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: Christopher Sabat (Blue Gender, Case Closed)
ADR Script: Mike McFarland (One Punch Man, Hyperdimension Neptunia), Colleen Clinkenbeard (Moonphase, Samurai 7), Sean Micheal Teague (Case Closed, BECK)
Recorded at: Funimation Studios
Synopsis: Twelve years ago, an incident known as “Blast Fall” unleashed major destruction and chaos. Now, years have passed, and mankind has learned to adapt by incorporating cybernetic limbs into its citizens. Roy Revent is a bounty hunter known for his violent acts towards criminals due to the loss of his daughter in Blast Fall; and when a criminal tries to take revenge on Roy, an unknown girl falls from the sky and saves him. She has no memory of who she is, or where she came from. With the help of Miranda, his boss and landlord, he takes in the girl and gives her a name of Solty. What is the real identity of Solty, and what caused Blast Fall?
Thoughts: This is one of Funimation’s lesser known titles from the mid 00’s but it’s one that’s stuck with me over the years and largely due in part to how much I liked dub, or more specifically a certain performance in said dub. It’s rare for a single performance in a dub to elevate the whole thing for me but Chris Sabat’s Roy Revant stands as one of my favorite roles for him, and for a long time it was my favorite before his Vegeta got better. While Chris Sabat has a pretty remarkable voice range, he tends to lean towards sounding on the gruff side for a lot of his work, and I ran into quite a few situations where I felt it didn’t always work (His Zoro in OP having been my go-to example, although I’ve warmed up to it with time). This however, has always been my go-to exception, as having him play a grumpy middle aged dad not only allowed for his usual sound to actually fit, but also allowed for a chance for him to demonstrate a bit more of his emotional range compared to most of his other work, and it still stands as one of his stronger performances
Though while I’ve gone on and on about Chris Sabat in this show, the rest of the cast works well too as it was the show that first introduced me to Carrie Savage (Fairy Tail’s Lisanna K: The Animation‘s Kukuri, ) in her role as Solty and I’ve enjoyed her work ever since while other Funimation regulars like Colleen Clinkenbeard and Luci Christian (My Hero Academia’s Ochako, Corpse Princess’s Makina) all pop here, bringing their usual brand of solid performances. The show itself on the other hand isn’t anything particularly special but it still holds up fairly well compared to the other GONZO shows of its day, and my somewhat strange appreciation for this dub has kept me coming back to revisit it every now and then. I feel sort of awkward having this dub so high up on my list, and especially when it’s mainly based around my feelings about one performance from it, but it’s still a pretty good one, and if nothing else it’s a nice example of why Chris Sabat is one of the best at what he does.
ADR Director/Script: Patrick Seitz (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Blazblue Alter Memory)
Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Aniplex of America)
Synopsis: Kousei Arima was a genius pianist until his mother’s sudden death took away his ability to play. Each day was dull for Kousei. But, then he meets a violinist named Kaori Miyazono who has an eccentric playing style. His monotonus life was about to change forever.
Thoughts: It feels a weird to include a dub from this year on the list (especially when it hasn’t been a particularly great one for dubs in general until recently) but I was so blown away by it that I felt I had to include it here somewhere. While Patrick Seitz is well regarded for his work as a voice actor and a script writer, he’s not often used as a voice director and it’s a shame too because his track record is consistent enough that he could really stand to be used more in that area. This dub in particular marked his first major anime directing gig in a while (well I guess Blazblue technically counts, but did anyone really watch that show?) but he certainly hasn’t lost his touch as the dub’s direction is downright fantastic, and his doubling as the script writer really helps to emphasize how much work went into this one and it really shows.
