The dubbed Blu-ray version of recent hollywood smash The Avengers hasn’t even made it into stores yet, but Japanese film fans are already writing it off as junk.

Despite the Japanese releases of previous superhero movies – The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Thor included – being voiced by professional, suitably cast voice actors, the dubbed version of The Avengers in cinemas featured none of the same voices, despite the movie being based around the premise of bringing these much-loved heroes together in one spot.

Movie buffs had hoped that Disney Japan, the company behind the Japanese Blu-ray release, would reinstate the original super heroes’ Japanese counterparts for the home release, but it has become clear that those wishing to enjoy the action movie without subtitles will have to put up with the same subpar voice acting that was shoehorned into the cinema release.

With just under two weeks to go before its release, the dubbed Blu-ray version of The Avengers currently has an average review score of just 1.5 stars out of five on Amazon JP, with more than 65 reviewers giving it the lowest possible score.

Scrolling through the customer reviews beneath the product description, the term 吹替版  fukikaeban (dubbed version) is followed almost constantly by terms like “awful,” “mismatched” and “poor quality”.

Comedian Naoto Takenaka is credited as giving one of the marginally better performances

Perhaps hoping to appeal to as many people as possible, or perhaps simply hoping to keep production costs down, Disney Japan opted to enlist a host of Japanese TV stars and comedians to provide the voice acting for the film’s characters, rather than those who voiced them in the previously released movies. While few film fans have problems with the stars themselves, many cinephiles are angered that their voices are simply not appropriate for the movie, made all the more infuriating by the fact that the perfect voice cast already exists.

Here’s just a small selection of the angry comments made online by Japanese Avengers fans:

“The voice acting here is exactly as everyone says: absolutely dire. I’m cancelling my order.”

“If they want to sell any DVDs, they need to get the original – professional – voice actors back on board!”

“Disney Japan are laughing in fans’ faces. These people are simply not qualified to handle this project.”

“The Japanese voice acting cast is horrendously bad.”

“There is a big difference between using a famous person’s voice and a voice that fits a role. This is all wrong.”

“I had hoped for the dubbing to be of a similarly high quality as the movie itself…”

“This was the perfect opportunity to right the wrongs of the cinema release’s voice acting; this production makes me doubt the integrity of those in the industry.”

“However I look at it, all I can think is that we’re being taken for a ride. This voice acting sullies and otherwise superb movie.”

“I’d been looking forward to this for years. What a total shambles it turned out to be!”

So, not a great start then…

Of course, one might argue that movies ought to be viewed in their original audio language rather than with a dubbed voice track, but there are times when – as in The Avengers – the pace of the action is so fast that attempting to keep up with on-screen subtitles actually detracts from overall enjoyment of the movie for many. If an effort is to be made to provide a dubbed audio track, the least producers can do is populate the cast with actors whose voices fit their characters, rather than simply hiring well-known voices and famous names. As much as I like comedians like Ricky Gervais, Louis CK and Chris Rock, for example, the last place I’d like to hear their vocal talents would be in the middle of a superhero flick…

It’s at times like these that I feel incredibly fortunate to have been born in an English-speaking country. Of course, speaking one of the world’s most widely spoken languages means that I am automatically in danger of becoming one of those sunburnt, “point and speak a bit louder” travellers who shies away from attempting any other language, but with English often considered to be the standard language for things like movies, games, even scientific and medical journals, I rarely find myself lumped with a sub-par version of an an otherwise great work.

Japanese movie and videogame fans, however, don’t always have it so easy. The recent release of military shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, for example, is reported to be blighted with glaring errors and mistranslations, resulting in many fans railing against the game’s publisher Square Enix and demanding that a downloadable patch be provided to fix the careless mistakes.

If any of you are looking to pick up a bargain, meanwhile, the Blu-ray release of The Avengers – with the original English voice track included – is currently listed on Amazon JP for just 1,078 yen (US$13)…

Inset image: Nippon Cinema
[ Read in Japanese ]