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): Jeff Nimoy (Zatch Bell, Digimon Data Squad), Kirk Thornton (Bleach, Blood Lad), Liam O’ Brien (Gun x Sword, Koi Kaze), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Wolf’s Rain, Digimon Tamers)
ADR Script: Ardwright Chamberlain (Glitter Force, Digimon Adventure-tri), Liam O’ Brien, Jeff Nimoy, Steve Blum, Sam Riegal (Megaman Star Force, Tweeny Witches)
Recorded at: Studiopolis (Viz Media)
Synopsis: Naruto Uzumaki is a young ninja who bears a great power hidden inside him, a power that has isolated him from the rest of his village. As such, his only dream is to become the Hokage – the most powerful ninja, and leader of the village; but first he needs to graduate! With his inability to perform even the most basic ninja techniques, it seems that all Naruto has going for him is his determination to succeed no matter what. Teamed up with the genius Sasuke, book-smart Sakura, and their team leader Kakashi, Naruto embarks on his quest to become the Hokage. But with outside forces posing a threat to the entire Hidden Leaf village, Naruto discovers that he must become much stronger if he ever wants to realize his dream and protect the friendships he’s forged.
Thoughts: Naruto was a big gateway drug into anime for a lot of people in it’s heyday and despite how much opinions on it have soured in recent years, it’s significance in that area is hard to deny. It’s dub on the other hand was taken far less seriously and practically to the point where it became something of a meme in and of itself. Everything from the silly “Believe It!” catchphrase to Yuri Lowenthal’s (Durarara‘s Shinra, Gurren Lagann‘s Simon)over the top portrayal of Sasuke’s angst was mocked by the show’s fandom with the stilted direction of the early episodes only serving to add fuel to the fire. As a kid, I was pretty much the only one among my group of friends who stood in staunch defense of it, and while there’s admittedly no denying that it’s early parts are rough, ever since Mary Elizabeth McGlynn took over directing duties for it, the dub’s transformed into a really rock-solid effort.
These days Maile Flanagan’s Naruto is more or less on par with Junko Takeuchi’s while performances that were already good like Dave Wittenberg’s (Digimon Tamers‘s Henry, Blood +‘s Solomon) Kakashi or Tom Gibis’s (Shinzo‘s Mushra, Honey and Clover‘s Takumi) Shikamaru have only gotten better with time. Although more than anything, while the dub’s had it’s ups and downs regarding Naruto and his friends, it’s always been excellent when it came to the villains. Roles such as Liam O’ Brien’s Garra or Steve Blum’s sinister Orochimaru proved to be every bit a match for their Japanese counterparts, and in several instances outright surpassed them when it came to which ones I preferred with almost all of those performances leaving enough of a lasting impact that I can still perfectly recall how much they creeped me out as a kid, years later. It’s a shame that the dub’s relevance has mostly faded into obscurity nowadays (though I imagine Shippuden’s drastic drop in quality might have helped play a part in that) and while may never quite get the amount of appreciation it deserves from it’s fandom, it’s one that still holds a special place in my heart.
ADR Director(s): Kevin McMullan (Coppelion), Patrick Seitz (Blazblue: Alter Memory, Girls Bravo)
ADR Script: Patrick Seitz, Tony Oliver (Fate/Zero, Gurren Lagann), Micheal McConnohie (Digimon Adventure, The Seven Deadly Sins)
Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Warner Bros Entertainment)
Synopsis: When Jonathan Joestar was just a baby, his mother tragically died in a carriage accident, and his father George was saved by the kindness of a stranger, Dario Brando. At least, that’s what George believed, unbeknownst to him that Dario was just attempting to steal from the victims. Thus, when Dario later dies and his son, Dio, comes to his doorstep, the wealthy George eagerly adopts the boy. But what should have become a budding friendship between two siblings quickly becomes a nightmare for poor Jonathan, as Dio is cruel, calculating and will go to great lengths to become George’s primary heir. Little does Jonathan know that this unfortunate childhood is only the harbinger of things to come…
Thoughts: The start of Jojo’s journey to western shores was plagued with troubles as after initially failing to market the show to any would be US licencors, Warner Bros took it upon themselves to put out the show on DVD here and the results were…less than stellar. Fortunately the show has since fallen into more competent hands, and while it’s still easy to look back on that first release with horror, they at least managed to get one thing right: the dub. Dubbing Jojo’s was always going to be something of a thankless task as it’s fandom has constantly been of two minds as to what exactly makes the series work. On the one hand, there’s those who enjoy it’s high levels of testosterone and action, while on the other there’s those who enjoy how self aware it is about those things and how much it intentionally plays up the goofier aspects of those areas. The dub opted to lean towards emphasizing the latter and pretty much runs with it. It’s got everything from silly British accents to ultra-hammy acting all across the board, and while that would pretty much be a death knell for just about any other series, for Jojo’s it’s pretty much exactly what the dub needed.
