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): Kevin Seymour (Code Geass, Akira), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Naruto, Digimon Tamers)
ADR Script: Marc Handler (FLCL, Code Geass)
Recorded at: Animaze (Manga Entertainment)
Synopsis: It is the year 2029, and as many rush to embrace the changes that cybernetic technology bring to mankind, the seedier side of humanity is even quicker to take advantage of it. This series follows Public Peace Section 9, a government organization that plays behind the scenes to stop the worst of these criminals. Join Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team as they take you through an incredibly vivid world filled with plots of such depth and intrigue as is seldom seen.
Thoughts: Ghost in the Shell has endured as one of the most iconic sci-fi franchises in anime, if not media in general, and there’s been a variety of iterations over the years. Out of all of them though, the Stand Alone Complex TV series stands at the head of the pack, and so it’s quite fitting that it also has the best dub out of the franchise. Mary Elizabeth McGlynn’s performance as Motoko is almost as iconic as the character herself, and while there’s been many an interpretation of her, none have come close to capturing the level of charisma and authority of McGlynn’s, and for me at least, hers is the definitive version.
The same pretty much goes for the rest of the cast as well. Richard Epcar’s (Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusader’s Joseph, Bleach’s Zangetsu) Batou is an equally memorable performance and so much so that the actor himself has gone out of his way to voice the character across various incarnations of the franchise, while some of the other Section 9 cast members like Crispin Freeman as Togusa and William Knight (Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan’s Nurahiyon, Naruto’s Danzo) as Chief Aramaki brought a level of energy those characters that other dubs in the franchise haven’t come close to imitating. It’s just a really strong dub in general, and the combination of McGlynn and Kevin Seymour’s super strong directorial work here really helps to add some polish to the show’s stellar cast. GiTS is a franchise that will likely go on for years to come, but as far as Stand Alone Complex as it’s dub are concerned, both stand in a league of their own.
ADR Director(s): Mike McFarland (Blood Blockade Battlefront), Colleen Clinkenbeard (My Hero Academia, Yona of the Dawn)
ADR Script: Jared Hedges (Dragonball Z, Yu-Yu Hakusho)
Recorded at: Funimation Studios
Synopsis: Once upon a time, two brothers passed the happy days of their childhood by studying alchemy, which is governed by the equal transfer principle: an eye for an eye — you can’t get more than you give. But these brothers tried to defy that law, and a horrific accident resulted. Now, the older brother, Edward, is called the Full Metal Alchemist because of his metal limbs, and the younger, Alphonse, is a soul without a body, trapped within the confines of an automaton. Together they search for the power to restore themselves, to find the lives they lost so long ago…
Thoughts: Going off of one of my earlier entries, if Yu-Yu Hakusho is the dub that helped to turn Funimation’s reputation around, then Fullmetal Alchemist is the one that firmly cemented it. When FMA first made the anime scene it was a gigantic phenomeon, and there was a lot riding on Funimation getting the dub right. Fortunately they managed to meet those expectations and then some, making for one of the most iconic anime dubs to ever hit the market. While Vic Mignogna’s (Ouran High School Host Club’s Tamaki, Level E’s Prince Baka) Edward might not be quite as strong as Romi Park’s (but like I mentioned in an earlier entry, Romi Park’s in a class of her own so that’s not much of an insult) but it’s still an extremely solid performance, and the rest of the cast more than compensates. Aaron Dismuke (Blood Blockade Battlefront’s Leo, Corpse Princess’s Ouri) and Maxey Whitehead (Dimension W’s Elizabeth, Bacanno’s Czeslaw) do great work as Alphose in both incarnations of the franchise while the notable mainstays like Travis Willingham as Colonel Mustang and Laura Bailey (Soul Eater’s Maka, Glitter Force’s Emily) as Lust were roles so well performed that they pretty much helped in propelling those actors to stardom.
Both versions of the series feature top-shelf talent, from Chris Patton (Akame ga Kill’s Run, Black Cat’s Creed) to Kent Williams (Yu-Yu Hakusho’s Narrator, Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple’s Akisame) and even Troy Baker (Naruto’s Pain, Code Geass’s Schnitzel), with both also benefiting from a solid dub script and excellent voice direction, helping to capture so much of the humanity and drama that made the series so beloved in the first place. Funimation’s put out a lot of strong dubs over the years, but this is easily their best work, and after having delivered on such high expectations, it’s easy to see how they’ve gained so much goodwill.
ADR Director: Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
ADR Script: Marc Handler
Recorded at: Animaze (Bandai Entertainment)
Synopsis: Follow interstellar bounty hunters Spike Spiegel and Jet Black as they scour the galaxy for criminals with prices on their heads. Hoping to escape their past, they live on the spaceship Bebop, but it’s a dangerous business and old enemies don’t forget easily. Allies come from unlikely sources, however, as they find comrades in the beautiful swindler Faye Valentine, the genius child hacker Ed and the genetically engineered ‘data dog’ Ein. Will they be able to help each other though their respective struggles, or is their fate really inevitable?
Thoughts: Well it was pretty much a matter of where not if Bebop would spring up on my list, but that pretty much speaks to how influential both the show and its dub were to the western anime market at large. While there’s a few more decent dubs from the yesteryears of anime than is given credit for, for the most part, dubs were once considered something of an afterthought and weren’t taken nearly as seriously as they are today. However Bebop managed to change things for the better by bringing out a level of quality unlike any of the other dubs from its time, and even some dubs today, setting a golden standard for future works for to follow. There’s not much I can say about the cast that hasn’t been said already, but it really is difficult to understate the lead performances in this show as his Spike Spiegal is what helped to cement Steve Blum’s reputation as one of the best VAs in the business and he’s joined by Beau Billingsea (Digimon Adventure’s Ogremon, Gungrave’s Bear Walken), Wendee Lee (Bleach’s Yoruichi, Digimon Adventure’s T.K.) and Melissa Fahn (Digimon Tamers’s Rika, Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works’s Rider), with the latter two having become voice acting staples in their own right, and all of them demonstrating some of their best work in this series.
The performances here all carry a very natural quality to them that very few dubs have been able to imitate, and everything from the show’s zaniest antics to its most dramatic stakes all come across as genuine and the cast members rarely miss a beat. It also serves as another example of where being flexible in the translation for the dub script can be to the dub’s benefit, as much of the dialogue here is refined to sound smoother in English and just about all of it works. Most significant of all though, is Mary Elizabeth McGlynn’s voice direction for the series, as she manages to bring out the best from nearly all the actors involved and the end result is incredibly smooth pretty much all across the board. From great casting, to great scripting to great voice direction, Bebop more or less paved the way for anime dubs, and while that’s been slowly taken for granted over time, it’s also something that should never be forgotten.
ADR Director(s): Jamie Simone (Afro Samurai, Only Yesterday), Suzanne Goldfish (Sailor Moon, K: The Animation)
ADR Script: Jamie Simone, Liam O’ Brien(Naruto, Gun x Sword), Ardwright Chamberlain (Digimon Adventure, Naruto), Sam Regal (Tweeny Witches, Megaman Starforce)
Recorded at: Studiopolis (Viz Media)
Synopsis: In Sternbuild City, corporate logos not only cover billboards, but also the costumes of the super-powered heroes that act as its protectors. Veteran and newcomer warriors of justice alike compete in a reality TV show that offers points for apprehending criminals while giving champions’ sponsors a chance to promote their brand. When the low-ranking Wild Tiger loses his backing after a string of outrageous, botched rescues, he finds himself paired with an up-and-coming spotlight-seeker called Barnaby. But with their wildly different personalities, will the pair be able to save their beloved Sternbuild City and win the game show, or will their constant tension be the undoing of the world’s first hero team?
Thoughts: Tiger and Bunny was one of my favorite shows of the last decade, and one that was filled to the brim with a very western style of flavor. It pretty much goes without saying that I was really looking to its dub, and the end result both met and exceeded those expectations. Viz Media and Studiopolis managed to assemble an all-star cast for this dub, featuring the likes of anime regulars like Jamieson Price (Bleach‘s Zangetsu, Fate/Zero‘s Rider), Kari Walgren (Durarara‘s Celty, Fate/Zero‘s Saber) and Micheal Sinternklass (Bakuman‘s Mashiro, Urusei Yatsura‘s Ataru), to names that are a lot harder to come by these days like Daran Norris (Digimon Frontier‘s Mercurymon, Fist of the North Star‘s Rei), Jason Spinsak (Zatch Bell‘s Kiyo, Scry-ed‘s Ryuho), and Beau Billingsea, all bringing their A-game to the table and all brought together under Jamie Simone’s rock solid direction. The scripting here is just as noteworthy, as it stands as what is probably my go-to example of how to do liberal translations without distorting the original intent of the story. Almost every bit of dialogue that’s changed here is done so for the specific purpose of sounding more like native English, and it both allows for a bit more fun with some of the comedic scenes, while also allowing some of the heavier character interactions to flow more naturally, accomplishing pretty much everything a good translation is supposed to do.
