Howdy-ho, e’rrybody! Our lives have been busy for the past month or so with the holidays creeping up on us and our college semesters coming to a close. In light of this, I’ve decided to write a new list on one of the more controversial subjects when it comes to anime: Dubs.
Some anime fans are crouched and ready to pounce when people bring up dubs, specifically English dubs, in anime. There are three main sides that one can take when discussing this heated subject:
1.) You are a fan of dubs. You enjoy hearing English spoken to you when you are watching a TV show and don’t want to go through the hassle that comes with the territory of subtitles whether it’s because you’re a slow-ass reader or just because you’re lazy.
2.) You have much disdain for English dubs. The word ‘dub’ makes your ears bleed and just thinking about hearing English-speakers in a Japanese anime is absolutely preposterous to you. Your distaste of English dubs may be because you’re a self-proclaimed elitist that thinks it’s a fucking crime to taint the purity of Japanese anime with the English language – which I think is just pretentious and dumb – or you may just think Japanese voices sound better synced to the art style/lip-flap than an English voice.
3.) You watch your anime both dubbed and subbed depending on the situation and think that both languages have their merits and their shortcomings. You are a happy neutralist that is just covering your head, attempting to not get hit by the barrage of pointless banter that is continuously hurled back and forth between the two extremes.
I happen to fall into the third category. I watch my anime both dubbed and subbed. To be more precise, I’ve watched approximately 30% of my anime dubbed and 70% of my anime subbed. So as one can see, I usually prefer my subs over dubs. Don’t get me wrong, dubbed anime is great…or at least it has the potential to be. It usually depends on the show for me. Before watching a series, most of the time I check the company that produced the dub, the cast, and what type of anime it is. For instance, if a dub is done by 4Kids, Sentai Filmworks, or Deek Entertainment, I never watch it dubbed and neither should you. Just watch the 4Kids version of One Piece and you’ll understand. Also, if it’s a show filled with moe characters, I always watch it subbed. It’s my personal opinion that English voice actors just can’t get moe right, no matter how phenomenal I believe the actors to be. So I won’t be watching anything done by Kyoto Animation – outside of Full Metal Panic! – dubbed anytime soon. It’s stuff like that which makes me initially decide whether to watch a series dubbed or not.
Although, as you can hopefully gather from what I previously wrote, I haven’t watched all of my anime dubbed. So, this list will be based off the 100-or-so anime that I have either watched dubbed or have seen fractions of the dubs for. I know that’s a small sample size, but that leads me to my oh-so-necessary disclaimer for this list. This is my personal list of favorite dubs. I know it won’t represent everybody’s opinion. Hell, it should only reflect mine. This list also won’t be covering anime films or OVA series, so Ghibli films are out of the question (wasn't a huge fan of Howl’s Moving Castle’s dub anyway). But hopefully, if you are looking for an anime to watch next and you are pro-dub, maybe this could help you if you haven’t seen one of the shows on this list. Maybe this could also help you if you’re debating to watch one of the next series dubbed or subbed. If you’re anti-dub, I have no idea why you’re still reading this seeing that you already know my stance on the subject. But that’s not my problem. Anyway, these are my personal favorite 10 English dubs in anime to date.
I’m gonna start off this list with sort of a dark horse. Not only that, but it’s a Funimation dark horse. I hope most of you who are reading are fans of Funimation’s work because there’s a decent amount of it on this list. If not, prepare yourself for a bumpy reading session. Back to Rin. I selected Rin to be on this list for a few reasons. The first is that it’s a fantastic presentation of the quality that Funimation does on a regular basis. Sure, the company does tend to recycle their actors for similar roles and you can start pointing out who is voicing who pretty quickly. But Funimation’s audio quality has never been anything less than stellar, at least to me, and Rin is a shining example of that.
Colleen Clinkenbeard is always amazing behind the mic and I was so elated to hear her as the lead role of Rin, playing along side another great voice actress, Jamie Marchi. However, the voice that really stuck out to me in this dub was that of the well-known actor, Todd Haberkorn as Apus, the eerie and deplorable villain. I had always subconsciously associated his voice with weird and off-kilter characters. His voice is much more gravely and scheming as Apus and it put him in a whole new light for me. This dub, while still being the same high quality that Funimation usually bolsters, really revealed the depth of some of the dubbing regulars and I really appreciated that. That’s why I put it here on the list.
