Dubbing is the post-production process of recording and replacing voices on a motion picture or television soundtrack subsequent to the original shooting schedule. The term most commonly refers to the substitution of the voices of the actors shown on the screen by those of different performers, who may be speaking a different language. (Wikipedia)
10 years can change a lot. There was a time where subtitles were distracting, Japanese voices were unnecessarily high pitched and poorly cast. Hell, there was a time where all I had access to watch was English. By that I mean, there was a time before subs. Just finishing Hare+Guu, I realized that I had completed a series from an era that I’ll likely never relive.
There used to be a time where I listened to the dub of a series and judged the work fairly to see if it was quality. If I saw a certain studio was licensing a work I would run names through my head and hope and pray they cast it right. Watching a new series, an English speaking voice actor or actress would become a character I loved and cheered for. In a way, these people will always be the characters they played, even after taking new roles. I may never seriously watch another dub, but before I fully move on to this new era I want to remember those people and their most iconic roles.
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn
If there’s an ultimate strong female voice, it’s Mary Elizabeth McGlynn’s. While she had great roles and performances as Helba from .hack//SIGN, Cornelia in Code Geass and especially Hilda of Outlaw Star fame; she will always be The Major to me. When she spoke it always struck me as the voice of someone in control, which fit the character perfectly. Motoko Kusanagi was all about competence and control. Whether the character was conversing in the most realistic chat-room ever conceived, directing her unit in a failing firefight, or doubting her own existence, McGlynn’s performance never wavered, felt out of place or strained. Watch the Ghost in the Shell tv series and you’ll realize what it’s like to see someone born to play a role.
This woman will always be the most talented and versatile voice actor or actress to me. I’m very familiar with her work, but there are roles where I honestly wouldn’t have known if it was her if not for the credits. Her roles range from what you were think her standard would be, like Keiko from Yu Yu Hakusho to the sexy and intimidating Lust of Fullmetal Alchemist fame (a personal favorite). Damn it, she’s even play Shinnosuke from Shin-chan. Who can’t tell her she’s not appropriate for a role, any role. But the role I’ll always attach her to is Tohru Honda of Fruits Basket.
This guy doesn’t get many starring roles, though you may remember him as a certain big hat wearing vampire, but he has a very distinct voice and is impossible to mistake for any one else. I remember him well from dual roles in Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai Champloo. He’s also done lots of work in video games. You can hear him in Ninety Nine Nights II (though I wouldn’t recommend actually playing the game). The role I most remember him well for is that of Norris Packard.
This guy is a beast. He stands head and shoulders above his counterparts in piloting skills and professionalism. Now if Norris Packard was to come across Amuro in the One Year War, he’d be a dead man. But you have to admire what this Oldtype can do in a Gouf. In his shining moment against the entire 08th MS Team, he added some gravity and class to the antagonistic role. McConnohie does well to make you take Packard seriously even in his “hammier” moments. And I was actually sad to see the old soldier go.
When I watched this scene I also found an interesting juxtaposition between the characters and the voice work. Seeing Shiro Amada’s English voice work sounds a little strange, even corny to me. That was an interesting coincidence seeing and hearing someone flounder and then seeing and hearing their counterpart, Packard/McConnohie, do the same.
Overall, I think ADV did an outstanding job dubbing and translating Azumanga Daioh (give or take a few issues revolving around Osaka). They even had a very handy booklet included with each DVD that helped explain the very Japanese show. So I think it would be disingenuous for me not to include some love for it. And Mandy Clark’s performance as Tomo Takino is the example I’ll use for this show.
Many people think an annoying performance is just annoying, but I think Tomo is brilliantly funny when she’s annoying. Clark strikes that perfect chord of being annoying, energetic and funny without sounding weird to do it. Like all the examples before, she will always be Tomo to me. Stupid, stupid, “Knucklehead” Tomo.
The dub performance for Kenshin Himura is probably the only one that I’ve heard and enjoyed for a male character with feminine qualities. Overall, the Rurouni Kenshin dub was a rather mixed bag with characters like Saito, Sanosuke and Shishio getting excellent voice work while (as tends to be commonplace) some lesser characters get horrible ear drum ripping voice work. But despite quality of the episode or the surrounding voice acting, Cansino’s work was always consistent and loveable. I could and will always equate his performance to that of the gentle, admirable man-slayer Battousai.
These are my picks for great English dub perfomances. I left out some obvious choices, because I had trouble narrowing them to a favorite or best performance. To Crispin Freeman (Togusa, Holland, Shannon Cassul) and Steven Blum (Spike, Roger Smith, Shishio, Orochimaru) I apologize.
What’s your favorite English dub performance? I look forward to hearing from everyone. And if you were wondering why I didn’t mention Mr. “Super Popular” Johnny Yong Bosch, he gets the title pic. That should be enough. I always watch Trigun in English and no matter what part he plays, I always hear at least a little Vash the Stampede in him.