Ichigo Mashimaro is a show about 5 girls and their daily lives, it’s a very well done comedy focused slice of life aimed more at making adults feel nostalgia than being a show aimed at a younger audience – though both can enjoy it easily. It’s got one season, a special episode, and then later on got some ova episodes done in a really godawful artstyle that kind of entirely ruined the feel of the series and shat all over Barasui’s original manga art style.
Anyway, this is actually a show I’ve seen quite a bit and is a personal favorite – not like top ever favorite, but definitely something that would come to mind pretty early on if I was asked. So I’ve seen it quite a bit, and in both languages, and this is another rare case where I feel that the dub was done way better than the Japanese. Most of these good dub posts will be on par with the original audio, but I suppose I’m picking those I feel are superior to start with, so don’t think I’ll just go around saying EVERY DUB is better than the original. As for Ichimaro specifically, I’m actually not the only one who thinks this – before all the blog wipes I’ve had I used to have an entry reviewing the series and so many people agreed with me on the dub being at LEAST as good as the japanese, and even on other places that usually hate dubs have pretty regularly agreed with that as well. So it’s at least alright!
To me, the dub has 3 crucial parts that make it so good. The casting, the localization, and the way they very smoothly handled something that in most shows – even when only subbed – come off as awkward and clunkily dealt with.
First, the casting;
All 4 of the main cast members that are younger girls (so everyone but Nobue!) are 11 and 12 years old. The Japanese seiyuu were usual seiyuu, you know, older adult women, and usually in a dub that’s the case as well and it’s hidden even worse. BUT, here, the dub studio hired 14 and 15 year olds to do the roles, and their voices sound COMPLETELY authentic and believable as these little kids because of the fact they are voiced by ACTUAL little kids. They are a bit older but it’s hugely different from some 30 year old acting 12 and a 14 year old and it really shows.
These girls also, I assume thanks to them not having much other work in the field (or anywhere for that matter), have a really nice feel to their voices. What I mean is that they sound like they are really enjoying the work and trying to make these characters come alive. This is feeling that only ever gets across with new voice actors for the most part both in Japan and here in the west. Over time the director starts ruining any talent, skill, or ability you might have, plus starts typecasting you and forcing you to sound one way again and again. This makes those robotic types of voices you hear so often and I’ve actually seen (well, heard) a lot of voice actors AND Japanese seiyuu both go through that path.
Just take a look at Rie Kugimiya for a big name example, 98% of her roles are soulless same-character loli tsunderes with her being forced to use the same voice. However, if you hear her talking normally, she has a really nice voice that RARELY ever gets used properly. Her whole high pitched loli tsundere voice is entirely an act she’s forced to put on and, if they let her NOT do that, these roles would be so much better and have so much more personality. Her roles in Gintama, FMA, Yakuza, and especially Recorder to Randoseru, prove this. She has talent, she can do other voices really well and even her normal voice is really nice, but she’s not allowed to actually use her skills because it’s not what the director wants.
Nobue also has a nice voice and sounds the right age, I almost forgot to mention her!
As for their voices fitting, they don’t just fit because of the age and natural feel to their voices, but also because they just do. Chika sounds like a more serious – but still fun loving – girl, Miu sounds like an annoying but lovable and energetic brat, Matsuri sounds like the annoying whiny girl that she is, and Ana – well Ana will come up again later in this post but she also really sounds different from the rest in enough of a way that it’s believable she’s a foreigner. They did a great job. The only complaint I used to have, but now find really charmingly cute, is that they are all Canadian voice actors – so they say things like bayg instead of bag, and you know stuff like that, they pronounce some shit funny.
And before it goes unsaid – these girls are also very talented, they were in sync with the lip flaps all the time, the intonation of every word was right, everything about the acting was really extremely well done and it’s even more surprising when you remember how young these girls were while doing this – and yet so called professionals who have been doing this for years STILL suck at some of this shit. So their ages matching is hardly the only thing good here, they just did a damn good job voice acting in general.
Also, a side note I’m not sure on the legitimacy of because I forget why I think it – but I recall reading or hearing or seeing something about them doing this dub in the same way Japanese do. As in, they had them all in a room doing the episodes together instead of having each actor come and do their lines then leave and then the next some other day, which also really causes problems in dub quality because you lose that real human interaction in the acting. However, I don’t know WHY I remember that being the case here so it could be entirely inaccurate. Either way, no matter how they did it, everyone did a great job.
