Friday, April 12, 2013

Mewtwo and dubbing

There's a very vocal minority (at least I hope it's a minority) that seems to hate the English dub of the first Pokémon movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back. The idea is that 4Kids ruined it by over-emphasizing the moral and making Mewtwo too clear-cut a villain.

I don't remember ever thinking Mewtwo was a true bad guy. He was angry and vengeful for only being thought of as merely a successful experiment or a mega-weapon. And "Birth of Mewtwo" makes it pretty clear that he was kinda mentally disturbed in the first place. Who wouldn't be, after all that?
And anyway, Mewtwo obviously comes to his senses in the end, so it's not like the dubbers took that out. If they really wanted him to be the Big Bad Guy, he would have learned his lesson through defeat or something.

The moral might be just a tad over-emphasized, but only a tad. Not any more than any other kids' cartoons at the time. I was a kid once, and I'm pretty sure most kids take notice when a cartoon is hitting them over the head with an Aesop. Me, I took it to heart.
In the wild, a Pokémon's attacks are for self-defense. When they're with a trainer, Pokémon enjoy battling for sport- that much is obvious, being more sentient than regular animals. Battling for sport is an extension of their own survival skills.
But the anime and games make this clear- Pokémon are not tools of war, and should not be used just as a means to show your strength. Pokémon should never be pushed too hard, or fight to the death, or else they'll grow to dislike you. Just like we shouldn't abuse our pets or have dog fights or lions eat slaves. But any real-life pet owner knows that animals enjoy hunting and play-fighting even though they don't really have to. If you think the moral is too pushy, you should dislike Red & Blue and Gold & Silver. Those games had the same moral all over the place.
It's not like Pokémon was like Captain Planet or something, where the episode's lesson was spelled out at the end just in case you missed it. What I'm saying is that a smart kid knows when he's being talked down to. I wasn't.

Another complaint was that the English dub added a new score to the movie. I listened to both the Japanese and the American score side-by-side. The Japanese score is full of cheesy pipe organ and synth orchestra hits. There's a long section in the middle where all the tracks are battle themes, very similar to some of the ones used in the TV show. They were admittedly cool, but after a while it got kinda samey.
The American score was obviously composed specifically for the movie, full of subtle changes in mood and action, to match what was going on on-screen. In comparison, the original sounded more like generic production music- each track had the same mood and action throughout. In fact, later on they were used as background music in the TV show.

I've also seen the silly notion about the anime in general about removing Japanese text. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure most Americans don't read Japanese, and would rather know what something says. If you want it in Japanese, watch the original with subtitles.
I also don't get why some people wish they kept the Japanese songs. Again, they're in a foreign language, and unless you're aiming for the otaku crowd (and they're not), you either record a new vocal track, or the easier option, replace it with another song. And really, what's one cheesy pop song compared to another?

Really, the only thing I have to complain about is Machamp coming out its PokéBall twice, Team Rocket thinking Scyther was an Alakazam, and the gooshy pseudo-gospel "Brother My Brother" playing during inappropriate scenes. Not to mention all the random unrelated songs on the soundtrack CD.
And if you don't at least get misty-eyed during the "tears of life" scene, you might want to check whether or not your heart is missing.

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