Hello everybody! I’m Naru, my favorite Narcissist, and I really like watching dubbed anime. Yes, I know some people will say that I’m an inauthentic fan because I don’t watch everything in the subs, but… Well, I don’t judge them for liking subs, so whatever. I like to know whether the acting I’m listening to is good or not, and I don’t understand Japanese, so the whole concept is lost on me. I like hearing good actors acting in a language I can understand, and I don’t particularly enjoy reading subtitles. Unless of course the dub is too awful to tolerate. I’m looking at you, Shadow Star. And you, Vampire Hunter D.
In any case, I’m a dub fan, and I’ve decided to share with you my list of my top ten favorite anime dubs. now before I begin, I’d like you to take into account that this list is based entirely on my opinion… If a dub you love didn’t show up, it just means that my opinion is objectively better than yours. Which I’m sorry for.
Oh, and by the way, I won’t be including any anime whose dub I love BECAUSE of how bad they are, like Higurashi. This will only be the good stuff.
His and Her Circumstances
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
10: Ouran High School Host Club
There’s a lot of good things you can say about Ouran, and I plan to say a lot of it in my upcoming review of the series. I’ll be going on for about three paragraphs about the dub in that post, so for this list, let’s keep this brief and avoid giving away too much of my work before it’s time. Ouran is a show that’s perfectly cast, just like a lot of the dubs you’re going to see on this list. The actors they chose don’t just fill out their roles as if they were born to play them, but in addition to that, they have so much chemistry between them that I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they all recorded at the same time at some points. From the main characters to the stock characters, I can’t pick a single sour performer out of the bunch, and the bloopers are hilarious… especially in the final episode.
Sorry I can’t say much about this one… The review will be out soon. I will say that Vic Mignona is absolutely hilarious as Tamake, Caitlin Glass is probably the most relatable that she’s been since Winry, J Tatum is just as sleazy and opportunistic as you’d want him to be, and despite having different voices, Greg Ayres and Todd Haberkorn harmonize perfectly as twins. I don’t fangasm over it as much as I do over the other entries on this list, but it’s the perfect example of what Funimation can do when every single gear in it’s machine is running smoothly.
9: Excel Saga
Fun fact… This was only the second non-televised anime series that I ever watched. The first, of course, being Chobits. I loved the dub so much that it got me seriously hooked on the work of the ADV dubbing company. This isn’t just because Excel Saga is another perfectly cast show… Although it definitely is. From Monica Rial’s soft, sickly Hyatt to Jason Douglas’s surprisingly left-field foppish interpretation of the revolutionary Lord Il Palazzo, every single actor is just where they need to be… Even Mark Laskowski, an actor so limited and wooden that I seriously expected him to get picked to play Groot, was used effectively. And who the hell can forget Brett Weaver’s versatile, and yet completely insane performance as the immortal Watanabe signature character, Nabeshin?
But the main reason I love this dub is a single tour de force named Jessica Calvello, who took on the demanding task of playing the fast talking, chatterboxing, past-the-borderline insane title character of Excel. Just listening to her performance makes my throat feel soar! It’s amazing that she was able to not only match the delivery of the Japanese actress, but she was even able to completely upstage her in acting ability whenever the script demanded a quieter moment. I have never seen another english actor portray a kansai dialect as well as she did. This dub would probably be higher on the list if not for the fact that her performance unfortunately resulted in her injuring her throat, causing her to be replaced by Larissa Wolcott halfway through. Larissa was able to match Jessica’s pace, but she just didn’t have the same kind of acting chops, leaving this show at #9 on the list.
8: Princess Tutu
Unlike the dub for Ouran, I’ve already made my feelings for this one known in my review of the series… I won’t let this entry get repetitive, so once again, I’ll be keeping it brief. I probably wouldn’t have given this show the time of day if Excel Saga hadn’t turned me onto the ADV company, and I’m glad it did, because Princess Tutu proves just how amazing their work can be. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s better in English than the original Japanese… And as far as I can tell, with my American ears, the Japanese was pretty damn good on it’s own merits. I’m really fighting the urge to just copy and paste that part of my review here, instead of running on fumes while grasping at things I haven’t already said, so instead, I’m going to pay tribute to a part of the dub that I didn’t talk about before… The special features. Yes, there are some amazing bloopers, but they even went the extra mile of dubbing all of the other features, like Etude and Ballet for beginners. The actors narrate these features in character, mostly in pairs, as their dialogue actually seems to be perfectly consistent with the development of the relationships between them as of that point in the series. To put in that much extra effort while paying such great attention to detail is a level of love worth noticing.