The next big thing that makes the dub so good is the localization;
This is another case where the entire script was handled with a lot of care when being translated and localized. Pretty much everything is spot on and they even went ahead with keeping a lot of cultural stuff some viewers in the west might not get. Which reminds me, this was a Geneon release when they were still around – and while all their dubs weren’t very good aside this one – their localizations were almost all great, and the fact they continually licensed and released niche titles like this really showed they cared. Plus, back to the point, from them knowing that and caring about it, they were able to keep those cultural things because they knew the titles were niche enough that if you’re watching this, you probably will get them. They aren’t important enough to matter that much for anyone who doesn’t anyway.
Aside that, it’s pretty much spot on with the Japanese in terms of what they say, the delivery of the lines, and so on. There’s even a lot of subtleties that would very likely go missed by most other people such as Funimation, like when Miu is upset sometimes she says things that the other kids never do, things that kids in general don’t all that often at their ages at least. Nothing unheard of, just a damn or something else scattered about every now and then, which while it’s completely normal is also a bit older language than you’d expect from a 12 year old and it shows a part of her character that could have easily gone missing without it.
Overall, they basically kept the script perfect to the original yet very naturally and realistically feeling in the way it flows in English. Nothing about it feels forced or clunky and the great voice cast really makes the great script shine.
And the last big part – that thing I didn’t specify earlier:
The way they did the English speaking parts.
This is something almost nothing does right ever. If they speak English in most dubs (as in, engrish is in the original audio) they tend to have them speak Spanish or just say some stupid nonsense or entirely cut out such an important part of the character or plot by just having them continue speaking English regularly. For example, Azumanga Daioh falls into the first category wherein most Engrish is replaced with Spanish (Yukari even teaches it instead of English if I recall – though I may be wrong) and other times its entirely removed or treated very strangely. In one scene Tomo and Kagura are fighting over what a word means – in English…and they are doing it IN ENGLISH, so the fact the argument going on is about an English term goes entirely missed in the dub and is left feeling a little awkward.
However, in Ichimaro, they did two things that only work because of both of them being there. First, when the characters are speaking English the actual voice actors in the dub SPOKE ENGRISH. And it sounds ENTIRELY authentic to the point that myself AND everyone else who had never heard (or heard about this part of it) the dub had no clue they didn’t just use the original audio for those portions. However, the dubbing studio knew that if they cut audio from the English actors into the Japanese actors just for those lines, the voices wouldn’t match and wouldn’t flow well at all – much like in shows where there’s singing and it randomly cuts from English to an entirely different voice singing. So, they had the actresses do it themselves, and they did REALLY well, and I think the only place praise can really be put is in them for doing such a great job making it sound like a real foreigner who isn’t good with English trying to speak it. It didn’t sound forced and had all the little nuances of non native speakers. It seems entirely legit and it works great. Ana especially stands out for this as she’s the one primarily speaking engrish, and the girl who did her voice really showed a lot of talent here.
As for the second aspect, it’s just a simple line of text like a sub title that would show at the top of the screen saying <In English>. So even if somehow the very obvious Engrish didn’t tip you off, this makes it clear, the character is speaking in a language that isn’t their norm (even if the dub has them always speaking it).
Overall, this is…yup, again, one of my favorite dubs. Chika is my favorite character in the show (and, actually, one of my favorite 2D girls in general…I guess that’s another ‘again’!) and maybe because of that her dub voice is my favorite of the cast as well. I’d also recommend this show to anyone who hasn’t seen it, just be wary if you download it – some fansubbers decided to put really shitty incest jokes in at random. I never dealt with this as the first time I ever even saw the show was at Anime Expo when it first got released here, and I had to buy it right after watching it a few minutes in the exhibit hall on a small TV at Geneon’s booth because it was just so fun. It’s an extremely charming and cute little gem of an anime and full of laughs for all ages and with one of the best dubs out there to boot, a definite must see for any fan of anime.
Oh and this is also the original place of gununu which gave birth to oh so many parody images!