The holiday season has crept up upon us, and people everywhere are already counting down the days to Christmas. In honor of the season, and more importantly getting around to things I keep meaning to, I’ve decided to do something a little special. Keeping in the spirit of the whole “25 Days of Christmas” thing I’ve decided to make a list counting down my 25 favorite dubs of all time between December 1st and Christmas, with a new entry being added every day. To keep things simple my criteria for these is that they have to be from a TV anime or OVA since including movies would make things a bit convoluted, and it’s being kept strictly to things I’ve actually seen so certain “classics” like Haruhi or the Berserk 1999 dub aren’t gonna make the cut since I have yet to actually get around to them. With all that said, before diving into the actual list, I’d like to take a bit of time to throw in a few honorable mentions that either didn’t quite make it, or I can’t count for obvious reasons.
*All series synopsis from Anime Planet
ADR Director: Christopher Ayres (Chika: The Coffin Princess, Phi Brain season 2)
ADR Script: Clint Bickham (One Piece, Barakamon)
Recorded at: Seraphim Digital (Sentai Filmworks)
Synopsis: One thousand years from now, humanity live pastoral lives aided by psychokinetic powers and the subservient Monster Rats. Saki Watanabe has just come of age, and her power has been reined in through meditation and hypnosis. She joins the Unified Class, where she will learn about her power and the world around her; yet so much of the truth is kept hidden. Her friends Shun, Mamoru, Satoru, and Maria share in her curiosity, and decide to go out of their way to seek the truth. But will the secrets of the past and present turn out to be things that Saki really wants to know?
Thoughts: Sentai has come a long way with their dubs over the last few years, but it’s hard to forget that they had some pretty dark times back in the day. They were pumping out a high volume of dubs, and had only three ADR Directors to shuffle them through: Chris Ayres, Kyle Jones, and the infamous Steven Foster, with the level of quality generally ranging anywhere from passable to horrifying. A few solid ones managed to slip through the cracks though, and none as pristine to me as the dub for From the New World. Chris Ayres was in charge of this one, and his overall direction on the dub is pretty smooth, with Clint Bickham’s script for the dub doing a fantastic job of keeping things on point for such a wonderful sci-fi fantasy. The casting works really well here too as Emily Neves (Future Diary‘s Minene Uryu, Akame ga Kill‘s Chelsea) does a fantasic job as the heroine, Saki, and while Greg Ayres (Deadman Wonderland‘s Ganta, Negima‘s Negi)often gets flack for how distinguishable his voice is in proportion toWonderland his actual performance, he does good work here as Satoru, and the rest of the cast works just as nicely. The one somewhat weak link here would be that John Kaiser’s (Night Raid 1931‘s Shinichiro, Tamako Market‘s Nobuhiko) doesn’t quite sell the character’s final scene as well as he needs to, but the dub otherwise works well. Solid as it is though, it doesn’t pack quite enough of a punch to crack my top 25, but it’s still nice to know that as much as Sentai was getting wrong in those days, this one shows that they were still capable of getting one right.
ADR Director: Anthony Salerno (Revolutionary Girl Utena, Slayers)
ADR Script: Mark Ryan (Zatch Bell, Sailor Moon)
Recorded at: Taj Studios (4Kids Entertainment)
Synopsis: The time has come for the next Shaman King to be crowned in the great Shaman Fight. Yoh Asakura is one such hopeful, a kind-hearted boy with a hidden power… and a terrible secret. Now, the fate of all mankinds rests in the hands of Yoh and his companions as they must battle the most powerful shaman who ever lived!