This dub served as Max Mittleman’s (Aldnoah Zero’s Inaho, A Lull in the Sea’s Hikari) third leading role in an anime, and while he’ll likely be better remembered this year for landing the role of Saitama in One-Punch-Man, his performance here as Kousei is just as strong if not more so, and he does a wonderful job of portraying the character’s inner turmoil and depression. Playing opposite him is Erica Lindbeck (Coppelion’s Ibara, Aldnoah Zero’s Yuki) as Kaori, who despite my initial reservations about the casting choice, delivers an equally powerful performance and they’re joined by a strong supporting cast including Erica Mendez (Sailor Moon’s Haruka/Sailor Uranus, Kill la Kill’s Ryuko), Erik Kimerer (Accel World’s Haruyuki, One-Punch Man’s Speed O’ Sound Sonic), Erika Harlacher (Hunter x Hunter’s Kurapika, The Seven Deadly Sins’s Elizabeth) and Wendee Lee (Bleach’s Yoruichi, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’s Lisa Lisa), with all of them delivering on some stellar work. Patrick Seitz may not direct anime as often as I’d like, but this one’s a great example of what he’s capable of and it easily stands as not only the best dub of the year, but one of my personal favorites.
ADR Director: Jason Grundy (Chaos; Head, Medaka Box Abnormal)
ADR Script: Andrew Rye (Eden of the East, Desert Punk)
Recorded at: Funimation Studios
Synopsis: In a dark future, the world is in ruin and everything is slowly crumbling away into dust. Humanity is almost extinct, while robots desperately seek out new parts to replace their rusting bodies. Their only hope for survival is to devour the one known as Casshern… or so they believe. Meanwhile, Casshern himself has lost all memory of his past. Why are these robots attacking him? Did he really kill the one known as Luna; the Sun that was called Moon? And why is he, alone, unaffected and undamaged by the ruin?
Thoughts: Casshern Sins is a show that’s practically overflowing with melodrama, and it can be difficult to balance that sort of thing without getting to the point where it can’t be taken seriously. The series itself managed to avoid crossing that line, and cemented itself as one of my favorites in the process, so needless to say I was pretty pleased to see that the dub did an equally effective job of knowing where to toe the line, and the results were pretty great. Eric Vale (Desert Punk’s Ganta, D. Gray Man’s Krory) is general best known for his hammier performances so seeing him play a character like Casshern was a welcome surprise to me when I first saw the dub, and I was equally amazed at how much vunerability he brought to the character and while it’s a striking contrast to the more intentionally robotic performance that Tohru Furuya in the Japanese track, it works just as well and holds up as one my favorite performances from him.
This dub was also the first I’d heard of Brina Palencia (Durarara’s Valona, Fairy Tail’s Juvia) who played Lyuze, and she’s since become one of my favorite actors as Lyuze in particular is the one character who’s angst can get overwhelming if done wrong, and her delivery here does a great job of portraying the constant anger without being too over the top. The other cast members do well too from Monica Rial’s (Penguindrum’s Himari, Yurikuma Arashi’s Ginko) sugar sweet Ringo to Trina Nishimura (Attack on Titan’s Mikasa, Gai-Rei-Zero’s Kiri) dishing out a chilling performance as Luna with the one sore spot for me being that J. Paul Slavens (One Piece’s Wyper, Basilisk’s Jingoro) didn’t carry anywhere near the amount of presence that Kenji Utsumi did for Braiking Boss (may he rest in peace). It’s a great dub for a beautiful show and while it could have very easily gone wrong, I’m certainly glad that it managed to come out so strong.
ADR Director: Eric P. Sherman (Argento Soma, Gungrave)
ADR Script: Kristi Reed (Accel World, Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne)
Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Geneon USA)
Synopsis: Samurai Champloo is all about style, from the dj-style scratching scene changes to the hip-hop-inspired soundtrack to the eclectic character design. Mugen’s fighting style is a funky meld of capoeira and limb-cutting, and Jin is the dramatic foil; he is all steel and old-school samurai style. What binds them together is the desire to test each other’s abilities, and a promise to a girl named Fuu: to find the samurai that smells of sunflowers, who plays a pivotal role in her past. Together they travel through edo-era Japan, finding battle and comedy wherever they stop.
