Speed Grapher – Voice Acting is Important!

Ok, so it’s been more time than I realized since the last entry, so let’s give you a “Things I Like” entry! Anyway, Speed Grapher is an anime I’ve watched a couple years back, dubbed. It was on the cables, one anime every night, during the week-days. It was not… very good, let us say that.

Suitengou, Kagura and Saiga.

This is a “Things I Like” post, and as such, it’s not a review per-se, but my thoughts on the series. Spoilers should come as no surprise, this post will have a certain amount of spoilers.

Speed Grapher follows photographer Tatsumi Saiga, who used to photograph war zones and wars. He covers a secretive club where all the movers and shakers congregate, and get to enjoy rituals of decadence. He gets kissed by their “Goddess”,Kagura,  a young rich girl who is infected with a sort of virus, that if she kisses some people they die, and others, especially those who were exposed to it before (as Saiga was in one of the secret labs on an island he covered) get to develop super powers.

You could say that these super powers are personality dependant, and depend on some strong facet or obsession of the character in question. Saiga gets to blow up things he takes photographs of; a woman who loves diamonds can turn her body into a moving diamond; someone with tattoos can get them to detach and attack people, etc. In a way, all of these people are decadent and obsessed (except for the “Main Villain”, who got a different story), and their powers make manifest their obsessions, as weapons.

Saiga takes Kagura, frees her, and they all go and try to either escape or capture them, depending on whose side they are on.

Kagura, in her "Goddess" outfit.

It sounds good thus far, doesn’t it? Well, I wasn’t too enamored by it, and I wonder how much of it had to do with the voice acting. We’ve got Christopher Sabat playing the role, and I couldn’t help but this of his role of Lord Zetta in Makai Kingdom. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it didn’t feel so forced, so fake, every time he uttered a curse, and it just didn’t sound like a real person saying “Fuck!” but like a caricature.

Monica Rial portrays Kagura, and I am not sure why, but she chose to use “Falsetto”, which is questionable as she’s already a woman. Maybe she wanted to try and do “Young, scared girl”? Anyway, it ended up being grating and incredibly annoying. Only in the short section where Kagura sang I could actually listen to it. And after 24 episodes, the sound of this character got very old.
Oh yeah, her “bodily fluids” grant people super-powers, and even though she looks like that, she gets drugs that keep her from reaching puberty… Freud would have had a field-day here!

Choji Suitengou, the main villain was portrayed by Christopher Ayres, who may have used the “Sultry” voice a bit too heavily, but actually it sounded ok. The cries of “Suitengou!” by Kagura were another nerve that was grated constantly during the series.

We also had Ginza, a cop who is violent, corrupt, dresses like a prostitute and tries to get Saiga to be with her against his will, and she’s his greatest ally. Bob, the token homosexual, that aside from an annoying voice was also the stupidest character in the show; I was almost embarassed to watch him. He did have a moment or two when he acted like a human instead of a caricature, but it was rare.

The series had some promise, but aside from the voice acting, the animation was only ok. But seriously, that’s the importance of voice acting (there were also some other soundtrack issues, but I don’t remember what they were at this point, but I bothered to write it down, over two years ago, so it probably was something consequential). Voice acting is the same as acting. There’s a reason they give actors awards and money; the story is what we connect to, or at least it is the meat, but the actors are the vehicle that not only drives the story towards us, but drives our emotional connection.

We think of the movie, we think of the series, and speak of how something moved us, but what we connect to, what we latch onto, it’s the actors, the characters. In an animated series the animation of the characters, their subtle expressions also matter, but the voice is paramount. It is best for the voice acting to compliment and be complimented by the animation, but when they clash so horribly, the suspension of disbelief is broken.