Also, Luci Christian is the best duck actor ever. Take that, Gilbert Gottfried.
Baccano has a dub that should be on everybody’s list… It’s an anime so western in both design and setting that you just have to listen to it in English. And luckily, Funimation lined up some of the most natural sounding, convincing Northern-USA accents they could find, from Todd Haberkorn’s native Chicago tongue to Colleen Clinkenbeard’s masterfully crafted New York City cadence. This is also Bryan Massey’s breakout role as the loud, psychotic Ladd Russo, and deservedly so… He sells it so well that I’m actually a little afraid to ever meet him in person, even though everybody keeps saying he’s a nice guy. Everybody brought their A-game to this dub, especially the writers, who put together an adaptive script full of era-appropriate slang words and cliches, most of which roll off of the actors’ tongues like they were raised saying them.
Oh, who cares about that… This dub is on here because of Isaac and Myria, a pair of dimwitted Bonnie and Clyde types who were played by J Michael Tatum and Caitlin Glass, a dynamic duo whose dynamic is absolutely dripping with chemistry every time they’re on screen. As a matter of fact, I got to see them getting back into character at a convention a few years ago, hamming it up with each other as they improvised a train robbery, bringing the entire room to breathless, laughing tears. This is isn’t the last time I’ll be mentioning Tatum on this list, either.
6: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
When I’m in a discussion about whether Brotherhood’s better than the original incarnation of Fullmetal Alchemist or not, I typically have a lot to say on the issue… I won’t say it here, out of fear of spoiling a possible future post, but one of the things I always give Brotherhood the edge on is it’s English Dub, which is… to be fair… Slightly better than the original. All of the returning actors are just as good as they were previously, to the point where it’s almost like they never left. Hell, Vic Mignona may actually sound a little BETTER this time around as Ed than he did in the original. And as far as the replacements?
Aaron Dismuke and Dameon Clarke were both outstanding in their original roles, as Alphonse Elric and Scar, respectively. But to be honest, I actually prefer the performances of their replacements, Maxey Whitehead and J Michael Tatum… Neither of whom I believe were working for the company back when FMA was originally dubbed.
While it’s disappointing to not have Luci Christian’s take on Wrath in this one, we also get several new performances… I can’t watch the original series now without missing Todd Haberkorn as Ling Yao, Trina Nishimura as Lan Fan, and Stephanie Young as Olivier Armstrong. And as much as I liked hearing Monica Rial act against her type as the voice of Lyra/Dante, she is so much more enjoyable as May Chang.
It took me a while to decide whether FMA or Brotherhood should be added to the list, and when you consider the fact that I like the original show a significant amount BETTER than the remake, that’s saying something.
5: Strike Witches
Imagine for a second that you’re in charge of putting together a dub. The show you’re dubbing has a cast of no fewer than 11 girls of varying teen-ish ages, and only one or two of them are archetypal in design. They vary significantly in terms of appearance, personality, and even nationality. And aside from some vague same-sex implications, there are no love interests to be found. How do you cast this?
I don’t know a lot about dubbing, but this sounds to me like it wouldn’t be an easy task. Or maybe I’m wrong, and it’s the easiest thing in the world. Either way, this lemon was presented to Funimation, and they knocked that lemon right out of the park, splattering the juice everywhere!
This is another dub where everybody was cast perfectly, but since the differences in the characters are a lot more naturalistic and subtle than they would be in most shows, it could have been a really easy one to screw up. You can tell how particular they were about their casting, as in addition to a large gathering of newbies and few company regulars, they actually went outside of their boundaries to secure two actors they never really work with… Kira Vincent Davies, from ADV, and Stephanie Sheh from Viz Media. They had Kira acting right in her comfort zone as the gruff Major Sakamoto, arguably the best performance in the dub. Sheh, on the other hand, was acting distinctly AGAINST her normal type-casting, also to great effect. Throw in an insanely likeable breakthrough leading performance by Cherami Leigh, an adorable relationship between Caitlin Glass and Jen Forrester, and the more mature role that made me wonder why Anastasia Munoz doesn’t get more work, and you’ve got the recipe for an easy favorite of mine.
