Audio: English - Good, Tolerable, and Terrible and the Tiers Game

Audio: English
With the Audio:English series, PenguinTruth takes a critical look at the English
dubs which grace some of anime's most defining series in North America.

If you've ever been to 4chan, you know that they love tier charts. This is where they seperate things in categories of quality. Usually the top tier is "GOD TIER" and the lowest is "SHIT TIER", and I've done this myself, even here (my Gundam Tiers articles, for instance, which you can expect a follow up to sometime this or next year). However, unlike Anonymous at at 4chan, I'm actually capable and willing to explain and/or defend my choices as to what is truly "god" and what is "shit" in terms of the trival stuff I like.

But let's get a little serious for a moment. In my last article, I argued that a good English dub for a Japanese animated TV series/movie/OVA needs to have a well-written, accurate script, has to be well-performed by the voice actors and actresses, and needs to be well-directed. I also mentioned that an English dub that lacks one of those qualities might qualify for "tolerable", but not "good", or "great". But what does qualify? And what are the categories I seperate dubs into, in terms of quality? Are there ranks?

Yes, of course they are. A guy with as much free time on his hands as I do of course has different categories for this crap. It's called the "Good, Tolerable, and Terrible Tier List" of English dubs for anime.

First, we have the Grand Pantheon English dubs. These are the best of the best. In order to be in this category, in this tier, you have to have excellency in pretty much all categories. 90 percent of the cast has to perform to specs, has to have emotional dimension and be really natural in their roles, and the script has to be accurate and well-written. They have to be so good, that oftentimes I might prefer to watch them in English to their original language, because maybe their English track is better in some way. There aren't a whole lot of titles in this category: Cowbop Bebop (TV series/movie), The Big O (both seasons), Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (both seasons and Solid State Society), Hellsing, Hellsing Ultimate, FLCL, Death Note, Black Lagoon, and Baccano.

A common thread in that list is that some of them are Animaze dubs, done in Encino, California. Each of those Animaze dubs makes use of Steven Blum. Two of them are directed by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, who also plays roles in those same two shows. Two of those shows in that list are Ocean dubs. Voice actor Brad Swaile plays the main character in both. Voice actor Brian Drummond plays a supporting role in both of those. Only one of those shows was dubbed in Texas, at Funimation's studios in Fort Worth. These are just a few amusing facts I wanted to point out.

The next tier down are the "good" dubs. Good Dubs are dubs that are enjoyable to listen to when I watch an anime, the ones that I have no big qualms with. However, they're not amazing. They don't blow me away. They're fairly well-written, but might take a few liberties with the script. They're decently casted and acted and most voice talents are doing well, but perhaps not fantastically. There might be some stand out performances, but not many. They're dubs like: Outlaw Star, Excel Saga, Mobile Suit Gundam: 08th MS Team, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Moribito, Darker than Black, and Monster. They're not among my favorite English dubs for anime, but I like them quite a bit. Given its overall quality thus far, I might even list Dragon Ball Kai's dub among their number.

A step down from that are the "tolerable dubs". Tolerable Dubs are the ones I can go either way on. In other words, I haven't really any passionate feeling on them. They're not bad by most means, but they're just not that wonderful, either. A few of them are overrated, dubs that are extremely popular, but I just can't get into. Some of them are dubs that were great at the time they first came out, but don't hold up as well anymore. These are the English dubs that, if I invited a friend over to watch anime, and they insisted on watching it in English, I'd be able to without wincing, but when I watched it myself, I generally didn't watch with the English track on. These dubs include: Fullmetal Alchemist, Bubblegum Crisis 2040, Tenchi Muyo, Gurren Lagann, Planetes, Comic Party, Vision of Escaflowne, and Vandread.

Then there are the awful ones. Terrible Dubs suck. I know I should break it up into "bad" and "worst ever", but at a certain point, you don't want to bother seperating the awful from the horrendously awful. Bad is bad. A bad dub is one that either has really awful, inaccurate scripts, or terrible voice acting, or usually both. Most of the time, a dub can get by as "tolerable" with one or the other (though not always), but terrible dubs exhibit some of the worst English dubs have to offer an anime. I don't want to hear/read any bitching about, "Well, okay, that one is bad, but that other one is a lot worse." Bad is bad. Here's a list of some terrible dubs: Dragon Ball Z, Bubblegum Crisis, Iria: The Zeiram Animation, Gantz, Sailor Moon, anything Macross ever, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (or really pretty much anything Blue Water dubs), Blue Seed, Giant Robo (both of the dubs), and Tokyo Babylon. These dubs make me sick. If I invited somebody over and they wanted to listen to any of these, I'd eject them from my home immediately (like anyone would come over to visit me, heh).

This works for voice actors, too. But in their case, it's like this: Top Tier VAs are the ones that really bring a character to life in a believable and natural fashion, Second Tier VAs are the good ones that nevertheless hardly ever blow me away, Mid Tier VAs are the ones that just feel like filler VAs that never really do much but be there, Low Tier are the ones that I prefer to avoid when I can and hate when I can't, and Cringeworthy VAs are the ones who pretty much always suck or I can't imagine not sucking, in the case that I haven't heard them in other roles except one that really sucked.

