Sorry for the super late and weird posting time, my internet was down for a big chunk of today and I wasn’t sure how posting photos from my phone would look, so I decided to wait it out until the internet clicked back on!
One of the first things I think that you experience, as you become more and more of an anime fan, is realizing how different a dubbed version of a show can be from the original format. There’s a lot of things that culturally don’t translate well, and then there’s especially Japanese word plays or phrasing that just can’t be directly translated without confusing the audience.
It’s these instances where you’ll see bigger changes, but in a good dub that’s usually pretty much it. However, there are… lesser dubs. Okay, bad dubs. Dubs that seem to run on the assumption that English-speaking viewers are too stupid, too innocent, too whatever to be able to handle the original Japanese context. Dubs that insert jokes for no reason at all (although, admittedly, sometimes for the better).
Beyond the over-editing and utter destruction of the original content, it remains to be said that dubs–however awful–have a place in the heart of every anime nerd. They are more often than not the beginning of a very big fandom, and for me, Pokémon was a big start of that.
First off, can we just gush a bit about the teaser trailer for the upcoming Pokémon movie that’s due to hit theatres in Japan next July? Like, so pretty. (It seems I still have a crush on a 10-year-old. This was a lot less weird in 1999.) The studio that has always produced Pokémon is teaming up with the studio that does Attack on Titan, so I’m pretty excited for some excellent animation.
Now, there are good dubs and bad dubs, but regardless of quality, I’d say the most well-recognized dub has got to be the Pokémon series. The fact that we’ve seen all 20-seasons of it (in some degree or another) here in the United States is a pretty huge deal when it comes to English anime distribution.
A lot of series don’t quite survive long enough for a full English run, especially not without studios switching and deciding to return to a more true-to-the-original format, but Pokémon seems to have stuck to its guns. Ash Ketchum is still Ash Ketchum, there’s still Misty, Brock, Jesse, James, Meowth–it’s all far too ingrained in our understanding of what Pokémon is to change anything now.
I remember the first moment it clicked for me that Pokémon, just like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, must have an original Japanese baseline. Just like Serena was actually Usagi, and Madison was really Tomoyo, there must be a counterpart to Ash.
Of course, there is. It’s Satoshi. And Misty? She’s Kasumi. Brock is actually Takeshi. None of their names were parodies on their Pokémon-type preferences; in fact, they were all rather normal, Japanese names. And the term “Pokémon”? It’s an abbreviation for the series original title, Pocket Monsters. This was all something I discovered a long time ago, but it wasn’t until just recently I decided to look up the Japanese-to-English differences on something that I’ve always wondered about.
If you ever saw Pokémon Movie: 2000 (titled Pocket Monsters the Movie: Revelation Lugia in Japan), you’ll recall the basic the premise as being Ash and friends end up on an island during a festival and eventually become involved in a nature-balancing-act between the three legendary bird Pokémon: Moltres, Zapdos, and Articuno. This is all spurred on by a crazy guy wanting to collect them. Ash is the “Chosen One” who must make it all right with the help of Lugia, another legendary Pokémon.
I can guarantee that if you saw Pokémon the Movie: 2000, then when I say “Power of One”, you know exactly what I’m talking about. An original song, written especially for the English version of the film, “Power of One” is sung by the most legit woman of the disco age, Donna Summer. The tune itself is based on the song played by shrine maiden Melody, who uses it to basically purify the earth at the end and stop all the ruckus. (Please ignore my terrible summarizing.)
It was quite normal for dubbed anime series in the 90s to completely re-dub with their own music. (The early Sailor Moon dub is especially infamous for this.) Why? They wanted the extra work? They’re morons? Who knows. It has luckily become a passing fad, but at the time it was the norm.
But this made me wonder. With Melody’s scene, the song that she was playing matched up just so with the movements of her instrument. So, I couldn’t decide. Was “Power of One” just English lyrics dubbed to the original Japanese end credits song, also based on the instrumental score song from the film? Or, if there was no such matching end credits song, was “Power of One” made using the Japanese instrumentals from the original film? Or, did the English version create their own instrumental piece as well as a new end credits song? The answer was surprising.
The tune that Melody plays in Pokémon the Movie: 2000 is a combo of the latter two answers. I’ll show you a great video of the two songs compared in a moment, but to put it simply the songs are similar in a sense, but each version is distinct from the other. You can tell the English version took some inspiration from the original score piece, but it’s way different at the same time.
Basically, the English version created their own version of the instrumental piece, including the basic shrine maiden tune Melody is supposed to play, and then used that as a basis for their planned end credits song, which was also their promo text to Pokémon the Movie: 2000–“The Power of One”. And dude, isn’t that just, like, a lot of work? Well, regardless of 4Kids work ethic, regardless of their dubbing skills, I actually have always really loved their version of that big, epic scene in the film. But, I’ll let you decide. Which version do you like better–the original Japanese score, or the updated-for-whatever-reason English score?