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that this is one of the only two dubs where I actually liked Jamie Marchi’s adaptive writing… The other being Negima. Her quirkiness was actually a very welcome element, and she didn’t at any point go overboard with it, like in certain other shows. I think Chuck Huber was probably holding her reigns really tight to keep this one from becoming another “Totes” and “What the Crap” fest, and God bless him for it.
4: Cowboy Bebop
This is it, folks, the measuring stick against which all dubs must compare themselves. It’s considered by critics to be the best dub ever made, and with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn at the helm, it’s got a decent claim to the title. I obviously disagree with that placement, but I can still perfectly understand why it’s beloved so much.
It’s one of the oldest dubs on this list, so unfortunately, none of these actors will be showing up elsewhere on it. Well, almost, as Wendee Lee DOES appear on my honorable mentions as Haruhi.
It’s a dub full of outstanding performances, and was by far one of the first stateside dubs to prove that the original Japanese could be completely upstaged. All four of the main characters spend most of their time isolated on a tiny, cheap-ass ship with nothing but each other for company, and the four actors chosen have the tightest, most convincing chemistry you could possibly imagine, bouncing off each other at every opportunity while still making time to interpret the characters they’re given, each one a standout in their own way. Even when the characters are at each other’s throats, you can still feel the warm, familiar family-like vibe that they’ve adopted with one another.
As far as the individual performances go, Steve Blum took the cool, cavalier Spike Spiegel… what a lot of actors might jokingly call a ‘coffee break’ role… and filled it with all of the nuances of his past tragedies and thinly veiled compassion for others. Beau Billingslea was the perfect choice for Jet Black, a broken down former cop who readily fills in his role of the parent of the group. Wendee Lee may sound like she’s phoning it in and going with another generic ‘Strong Independent Woman’ type, but when that pretense goes down, she can emote with the best of them. Oh, and Melissa Fahn’s ed? She’s completely adorable and completely insane, like Pinkie Pie… Except she’s too interesting to ever really get annoying. Unlike Pinkie Pie.
3: Spice and Wolf
This is where the term ‘favorite’ starts to really come into play, as by quality standards, I’m not entirely sure this one would hold up nearly as well. But by my personal standards, this is one of the best.
As much as I enjoy the subtle, down to earth performances of Jamie Marchi as an aspiring merchant, Leah Clark as a coy shepherd, Chuck Huber as an indignant cleric, and Brittany Karbowski as a flirtatious bartender, the real reason I love this dub so much lies in it’s two lead actors… J Michael Tatum and Brina Palencia play Lawrence and Holo, a traveling merchant and the centuries old wolf-girl who joins him on his journey. They’re both lonely, in their own unique ways, and this quality shows through appropriately in both performances.
Holo, as a character, speaks in a very old and formal manner, and despite her obvious maturity, she is still disarmingly charming in her childishness. Brina Palencia proves to be perfect for this role, because as anyone who’s seen Romeo X Juliet will know, she’s no stranger to stilted dialogue. These speech patterns roll fluidly off of her refined, honeyed tongue. She sounds very aristocratic in her delivery, which makes her all the more hilarious and downright loveable when she gets drunk… Or just screaming mad at her irritatingly dense companion. Or both.
She can be fun and flirty… She can be proud and sassy… She can be solemn and introspective… Brina has a wealth of emotional range, and she puts it to better use here than anywhere else she’s been.
J Michael Tatum proves himself once again to be incredibly versatile, as he leaves his more boisterous energy behind to play Kraft as a moderately experienced merchant who begrudgingly still has much to learn… Who’s seen his fair share of horrors and failures, only to keep his smile and cleverly find opportunities out of any given situation. He’s a thoughtful, cool headed character who’s always trying his best to stay a step ahead of the people and events around him. Tatum never misses a beat with any of this.
The reason I hold this dub in such high regard is because it’s a slow paced, dialogue heavy series that spends most of it’s run time on conversations about economics and different socio-political points of view. This could turn a lot of shows into snooze-fests, but as long as Lawrence and Holo are talking about it, and as long as the brilliantly adapted script doesn’t dry up, I’ll listen to lengthy exposition about literally anything.
This is the most recent dub on the list, having only been officially released a couple of months ago. It’s also a dub that I was seriously worried about. Toradora has been one of my favorite anime ever since I first watched it, and then bought the shady-looking undubbed DVDs. I waited for years for there to be some kind of dub, hoping upon hopes that one of my favorite actors… Hilary Haag… would be playing the main role of Taiga. And when I heard that the very company she worked for was picking it up, I got even more excited.
