ANIME BOSTON 2014 | "Attack on Titan" English Dub Review
This past Saturday the English-speaking anime fandom awaited for the event that's been teased since probably the beginning of the year: the world premiere of the English dub for Attack on Titan. The stage had been set, the episodes were ready to air, and all of the cast members had been announced...except for one crucial role: Eren Yeager. Finally the curtain was drawn, and the voice of our main protagonist was revealed to the masses: Bryce Papenbrook, who could recently have been heard in the role of Rin in Blue Exorcist, Kirito in Sword Art Online, and Masaomi in Durarara!! The audience reacted to the reveal with some cheers amongst a bit of confusion, as many were expecting the likes of Vic Mignogna or -- in my case -- Johnny Yong Bosch to take the helm as Yeager.
Nevertheless the roles have been cast, and the wait was over. Soon after they played the first official trailer to the show the patient fans got a good serving of what to expect of the dub by playing the first three episodes of the series. (The first five were played in an encore presentation on Sunday, but I was unable to attend due to press interviews that day.) Last year I reviewed the first twelve episodes of Attack on Titan, declaring it one of the best anime series of 2013, so for this coverage let's focus just on the dub itself and the main cast of characters.
For Bryce Papenbrook a lot of pressure was placed on his shoulders when he was chosen to play Eren Yeager. At first it took a little bit to warm up to his voice as Eren, mainly because of the fact I've seen the entire show in Japanese and my brain was trying to compare the two voices. However when the colossal titan appears, and Eren's world starts falling apart around him, the anger and confusion in Papenbrook's performance began to shine through. What also helped was that the voice matched well with Eren's determined expressions, ones filled with rage and vengeance against the titans.
Trina Nishimura's Mikasa was exactly how I pictured it would sound: strong-willed melancholy with a dash of comfort for the sadder moments of the series. Mikasa is the backbone and voice of reason to Eren's take-no-prisoners approach, and Nishimura captured that personality in the same way Yui Ishikawa did in the Japanese dub. Nishimura's performance was fully realized in the second episode, where our heroes had lost just about everything in but a blink of an eye. Eren was filled with anger, Armin with hopelessness, and Mikasa the strength to hold her and her two friends together throughout the rough times; the performance Nishimura gave was, in a word, first-rate.
As for Josh Grell's performance as Armin I'll admit there was something a little bit off with it. In Attack on Titan Armin slowly learns to boost his confidence in order to take on the titans, and in the Japanese dub you could hear Marina Inoue's go from one of cowardice to one filled with strong determination. When it comes to Grell's it feels like that strength is already being showcased from the very start, even after getting beaten by a gang of bullies in the first episode. Armin is supposed to represent the Everyman, the one that everyone can relate to what's going on around him, but sadly Grell somewhat missed the mark. It's not a bad performance, mind you, but it just lacks the fear that Armin has in the very beginning.
As we were only shown the first three episodes there wasn't any screen time for Levi, who will be played by Matthew Mercer. Fortunately we were shown a clip of what to expect from his performance in the long run. From that tiny sneak peek it had seemed we got the Jean we wanted: one who knew he was a badass and didn't need much reminding of that fact. As he flew through the air in his Maneuver Gear and started slaughtering titans left and right, the strength and focus in Mercer's voice was never deterred.
Collector's Edition of Attack on Titan Part 1
It's hard to compare the Japanese dub with the English dub, as both have their strengths and (minor) weaknesses. With that being said I don't think we'll be hearing much complaining from those worried about the English version's outcome, as the cast overall is stellar in their performances. At the very least if the audience at Anime Boston seemed to really enjoy it, then the rest of the Attack on Titan fandom probably will.
Attack on Titan: Part 1 - Episodes 1-13 will be hitting stores on June 3rd on Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack in a regular, limited, and FUNImation-exclusive collector's edition. Check the trailer below to give yourself a taste of the English dub.