I started watching Supernatural around October 2012 and it’s no coincidence that posts on Tokyo Jupiter ceased around the same time. I blame Netflix for making it so convenient to get sucked into this tv abyss (and fandom). Whereas I generally get tired (or bored) of drawn-out anime-watching marathons after a few hours, I think I was able to mainline the first five seasons of SPN within a couple of weekends…?
And believe it or not, it wasn’t the attractive young actors, nor the mildly veiled homoerotic tension between them, that drew me in and kept me watching. The show actually has witty writing and controlled pacing; for five seasons, I was entranced by the pathos of the Winchester brothers and their journey for salvation.
Supernatural, for the unfamiliar, tells the story of brothers Dean and Sam Winchester. They’re Hunters, killing the monsters and demons and other baddies that go thump in the night. Their father, also a Hunter, taught them the family trade at a young age before disappearing on a mission several years ago. Since then, Dean and Sam have crisscrossed the United States, fighting and killing and making sure that creatures of the supernatural realm don’t go tipping the rest of the world into oblivion.
If you’re an anime fan, that plot description alone resembles at least fifteen other series that you’ve watched (and at least another twenty that you haven’t). Supernatural does lend itself nicely to the well-worn formula of anime: a different monster each week, a diverse cast of character types, and complex protagonists working on the side of good to fight the Big McBaddie. Its defined structure allows the creators more freedom to be creative in other aspects of the show, be it the dialogue or characterizations of the smallest supporting character. Also, like an anime, SPN makes full use of recurring plot threads and characters; the audience that sticks around long enough with each new season is rewarded with continuations of narrative teasers in addition to the central overarching plot.
Supernatural: The Animation premiered in 2011. The anime consists of 22-episodes, loosely based on episodes of the first two seasons of the live-action series. Studio Madhouse produced the anime, with co-directors Shigeyuki Miya and Atsuko Ishizuka at the helm.
Now, here comes the dilemma for this fangirl: the US DVD release of Supernatural: The Animation has two language tracks. The English track features actor Jared Padalecki reprising his role as Sam and Jensen Ackles as Dean in the last two episodes of the series. The Japanese track features Japanese voice actors Yūya Uchida and Hiroki Touchi, the same actors who dub over Padalecki and Ackles in the Japanese television broadcast of SPN.
It’s like that age-old dub vs. sub dispute again, turned up on its head.
It may be argued that Supernatural: The Animation is the Japanese interpretation of the work. The lead animating team is Japanese, the storyline has been adjusted to appeal to Japanese sensibilities, so if one wanted to experience the work as its creators intended, then of course one should listen to the Japanese dub.
But even the Japanese viewing audience for Supernatural are tuning in not because the show is made with them in mind; they watch the show because they enjoy the storyline, they are captivated by the characters, and are interested in the mythology that the original show’s writers have built up. Is it not logical to presume that Supernatural: The Animation, as its adaptation, would benefit being viewed in the language of its origin, as played by the actor being animated in the first place?
(To be honest, I was truly surprised and pleased when I heard that Padalecki was Sam’s voice actor. I find it annoying when actors known for a role don’t care or aren’t involved in peripheral projects stemming from a work. Whether its genuinely out of love for the character or if it was just part of his contract, my little fangirl heart likes it when such things are consistent throughout various media.)
My feeling is since the anime is an adaptation, it should be experienced in the language of the adapter. The anime isn’t merely redubbing or re-editing the original series, it’s transforming it into a work that stands on its own merit. Anyone viewing the anime can and will appreciate it on its own merits, without having viewed the original live-action show. This is generally how I feel about cross-media adaptations anyway; the adapted work should be looked and evaluated on its own, not how close it stayed (or strayed) from the original art. If I wanted to experience the original work, then I’ll read/watch/play the original and get my jollies off that way.
I also find it exciting that a project such as this was approved and released. I’m not sure if it was profitable enough for Warner Brothers to consider a similar venture, but it’s such a cool part of living in a globalized world. Art isn’t exclusively the purview of one culture or one medium. American tv shows can be made into Japanese anime, young adult books can be adapted as graphic novels with Korean artists, British novels can be released as movies in the US. We all enjoy the same things, and we all want to be part of (re)creating it as far as our collective imaginations can take us.