Five Anime Series with Great English Dubs
Posted by Paolo Arciga February 21, 2020

Less than two weeks ago, the film community at large rejoiced as Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite bagged five Oscars at the Academy Awards including the Oscar for Best Picture. It was the first time a non-English language film won the award for Best Picture, and it prompted all kinds of reactions and discussions on social media. A lot were joyful and celebratory, yet Parasite’s historic win was also met by some with skepticism and anger, causing more than a few heated arguments on the internet’s supreme court: Twitter.


One such argument was whether or not foreign films are better enjoyed with dubs rather than subtitles. This argument’s ground zero came from a since-revised article that drew ire from the internet mob not only because it argued that dubs are superior, but also because it claimed that subtitles are for foreign studios that are too poor to dub their releases. I’ll let you decide on how you feel about it, but to me, it reads like thinly-veiled racism.


As strangers from all around the world argued over subs and dubs in 280 characters or less, it must have been a familiar feeling for anime fans, because the subs-versus-dubs debate has been part of the anime community since the 1990’s. Anime fans have been arguing about subs and dubs even before some of us were born; some like their Son Goku in English, some like their Naruto in Japanese, and some of us might even prefer our Urameshi in Tagalog (you know him better as Eugene, ang nagtataglay ng Ray Gun).


Eugene with his pals: Vincent, Dennis, Alfred, Jenny, and Sharlene.

While it seems that the majority of anime fans (myself included) lean towards the side of subtitles, there’s no reason to ignore a good English dub, especially when it allows us to enjoy our favorite anime all over again with a new set of voice actors and in a different language. Why argue about the superiority of one over the other, when you can just enjoy both of them?


For the diehard subtitles folk out there, here are five anime shows worth watching with their English dubs, because they’re just as good if not better than the original Japanese audio. 

Honorable mention: Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories is an honorable mention in this list because its English dub is actually not a translation of its original Japanese audio and dialogue, but an almost completely ad-libbed dub that turned the anime into a raunchy comedy series akin to South Park. The original Ghost Stories was a commercial failure in Japan, and due to the success of its humorous English dub in the West, the dub was approved by licensors Aniplex as the official English dub. 


Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood can get loud sometimes, with characters often screaming at each other during battle scenes and even during the comic relief scenes that keep the anime from being too dark and serious. One of the marks of a good English dub is how well the voice actors handle their characters’ strong emotions and battle cries.


FMA: Brotherhood’s English dub nails the loud, high-tension dialogue of its action scenes, while also managing to effortlessly shift the tone of the show during its humorous scenes. In one episode Roy Mustang might be screaming his head off in a fit of anger, only to be followed by a scene of playful banter between the Elric brothers. FMA: Brotherhood is one of the greatest anime series ever made, and its English dub does not disappoint.


Cowboy Bebop

When it comes to English dubs, few anime series suit them better than the works of Shinichiro Watanabe. Samurai Champloo, Space Dandy, and Kids on the Slope, among others, have eloquently written and perfectly executed English dubs that remain faithful to their original Japanese dialogue and tone. The father of all of these dubs, of course, is the English dub to Cowboy Bebop.


The jazzy melancholy of Cowboy Bebop as well as the philosophical themes that the anime explores gives its English dub plenty of space for rumination and meaningful silences, and every English dub made for a Shinichiro Watanabe anime has followed in the footsteps of Cowboy Bebop’s. There’s nothing like hearing Spike Spiegel’s “Bang” slowly reverberating in the final episode, as he finds himself cornered at last.


Code Geass

Code Geass is an excellently written and executed anime, but its plot and dialogue can be hard to imagine being spoken in English because of its at-times overly serious dialogue as well as its characters’ long and hard-to-pronounce names.


What makes Code Geass’s English dub so good is that all of its voice actors fully commit to every cheesy phrase and strange-sounding name in the anime. If Lelouch or Suzaku’s lines were spoken with any less commitment, they’d have ended up sounding like emo Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man 3. The English dub for Code Geass never falters, and succeeds in enriching its sometimes-cliche dialogue with the complex emotions of each character.


Death Note

Death Note is a classic anime featuring a cop versus robber story with a twist (the twist being that the robber steals people’s lives with a killer notebook). Its two protagonists, Light Yagami and L, are two geniuses set on getting the upper hand on the other, and they’re reminiscent of the classic rivalry between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty.


Many of the spoken lines in Death Note occur during Light and L’s internal monologues, and the scenes in which they’re thinking to themselves are fast-paced and often provide the audience with a lot of information in a small amount of time. The English dub succeeds in capturing the frantic thought process and following the speed of the script despite the limitations of time and the English language. Outside of their internal monologues, Light and L also test each other’s intelligence through mind games and tricky conversations, and the English dub captures each scene’s tension perfectly.

Romeo x Juliet

Probably the least famous anime on this list, Romeo x Juliet is an anime that flew under the radar for most anime fans because everyone already knows how Romeo and Juliet’s story pans out, right? Well, if the plot doesn’t catch your fancy, it might pique your interest to know that a lot of Romeo x Juliet’s English dub is basically a dramatic reading of the classic play by Shakespeare.


Romeo x Juliet is a loose adaptation that also takes elements and characters from Shakespeare’s other plays. The setting and story progression also slightly differ from Shakespeare’s original work, which necessitates some regular anime dialogue between characters, but each crucial scene recreated from the original Romeo and Juliet features verbatim lines from the play, dramatically read, complementing the action and tragedy taking place on the screen. It’s an entertaining take on the classic play, made even better by its faithful-to-the-original English dub. 

So those were five anime shows whose English dubs would please even the most stubborn of original audio and subtitle purists. Subtitles exist to make our favorite foreign language shows and movies more accessible to a larger audience, and dubs are just another solution to that same problem. As long as a dub does its source material justice, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be appreciated just as much as subtitles. If an English dub can make more people watch FMA: Brotherhood, then I’m all for it.

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