I started watching Supernatural during the hiatus between season 8 and 9, after a bunch of people I follow on Tumblr kept posting gifs. I was intrigued by the guy in the trenchcoat in the gifs and decided that netflixing the show over the summer was a good idea. I got caught up and started watching the show live after episode 9.03 and my downward spinal was in full swing!
Well, as it turns out, there’s a Supernatural anime series! I haven’t heard much about it through the fandom and I have no idea if that’s just because not many people have seen it or if it’s just really terrible and is the SPN fandom’s Thing We Pretend Doesn’t Exist. Lots of people in the fandom review and analyze and flail about the TV series, so I doubt adding my voice to that din will benefit anyone much. But since I can understand Japanese, I might be able to offer something interesting about that side of things with the anime? Maybe?
I’m watching this on the bluray, so here’s just a quick review of the disk itself. The menus are pretty terrible. Not very responsive and too many layers. The show can be watched in English and in “日本語” (why the heck wouldn’t they just put the option as “Japanese”?). There are several different subtitle options, including Spanish, French, Chinese, a couple others I can’t remember, and English.
Before each episode, there is a brief introduction by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. On the first one, Jared says “hello”; and Jensen says “こんにちは” (konnichiwa: hello) and I learn that, yes, in fact, Jensen Ackles speaking Japanese is my jam. His pronunciation here and in the season 5 episode “Changing Channels” is a tiny bit awkward, but it’s understandable and askdl;gna;dlhlakdsjfsad. I am weak against such things. Anyway, so they both talk about the project and how animation is awesome. It feels a little scripted (which I’m sure it is), but I am okay with that.
Now for the show!
01: The Alter Ego
(Remake of season 1 episode 6 “Skin”)
Written by Takayama Naoya
Original written by John Shiban
While searching for their father, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester land in a small town plagued by gruesome murders. Their investigation exposes a demonic shapeshifter who inhabits the bodies of Sam, Dean… and a beautiful detective.
Right off the bat, I have a love/hate relationship with this anime. The character designs are good and they fit with what the TV series is, but it’s not a style that I personally like. There are a few really beautiful scenery shots, though, like this one with the Impala driving in the distant.
The Impala is probably my favorite character design in this series so far. Baby is sleek and beautiful. I’m no expert on animation, but I’ll assume that the car was mostly CG.
Sam is my runner up for best character design. He looks like a 2D version of Jared Padalecki from the early seasons. Dean’s design, on the other hand, seems little off to me. Like his eyes are just a little too wild. Or something. Anime Sam feels like TV Sam, but anime Dean doesn’t feel like TV Dean. The difference is slight and may not bother most fans, but it’s enough for me to be distracted by it. I’m an anime snob.
The dialogue is about what one would expect. The show still takes place in America, so all the place and character names are English. I was wondering if Sam would call Dean “お兄さん” (onii-san: older brother), but instead he just calls him “ディーン” (Dean). So, even though this is a Japanese production and the original dialogue is in Japanese, it feels more like a Japanese translation of an English language show. This is not at all a bad thing. If anything, it makes the anime feel more authentic, as if Warner Bros. or the CW or whoever is in charge of such things just randomly decided to make an animated version and it just happened to get a Japanese dub.
Speaking of the Japanese dub, Sam’s voice, performed by Uchida Yuuya, is spot on. It’s youthful, without being too young and it matches well with Padalecki’s voice from early in the TV series. This is a guy in his early 20s and it sounds like it. Dean’s voice, Touchi Hiroki (who was apparently Seishirou in TRC!), on the other hand, way too deep. It makes him sound like a skeevy middle-aged man and he’s supposed to be, what, 26-ish in this? Yeah, the voice doesn’t feel right at all.
What does feel right is Dean using “俺” (ore: I, me) to refer to himself and Sam using “僕” (boku: I, me). Ore tends to be a little more macho, a little harsher than boku, not necessarily rude, but definitely the less polite of the two. Dean’s speech patterns in general are a little harsher. He sounds like a lite version of a yakuza stereotype or the tough guy, delinquent high schooler. Like, I get it. I get what they were going for, but the voice just doesn’t work for me.
Apparently, these are the same voice actors who do the Japanese dub of the TV series, so yay for consistency, but, Touchi’s Dean just isn’t a good fit.
Because they only had 22 minutes to work with, the episode feels a little rushed. The story itself is well-paced, but the episode is missing the humor that the original series had. Also, because this is based off of episode 6 of the first season, rather than episode 1, it kinda just jumps right into it. We’re not told why they hunt monsters. The only backstory we get is a flashback to the Yellow-Eyed Demon leaning over baby Sam’s crib, Jessica’s fiery death and a few mentions of John Winchester. Obviously, I don’t know what the anime will reveal as I continue to watch, but so far, a passable knowledge of the first season or two of the TV series seems to be a prerequisite. I wonder how the anime series pans out for people who haven’t seen the TV series. Would people like that even be watching this?
I’ll mainly just comment on the voices for this part. Sam’s voice is perfect, obviously, because he’s voiced by Jared Padalecki. Dean, though? Guh. Voiced by Andrew Farrar. Not a bad actor, but… not Jensen Ackles. It’s jarring to have only one Winchester. I know Ackles shows up toward the end of the anime to lend his voice to the character, but until then, I’ll probably be whiny about this new guy in every post. Like, what? Were there scheduling conflicts or something? Because if I were in charge, I would’ve figured out a way to work around that. Because if you have the Winchester brothers, in any form, they need to be Jared and Jensen. As it is, if I close my eyes, it sounds like Sam Winchester found a new hunting partner whose name is Dean and who acts a bit like Sam’s brother, but isn’t.
The dialogue in English sounds a lot more natural than in Japanese. Again, I think this is because I expect these characters to be speaking English, so while the dialogue is fluid in Japanese, it’s kinda wrong. Some of the humor is back, too. Dean, despite the voice, acts more like his live-action counterpart than the Japanese version.
So, I guess that’s my review of the first episode? I know I didn’t delve too much into the actual plot, and I probably won’t with the stories that are based off episodes of the TV series. And I know that future posts probably won’t be as wordy.
The ending theme is “Carry On My Wayward Son.” The bluray uses the original Kansas song, but apparently, a cover by a Japanese singer was used on the Japanese release/airing. I think it would’ve been neat to hear a Japanese language cover of the song, but the Japanese version is actually sung in English, so. Meh.
After just the first episode? I don’t dislike it. I definitely have issues with the casting and the character designs will take a little while for me to adjust to. But overall, I think this little anime has potential. I sincerely hope it can reach that potential by the end.
And with that, here are a couple more screencaps! Just because!
Sam channeling his inner Castiel and wearing a trenchcoat:
The shapeshifter, looking totally awesome as an animated thing:
The images that accompanied the end credits were gorgeous. I would love to have posters of these on my wall, especially the first and the last one.
So, have you seen this? Did you like it? Feel free to leave a comment!
Starting with the next episode, I will do something I haven’t done since the late ’90s. I will watch the English dub first. Despite Dean’s voice, I have a feeling watching the dub first will help to give me a better impression of the series as a whole.