture references that litter the show are overwhelmingly Japanese specific.

As the target audience would be Americans the references would make as much sense as an episode of Robot Chicken would to a North Korean. This would seem to be a show stopper, but one must remember that US television has long made good ratings on incomprehensible stupidity so this was not necessarily an insurmountable obstacle. Additionally there was the fact that the company that actually bought this marketing conundrum was ADVision...and the people at ADV were geeks who dearly loved the show and really wanted it to succeed.

ADV seemes to have really tried to get the show released on television, which despite its niche appeal in the US was not an insane notion but merely a far fetched one at the time these decisions were being made. Cartoon Network was showing a lot of Anime then and a number of the in-jokes (perhaps as much as a quarter ) referred to those shows. ADV had assembled over the years a very fine cadre of voice actors and they were certainly capable of doing comedy well. The problem remained the very culturally specific nature of many of the verbal gags,  The episodes required rather more extensive rewrites than usual though the basic plots and overall story arcs could be brought over with little trouble.

There was an even bigger problem that ADV did not foresee....ADV is no more.The show was one of those bought by Funimation and it is now being aggressively marketed by them....with a series of adds that don't quite do the show justice.

The show is one I found fairly enjoyable before this release and  it should be noted that the subtitle track is a pretty straight translation of the Japanese, which is what most readers here will watch anyway.

The dub fascinated me as I was very curious as to how they were going to play it given what to the target audience is the alien nature of much of the shows humor.

I don't know how many episodes ADV dubbed before they lost (or found out they didn't have) the rights in the Sojitz fiasco but the first 8 episodes are using most of the same voice actors that appeared in a preview ADV put on you tube some years ago. I am pretty sure that what we are seeing is very close to ADV's plan for the show, if so it is a worthy legacy because the dub is quite good. Funimation, which has a good reputation in its own right seems to have kept the bulk of the voice talent and there has been no jarring change in quality as of yet.

The dialog on the English track is fast paced,almost like a '40s screwball comedy. The acting is good and although the dialog has indeed been tweaked, the the Woolsyism's generally work quite well.  All in all I was very impressed. In my initial viewing I watched all but the first two dubbed and felt it did not suffer at all , in particular I...oh aren't reading this....

You clicked on the Woolsyisms hyperlink above and your mind is now trapped in an endless information overload loop at TV tropes...foolish Pekaponian...your planets defeat is inevitable!

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 10:14 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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