Furthermore, most of the characters in the series, and this includes both the supporting cast of the “Good guys” and the “Evil guys” did not merit much thought, attention, or sympathy. They were crazy, caricatures, or just annoying. Suitengou caring for his subordinates and some of his subordinates being human was almost the only thing to care for (and the segment with the man who owed Suitengou money, and his son, that was good). For the most part, I just did not care, and as I’ve said before, that’s a sin when it comes to media, for me (unless it’s a “Don’t think about it” piece).
The enemies were too “Monster of the week” flavour, and there was not enough build-up. The revelation about how much Kagura’s mother is detestable did not resound deeply, and Suitengou’s past, well, we did care about that. The last moments with Kagura and Saiga were a saving grace in comparison, but I’m not sure they were worth surviving the whole series for.

Score: 4/10 Rotten Dubbings. I think if the dubbing was good, it could’ve been anywhere from 6 to 8, but I guess I’ll never know. The show tries to appear “Mature and edgy”, but the more it tries, the more it appears like a poser.

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8 comments on “Speed Grapher – Voice Acting is Important!

  1. Canne says:

    My main problem with the series is the below standard animation and the funny looking monsters. I was okay with Japaneses voice acting but never watch the eng dub. And I was quite intrigued by Kagura’s mother subplot. I thought it was fine.

    • Guy says:

      Well, the monsters truly had not so good animation. The series on the whole had ok animation, nothing stellar, but average. It suffered slightly more in design than in execution, in how things were actually designed…

      Well, it was on TV, I doubt I’d have watched it otherwise. Kagura’s mother was slightly interesting, but Suitengou moreso, but then again, the end was a let-off, y’know?

  2. Reltair says:

    The premise sounds interesting, although I’m not too sure on the animation. I never watch anime dubbed anymore now due to my bias of thinking that the original Japanese voices was probably vastly superior.

    I think I only saw 1 episode or so when this series first aired, but never really got into it. Meh.

  3. lovelyduckie says:

    “Voice acting is the same as acting. There’s a reason they give actors awards and money; the story is what we connect to, or at least it is the meat, but the actors are the vehicle that not only drives the story towards us, but drives our emotional connection.”

    I don’t take risks on dubs for the most part these days. However, there have been some exceptional dubs that I applaud. I think Disney does a great job dubbing Hayao Miyazaki’s work. Otherwise overall I think voice acting in Japan is far superior. It’s a well developed career that many MANY people try to become a part of over there. I don’t think that same national dedication exists too many places outside Japan for voice acting roles in anime. But I’m not a part of the industry, and this is all speculation based on articles I’ve read. Although the manga/anime REC gives you a good idea of just how many people are aiming to be voice actors in Japan (Bakuman too a bit).

    • Guy says:

      The reason it works for Disney is because, well, they take actors who had made their fame as flesh and blood actors ;) it’s not like here where there are professional dubbers, but 90% of what they dub is aimed at kids aged 12 and under, and it’s not like they act anywhere but there… it also ends with all the animated shows for kiddies sounding the same ;)

      But seriously, just find actors, and let them act in animated features, presto! The thing Disney and now movies from Dreamworks/Pixar have going for them is that it is now accepted as something serious actors can do and still earn respect, which for actors is a currency bar none.

  4. Yi says:

    I like the premise and the images look pretty good. Still, based on the review, it seems to ultimately fall a bit flat… Oh well, never really planned on watching this.

  5. madnesscult says:

    If you disliked the voice acting in the dubbed version of the series, why didn’t you seek out the original version?

    There are countless anime series and OVAs that have absolutely HORRID English voice acting, but are nonetheless amazing. I, personally, try to find the original (subtitled) version of any anime or foreign film I’m interested in.

    Back to the main topic – personally, I really enjoyed the first half of the series, but thought that all of the “Am I a pedophile?” longing and brooding about life from Saiga during the second half was extremely boring. Suitengou has to be my favorite character, and I think is also the most fleshed-out.

    • Guy says:

      I watched it on TV because it was on daily, for one month. It didn’t impress me enough to find it online, and sometimes it’s nice to watch things on TV.

      Saiga was a very angsty character.

      To be honest, I only really watched it cause it was on TV…

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