Funnily enough, I actually watched the first 5-ish episodes of this show subbed and switched to the dub for no real reason. Lucky for me, I ended up falling in love with this dub. ADV Films has some solid dubs under their belt and this one is up there with some of their best. The reason I like this dub so much is because I think the casting choice was spot on. I feel like Luci Christian was born to play Kaname Chidori and Chris Patton planted himself firmly as one of my favorite voice actors when I heard him as Sousuke Sagara. The performances by the side characters were nothing to shake a stick at either. Not to mention, the scripting in this series, especially Fumoffu, is pretty damn good. It’s localized is altered enough to be relatable and enjoyable while keeping enough of it’s Japanese origin to stay authentic. But it was prevalent at some sections that the actors were given a decent amount of leeway which led to some hilarious moments. Overall, this dub was just well-acted, well-scripted, and given a great deal of tact which led to one of my more memorable experiences with anime.
8. Spice & Wolf
Is that another Funimation dub I see? Yes. Yes it is. For all of the shit Funimation seems to attract because they’re a huge name, they really execute well when it comes to dubbing anime. So what they tend to recycle actors? Their staff is amazing and they tend to do top notch work on the projects that they acquire. Spice & Wolf is one of these fantastically, highs-quality dubs that Funimation has produced. I mean, there’s just not a whole lot wrong with it, especially seeing that S&W has an excessive amount of dialogue in it. Personally, I think Funimation did a great job with the casting in this series. J. Michael Tatum effectively embodies the collected nature of Kraft Lawrence while also making him seem respectable and informed. But where they really succeeded in their casting choice was with Brina Palencia as Holo. This may just be my humble opinion, but I believe that she absolutely nails the flirty, yet cunning nature of the wolf goddess and she basically made the show for me. She managed to add the flare that was needed in Holo’s character while also providing the tenderness that Holo possesses in her more vulnerable moments. The side cast is littered with Funimation regulars from Jamie Marchi to Chris Sabat so not a whole lot is left to be desired. In all, there are not many noticeable flaws with this dub and the two main voice actors hit their respective marks to a tee when portraying their characters. There really isn’t a whole lot more I can say for this dub. Just watch it for yourself.
Here is the other show that may not be on many peoples’ radars. I just kinda stumbled upon this show one day and watched it a week or so later. I decided to try it dubbed when I saw the cast listings and man…that was a great idea. This does happen to be another Funimation dub and so do the next few. So I’ll just get that out of the way now. However, though being filled to the brim with Funimation regulars, the main cast of characters are portrayed by actors that are usually heard as supporting parts while more notable figures such as Colleen Clinkenbeard, Todd Haberkorn, and J. Michael Tatum take more of a back seat. I was super happy to see this because the main cast was really spectacular. Jerry Jewel did a great job as the aloof, cynical teenager, Yuuki.
I was so surprised to hear him in this role since I usually associate him as Barry the Chopper from the FMA series. He did quite well though. David Wald and John Burgmeier did great as their roles of Dr. Ozaki and Mr. Muroi respectively. But I really have to shout out Tia Ballard and Cherami Leigh for their performances. Tia Ballard played Megumi, the resident stuck-up bitch of the series and absolutely shredded the part. The voice she used was one of a pampered, whiny twat and I fucking loved it. Cherami Leigh had the job of playing Sunako Kirishiki. Her blend of sweet, pure innocence with a touch of creepiness and malevolence was near flawless and remains my favorite of her character portrayals. So, unlike other dubs of theirs, Funimation let some other actors do the brute work in this series and they really did it some justice.
**From here on out is where I start recommending that these shows be watched in dub rather than sub.
Obviously you don’t have to and you may think differently, but it’s my opinion that these dubs outdo their subs in quality. Now, Panty and Stocking has a great dub for a few reasons. The first is that the acting is spectacular like the dubs I stated beforehand. I would expect no less from a Funimation dub with a main cast consisting of notable actors such as Jamie Marchi, Chris Sabat, and Monica Rial. The other reason is due to how off-the-chain the script is. Either somebody had a ton of fun writing the script for this show or the directors just let the cast completely off of their leashes because this dub is as hilarious as it is vulgar. The words ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ are slung around like nobody’s business and the content of half of what comes out of the Anarchy Sisters’ mouths are either sexual references or vulgar insults. However, seeing that this show does contain a pedophelic, black priest that enjoys BDSM and a spirit that is literally formed from shit and hatred, it’s not hard to conceptualize how this insane dub came into being. Either way, I’m not complaining.