There is the possibility of up and downward mobility in these rankings.

But here's the fun part that you, the reader, can participate in. Are you curious as to what my particular feelings about a certain anime dub or voice talent is? Please comment, e-mail, tweet, whatever, contact me and ask, and I'll give you an answer to the best of my abilities. I don't really expect a lot of takers, but that's all right. You can go to my profile on (penguintruth) and see some of my opinions and who I voted for in voice comparisons there (which you can expect more of here when I can stop being lazy).

Also look forward to more VA highlights. Of Japanese VAs. I might do some English dub VAs at some point, but I mostly do Japanese ones because I feel like the English VAs get more than enough attention.

God your writing and opinion

God your writing and opinion is just horrible.
Just stop for your own sake.

Pretty brave response from a

Pretty brave response from a cowardly Anonymous with no supporting argument.

I agree, Sir.

I agree, Sir.

What's your thoughts on

What's your thoughts on seiyuu like:

* Sumi Shimamoto
* Noriko Hidaka
* Shigeru Chiba

There's a few more. I'll get back to ya...

Of those three, Shigeru

Of those three, Shigeru Chiba is the only one I'm really familiar with, with him being Pilaf, Raditz, Shige, and Kuwabara. He's definitely a solid, noteworthy VA.

I know Sumi Shimamoto as Nausicaa and Ginrei, but I haven't really formed a full opinion on her. She seems pretty talented, but I don't know if I'd rank her among the best.

Forgive me, but the only role I remember Noriko Hidaka from is Near in Death Note, which I thought she did a great job in.

C'mon, Penguin, I'd chill at

C'mon, Penguin, I'd chill at your place!

Really well written article. There are a few choice dubs I'd watch just as much as the original as well (Cowboy Bebop, FLCL, Outlaw Star, Jubei-chan, Tenchi Muyo), but most of the time I'm an avid Japanese language anime viewer.

Keep up the awesome reviews, yo!

Love the article! I'm really

Love the article! I'm really curious, that is if you don't mind me asking, as to what kept Outlaw Star from reaching the highest tier? Also, what are your thoughts on the Animaze dub of The Castle of Cagliostro?

I'm looking forward to reading more!

I was never a big fan of

I was never a big fan of Melfina or Aisha's English voices, and some of the supporting cast is plagued with mediocrity. The strongest performers are the voices of Gene, Hilda, and the MacDougal brothers.

Castle of Cagliostro's dub is tolerable. There's really nobody doing that great a job in it, it's just sort of the bare minimum to be okay. I'm reminded of Clarisse's bland voice (though I guess that goes with the bland character) and the lack of delivery from her VA. But it's not bad by any means.

Did you know that Steve

Did you know that Steve Staley the voice of Banagher Links in Gundam Unicorn played one of the MacDougal brothers (The one named Harry)?

I was expecting the

I was expecting the Evangelion the dub to be in the terrible tier, but alas it's nowhere to be seen. I've read you (deservedly) talking trash about it before, so wassup with that?

And what do you think of the following seiyu:

Hiroshi Kamiya
Kaneto Shiozawa
Nobutoshi Canna

I think we can all agree

I think we can all agree that the original Eva dub is best forgotten.

I didn't list every dub I've

I didn't list every dub I've ever heard, lol. But yeah, the Evangelion dub is pretty horrible. I mean, it's fairly accurate, script-wise, so I almost want to hesitate putting it in that category, but the voice acting is just dreadful for most of the characters. I liked Gendo's VA and I didn't have any problem with Amanda Win-Lee's Rei (but it's Rei, which is hard to fuck up), but other than that, I didn't really like the other performances.

The problem is, there's no subtlety at all in the performances.

I only really know Hiroshi Kamiya as Tieria in Gundam 00, which I guess he did a good job as.

Kaneto Shiozawa is that damned Oberstein! Blast that Oberstein! *shakes fist*

I know Nobutoshi Canna as Parn from Record of Lodoss Wars, but outside of that, I can't really recall any performances.

You need a level between

You need a level between terrible and tolerable. There's no way the Zeta dub is terrible.

The casting and voice acting

The casting and voice acting are a complete joke. I can't name a single solid performance. The cast brought no life or energy to anything in that show.

Here's a few questions

What's your opinions on dubs such as Naruto and Bleach? I find them to be pretty good, but you seem to be an expert on this stuff so it'd be nice to hear your input. I'd also like to hear a review of the K-ON dub when that comes out later this year. I can disagree on many of your opinions, but I can still respect them, I suppose.

An english voice actor article would also be cool. I wonder what your absolute favorites are. They might be the Bang Zoon Entertainment VAs. I myself think that they're fine VAs, but I hate that they're in a lot many anime and videogames nowadays. I don't think they deserve all the roles and exposure they get. Over-abundunce of roles can lead to almost all of the roles from a single person being the same. Take Johnny Yong Bosch for example.

I'm not sure I can judge

I'm not sure I can judge those dubs without my opinion being colored by my opinion of the shows themselves, but I'll try.

