In honor of the holiday season I’m counting down a list of my 25 favorite dubs of all time between December 1st and Christmas. I’ll be adding a new entry each day so be sure to check back for my thoughts on each dub as we make our way through December. 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, enjoy ^_^
*All series synopsis from Anime Planet
ADR Director(s): Lia Sargent (Gatekeepers, The Big O), Joe Romersa (Street Fighter Alpha, Fist of the North Star)
ADR Script: Steve Nattow, Trina Watton
Recorded at: Animaze (Geneon USA)
Synopsis: “Vash, the Stampede” – worth 60 billion dollars to the one who can turn him in. Bounty hunters everywhere are on the lookout for this legendary gunman, not to mention insurance agents Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, who are tasked with preventing any potential damage that this Vash can cause. But with 60 billion on his head, Vash is not an easy man to find.
Thoughts: The now dead Animaze was once revered as the Holy Grail of anime dubbing studios, and their track record more or less speaks for itself. One of the series that helped cement their reputation was Trigun, and it’s a series whose dub is still pretty well respected to this day. What’s likely the most notable thing about this dub for many is that it’s the one responsible for kickstarting the voice acting career of the now super iconic Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach’s Ichigo, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’s Johnathan) and to this day, his Vash still stands as one of his strongest performances. The way he nails both the perpetual goofball and deeply tortured soul that make up both sides of Vash’s personality makes for a powerful performance and it’s easy to see how his work here helped to turn him into such a popular actor. Jeff Nimoy (Digimon Adventure’s Tentomon, Zatch Bell’s Kanchome) also does great work as Vash’s buddy and overall thematic opposite in Wolfwood, and the rest of the cast is strong too (plus it’s worth noting that the now equally iconic Bryce Papenbrook was also in this dub as Young Vash in the flashback episodes), with the majority of the performances holding up really well despite the age and time period of the dub. This is a dub that helped to launch a couple of noteworthy legacies, and while Animaze may be gone, it’s hard to imagine their work on this dub will be forgotten anytime soon.
ADR Director: Taliesen Jaffe (R.O.D-The TV, Nazca)
ADR Script: Taliesen Jaffe, Mike McFarland (One-Punch Man, BECK)
Recorded at: New Generation Pictures (Geneon USA, Funimation)
Synopsis: Alucard is a vampire who works for Hellsing – an organization responsible for hunting down and destroying other vampires. In these dark times, whoever is bitten by a vampire turns into a ghoul — with the exception of Seras Victoria, Alucard’s newly created and appointed apprentice. Now, Seras must serve her master, Alucard and work for Integra Wingates Hellsing. Nefarious vampire activities are being reported throughout England, and it all traces back to the organization named “Millennium”. Will the Hellsing organization, under the command of Sir Integra Wingates Hellsing, be able to prevent a full scale war? Or will the world become a battlefield of destruction?
Thoughts: Crispin Freeman (Naruto’s Itachi, Eureka Seven’s Holland) is one of the most popular and well respected voice actors in the industry, but this wasn’t always the case. Back in the yesteryears of his early work on NY dubs, his track record was less than stellar, and while he did have a couple of highlights, his reputation left much to be desired. However one role of his helped to change that perception, and it belongs to his Alucard in Hellsing. I haven’t seen the original Hellsing TV series (and given that Ultimate is more or less the definitive version I don’t see a need to) but even just going off of his performance in the Ultimate OVAs it’s easy to see why it helped transform him into such an icon as he pretty much chews the scenery every time he’s on screen, and his powerful baritone gives off a sense of presence and menace that makes his Alucard as cool as it is frightening. Even though his voice for Alucard has carried over onto a lot of his other performances this is the one where it clicks the best and it’s really impressive, even by Crispin Freeman’s usual standards.