Thoughts: Shinichiro Watanabe’s unique style of anime has always done pretty well at capturing an aesthetic that appeals to western audiences, and even a series about medieval samurai is no exception. Given that, it’s no surprise that his stuff also lend themselves pretty well towards English dubs, and Champloo’s is a great one. The core trio composed of Steve Blum (Naruto’s Orochimaru, Durarara’s Kadota) as Mugen, Kirk Thornton (Rurouni Kenshin’s Saito, Blue Exorcist’s Father Fujimoto) as Jin and Kari Wahlgren (Durarara’s Celty, Fate/Zero’s Saber) as Fuu, all have great chemistry, and play off each other really well while also really helping to highlight each character’s personality with Steve Blum’s Mugen being the standout, even if it’s not quite as well regarded as his spike. As the series is pretty episodic in nature, the focus Is primarily on these three, but the other members of the cast as just as fun, and includes voice acting veterans such as Dave Wittenburg (Naruto’s Kakashi, Digimon Tamers’s Henry), Micheal McConnieh (Hunter x Hunter’s Narrator, MAR’s Babbo), Lex Lang (Aldnoah Zero’s Cruhteo, Blue Dragon’s Blue Dragon), all of whom do well at bringing the weird and wacky world of Samurai Champloo to life. Honestly I don’t have a whole ton to say about this one, but it’s been held up as one of the classics for good reason, and much like with the show itself, it’s hard not to have a good time watching the dub.
ADR Director: Mike McFarland (Attack on Titan, Blood Blockade Battlefront)
ADR Script: Aaron Dismuke (Nanbaka, Fairy Tail), Josh Grelle (Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans, Bodacious Space Pirates), Monica Rial (Ben-To, Gatchaman)
Recorded at: Funimation Studios
Synopsis: In modern day Tokyo, society lives in fear of Ghouls: mysterious creatures who look exactly like humans — yet hunger insatiably for their flesh. None of this matters to Ken Kaneki, a bookish and ordinary young man, until a dark and violent encounter turns him into the first ever Ghoul-human half breed. Trapped between two worlds, Ken must survive the violent conflicts of warring Ghoul factions, while attempting to learn more about Ghoul society, his newfound powers, and the fine line between man and monster.
Thoughts: When simuldubs (formerly known as broadcast dubs) were first announced my feelings were a bit mixed. On the one hand the idea of getting dubs out a faster rate sounded appealing and if done right had the potential to be a game changer, but on the other hand I feared that it would lead to lower quality productions as a result. However there was one simuldub that managed to toss aside those fears, and that would be the one for Tokyo Ghoul. Mike McFarland’s track record as an ADR Director pretty much speaks for itself at this point so when I heard he was directing it I figured it’d be good but I was still blown away at just how much he was able to get out of it on an initially limited schedule. While I was about as mixed on Austin Tindle (My Love Story’s Suna, Assassination Classroom’s Karma) as I was about the idea of simuldubs in general up to that point, his portrayal of Kaneki has since turned me into a huge fan of his work, as he manages to real sell the contrast between Kaneki’s human side and his inner ghoul, and sometimes to a very chilling effect as the character goes down a path of self-destruction.
He’s joined by a cast of Funimation veterans such as Monica Rial, J. Michael Tatum (Black Butler’s Sebastian, Attack on Titan’s Erwin) and even Mike McFarland himself, as well as a few lesser known names such as Kenny Green (One Piece’s Jango, Desert Punk’s Rain Spider)for Mado, all of whom bring their A-game for this dub. The scripting here works well too, and while it does get a little overly-liberal in some instances, it never veers too far off track (especially in comparison to how some other Funi dubs have gone) and captures the spirit of the series pretty well. It’s such a solid dub that’s almost hard to believe that half of it was done on a tight schedule, but it just goes to show how good of a director Mike McFarland is, and while most of the other Funi simuldubs haven’t quite reached this level of quality, it’s still nice to know that even under those circumstances, it’s totally achievable.