Thoughts: Despite having been dead and buried for roughly half a decade now, 4Kids name still lives on in infamy and justly so given the amount of hackjob dubs they produced over the years. However while Pokemon is the one that most are willing to cite as something of an exception when it comes to some semblance of quality, for me, I’d have to say the Shaman King dub was probably their best work. The dub’s very existence is something of an anomaly as despite 4Kids reputation for removing any notable instances of major violence, this one managed to get away with blood, guns, smoking and even one bizarre instance of swearing, and I’ve rewatched it quite a few times just to get a laugh out of radar dodging it managed to pull. As far as actual voice work and direction goes, it’s mostly par the course for what you’d expect from 4Kids, but a lot of it still holds up pretty decently. Sebastian Arcelus’s (Gokusen’s Yoichi, Seven of Seven’s Mutsumi) performances as Yoh and Hao/Zeke respectively are both pretty solid, and while it’s chock full of voice actors doing ridiculous accents and the like, it sometimes manages to work, with Sean Schemmel’s (Dragonball Z’s Goku, Giant Robo’s Tetsugyu) Ryu/Rio and Andrew Rannells’s (Pokemon’s Harley, Sonic X’s Decoe)Tao Ren/Len in particular working in some surprisingly good delivery every now and then, despite the outrageous accents they were burdened with. For everything I’ve said though, there’s still no getting around that this is a hackjob dub and it’s ultimately just something of a guilty pleasure for me. Still it’s a guilty pleasure I’ll stand by, and while I’ll never actually be able to defend my weird attachment to this dub, I doubt it’ll be fading anytime soon.
ADR Director(s): Kristi Reed (Accel World, Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne), Kirk Thornton (Bleach, Blood Lad), Patrick Seitz (Monster, Girls Bravo), Alex von David (Blue Exorcist, Erased)
ADR Script: Kristi Reed, Alex von David, Caitlin Glass (Love Live!, Yuki Yuna is a Hero)
Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Aniplex of America)
Synopsis: Looking for a change, Mikado moves from the countryside to bustling Ikebukuro to attend the same high school as his best friend, Masaomi. Though navigating a new school and friendships can prove tough by itself, Mikado also finds an overwhelming number of new delights and dangers in the district he now calls home. From a friendly Russian sushi bar to the violent color gangs, to even an urban legend in the form of a black motorcycle rider, each resident of Ikebukuro is unique and frightening. But the town is smaller than it seems at first, and these strange events appear to be connected. Will the growing storm sweep up the transplanted country boy and his friends or will Mikado find himself at the center of a dramatic change for Tokyo?
Thoughts: Well if I were being honest, there’s frankly a lot of dubs I’d rate over DRRR’s, but it’s such an insane little project that it’s hard not to give it some due. Over the course of the franchise’s 65 episode run, the show introduces an outrageous amount of characters, and almost all of them end up playing a major role in the story at some point. Given that, the dub eventually turned into something of a who’s who of California based-VAs and despite the orgy of characters the show has to offer, the majority of the performances work out pretty well. From Johnny Yong Bosch’s (Bleach‘s Ichigo, Sailor Moon‘s Artemis) slimy Izaya, to Kari Walhgren’s (FLCL‘s Haruko, Wolf Rain‘s Cher) perfectly-awkward Celty, there’s a lot of fun performances to go around, and even some of the rough ones like Darrel Guilbeau’s (Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic‘s Hakuryu, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan‘s Rikuo) Mikado and Bridget Hoffman’s (Digimon Tamers‘s Jeri, Fate/Zero‘s Irisviel) Namie manage to improve a bit with time. Perhaps most notably though is that the show went through not one, but four different ADR Directors over the course of it’s run and managed to any serious rough patches outside of the second season’s first few episodes. That’s something of an achievement for a show with a cast as large as this one, and while as a whole, it’s not strong enough to rank among my all time favorites, it’s still one that’s worth checking out.
