Audio: English: Tykes, Toys, Rude Little Boys: A Look At Shin Chan
With the Audio:English series, PenguinTruth takes a critical look at the English
dubs which grace some of anime's most defining series in North America.
My last article was about my quality categories for anime English dubs. I set down general rules for what makes a dub "good", "tolerable", and terrible. Good dubs have accurate scripts and solid voice acting. Tolerable dubs are the ones that just sort of make it, but don't impress. And terrible dubs are, well, pretty explanatory. Either they have terribly inaccurate scripts, or bad voice performances, or more usually, both. There are a fair number of dubs I could classify in any of those three categories. But one English dub I never know quite where to put is Funimation's Shin Chan.
Originally, Shin Chan was Crayon Shin-chan, a manga by Kasukabe native Yoshito Usui. Kasukabe is also the setting for Crayon Shin-chan, as well as Lucky Star. The manga is an episodic look at the life of a little boy named Shin and his long suffering family and friends. Shin is lacking in tact and common sense, often bothering others. His mother Misae can hardly get anything done around the house with Shin's antics and his father Hiroshi can't get a minute's peace. Later on the family receives a new member in baby Himawari, named by the readers in a contest. Shin also has an array of kindegarten pals who more endure the lad rather than adore him. The TV series was a staple in Japanese television.
The Crayon Shin-chan manga had a fairly faithful adaption into English by CMX, owned by DC. However, the television series has had two adaptations, one only airing in the UK, and another quite different than the source. Concentrating on the latter, I'm talking about Funimation's version, Shin Chan.
Like Crayon Shin-chan, Shin Chan follows the exploits of Shin Nohara, his family, friends, and educators. However, while the former is silly but heartwarming, the second askews more vulgar. Oh, it's true that the same jokes about bodily functions and underwear are in it, but a lot of new humor is inserted in that is of a much more adult nature. Jokes about American celebrities, politics, and the oh-so-funny abortion jokes. The result is a smorgasbord of the topical and nasty, which lampoons everything from superheroes to pedophiles (which in the world of Shin Chan aren't mutually exclusive). Gone are the scenes which tug gently on your heartstrings, replaced with references to modern TV shows and movies. This inserted humor is written mostly by Funimation's Jared Hedges and his crack team of crack writers who seem to be on crack. Comics writer Evan Dorkin was even brought in, in the first "season" of the show.
However, it is often quite funny, despite it's over reliance on current trends for jokes. Therein lies the rub, you see. How am I supposed to classify Shin Chan? As a dub of Crayon Shin-chan, or as an entity on its own? If you're going by accuracy to the original source material, it can be hard to tell, since I've seen little of the show in Japanese. I'm pretty sure that nobody was calling anyone a "retard" or flirting with genocide as a topic of comedy in the Japanese version. So to call it a "good" English dub with the standard of a good dub being accurate would be unrealistic. Frankly, it's not such a good dub of Crayon Shin-chan. But is it a good show the way Funimation addresses it? Yes, in its own way. So perhaps in this special case Shin Chan does merit consideration as a decent show.
It can hardly be called a good English dub with the wildly different humor at times, but I have to admit, the cast does a phenominal job performing. Laura Bailey's Shin is actually very similar to Akiko Yajima's. Monica Rial's Ai Satoume really captures the playfully one-minded nature of the character. Cynthia Cranz's "Mitsy" (Misae) sounds suitably worn and histeric over Shin's behavior. Chuck Huber, Brina Palencia, Carrie Savage, and Colleen Clinkenbeard all perform wonderfully, bringing their characters to life with charm and color. So I don't have any concerns about the English dub cast. They're great.
Perhaps ultimately, I would put Shin Chan in the "tolerable" category. On the one hand, it's pretty funny at times (though some of the jokes are driven into the ground, as I'm sure they are in the Japanese version as well), if lacking a sense of warmth. The voice actors really know what they're doing in their roles, too. On the other hand, it's still technically an iffy dub, if you're looking at it as a dub of Crayon Shin-chan. So "tolerable" seems like a fair assessment of its quality as an English dub.
Both versions feature Mr. Elephant pretty prominently. And isn't that what's important?