Purism vs. Revisionism in Animé: Ghost Stories

In the prior post, Andrew complains that ADV was apparently trying to piss off the purists when they completely re-wrote the dialogue for Ghost Stories. That may explain why I found it funny as hell: I’m not a purist. I generally don’t like changes for no reason, or to re-write the show to fit the adapter’s vision, but this is one of the exceptions (and for anyone old enough to remember, so is What’s Up, Tiger Lilly?) Another example is actually Lord of the Rings. A friend of mine urged me to join in the furror over Peter Jackson dropping the Tom Bombadil segment from the first movie, but I declined. There was no way to get every word, every scene from the book into the movie. And of all the ones to drop, that one was fine by me; I’d never liked it in the novels. It seemed to be a pointless diversion that never made any difference in the story whatsoever.

Literal translation can be a bad thing, because some jokes just don’t translate well, and neither do some terms. A good translator is going to vary a bit; a bad translator is going to subject the viewer to things like “anti-substance torpedoes” from Crest of the Stars (during the Gosroth’s final battle, dubbed version).

Because the reviews said the English version was funnier, I listed to it instead of the subtitled version. (I may listen to the Japanese later to compare). And I found it to be hilarious! I will grant that there’s a problem with the re-write: episode 4 feels out of place because it is genuinely meant to be a scary story, and there’s not much the writers can do about that, so it had to be played mostly straight.

The major problem I have is that the dialogue is sometimes a bit to adult for grade-schoolers. Never overwhelmingly so, but Hajime in particular sounds more like a mid-teenager than a fourth-grader, and Satsuki does too, at times. Momoko’s character, on the other hand, is a total riot. They wrote her as a complete Jesus-freak, innocently tossing off lines like “You poor thing! I mean, Praise the Lord!” It sounds like it should come across really condesending and arrogant, but instead she’s played so innocent, sincere, and warm, it’s insanely funny to hear the dichotomy between her obvious intent and actual words. “When I knew [your mother], she was a homosexual destined for Eternal Damnation, but through the Powers of Jesus, she was saved and gained Holy Powers!” (Well, it was something like that, I don’t have time to check it for total accuracy this morning.)

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I was raised as the “wrong” religion in the depths of the Baptist Bible Belt, and so I’m especially keen to see that type get skewered. Most of the bible-thumping scripture-quoting folks I ran into were arrogant ‘tards that assured me I was destined for the fires of eternal damnation because I didn’t worship God in exactly the same way they did. (The ultimate being the one fellow annoying me while I was trying to wash the car one day, who told me I was going to the wrong church . . . of his same faith, no less!) It might not be incorrect to say that it’s Monica Rial’s portayal that makes the show for me.

It’s not just Christians that get whacked; Leo is portrayed as Jewish, giving rise to a number of cross-faith jokes. There’s a bit of topical humor, Hollywood celebrity jokes, some animé in-jokes, and plenty of absurdity to be found. “Monsters only come to get bad people and Republcans!” Ok, didn’t need the political humor, but it was balanced by a swipe at Al Sharpton.

One feature of the DVD is that there’s a complete set of subtitles with the literally-translated text, and then a second set of English-dialogue subtitles for the hearing-impared. This came in handy, as I had one problem with Monica’s performance. Her voice was so breathless and low, that it’s hard to understand her words. At times, I had to go back and turn on the sub-titles to catch what she was saying. Perhaps because of the second subtitle stream, it was hard to find a setting that translated signs/text only. This is a common feature on DVD’s (such as FMP:TSR), where the only sub-titles shown are translations of Japanese signs and titles. What bothers me is that few, if any, of the R1 licensors bother to put that option in the menu.

All in all, I found this to be an enjoyable DVD. I don’t know if I’m going to go out of my way to collect the rest, as I’m a bit behind on my fansub commitments, but I feel I could do far worse for laughs.

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3 Responses to Purism vs. Revisionism in Animé: Ghost Stories

  1. Andrew F. says:

    I wasn’t complaining about the dub because I’m a purist (I’m not); I was complaining because I didn’t find it to be funny or amusing at all. Of course, it seemed like everyone else in the room thought it was hilarious. More power to ADV for taking what was probably a cheap license and getting more than their money’s worth out of it, I guess.

  2. Ghost Stories is one of those series that I’ve been interested in for a while, now. Maybe it’s about time…

    “Here Visa…c’mere Visa…here boy…” Oh, he’s hiding again…

  3. Brickmuppet says:

    I’ve got to agree with Ubu.
    The show holds up unevenly until the last episode which only had a few laughs. On the whole each disc is good for a chuckle.

    I found some of the humor off-putting but I’m a bitter old fart, it’s usually less raunchy than South Park though it generally lacks that shows point.

    Anyway, I laughed…..I bought all the discs, and while they don’t have a lot of re watch value they are useful to spring on unsuspecting friends and I don’t feel robbed.

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