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One of the best things about English dubbing is you get to watch anime with no subtitles for once and English dubbing offers more diversity in accents than the original Japanese voices ever could! And also to show these hardcore anime fans that you can still express the same context, meaning and emotion without using honorifics (please note it’s one of the Honey staff’s pet peeve).
This list is an update to our previous Top 10 English Dubs anime and it’s a very tall order, to be quite honest. But I think we managed to make it even better in this new iteration of our Top 10 English Dubs Anime! Want to know why this one is bigger and better? Read on, dear readers!
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1998-December 1998
Vash the Stampede is the man with $$60,000,000 on his head for laying death and destruction in his wake. He is evil, bloodthirsty, heartless and his reputation for turning every city into a smoldering ruin has earned him the nickname “The Humanoid Typhoon.” But rumors are rumors and actually he is one of the nicest people around and even after his alleged recent destruction of a city, no one died. Who is Vash and why does he leave a trail of destruction? No one knows for sure but two insurance agents Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson will soon find out as they follow him around through the unforgiving wastelands of planet Gunsmoke.
One of the classic anime any fan should check out. Trigun is set in a Sci-Fi Wild West world with very hot and dry locales filled cowboys, bounty hunters, assassins, and the everyday struggling thirsty civilians. It’s made even better with by adding English dub to make the mood appropriately better with people having Texan accents and sometimes Southern accents. Everything fits. Sure the Japanese original voices are a tad more talented but in this kind of setting, you need the right voices to get that right atmosphere going. Also, English Vash is funny as hell.
9. The Slayers
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1995-September 1995
We follow the story of Lina Inverse and her partner Gourry Gabriev as they travel the land for fame, fortune, food and kicking monster butt. But it’s not your typical fantasy journey because Lina is one hot-tempered, yet, a lovable young woman with, uh, height issues.
The English dubbing industry was fairly young in the 90s so we got very few talents. This led to shows having samey voices because they’re using the same voice actors and some ended up taking voice roles of characters they’re not good at. There are exceptions and The Slayers is one of them. They hit the mark on selecting the right voices for the characters and you can clearly tell because you’re laughing your butt off every time Lina opens her mouth, and her sharp-ish voice matches her… uh… hmmm… height.
8. Crayon Shin-chan
- Episodes: 800+
- Aired: April 1992-Ongoing
Don’t be fooled at this anime starring a little kid as its main character because this anime is not for kids at all. Crayon Shin-chan is a story of a young curious boy as he goes about his life at school and at home. Despite his young age, Shin-chan has a knack for using unusual and profane language that leaves anyone he talks to, including his parents, dumbfounded.
Shin-chan’s English dub took a lot of liberties in the jokes and they even gave characters new names and personalities. Even though this is a red flag for the more dedicated fans, the changes were appropriate because there are some Japanese jokes, social commentaries and even toilet humor that cannot be understood by a Western audience. Still, Shin-chan is still a very funny show with a talented English voice cast with the right enough skill to deliver that laugh-out-loud punchline.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: January 2014-March 2014
Space Dandy is like watching Cowboy Bebop on an LSD trip, and don’t even try to piece together the continuity of this anime unless you want the universe to implode. With that said, Dandy is a very eccentric and carefree alien hunter searching for rare alien species, and mess around in his favorite breastaurants.
Ian Sinclair, the voice of Dandy in the English dub is perfect with an energetic performance that goes well with Dandy. His delivery is fast, snappy, smart and charismatic, and really brings Dandy’s character to life. But it’s not Dandy who has a good voice acting, the supporting characters QT and Meow also deliver the notes, and they’re so good in fact that Space Dandy is best watched in English.
6. Kill la Kill
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2013-March 2014
Voicing Matoi Ryuuko is very difficult considering she’s in the category of hot-blooded characters in super-powered shounen shows, she yells a lot (especially super moves), and sounds like a tomboy, but thankfully voice talent Erica Mendez pulled it off and made Ryuuko sound as much as her Japanese voice counterpart. That’s saying a lot because Ryuuko’s Japanese voice actor is the industry veteran Koshimizu Ami and she is considered one of the best voice actors in Japan.