I think both the Naruto and Bleach dub are, well, tolerable. I think that there are plenty of talented VAs in them, but I don't really think there are any stand out performances or any great chemistry between the characters through the voice acting. Those dubs seem to just exist to create an English version of the show, which they do, at bare minimum effort. I don't have any huge problems with casting or performances, or even scripts, but I'm not impressed, either. I do like some specific performances, like the English VA for Kenpachi in Bleach, but other than that, I really couldn't care less.

I have little interest in K-On as a show, so I'm not sure I would care enough to do a review of the dub. I was surprised that they actually gave Christina Vee a role, though. I never got into the whole Christina Vee thing. She didn't seem any better than the rest of the fandubbers out there. Well, except for me, but when I do it, it's for comedy over how bad I am.

VAs don't get paid that much. Say what you will about JYB's overexposure, but it's not his fault. He's taking all the jobs he can get. But he's not as ubiquitous as he was a couple of years ago.

Both Giant Robo dubs? Okay

Both Giant Robo dubs? Okay the 1st one I can understand, but the 2nd one!? NYAV Post did a great job on that! Why, in your opinion, makes it a terrible dub?

Script changes and abysmal

Script changes and abysmal voice acting it made it a terrible dub. Granted, the script and voice acting was better than in the first dub, but it was still pretty awful.

I wouldn't really call it

I wouldn't really call it awful, but if I were you I'd say it was Tolerable.
But is the voice acting really abysmal? There are some good work in that dub. For instance, Marc Diraison as Kenji Murasame, whose acting is WAY, way better than the first dub. (Marc is also directing Gundam Unicorn with Michael!) Sean Schemmel as Tetsugyu & of course, Zachary Alexander as Franken Von Volger.

Sean Schemmel was Tetsugyu?

Sean Schemmel was Tetsugyu? I was wondering why he was so familiarly mediocre.

There's no passion in the voice acting. Just compare it to the Japanese cast. They did a brilliant job. Both English dubs seems absolutely amateur in comparison

No passion!? Oh, I give up

No passion!? Oh, I give up there's no arguing with you.

At least tell me what you think of Zachary Alexander's performance as Franken Von Volger because I thought he was the best performer in that dub.

Also tell me how bad the script changes were, because the original dub from what I'VE seen had horrible puns/jokes inserted into the script.

The newer dub at least got

The newer dub at least got the general jist of what was being said more often than the old one, but they both added/replaced lines with nonsensical/unnecessary garbage. Though it varied from episode to episode, even scene to scene, whereas voice performances (including Volger's VA's) were consistently bland and awkward (at best).

I think the best performance probably came from Genya/Emanuelle's VA.

Could you give me some

Could you give me some examples of these script changes? Just so I can judge for myself.

Also in case your wondering Genya was voiced by Dan Green.

The biggest douche award

The biggest douche award goes to Penguin Truth.Congrats.

Someone's jealous~

Someone's jealous~

Why is the Gantz dub

Why is the Gantz dub terrible? I mean you do know Chris Ayers plays the main character Kei Kurono right?

So why in your opinion makes it a terrible dub just so I know?

Hey what about Code Geass' dub?

Where's Code Geass? It has to be at LEAST on the GOOD tier. It's not perfect and the girls and Uffy(?) can sound a bit annoying, but stars are Cornelia's VA, Kururugi's VA, JYB as Lelouch(IMHO) and Charles vi Britannia(who isn't quite Wakamoto level, but still has the authoritative voice and it's fearing). The scripting is near perfect as well, so yeah, where's Code Geass?

Seemed okay to me. Michael

Seemed okay to me. Michael McConnohie and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn did a great job and the others were decent, too.

Questions about er uh about Dubs and stuff!

Does your current tastes still reflect this list of yours from last year?

I have a quite a few questions that I would like to ask do you ever purely check out a anime simply for its dub or does the source material have to be interesting enough for you to do so?

When will you finish the Brotherhood English Dub reviews?(A question I know you get a lot)

Favorite Dub of 2012 that isn't limited to just anime but animation as well?

What do you usually do in your free time other then watching anime?

Favorite live action movie?

Which do you prefer Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter?

Goku or Vegeta?

Favorite English Narrator and favorite Japanese Narrator?

How do you feel about the recent new talent in Funimation's Dubs of 2012 anyone caught your eye?

Have you seen The Sacred Star of Milos film or Brotherhood OVAs yet? What do you think of the english cast?

Have you watched any recent ADV dubs in the last year or so?

and lastly is there anything coming out in the upcoming fall season that has your attention?


Do you have any interest in this movie?


Do you like XXXholic if so what do think of its english dub?

I would say you're a bit

I would say you're a bit behind on current dubs huh.
I doubt you've watched anything recent from Funimation or Bang Zoom Entertainment I know you discard anything from Sentai which is your loss simply because some of there recent dubs are quite good.
I can say you're missing out on a lot of high quality dubs.

February 28, 2011

February 28, 2011

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Bookmark and Share

Check out Falldog's Etsy photography shop,

Drupal 6 Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux