Not All Anime Dubs Are Bad

Editorial note: This post was originally intended to run last week but was delayed intentionally following the horrific attack on Kyoto Animation. Some sections have been edited for content.

I wasn’t originally planning on being too dedicated to seeing the Sound! Euphonium movie. It had been a while since the series had come out (as the trivia before the movie would point out, four years to be exact) so it was nice to see it getting a new movie that wasn’t a spin-off like Liz and the Blue Bird. But, I was content with the ending of season two, and was planning on just renting it from the library instead. However, that changed after I was lucky enough to win tickets to the film, complements of Eleven Arts and Books Kinokuniya. Since I planned on seeing the subtitled version with the tickets, I started to look in to buying tickets to the dub.

That’s when things started to get interesting. The local Regal theaters appeared on Fathom Events’ list of participating theaters, but trying to purchase tickets would go to a broken link. When the link last worked, the seat map showed only one ticket had been sold, and I suspect Regal actually canceled the showings as a result. Empty theaters are rather expensive to leave empty, so while I don’t blame Regal for doing so, it was disappointing to see.

Funny enough, the subtitled showing I was going to see also ended up being canceled as well. The theater claimed this was a “technical issue” caused by not having a satellite to receive the content, but I suspect the showing was actually canceled because only three seats had been sold, mine being two of them. I had previously seen Fathom Events screenings at the location before, such as the My Hero Academia movie. On the upside, Fathom Events reached out the next day and offered to replace the tickets with ones for a dubbed showing – if I could make it out to Hillsboro instead.

I accepted the offer and actually got a welcome surprise out of it: a Regal location with power recliners; none of the three theaters in Portland currently have recliners at all. I was also very happy to see the theater half-full, although it would have been nicer if people actually paid attention to the movie and not their phones.

I never got around to seeing the dub of the TV series for Euphonium, so I wasn’t sure what to expect for the movie’s dub track. Having now seen it, I think it was fine, and I think I should see if the dubbed version of the anime is streaming yet; it’s very much a series that deserves a spot on my re-watch list as one of Kyoto Animation’s most intricately animated shows.

That said, I’m not surprised the dubbed version of the movie was very good, as I prefer to watch anime in both sub and dub formats. Both formats I give the “three episode rule”; if I don’t like it after three episodes, it gets dropped. Only once have I broken that rule, and that was for the 1990s dub of Sailor Moon, as in infamous the “cousins” dub. That lasted half an episode.

Thankfully, I would argue the dubs of today are far better than those of the 90s. Yes, Netflix’s dub of Evangelion (and sub too) might be stirring controversy right now, but at least we’re not still calling onigiri jelly-filled doughnuts. Not all modern dubs are bad. That doesn’t mean they’re all great, but I would argue there are series out there with a dub that is just as good – if not better – than the original subtitled version.

Ghost Stories has a legendary ad-libbed dub and is probably the only good dub ADV ever produced – that I’ve personally seen anyway. On the more serious side, I still use the dub for Steins;Gate as my go-to in favor of dubs. Now, I’m not saying the dub is better than the sub, but I would call them equal. Funimation especially produces some excellent dubs, and I think simulcast dubs are one of the most exciting innovations to hit the anime industry in years.

Here in the US, I think we’re also fortunate to have quite a few very talented voice actors and actress. In some ways, the industry here is very different from Japan; “tallent” signed to one agency for their entire career as “idols” are far less common. That’s not to say there aren’t some very well-known voice actors and actresses over here, but in my experience from conventions and other events, their mannerisms are very different from those of guests from Japan. I’ve had the chance to meet several professionals in the industry over the years, and I’ve still never met anyone nearly as down-to-earth as Jerry Jewell. If you ever have the chance to attend a panel at a convention with him, do it. It will be the most casual panel you go to the entire convention, if not any anime convention ever.

My point is, please don’t be someone who exclusively supports subtitled anime. Dubs deserve a chance too. While the anime industry here may not be as large as Japan, there are very real people here who work in it and who would be out of a job without it receiving support from fans. I think we are very fortunate to have anime in theaters monthly now. I remember nine years ago having to take the train to New York City just to watch Tales From Earthsea. While yes it is arguably not one of Studio Ghibli’s better films, it is still a Ghibli, and I was surprised AMC (then Loew’s) was not going to be running it after they had previously widely screened Ponyo, which honestly, I’d rank just a little lower than Earthsea.

If you want to continue to see anime widely available in theaters, it needs support, both the subtitled and dubbed showings. So please, give dubs a chance. Not all dubs are bad.

Sound! Euphonium The Movie – Our Promise: A Brand New Day image credit Eleven Arts.