This is easily one of the most entertaining dubs in anime to date, at least of those I’ve seen. I would like to note that this is definitely an R-rated (18+) dub and shouldn’t be shown to a younger audience. But knowing the content of the series in question, a younger person shouldn’t be watching it anyway. To wrap up, this dub is acted incredibly well, but it’s real value stems from just how unhinged and insensitive it is and how it doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what you think about it. As for me, I love it for that.
Wait, wait. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, you’d be correct. This isn’t a Funimation dub for once. Actually, only one of my top five favorite dubs is a Funimation dub. But I’m getting off track. Both Hellsing and Hellsing Ultimate were dubbed by the brilliant folks over at Geneon Universal. For starters, this series is superbly acted. But I should stop having to repeat myself on that front. From now on, you can just assume that the series is well-acted based on its placement on my list. Another thing that the dub for both Hellsing and Ultimate do correctly are the accents for each character. Even though Hellsing is an anime and is dubbed by Americans, most of, if not all of the characters in both shows aren’t Japanese or American. The range of ethnicities are from all over Europe from the England, to Scotland, to France, to Germany. Though not perfect by any means, the actors that were given roles with accents delivered well on their fronts while still maintaining the personalities of their characters. However, I feel the main draw of the dubs for these shows comes from two words: CRISPIN. FREEMAN.
Seriously, I think Crispin Freeman emerged from the womb with sharp canine teeth, a gaudy, red hat, and handgun because his portrayal of Alucard is beyond spot-on. Seriously, whomever cast him as Alucard is a freaking genius and deserves mad props. But Crispin deserves a ton of respect, too for being able to hit his lower register while filling Alucard with the sick mix of malignity, calmness, and insanity that he’s infamous for. Though the whole cast play their roles with great authenticity and gusto, Crispin Freeman really defines this dub as a masterpiece – or as close as you can get to one – for his portrayal of Alucard.
4.) Cowboy Bebop
Now here’s another no-brainer for this list. It was only a matter of time before I reached this gem. Bebop’s dub was done by Bandai back when they still did that kind of stuff. What I love about Bebop’s dub is…well, pretty much everything. The casting was awesome from Beau Billingslea as Jet Black to Melissa Fahn as Ed. I didn’t even know Wendy Lee played Faye Valentine until I researched the dub. I was so used to her as Haruhi Suzumiya and Xianghua from Soul Calibur 2 that I couldn’t recognize her much more refined style. Nonetheless, her acting job was superb. Last but not least for praise is Steve Blumm’s immaculate portrayal of Spike Spiegel. His voice is just so cool and dapper as Spike. It just made the show that much better than it already was. I also have to mention that even though the show is dated since it was made in 1998, the dub has aged better than basically all of the other dubs done around the same time, except for maybe Trigun and GTO. I feel as if ever since the dub for Bebop was recorded, it has been the dub that all others since then have tried to match in fluidity, personality, and overall quality. There’s a reason that Cowboy Bebop is regarded by most as an essential classic and I feel that for some people, the dub is part of that reason.
Here’s my token Funimation dub in my top five and anybody who knows me could’ve seen this one coming from light-years away. There are a ton of reasons why I love FMA and FMA:B and one of them is most definitely the dub. If there is one dub that can indicate how good Funimation can be, this is it. Vic Mignogna may be a semi-controversial figure within the anime community, but his award-winning job as Ed Elric is unbelievably good. Sure, he doesn’t sound like Romi Park does in the sub, but Romi is a girl and Vic is a guy so I wouldn’t expect him to. I could also go on a tirade about how phenomenal the supporting cast is, from Caitlin Glass as Winry, to Colleen Clinkenbeard as Hawkeye, to Travis Willingham as Mustang, to even Wendy Powell (who you never here in anything) as Envy. The list is freaking endless because of how stacked this show is with Funimation heavyweights. But I would like to point out one particular voice actress who I think went largely unnoticed in this dub and I have absolutely no fucking clue why. Laura Bailey deserves a ton of praise for her role as Lust. She nailed it. Period. Her voice was as sultry and salacious as the name would indicate, but was subsequently conniving and malevolent like Lust’s true nature. She really did a great job. Now, I do know that this is my favorite anime as of now, no matter how cliche you may or may not think that is. So I acknowledge that I most likely have a positive bias for this show. In spite of that, this series, bias or no bias, has a commendable dub and I strongly recommend that you watch it dubbed unless you’re the kind of person who won’t watch dubs even if your life depended on it.