For all that though, the dub wouldn’t be nearly as strong without its two lead actors and what they bring to the table. While Wally Wingert’s (Bleach‘s Renji, Zatch Bell‘s Brago) Kotetsu sounds a bit younger compared to Hiroaki Hirata’s performance, it still hits just as strong, and he does a fine job of playing the washed-up old dork. Similarly Yuri Lowenthal’s (Persona 4: The Animation‘s Yosuke, Naruto‘s Sasuke) performance as Barnaby also hits all the right notes, and gave him an opportunity to display something a bit more on the natural side compared to some of his other work around that time, while also making good use of his more melodramatic tendencies for the character’s harsher scenes. Both performances are great and the chemistry between them always sounds genuine, making all their interactions a blast to watch. All in all this dub is really good at pretty much everything it does, and so much so that Sunrise actually managed to have it air on TV in Japan as an example of what good English dubs are really capable of. It’s hard to get much more praiseworthy than that, and while this dub may not have quite gotten the level of attention it needed to (it really needed to hit the US airwaves rather than Japan’s), for me it’s easily the best one of the last five years, and one of the finest examples of dubs in general.
ADR Director: Patrick Seitz (Your Lie in April, Blazblue: Alter Memory)
ADR Script: Patrick Seitz, Taliesen Jaffe (Ergo Proxy, Read or Die), Micheal Sorich (Digimon Adventure 02, Digimon Tamers)
Recorded at: Salami Studios (Viz Media)
Synopsis: Dr Kenzo Tenma is a genius surgeon working in post-Cold War Germany who has a bright future ahead of him. He is admired by his colleagues, loved by his patients, and due to marry his boss’ daughter, the beautiful Eva Heinemann. One day, when two patients in desperate need of emergency surgery are wheeled into his hospital, Tenma faces a terrible choice of saving the orphaned boy who came first or the mayor of Düsseldorf, whose recovery would raise the hospital’s profile and boost his own career. Against the demands of his superior, Tenma does what he believes is right and saves the child. However, his decision not only damages his prospects, but unleashes a chain of events so horrific that it might have come from the depths of his worst nightmares. Laden with guilt, Tenma begins a journey across Germany in search of a formidable young man who will challenge his morals, his love for life, and his very sanity.
Thoughts: When I was thinking about what would qualify as the strongest dub I’ve seen, I knew right away I had to go for something featuring a large ensemble cast. While there’s almost always instances of individual performances sticking out among the crowd in shows, it’s the stuff that gives focus to the largest amount of characters possible that really tests the quality of how well a series is acted as a whole and for me, I can think of no better example than Monster. Naoki Urasawa’s masterpiece is a work that truly defines what it means to be human, and at what point someone can no longer be redeemed. As such it required a certain touch in order to best convey those themes, and Patrick Seitz’s proved to be the perfect match. His vocal direction here is strong, bringing out the best from virtually all the actors involved, making it sound less like an anime dub and more like a live-action drama, with every display of emotion and drama coming off as genuine and powerful.
The actors themselves of course, are where this dub truly shines, and despite the massive cast assembled of the course of the show’s 75 episode run, almost all of them manage to be distinct and memorable. Performances like Liam O’ Brien’s Johan and Karen Strassman’s (Code Geass‘s Kallen, Persona 4: The Animation‘s Nanako) Nina do a fantastic job of conveying their respective character arcs and the extent to which their belief in human goodness is tested, while on the other end of the spectrum Keith Silverstein’s (Hunter X Hunter‘s Hisoka, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure‘s Speedwagon) chilling work as Johan manages to sell every ounce of the villain’s inhumanity and sounds unsettlingly creepy at every turn. The rest of the ensemble is stellar too, from Richard Epcar’s Lunge to Tara Platt’s (Buso Renkin‘s Tokiko, Tiger & Bunny’s Agnes) surprisingly strong delivery as the snide Eva, bringing in a performance that sounded a lot more natural than a lot of the other work I’ve seen her in. Honestly the work here is so strong all across the board that it’s hard to choose a standout, but if I had to, the prize would likely go to Patrick Seitz himself as Grimer, with his portrayal of the character’s final scene, standing out as one of the finest performances of acting I’ve seen just not in anime, but media in general. While I can certainly think of more fun examples of a good ensemble cast, to me the real test is how well the actors can express the various emotions of their characters, and as far as that goes, this is the one that really stands above the rest.
And that’s it for my favorite dubs. Thanks to everyone for reading and I hope you enjoy the rest of the holiday season. I’ll be back next week with my Best of 2016 highlights for anime but until then, stay animated.