But what makes a good main character? The villain? The sidekick? The supporting characters? All of them? Fortunately, Kill la Kill has a ton of silly and sometimes lecherous cast of characters and they were all sounded great in English. Kiryuuin Satsuki’s English voice isn’t as authoritative as the original, but voice actor Carrie Keranen still did an outstanding performance. And let’s not forget the oddball but still a good friend/sidekick Mankanshoku Mako with also an impressive performance by Christine Marie Cabanos.
5. School Rumble
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2004-March 2005
Tsukamoto Tenma is a girl in love with classmate Karasuma Ooji and like any heartstruck girl, she can’t muster up the courage to confess. On the other hand, school delinquent Harima Kenji has fallen in love with Tenma, but he’s having trouble confessing. Will these two finally notice their feelings for each other or will things get complicated when they start misunderstanding each other?
So English dubs are arguably superior in shows with foreign or alien settings (ie not in Japan), but what about infamous settings like Japanese high schools? Can English dubs compete on their rival’s home court? Well, they can.
As we pointed out in Shin-chan, the humor falls flat if the delivery sucks and thankfully the English dub in School Rumble remains one of the best examples of good dubbing while delivering the laughs. Harima Kenji’s English voice may sound not too brash compared to the Japanese original or some of the voice casting choices were questionable, it is clear the English talents were good at what they do and the dialogue feels natural like you’re in an actual high school setting.
4. Hellsing Ultimate
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: February 2006-December 2012
The Hellsing Organization tasked to defend Great Britain against any forms of supernatural threats (mostly vampires and ghouls). At its head is Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, spends her lifetime fighting the undead scourge. With an army and money at her disposal, her ultimate weapon in fighting these monsters is another monster named only as the vampire Alucard.
Hellsing Ultimate has a huge cast of characters from different parts of Europe and the rest of the world like Great Britain, Germany, the Nazis, South America and the Vatican and a Japanese voice cast cannot do that. This is one of the few instances the English dub reigns supreme — Every character sounds unique and you can tell what nationality they’re from just by listening to their accents and way of talking.
3. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2010-December 2010
The Anarchy Sisters Panty and Stocking are foul-mouthed, nasty angels that got kicked out of heaven and they’re spending their days hunting mischievous ghosts in Daten City, a place located between Heaven and Earth. Panty is a sex-starved nymphomaniac who wreaks havoc with her moans and bodily fluids, and Stocking, a goth loli girl with a huge sweet tooth. The two angelic sisters must work hard by killing ghosts to hopefully go back into heaven.
Let’s be honest here: Japanese swearing English words aren't really intimidating, and rather they’re just funny to hear thanks to their language’s limited vocal range. You can tell the actors for the English dub were having fun with the script because while they improvised a lot of lines, the profane, and disgusting delivery were fun to listen to. And it doesn’t hurt the fact that they used a lot of different English accents to make the show more varied and silly.
2. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1998-April 1999
In the year 2071, man has colonized the solar system and with humanity expanding out to the reaches of space, law and order need to adapt and find ways to deliver justice throughout space. To do this, the Solar System Police seek the aid of bounty hunters called “Cowboys” to hunt down fugitives and bring them to justice, while getting paid in the process. The story starts with cowboys are Spike Spiegel and Jet Black and their ship called the “Bebop” looking for outlaws and put food on their plates.
Cowboy Bebop is considered one of the best English dubs out there and you can see why. Voice actors Steven Blum, Beau Billingslea, Wendee Lee, and Melissa Fahn (Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed respectively) delivered their lines with the right emotion and tone for every situation and carry humor even in tough situations.
One of the most important thing about making characters memorable to the fans is how they sound and act. The English dub did a good job in making the characters as likable as the original Japanese. Though not perfect, the English dub delivered something good that anyone will enjoy watching without even switching to the Japanese audio.
1. Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: October 2006-June 2007
Yagami Light is the perfect boy scout: He’s good looking, smart, raised by an upstanding family, and is good at everything. One day he sees a peculiar-looking black notebook with the name Death Note on the cover and after reading the instructions inside, Light discovered he can kill anyone just by writing their name in the notebook. With his new found power, Light took it upon himself to rid the world of evil. Is Light the world’s judge, jury, and executioner ridding the world of evil or has he become so obsessed with his power to snuff everyone’s life at the flip of the pen?
Death Note takes the number one spot over Cowboy Bebop simply because Light’s English voice and performance are perfect to a tee. Cowboy Bebop’s voice cast and acting are all great, but Spike’s English voice isn’t as charismatic than the original Japanese. You can tell the voice of Spike, Steven Blum, fell flat when you watch the final episode — the grunts lack energy, his low emotions when his comrade Shin died, and dull exchange with Vicious. Overall his performance is great, but it’s hard to forgive when the delivery of the final and sad moment of Spike fell flat.
Yagami Light, voiced by Brad Swaile, has more emotion than the original Japanese voice actor Miyano Mamoru. Light’s Japanese voice is not bad in any way, but Light’s English voice offered more energy into the lines. English Light is a bit more maniacal when he gives off that evil grin after a successful plan and it stayed consistent up to the final episode. Brad’s pants and wheezing were spot on and his final delivery revelation to Light’s former comrades was flawless.
In certain types of stories with unique settings, watching an anime in English is the way to go. Not only this list showed you one of the best dubs, it also shows you that dubs can work or can work even better in any setting anime has to offer. The variety of this list is what makes it a bit better than our old Top 10. And this is a good sign because English dubbing has gone a long way and it’s safe to bet the next English dubbed school romance anime or comedy is going to be good!
So what is your favorite English dubbed anime? Please tell us by leaving a comment below!
For anime fans, dubs can be a touchy subject. Some English speakers, for example, appreciate being able to watch anime in their native language. Others… Well, let's just say the hardcore purists would rather that dubs don't exist at all.
To me, either "sub" or "dub" is fine. As long as the acting is good, the characterization is spot-on, and important plot points aren't omitted or changed, I'm fine with watching anime in a language other than Japanese.
Thankfully, there are more than a handful of shows that fit the criteria I mentioned. Some of the best ones are the following:
10. Space Dandy
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jan 2014 – Mar 2014
Where to start with this show? Let's see: You have a main character, who's a dandy guy in space, who's named… Space Dandy. Along with a cat-like creature named Meow and a robot named QT, Dandy gets paid to discover new alien species for his clients. Actually, he'd rather be with the lovely ladies at the oh-so-subtly named BooBies, but he's got his hands full doing his job and trying to shake off the Gogol Empire, which is tailing him for some reason.
Space Dandy is, first and foremost, an episodic comedy series. When you have that kind of format, it helps to have a strong leading man. And that's exactly what Ian Sinclair delivers, when he gives us a goofy yet charming take on the titular character. Other strong performances from the English dub include Joel McDonald as Meow, and Kent Williams as the leader of the Gogol Empire fleet.
9. Black Lagoon
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 2006 – Jun 2006
Nope, this isn't a reboot of the 1954 monster film. It's something better: A Japanese businessman, Rokuro Okajima, gets captured by a band of mercenaries while transporting a mysterious disc across the seas east of China. The mercenaries — who run the Lagoon Delivery Company — decide that Rokuro is a valuable hostage, and attempt to extort ransom money from his company in exchange for his life.
Unfortunately, the company doesn't budge, and has Rokuro declared legally dead instead. Realizing that he has no other choice, Rokuro joins the Lagoon Delivery Company — made up of Revy, Dutch and Benny — and takes on the name "Rock". Meanwhile, the disc they captured turns out to be more than they bargained for.
The English script really works well for this anime, since most of Black Lagoon's characters are non-Japanese. Each of them has a distinct accent and personality, so they're fun to listen to. Of course, your mileage may vary on the English actors' interpretation of certain characters — like Revy, for instance — but overall, this dub nails the essence of the show.