Of course while the show mostly belongs to Crispin Freeman, the other members of the cast are great too, as the dub features a wide variety of talent from well-known veterans such as Yuri Lowenthal (Gurren Lagann‘s Simon, Bayonetta Bloody Fate’s Luke) and Kari Walgren (Durarara’s Celty, FLCL’s Haruko) to actual British actors like Steve Brand for Father Anderson and Victoria Harwood for Integra (with my personal favorite being Gildarts Jackson’s ultra-hammy performance as The Mahor). Bringing in foreign actors is almost something of a rarity for voice acting in general so seeing it actually applied to a dub really shows how much they went the extra mile on this production. Virtually every second of the dub bleeds cool, and even when the series itself eventually slows down into a series of long-winded monologues the performances still manage to carry on strongly enough to keep things from slogging. It’s easy to see why this one’s so well regarded and for a series with as much over-the-top cool stuff as Hellsing, it’s nice to see it got the dub to match.
ADR Director: Christopher Bevins (Drifters, Jormungand)
ADR Script: Jared Hedges (Dragonball Z, Gangsta)
Recorded at: Funimation Studios
Synopsis: Hana is a nine-year-old girl who lives in constant fear of her abusive family; Michiko is a sexy woman who has just done the unthinkable: broken out of the impenetrable Diamandra Penitentiary. After Hana is whisked away by Michiko, who claims to be her mother, the duo sets forth on a high octane ride towards freedom. In the streets of Brazil and aboard Michiko’s motorcycle, Hana and Michiko will look for Hana’s long lost father, try to learn to co-exist and get along together, and stay one step ahead of the police and afro-clad Atsuko.
Thoughts: While Christopher Bevins has been directing at Funi for a long time now, there was also a long time where I found his track record to be inconsistent and for every good dub he put out there’d be one that I found a bit questionable. However there was one work of his that managed to pull a 180 on my opinion of his skills and has since made him one of my favorite directors from that area, and that distinction belongs to Michiko and Hatchin. Between Sayo Yamamoto’s sense of style, and the obvious parallels to works by Shinichiro Watanabe, this was definitely the kind of show that needed a strong dub, and thankfully Bevins delivered. At this point, Monica Rial (Penguindrum’s Ringo, Drifters’s Easy) has been in at least 70% of all the Texas anime dubs ever made, and her work while consistent, is also fairly predictable, but the performance she brought for Michiko is unlike anything I’ve ever seen from her as she delivers every ounce of the character’s gruff, woman-child attitude with finesse, and it’s by far my favorite thing from her. This was also another dub that properly me introduced me to a VA that I’ve since become a fan of as Jad Saxton (Log Horizon’s Akatsuki, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash’s Mary) plays off of Monica Rial really well as Hatchin, and the chemistry between the two really helps to carry the dub. This level of energy carries on through the rest of the cast as well, with the other big standout being Akron Watson’s (Jormungand’s Wilee) Satoshi, as he does a great job selling the villain’s mix of menace and false bravado. It was nice to see Christopher Bevins put out such a strong dub and he’s been continuing to put out solid work ever since.