While I wasn’t too sure about the casting choice back when it was first made for the test dub to Stardust Crusaders, Patrick Seitz (Blazblue‘s Ragna, K: The Animation‘s Munakata) made for a fantastic Dio and plays up every bit of his cartoon villainy to perfection, while Ben Diskin (Naruto‘s Sai, The Seven Deadly Sins‘s Ban) proved to be just equally as fun playing Joseph Joestar, and rather than detracting from their performances, the silly accents helped add to the charm, and especially so when it came to casting choice of Bryce Papenbrook(Attack on Titan‘s Eren, Blue Exorcist‘s Rin) as Caesar since that role wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without it. The dub script works wonders too, as it does just as well a job of playing up the show’s inherent silliness as the performances, and while it does have to work around some of the show’s most meme-tastic dialogue in order to flow better in English, it more than compensates by keeping things as breezy and fun as possible. Of course it goes without saying that such a silly dub has earned it’s share of detractors, and there’s some who wish it had gone the more serious route, but I feel like the staff here ultimately made the right call, and while it may not be the dub that some Jojo’s fans wanted it is the one we definitely needed.
ADR Director/Script: Alex von David (Erased, Blue Exorcist)
Recorded at: Bang Zoom! Entertainment (Aniplex of America)
Synopsis: Ryuuko Matoi is a fiery, feisty girl on a vengeful mission: she’ll find her father’s murderer at all costs, with only a giant red scissor blade as a clue to the villain’s whereabouts. Using the item as a weapon, she fights her way into the terrifying Honnouji Academy to track down a lead, unaware that the institute is brutally governed by a student council that’s anything but ordinary. Wielding special “Goku uniforms”, the group, led by president Satsuki, uses superpowers to keep the student body in check – but things are about to change now that Ryuuko’s in town!
Thoughts: Whatever else might be said about Hiroyuki Imashi, it’s hard to deny that his works are pretty high energy, and the dubs of his projects have had quite a time of it trying to match said intensity. For the most part those have turned out pretty well and the dubs to both Gurren Lagann and Panty and Stocking were pretty well recieved but out of all of them, the one that really takes the prize goes to the dub for Kill la Kill. While I liked the dub to Gurren Lagann a lot and it was a pretty solid effort overall, it was slightly held back by a couple of casting choices and some minor issues in direction. As its spiritual successor however, Kill la Kill has pretty much none of those problems. Ryuko marked the second lead role for the up and coming Erica Mendez (Sailor Moon‘s Haruka/Sailor Uranus, Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic‘s Aladdin) and ultimately served as the one that propelled her to stardom as her performance for the character proved to be downright fantastic, and every bit as over the top as Ami Koshimizu’s.
The rest of the cast works wonders too, with everything from Christine Marie Cabanos’s (Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s Madoka, Blue Exorcist‘s Shiemi) hyperactive Mako to Ben Diskin practically stealing the show with his pimp daddy take on Takaroda, all serving to make for a cast that’s every bit as fun as the original with the only real deduction being that Laura Post’s (Squid Girl‘s Cindy, Sailor Moon‘s Tellu) Ragyo isn’t quite as good as Romi Park’s (but matching Romi Park is a nigh-impossible task to begin with so that’s not anything I can really hold against it). Putting it all together however, was Alex von David’s spectacular work on both the direction and the dub script as he played up the show’s pure ham to perfection, and managed to deliver on the rather lofty expectations the dub was facing. It’s hard not to have a good time with an Imashi show, and out of all his works that have been dubbed, this is definitely the one that’s cut from the best cloth.
ADR Director: Suzanne Goldfish (K: The Animation, Tiger and Bunny: The Rising)
ADR Script: Mark Ryan (Shaman King, Digimon Adventure), Seth Walther (Digimon Frontier, Naruto: The Last), Michael Sorich (Digimon Adventure 02, Shinzo)
Recorded at: Studiopolis (Viz Media)
Synopsis: Life can be tough when you’re a teenager. Enter Tsukino Usagi, an average, if somewhat clumsy, junior high student whose voracious appetite for sweets and capacity for tears are offset by her enthusiasm for life. Her normal existence is suddenly turned upside down when a talking cat named Luna comes into her life. Suddenly, Usagi finds herself with the ability to transform into the superhero known as Sailor Moon. Fighting the occasional monster may be the least of her worries, though…
Thoughts: With the exception of Dragonball Z, few anime have left as big an impact in the west as Sailor Moon. Unlike Dragonball Z though, the reception of it’s dub was far less stellar, and while it still has it’s fans as much as anything else from that time period, the hope that it would one day be done right was one that fans held onto for over a decade. Needless to say that left some rather lofty expectations for Viz to live up to when they rescued the show back in 2014, and while there’s been a fair share of issues with that revival (mainly when it comes to the video quality) the dub is definitely the one area where they succeeded. Stephanie Sheh’s (Naruto’s Hinata, Eureka Seven’s Eureka) Usagi is easily the best the character has ever sounded in English and nails her to perfection while Robbie Daymond (Tales of Zestria’s Sorey, The Seven Deadly Sins’s Gilthunder) proved to be every bit as impressive in his debut anime role as Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask and has since gone on to do some impressive work.
