Melancholy Voice Choice II

There’s a new audition poll over at asosbrigade, this time for Yuki. I voted for #4, but frankly, I think all four girls flubbed it. Every one of them inflected their voice to a greater or lesser extent. The defining characteristic of the Japanese seiyuu’s performance was that she modulated her voice without inflecting it in the least. To understand what I mean, say aloud, in an absolute monotone: “I am an alien lifeform.” Then repeat it with a slight empahsis on the first word. “I am an alien life form.” Then say: “Life”, “Am”, “Alien”, “Form”, “I”, “An” without stressing any of the words. If you pronounce it as written, the odds are you did it fairly robotically. Even if you recorded it, then spliced the words together in the correct order, it wouldn’t sound like a sentence spoken by any human; it would seem machine generated.

The reason for that is that we not only stress words and syllables to emphasize our meanings, but we subtly modulate our voices as we slide from one word into the next. I’m not sure it’s a universal human trait that would be shared by a tonal language, such as Chinese, but to my untrained ear, it does sound like the Japanese do the same thing. That’s how Yuki sounds in the original Japanese: absolutely no inflection; her seiyuu never stresses a single syllable–but her voice naturally modulates through the sentence. The net effect is human, yet eeriely alien.

In fact, as I discussed this above, something ocurred to me that I went back and checked out. It’s not true that she never inflects. The barest hint can be discerned when she’s startled by something outside her understanding–such as when Kyon remarks that she looks cuter without glasses. Also when she’s denying that she’s disobeyed Kyon’s orders and talking about the Computer Society’s actions during Day of Sagittarius. It might be my imagination, but she seems to do it more often as the series progresses–which, given the novels, is entirely logical.

Unfortunately, none of the auditioned women seem to be capable of turning in a performance that subtle. I hope they either find a different one, or give Yuki’s VA better direction when the time comes to dub the voices.

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4 Responses to Melancholy Voice Choice II

  1. Wonderduck says:

    I went with #3, but, like you, I didn’t particularly care for any of them. #1 sounded sexy, which is probably why she’s leading, but that doesn’t fit for Yuki. #2 and #4 seemed like they were trying to be completely robotic, which doesn’t work for the character either. #3 was just the best of a bad lot.

    And it’s not your imagination, she DOES inflect more as the series progresses. In fact, when I read your comment, my mind immediately flashed on the “Day of Sagittarius” episode, just before you mentioned it.

    In any case, I’ll be watching the sub version, so it doesn’t REALLY matter to me that much, but…

  2. Ubu Roi says:

    Same here. Re: DoS–it’s really hard to separate the perception from the reality because that is such an awesome scene, but it seems that she stressed the denial ever so slightly, what she thought of the CS club’s actions, and most of all, her request for permission. It’s the scene that defines Kyon’s true role in the club–and led to my speculation that Kyon was really the one who was God.

    It’s easily my favorite episode, with “Live a Live” being a close second.

    “I beg of you, please stop saying that before Haruhi hears.” I still crack up at that scene, every single time!

  3. Andrew F. says:

    Never mind the acting; it’s the writing that annoys me. “Not that we have strange archetypes of personalities; what I mean is literal, in that she and I are not the same as ordinary humans like you”… ugh. Hopefully it’s just a first draft. [removed discussion of translation particulars because my Japanese just isn’t good enough for that]

  4. Ubu Roi says:

    Well, part of the translation problem is making the lip flaps match; it can enforce some strange changes. But yes, the “archetypes” phrasing was horrid. Definately came across as a rough first translation. When fansub groups are better translators than the professionals tasked with the job, look out.

    Kyon at least, will be easy to match, since most of the time he’s narrating, and you don’t see him actually speak. But I do hope (at least a little) they take enough liberties so that in episode ten, he doesn’t just say “What? What? I cry foul!” but instead “What? Unsportsmanlike conduct! Fifteen yard penalty and loss of down!”

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