ADR Director: Tyler Walker (Fairy Tail, Ninja Slayer)
ADR Script: Eric Vale (Baki the Grappler, Basilisk)
Recorded at: Funimation Studios
Synopsis: It’s the 1930s, and Mafia groups fight for supremacy in American cities. Young Firo joins the secretive Camorra group; a meek street boy, Jacuzzi, finds himself the leader of a gang of thugs; an alchemist is producing a liquor of immortality, and a homunculus tries to retrieve it; and upbeat thieves Isaac and Miria head to New York after failing to strike gold in California. They ride the novel train, the Flying Pussyfoot, across the continent. However they find themselves embroiled in a ruckus caused by gangs, terrorists, serial killers, and others as multiple stories intertwine and unfold on this fateful ride. All are haunted and hunted by the legendary Rail Tracer…
Thoughts: This is another big ensemble show, but where it’s sister series Durarara falls a bit short regarding it’s dub, this one succeeds. While I like the most of the performances in Durarara, it was easy for them to get lost in the shuffle, and not all of them carried enough presence to make each of the characters distinct. Not so with Bacanno’s dub though, as this one does a much better job at giving each character’s performance a real sense of presence, and there’s rarely a dull moment no matter who’s on screen. From mellow performances like Todd Haberkorn (Fairy Tail’s Natsu, Claymore’s Raki) as Firo to show stealing ham like Bryan Massey (Dragonball’s Oolong, Overlord’s Cocytus) as Ladd Russo or Jerry Jewell (Casshern Sins‘s Dio, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple‘s Odin) as the Rail Tracer, there’s a ton of memorable work in this dub, and it does well in making the most out of every character. It’s helped by some attention to detail regarding both the script and the voice direction doing its best to match the time period of the show, and while the barrage of New York accents could have easily been a distraction, they’re given just the right amount of restraint to work and it helps to give the dub a bit of extra flavor. This dub’s a prime example of how to do ensemble performances right, and given how heavily reliant the show itself is on it’s wide cast of characters, the extra touches here are greatly appreciated.
ADR Director: Christopher R. Sabat (Solty Rei, Speed Grapher)
ADR Script: John Burgmeier (Darker Than Black, Dragonball Z)
Recorded at: OkaTron 5000 (Funimation)
Synopsis: Five years have passed since Goku and his friends defeated Piccolo Jr. and restored peace to the planet. Gohan – Goku’s son – and a variety of good, bad, and morally ambiguous characters are back, and perpetually not ready for action! Aliens, androids, and magicians all hatch evil plots to destroy the world and it’s up to Goku to save the Earth once more – that is, once he and his comrades train plentifully in preparation. Enemies will become friends and power levels will rise to unimaginable levels, but even with the help of the legendary Dragon Balls and Shen Long will it be enough to save Earth from ultimate destruction?
Thoughts: Dragonball Z is indisputably the most iconic anime series in the west, and many of us grew up watching Funimation’s original dub. However while that dub was often held up through the years as a beloved classic, in truth its quality was frankly…pretty bad. From Saturday morning cartoon style dialogue, to heavy amounts of overacting, the old Z dub just doesn’t hold up all that well, and while I was once among those who defended it against the naysayers who proclaimed it was but a shell of what the series actually is, in hindsight it’s kind of hard to deny they had a point. There enters Dragonball Z Kai, and while this half-hearted attempt at a remake didn’t do a ton to elevate itself over the original anime (well aside from improved pacing up until the Buu Saga) it gave the dub a second lease on life, and this time Funimation made sure not to waste it.
Much of the old cast returns and better than ever with Sean Schemmel’s (Shaman King‘s Amidamaru, Giant Robo‘s Tetsugyu) Goku having improved dramatically after finally managing to capture the spirit of the carefree nature of the character as opposed the more superhero-esque performance of the old dub, while Christopher Sabat’s hammy Vegeta, managed to gain enough nuance to capture every ounce of his prideful attitude without overselling it as much as he did in the old days. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the few major recasts that do happen are pretty much all for the better such as Colleen Clinkenbeard’s (One Piece’s Luffy, Yurikuma Arashi’s Yurika) Gohan sounding much more child-like than Stephanie Nadolny’s did in the old dub, with Chris Ayres’s (Devil May Cry‘s Sid, Gantz‘s Kei) Freeza in particular being the biggest standout, as his pitch-perfect take on the character’s arrogance and gentleman-like facade is a welcome departure from the infamous “evil Grandma” voice that comprised Linda Young’s performance. The scripting here is solid too, and while does include a few of Funimation’s usual liberties, they’re never intrusive enough to distort what’s happening, and it manages to capture the spirit of the Japanese version in a way that the old Z dub never did, making it by far the best translation Funimation’s ever given to the franchise. This was the dub that the diehard Dragonball fans were waiting for and while it might have taken Funimation nearly 15 years to finally get it right, this one proves that it was certainly worth the wait.