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Original or Dubbed? A Breakdown of Anime music dubs in “Sailor Moon” and “Robotech”

When a series is dubbed, things can go terribly wrong. Plots can change, voices can be just wrong, and so much else may end up haywire. This was more true in the past than the current era, which led to the whole bad reputations dubs receive now.

Article by David F. Pendrys

Music was another area which could be precarious, especially regarding songs, but also background music (BGM) could certainly be affected. However, sometimes the dub manages to produce a better result than the original, which seems counterintuitive. “Robotech” and “Sailor Moon” serve as great examples of this.

“Robotech” was constructed of three separate Japanese series. “The Super Dimensional Fortress Macross” was dubbed into “Robotech” Season 1 and with it came a brand new soundtrack. Similarly, when the first two seasons of “Sailor Moon” (well, one and a half) were dubbed by DIC, a nearly entirely new soundtrack arrived a well. But, the results were different. I only worked with Season 1 of “Robotech” because a vocalist was so prominent in that season and the dub treatment was…something.

Opening theme

The original Japanese opening theme to “Macross” features a dramatic theme, though the vocals are a bit rough for the time, but the overall melody is great. “Robotech” has an instrumental fanfare (see video below) that is … admittedly not good.

For “Sailor Moon,” the English dub used the same basic theme as the original Japanese opening, “Moonlight Densetsu,” but changed up the melody a little and added a guitar solo. It is a faster pace compared to the earlier versions of the Japanese theme, though “Sailor Moon Super” had a faster version. Compared to “Macross” and “Robotech” the openers didn’t vary in quality too much.

Vocals

Minmay (Minmei) is a central figure in the series and she sings, using music as a weapon at times. Though while in the Japanese version she sings well voiced by Mari Iijima, in the English version, voiced by Reba West, she does not. In fact, her character does more harm to the audience than to the Earth’s enemies in the dub. It reaches the point that when another character drunkenly sings “My Time to Be a Star” (or “Stage Fright”) a Minmay song in the English version, it is BETTER than the version the singer herself produced.

“Macross” features more songs as well as the show produced more than the dub did. Instead, dub audiences are treated to “Stage Fright” every few episodes, which is just horrid.

In the final battle in “Macross” (or Season 1 of “Robotech”), Minmay has a special song she sings during it. The dub version produces “We Will Win,” the best Reba West song of the lot, though that’s relative.

On the original, it is a better song than the dub, clearly though the series is blown out of the water but they compilation movie, “Macross: Do You Remember Love?” which has an even higher quality song at that point the plot.

Vocals were an interesting story over on “Sailor Moon.” The Japanese version is filled with high quality vocal productions throughout the five seasons of the show. The dub, however, brought in multiple dramatic pieces.

But with some of the in-episode vocals, the dub won. DIC had “My Only Love” during the dramatic reveal episode where Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask learn their identities and other serious things are happening. This replaced “Illusionary Silver Crystal” in the sub which was weaker.

Also, When Sailor Moon is in a final battle with Beryl, in the Japanese version, “Moonlight Densetsu” plays, the dub however played the epic “Carry On.” The dub wins that round yet again.

But on the other hand, during a version of “Sailor Moon R,” the sub won this round with “Ai No Senshi” while “She’s Got the Power” was utilized in the dub sung by Stan Bush (whose vocals defined “Transformers the Movie”). It is a good song, but rivaled by the original.

Of an interesting note, the Cloverway dub produced English versions of the Japanese vocals from seasons 3 and 4, and they were … not great, as often happens when English lyrics are crammed into an original melody. In the case of “Sailor Moon,” the dub crew was able to create vocals that didn’t suggest they hated their audience. “Robotech” had no such luck.

Background music (BGM)

I listened to some “Macross” BGM and some “Robotech” BGM. They’re both about even, though the dub produced the dramatic “Battlestations theme.

Over on “Sailor Moon” the DIC dub changed the BGM for seasons 1 and 2, and the Cloverway dub didn’t touch the BGM of seasons 3 and 4, and obviously the Viz Dub didn’t touch the BGM either.

The DIC dub eliminated any Inner Senshi (Scouts) specific BGM other than Sailor Moon’s who had her own transformation theme, which was changed.

Tuxedo Mask had his own theme, which did base itself on the same type of sound as the original Japanese version, but was more of a fanfare.

The trade off though, was there was a general combat transformation music theme which was great. However, it is true that the distinct songs developed in the original Japanese were also excellent.

The original Japanese BGM in the first two seasons has some really weak songs that utilize horns too much. It’s also not very memorable. The dub’s is pretty good, though in season 3 (Super) of the sub the themes get far better. The superior season of any version music wise is “Sailor Moon Super.”

The BGM comparisons are kind of a wash. Though it is interesting that each dub managed to come up with some arguably classic themes. Vocally though, whereas “Robotech” made us question if singing was a good idea, much like the enemies within the series, “Macross” was solid. “Sailor Moon” on the other hand produced iconic songs on both sides of the Pacific.

David F. Pendrys is a Connecticut-based fan of many things including anime. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Read more of his work here.

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