Ferocious 5 sheds light on a whole universe of pop and geek culture connections with bite-size lists. Explore topics, properties, fandoms you never knew existed in this article series on Bunkazilla. We start off 2021 articles by diving into the curious world of English anime dubs with Iain Boulton….
The debate of sub versus dub is a usually intense one in the world of anime. Some declare watching the original Japanese with English sub being the true genuine way to watch any animation from Japan. Others argue watching in English helps truly engage with animated characters in a way watching subtitles doesn’t offer.
This writer personally watches anime dubbed if the option is available – but I have happily watched titles subtitled as well if it’s the only option available. There are times I’ve genuinely enjoyed the original Japanese more than the dub. The best way to watch anime is always going to be a subjective discussion. It’s perfectly okay to enjoy anime either way and if it lets fans connect with the same characters and stories, we’re all winners.
From my personal experience, it is fair to say that anime dubs have definitely improved over the years. I still shudder at hearing the original Manga dub of Akira on the UK Sci-Fi Channel.
However, the world of English anime dubs is the focus for this Ferocious 5 as if you really look into some of the cast involved in the dubs, you do find some fascinating appearances by Hollywood celebrities. And for the first Ferocious 5 of 2021, I’ve found 5 famous faces you wouldn’t expect to find in an anime dub….
1. Bryan Cranston in Macross Plus
Best known for his award-winning role as Walter White in iconic TV drama Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston provided voices for several 90s English anime dubs – most of them under a pseudonym like Lee Stone or Phil Williams. While some are bit roles, TV mini-series Macross Plus is where Cranston got a key principle role – cocky test pilot Isamu Dyson.
As part of the Macross mecha franchise, Macross Plus tells the story of two rival test pilots keen to help earn their respective mechas a lucrative military contract. Throw in elements like a mutual friend both pilots are in love with, a dangerous musical A.I. and one of the most beautiful pieces of music composed by Yoko Kanno and you’ve got the makings of a cult anime classic.
There are limited edition blu-rays available out across the world there but it would be amazing to see this re-released with love in the UK.
2 & 3: Elizabeth Berkley & Kiefer Sutherland in Armitage III: Polymatrix
Once more diving into the 90s, this dual entry features the unique combination of Save by The Bell’s Elizabeth Berkley and 24’s Kiefer Sutherland as a mismatched pair of detectives in the cult cyberpunk anime thriller.
Policeman Ross Sylibus (Sutherland) transferred to a new unit on a Martian colony to help solve a series of grizzly murders. With a very unorthodox partner named Naomi Armitage (Berkley), who seems to have links to the victims, they soon uncover a greater conspiracy behind the murders.
A similarity Polymatrix shared with Macross Plus was its format, this anime was first released as a four-part OVA series before being re-released as a condensed movie version. An anime practice that still continues to this day with titles like Attack on Titan. Berkley and Sutherland were brought in solely for the movie version to give it that extra Hollywood shine.
A follow-up movie, Dual-Matrix, followed in 2002 – neither Sutherland or Berkley returned but Pioneer did enlist the vocals of Juliette Lewis to play Armitage for the English dub. The complete series is available on import but just like Macross Plus, it could do with a new re-release in the UK.
4. James Marsters in Dragon Ball Super
Those familiar with big-budget anime adaptations will know this is not James Marsters first appearance in the world of Dragon Ball. The Buffy / Angel actor played the live-action incarnation of Piccolo in the universally condemned Dragonball Evolution – though it certainly wasn’t his fault. There are many, many, many reasons the film failed.
You could easily imagine that after Evolution, the die-hard Dragon Ball fan would want to steer clear of anything connected to the franchise. But nine years after Evolution, Marsters made a surprise return to the franchise in the English dub of Dragon Ball Super. This time, playing the role of Zamasu – first appearing the Future Trunks saga.
In a way to hide his involvement and make his appearance a nice surprise, Marsters is actually credited as David Grey on the Funimation Dub. However, everyone knows Grey’s true identity and have been quite positive about his involvement. Considering the mess Dragonball Evolution turned out to be, Marster’s frustrations as a Dragon Ball fan, it must have been a lovely return to be involved in an official part of the franchise at long last.
Dragon Ball Super is, of course, available on DVD, Blu-Ray and on streaming services in the UK now. If you’re a Dragon Ball fan, it’s definitely worth a watch!
5. Tom Holland in Arrietty
Six years before he became the latest incarnation of Spider-Man, the lovable Tom Holland was part of the world of Studio Ghibli in Arrietty (or The Secret World of Arrietty depending on where the film released). Arrietty was based on the beloved children’s book series The Borrowers by Mary Norton and told the adventurous exploits of the miniature Arrietty in the huge human world.
It’s no secret that famous faces turn up to provide voices for the English dubs of Studio Ghibli films. Arrietty is a different production – it has TWO English Dubs. One was produced for Disney’s release of the film in the US, the other was produced by Optimum Releasing for the UK version. Holland appears, uncredited as the voice of male protagonist Sho in the UK dub of the film, acting as the human friend to the tiny Arrietty (played in the UK version by Saoirse Ronan). Both dubs feature great talent with Mark Strong and Olivia Coleman popping up in the UK dub, while Will Arnett and Amy Poehler appear in the US version.
Holland’s involvement in the UK dub of Arrietty is special because, according to IMDb, it’s his first attributed role on his resume. We all have to start somewhere, Arrietty is a pretty good place to begin your acting career. If you want to check out the UK dub, the film is widely available on DVD and Blu-Ray now.
That’s the list for now. There have been many more famous faces involved in anime dubs, which ones do you remember? Let us know in the comments below!
Until next time… stomp on monsters of culture, stomp on!