2. Black Lagoon
You know, Ocean Productions really doesn’t do a ton of stuff. But man! When they do, they hit it out of the stratosphere! Honestly, there’s not a whole lot I can say about how much I love this dub. Oddly enough, I’ve actually heard a few dub-friendly people say that they prefer the sub over the dub on this show. I know that dub vs. sub is completely subjective and personal tastes vary as much as there are flavors of Japanese Kit-Kat bars, but I still can’t wrap my head around this one. I think this dub is as close to perfect as you can come. The scripting is undoubtedly amazing. The scripting crew ramped-up the vulgarity meter ten fold and threw in tons of comedic jokes and comparisons which I think just mirrored how seriously screwed up the setting of Black Lagoon is. Plus, gangs and criminal syndicates in a crime-ridden, drug-filled, dung heap-of-a-city wouldn’t censor their language, so why should the dub? Anyway, along with the pinpoint scripting is near flawless acting. Everybody loved Brad Swaile as Light Yagami in Death Note and I loved him as Rock, too.
He really was able to embody the nervous and conservative attitude that Rock maintains over a majority of the series, but was also able to flip to maniacal breakdown mode when he had to (see Yagami, Light). But once again, I have to applaud the ladies in this series. Maryke Hendrikse uncorked her filter as Revy and it was awesome to witness. Her gravely voice mixed with a slurry of profanities really mirrored Revy’s aggression and take-no-shit demeanor. Also, I basically salivated all over Patricia Drake’s performance as Balalaika. She was able to have Balalaika retain a professional essence about her with her silken, more mature-sounding tone. But she also made Balalaika resemble a serial killer when she wanted to with some booming monologues…and that laugh. Oh my God, that laugh. It was freaking genius! Anyway, the solid scripting of this show combined with some good localization, ample implementation of profanity, and stellar performances on all fronts make this one of my all-time favorite dubs to listen to. This would’ve been my number one pick…if it weren’t for another little series…
Seriously. There was absolutely no way in Hell that I could pass up giving this dub my number one vote on this list. This dub is an absolute riot. There is some funny story on why ADV Films allowed this dub to end up the way it did. It was something along the lines of that they wanted licensing rights to a series, but couldn’t get them unless they also dubbed this series. And so, we have what we have. The cast of this show is essentially identical to Full Metal Panic! only with a lot less Luci Christian and a lot more Monica Rial. I don’t really know what to say about this dub. I like how my fellow Anime Inspector, Krogoth22, and the renowned YouTube anime reviewer, Arkada, put it: It’s like if an abridged series was a full-length series and was done by professionals. In other words, it’s filled to the metaphorical brim with profanities, racial slurs, breaking of the fourth wall, blatant sexual innuendos, and any other insensitivity under the sun.
In some moments, the actors even made fun of themselves within the show, having their characters make offhand remarks about them. Moreover, the dub gets funnier as the series progresses. It begins somewhat tame, but by the later half of the series, it was fairly clear that the actors stopped giving a shit and everything became fair game. This resulted in the characters spewing out some incredibly offensive religious and racial comments and even some complete gibberish. From what I know, ADV really didn’t want to dub this show because of how poorly received it was in Japan. So, instead of legitimately dubbing it, they just kinda allowed the actors to do whatever they bloody-well wanted to as long as the plot remained somewhat in tact and it matched the lip flap. This resulted with what I currently believe to be the funniest anime dub I’ve ever seen and it probably won’t be matched for a while, if ever.
Trigun, Great Teacher Onizuka, Darker Than Black, Ouran High School Host Club, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Christo, Samurai Champloo, Scrapped Princess, Chobits, and Welcome to the NHK.
Well, that’s it for my favorite anime English dubs. Hope you all enjoyed it. If you believe I missed a show, think I should watch a show dubbed, or just want to share your opinion, feel free to in the comments below. Until next time, keep watching anime!