The Master of Unlocking…
I apologize if you donít get the reference in the title, but here we are again, less than a month away from another release of Final Fantasy.† And Square Enix, churning ever so quickly on its hype machine, has blessed us with the second North American trailer of its storied franchise.† This one was supposed to be special because it showcased the new theme of the game, ĎMy Handsí, by Leona Lewis.† While it was fitting,† I would have liked to hear the original Japanese theme, but what really grated on me was† what would appear to be another round of terrible English dubbing.
In the past, I was willing to let poor dubbing work slide.† Final Fantasy X had characters so clown-like and caricatured that in some cases it worked with the goofy voices.† The ridiculous ending compounded with the poor voiceovers only built my apathy towards Squareís flagship series.† I was spared XI through my general avoidance of MMOs and X-2 certainly didnít resonate with me in the slightest.† By the time Final Fantasy XII rolled around, any fancy I once had for Final Fantasy had long since faded.† But seeing the discount price I picked it up and my faith was to be restored.
I could rave about the gameplay of Final Fantasy XII, but hundreds of reviews on the internet have already sung its praises.† For me, what really did it, it was the voices.† For the first time the characters didnít sound overwrought, whiny, angry, angsty, overdone, hammy, or any other pejorative I could come up with for overly acted and poorly executed.† Some say it was the British accents, but even those characters that lacked accents were voiced to a reasonable quality.† Itís unfortunate that Final Fantasy XII did not spark a trend towards better English dubbing.
Lightning, lead protagonist of Final Fantasy XIII has been described by Tim Rogers at Kotaku as ďthe best parts of Cloud, the best parts of Squall, the best parts of Auron, the best parts of Terra, and none of the bad parts of any of those characters.† Sheís tough, and sheís hot.† Sheís liquid-hotrogen.† She isnít annoying or broodingÖand sheís sympathetic.Ē† When I read that, I had to admit, I was excited, hard even, so I popped in my import copy of the game, played it for ten hours and came to the conclusion that Mr. Rogers was right.† Lightning, in spite of my lack of overall Japanese literacy sounded like every thing he mentioned.† Lightning was a complete character not a caricature, with reactions that spanned the emotional spectrum instead of spanning a character archetype.
So why am I so disappointed about the English trailer?† Itís probably because the first words I hear from Lightning made her sound whiny, weak, and dare I say it, mildly brooding.† Perhaps Iíve let my bias get in the way, I shouldnít let one small sample size of poor voice work ruin an entire game for me right?† Wrong, let me tell you why.
Good acting is the hallmark of a good movie, and Iím not talking about one of those so good itís bad ham fests like Army of Darkness or Boondock Saints.† Iím talking about movies that are made to illicit a variety of emotional responses in each scene leaving you with a lasting impression and a desire to see it again.† And I even though I know youíre thinking it, Iím not talking about The Notebook, go away.† A necessary attribute for achieving such an effect in is actor/actress consistency.† You canít have one hammy moment followed by a serious one.† Overdone emotional contrast like that can ruin films (Gran Torino anyone?).† The Final Fantasy XIII trailer has Vanille, another female lead sounding like a prepubescent goody two-shoes in once scene, while sounding heroic and self-sacrificing in another.† Iím aware the emotional context could have changed but what annoys me is that Vanilleís voice changes too.† Itís as if sheís being voiced by two different actresses and hence, compromises the character and the experience.
When this seeds of this article formed in my mind, it occurred to me that I would probably raise the ire of a lot of dubbing enthusiasts out there.† They would undoubtedly assail me with comments like, ďYou donít understand Japanese, so how could you tell how characters are feeling.† Subtitles on the bottom of the ruin cinematics!† I canít read subtitles that fast,Ē or god forbid, ďYouíre some faggot otaku lol.Ē† Okay, you got me, I donít understand Japanese, I used to watch a lot of anime (subtitled), and I do read fairly quickly.† However, if youíre reading this, I assume you might actually care about what I say, so Iíd like to put my two cents in.
First of all, I donít believe that language has any sort of monopoly on human emotion.† We all laugh and we all cry, I understand the cultural processes that lead up to such displays of emotion may differ from language to language, but I do believe that people are capable of the same feelings.† Itís probably why music and films despite their countries of origins tend to deal with the same themes.† I love you, you love me, you donít love me anymore, and I believe in something.† I find it very strange that I can hear that in the Japanese voice track but in English, a language I understand fully, I donít get any balance of emotion whatsoever.† Everybody in the English trailer is decidedly one note reminding me once again of the traditional Final Fantasy character archetypes of angsty, angry, and goofy.
I understand that not everyone likes reading, but I am not unsympathetic.† I certainly donít believe that anyone should be forced to read subtitles especially if they are unable to keep up.† And sometimes, it does annoy me to see text clogging up some of the most spectacular scenes in Final Fantasy XIII.† I might not speak Japanese, but I do speak Chinese, and while the dubbing of Chinese movies is poor, it usually because a lot of the meaning is lost or context can be omitted completely.† A lot of that I blame on the fact that in order to time words to mouth movement, sometimes context and meaning has to be sacrificed.† I feel that subtitles help alleviate some of those timing constraints.
Itís after writing all of this that it might have finally occurred to me why so many fans of Final Fantasy consider Cloud to be the best protagonist ever.† That reason is that he never talked.† Sure he was surly, moody, and oblvious, but without saying a word scored Tifa and Aeris, a wet dream for most fanboys.† And if youíre a fan girl, Iím sure the slash fictions have you covered.† While I donít consider Final Fantasy VII to be my milestone Final Fantasy, it just seemed like that each subsequent installment soured the experience just a little more than its predecessor , perhaps itís just that young effeminate angry boys are just more attractive when theyíre silent.† Personally, I could be placated if they just spoke a language I didnít understand.† Come on Square, wouldnít it be cheaper anyways?