The rest of the core cast doesn’t slouch around either as the other Sailor Guardians are comprised of a balanced cast between established veterans like Kate Higgins (Naruto’s Sakura, Fate/Stay Night’s Saber) as Ami/Sailor Mercury and Cherami Leigh (Fairy Tail’s Lucy, D. Gray-Man’s Road) as Minako/Sailor Venus as well as fresher faces like Amanda Miller as Makoto/Sailor Jupiter (Accel World’s Nomi, Squid Girl’s Takeru) and Erica Mendez as Haruka/Sailor Venus, all helping to do justice to these beloved characters. The villains are equally well cast, bringing in talent such as Cindy Robinson (Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit’s Balsa, Tweeny Witches’s Sheila) for Queen Beryl and Steve Staley (Buso Renkin’s Kazuki, Bleach’s Hitsugaya) as Rubeus to make for a rock-solid dub, full of fun performances. A lot of credit also has to be given to the direction and scripting here too, as both not only deliver on capturing the heavier aspects of the material but also do a wonderful job of giving the dub an appropriately retro feel that really matches the time period of the series without making it sound too dated. All in all it’s a fantastic effort, and one that really helps to demonstrate just what’s allowed Sailor Moon to endure as such an iconic anime franchise.
ADR Director(s): Mike McFarland (Attack on Titan, Blood Blockade Battlefront), Joel McDonald (Assassination Classroom, Space Dandy)
ADR Script: Mike McFarland, Clint Bickham (Barakmon, From The New World), Bonny Clinkenbeard (Death Parade, Black Butler), Brandon Potter (Absolute Duo. Riddle Story of Devil)
Recorded at: Funimation Studios
Synopsis: Long ago the infamous Gol D. Roger was the strongest and most powerful pirate on the seas. As he was about to be executed he revealed that he hid all of his wealth, including the legendary treasure known as One Piece, on an island at the end of the Grand Line – a treacherous and truly unpredictable sea. Monkey D. Luffy is a spirited, energetic and somewhat dim-witted young man with a very big dream: to find One Piece and become the Pirate King! However Luffy is no ordinary boy, as when he was younger he ate one of the Devil’s Fruits and gained its power to become a Rubber Man. Now in this grand age of pirates Luffy sets out to gather a crew and sail to the most dangerous sea in the world so that he can fulfill his dream… and maybe even his appetite!
Thoughts: It goes without saying that One Piece got off to a really rough start in the west (and doubly so if you were lured here by my tweeting the infamous rap song) and when the show was finally allowed the grace of shifting hands from the much reviled 4Kids to Funimation, they had a lot of work to do in helping to give the series a second chance. Fortunately they proved to be up to the task, and while the Funimation cast may have primarily started out mostly as improved versions of the 4Kids one (well minus Eric Vale’s Sanji since that was mercifully about as far south of David Moo’s as possible) they’ve since gone on to turn the dub into a real grade-A effort. The Straw Hat performances are all great with Colleen Clinkenbeard’s (Fairy Tail’s Erza, Kiddy Grade’s Éclair) Luffy serving as the glue that holds it all together and while I was admittedly more partial to Marc Diarson’s Zoro than I am Chris Sabat’s (My Hero Academia’s All Might, Fairy Tail’s Elfman) it’s still hard to deny it’s solid.
They’re all joined by a cast that’s as almost as vast as the world of One Piece itself as the show has brought in voice actors from various talent pools from Patrick Seitz as Franky, to even bringing in Canadian actor Scott McNeil (Inuyasha’s Koga, Gundam 00’s Ali-Al Saachez) for one of the films, allowing for a wide variety of performances that are all held together by Mike McFarland and later Joel McDonald’s stellar direction for the series. Truth be told, I haven’t seen a whole ton of this dub (mostly because I can’t bring myself to slug through the anime’s pacing when reading the manga’s easier) but what I have seen is more than enough to convince me that this dub’s a real standout, and while Funimation may never truly be able to erase the sins of the past wrought by 4Kids, they’re at least doing a bang-up job of helping to propel One Piece into the future.