Only to see an eventual list of names that sank my heart into the ground. The main cast list was made up of no-names, Bang Zoom rookies, and Johnny Yong Bosch. Two of the characters I was most particular about… Taiga and Minori… Were going to be played by Cassandra Lee and Chrisrtine Cabanos, two K-on! alumnus.
Now, I had respect for Cassandra Lee’s ability to understand her characters, especially after Madoka Magica, but I felt Taiga’s depth was out of her range… And I never really liked Cabanos, although she was decent in Squidgirl. I knew Bosch would perform well, but as for the rest of the cast, I wasn’t expecting much.
As I’d come to find out, this dub is literally perfect. And yes, I know what I’m implying by putting the word literally before the word perfect… Believe me, I mean it that way. I can’t imagine any cast coming together to voice my favorite romantic comedy better than this one did. All of those actors I’d never heard of before… Erika Herlacher and Erik Kimerer… Are names I’m going to be looking out for from now on. Cassandra Lee has only strengthened my confidence in her star power, and as for Christine Marie Cabanos? I take back every negative thing I ever said about her. She is the star of this dub, and as such, I don’t want to live in a world where her performance is anything other than star-making. Every inch of her becomes Minori Kushieda, from her sunny and boisterous exterior all the way down to her complex, insecure interior.
I will accept arguments that Cassandra performed better than Christine… After all, we’re talking about a show so deep, meaningful and perfectly written that you can and should watch it multiple times, and both actresses thoroughly become their characters… But I will still respectfully disagree. It’s my second favorite dub, and I actually watched it all the way through twice the month that I bought it.
1: Beck; Mongolian Chop Squad
There are several anime I’ve seen where I would consider the dub better than the sub. But there’s only one anime I’ve ever seen where the divide in quality between the dub and the sub is so great that I don’t even think the series was FINISHED until the dub came out. The heart and soul of this series IS it’s English dub, for many reasons.
First of all, and this is the most obvious one… The Engrish. Beck features a handful of characters who were raised in America, despite being Japanese by birth, and they supposedly speak the language perfectly. Well, I’ve heard convincing English in a sub before… Hell, even the K-on movie pulled that off… But in Beck, the Japanese actors are clearly struggling to recite dialogue that’s supposed to come naturally from their characters. Think Terror in Resonance, but worse, if you can believe it. In the dub, obviously, this problem is erased.
The Engrish problem also extends to the music… To an embarrassing degree. But not only is this problem erased in the dub, it’s obliterated. The dub actors sing their own songs, which they kind of have to since it’s a show about the characters forming a band, and the result is phenomenal. With an adaptive script that made all the cheesy Japanese lyrics more culturally accessible, Greg Ayres and Brina Palencia prove to be outstandingly talented singers… And Justin Cook, who also produced the dub, can rap so fast and smooth despite his rough, gravely voice that it’s honestly unbelievable. It makes for a very rich, enjoyable soundtrack full of songs that wouldn’t sound out of place on normal American radio while still remaining true to the story of the anime. And if you think that’s an easy thing to do, well, Wendee Lee’s performance of God Knows and Lost My Music is mainly what kept Haruhi off of this list.
It’s hard to pick a standout from this dub… Everybody did such a fantastic job. Greg Ayres should probably be my choice, as he plays the main character, and was able to go through 26 episodes worth of melodramatic character development without ever sounding angsty, but even minor parts played by Jerry Jewel and R Bruce Elliot were just as on point. Eric Vale and Brina Palencia were even better as the Minami siblings, both of whom are very complex and rough-around-the-edges. You can feel their very authentic family dynamic, from their immediate similarities to the significant differences that only they know about each other. I guess I’d give my vote to Justin Cook, who’s throws himself right into the role of the loud and obnoxious Chiba, but ask me next week, and I’ll probably say something different. I’m not kidding when I say that my favorite from this show is constantly changing.
Special props have to be given to the team of writers, because they were able to put together a natural, grounded script that actually seems to contain the most sincere teenage dialogue I’ve ever heard in… Anything. It’s crass, it’s honest, it’s heartfelt, it has some surprising emotional depth to it… It’s the best dub ever made, and I will never take that statement back.
Well, now that that’s over and done with, I’ve got a special anouncement I’d like to make. Starting next Saturday, and stretching all the way through the month of October, I’ll be bringing you… Otakutober! That’s four horror themed posts in a row, starting with a review of… Elfen Lied!
I’m the Fullmetal Narcissist, and you’re welcome!