ADR Director(s): Wendee Lee (Bleach, A Lull in the Sea), Micheal Sorich (Shinzo, Bo-bo-bo-Bo-bobobo), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Wolf’s Rain, Blue Dragon), Jeff Nimoy (Zatch Bell, Naruto)
ADR Script: Jeff Nimoy, Steve Blum, (Naruto, Megaman NT Warrior), Ardwight Chamberlain (Tiger & Bunny, Glitter Force), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
Recorded at: Studiopolis (Saban Brands, Toei Animation)
Thoughts: I could seriously be here all day if I were to go over my feelings on each Digimon dub individually, but the franchise is near and dear enough to my heart that I had to mention it somewhere so I’ll try to keep things to a general summary. Digimon was the big monster franchise of my childhood next to Pokemon, and unlike virtually every other kids show of it’s heyday it was blessed with the miraculous gift of the dub staff realizing that they were adapting something that was actually pretty good, and tried their best to keep as much of the show’s original tone as possible within the expected limitations of hackjob kids’ dubs at the time. The result turned out something that’s been looked back on fondly, and a lot of it holds up surprisingly well to the point where it has more vocal defenders then pretty much anything else from it’s time period despite the flaws. It helps that each iteration was blessed a cast comprising of some of the best voice actors in the industry with talent such as Steve Blum (Cowboy Bebop‘s Spike, Naruto’s Orochimaru), Crispin Freeman (Hellsing‘s Alucard, The Irresponsible Captain Tylor‘s Tylor), Quinton Flynn (Kingdom Hearts‘s Axel, Bleach’s Kon), Laura Bailey (Soul Eater‘s Maka, Fullmetal Alchemist‘s Lust)and Kari Walgren having all been involved with the franchise at some point (and Derek Stephen Prince has popped up in it so many times that I’m convinced he’s contractually obligated to be in every incarnation of the series). The voice direction is equally effective as Mary Elizabeth McGlynn lended her legendary talents to much of the franchise, and while not every incarnation succeeds in that department (looking at you Data Squad) it still stands heads and shoulders above the level of quality typically expected of dubs targeted towards kids. Of course at the end of the day, while the dubs have all been relatively faithful adaptions, they’re still edited down versions of their original counterparts and as such I can’t include them on my list, but in spite of that obvious problem, I’d still say the Digimon dubs have more than earned their fame.
ADR Director/Script: Tony Oliver (Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, K-ON!)
Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Aniplex of America)
Synopsis: Ten years before Shirou Emiya’s and Saber’s fateful meeting, Japan is the stage for the fourth Holy Grail War. Seven Masters, each with his own dreams, step forward to win the boon of the mystic relic. Into this fray comes Kiritsugu Emiya, the enigmatic “Mage Killer” who wants to use the Grail to make a better world. Can he, paired with the indomitable Saber win the War? Or will he fall to the ambitions of the other mages?
Thoughts: So much like with the dub to Soul Eater, I’m that one weirdo who doesn’t like this dub as much as everyone else seems to, but unlike SE, the worst performance here wasn’t enough to kill the whole thing for me, and I can still acknowledge that it has a lot of merits. Like DRR above, this is an ensemble show, and thus lives and dies on the strengths of it’s various individual performances. Fortunately a lot of them prove to be up to the task with everything ranging from ultra hammy performances like Dan Woren’s (Bleach‘s Byakuya, Persona 4: The Animation‘s Igor) and Crispin Freeman’s Kirei to heartbreaking ones like Kari Walgren and Matt Mercer (K: The Animation‘s Kuroh, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet‘s Chamber) respective takes Saber and Kiritsugu, with Jamieson Price (Blazblue‘s Iron Tager, Gurren Lagann‘s Lordgenome) and Lucien Dodge (Accel World‘s Taku, Pokemon Origin‘s Blue) in particular, having great chemistry as Rider and Velvet. The one sore spot in the cast would be David Vincent (Gun x Sword‘s Vann, Bleach‘s Grimmjow) as Gilgamesh since he wasn’t really suited to the level of ham that role required but it’s not nearly enough to take away from how strong the rest of the cast is, and as a whole it’s a great ensemble. Unfortunately while the cast is great the voice direction, while very solid, feels a bit stiff at times and it’s enough to keep this dub out of the running for my top 25, but while I may be the outlier in not thinking it’s a masterpiece, it’s still pretty darn good
And that’s it for the honorable mentions. Come back tomorrow as I start counting the full list of my 25 favorite dubs. Until then, stay animated.