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr 1998 – Sept 1998
With a name like Vash the Stampede, how can you not be badass? Joking aside, Vash is the main character of Trigun, a show set in the desert world Gunsmoke. Vash has a knack for causing mass property destruction, so he's always being followed by two smokin' hot insurance ladies: Milly Thompson and Meryl Stryfe. As the women get to know him better, they realize he's actually a pretty nice guy — if you ignore his dark and troubled past, that is.
It's hard to believe that Vash is Johnny Yong Bosch's first voice acting role. Not only does Bosch stay true to Vash's complex character, but he's also able to put his own spin on the peace-loving, quirky hero. And when you have a pseudo-Wild West setting like Trigun's, it's hard to go wrong with an all-American cast.
7. Eureka Seven
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: Apr 2005 – Apr 2006
Eureka Seven kicks off with Renton Thurston, a teenage boy who dreams of becoming part of a mercenary group known as "Gekkostate". One day, a girl named Eureka crashes into their garage with an LFO (Light Finding Operation), and inadvertently forces Renton to leave his comfortable life behind forever. Lucky for him, Eureka also happens to be a member of Gekkostate, and as Renton accompanies her, the two grow closer and closer. Meanwhile, a government conspiracy gradually unfolds around them, along with questions about love, life and humanity.
Like Trigun, Eureka Seven is a Johnny Yong Bosch starrer. His Renton is a bit whiny at first, but becomes less so in later episodes. Stephanie Sheh's Eureka has a similar character progression: She starts off as a typical emotionless girl, and eventually becomes more in-tune with her human side later.
Aside from the two leads, you have Crispin Freeman as the Gekkostate leader Holland, Kim Strauss as the main villain Dewey Novak, and Kari Wahlgren as Eureka's evil counterpart Anemone. They're the other standout performances on this show, so keep your ears peeled for them.
- Episodes: 16
- Aired: Jul 2007 – Nov 2007
Famous for its unconventional storytelling style, Baccano! constantly jumps between three different storylines set in three different years during the Great Depression. If that sounds a bit off-putting, don't worry: All of them eventually come together and make sense as the series goes along. Also, despite the time period, the show's not depressing at all; in fact, it's pretty heavy on action, and sometimes ventures into comedic territory.
You could say that this show is meant to be dubbed. Even though it has a big cast of colorful characters — from ordinary immigrants to insane killers — the English actors bring them all to life. The various accents are a nice touch too, so don't miss out on them!
5. Hellsing Ultimate
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: Feb 2006 – Dec 2012
This anime is set in an alternate reality, where the world is besieged by vampires, ghouls and other creatures of the night. To fight against them, England enlists the services of the Hellsing Organization, led by the iron-willed Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing.
Ironically, Integra's most powerful weapon is a vampire named Alucard, whose bloodlust and power are second to none. So when the neo-Nazi organization Millennium decides to strike and cause another world war, it's up to the Hellsing organization to stop them.
As Alucard, Crispin Freeman balances the monstrous and human aspects of his character perfectly. The rest of the cast isn't shabby either: Steven Brand's portrayal of Father Anderson's religious fanaticism is spot-on, while Gildart Jackson is positively chilling as the creepy and insane Major. Considering that this show is set in Europe, it's appropriate for the characters to have various accents — which the dub gets right, for the most part.
4. Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 2004 – Mar 2005
So far, all the anime we discussed had a Western — or Western-like — setting. Does this mean the aforementioned setting is the only thing that makes English dubs work? Judging by the work on Beck, that's not necessarily the case.
In this show, we have 14-year-old Yukio Tanaka, a 100-percent Japanese boy with a 100-percent boring life. At least, that's until he rescues a weird-looking dog from the clutches of some nasty kids. The dog, it turns out, belongs to Ryuusuke "Ray" Minami, a guitarist who's spent some time in the States and introduces Yukio to rock music.
One thing leads to another, and the next thing Yukio knew, he's become a vocalist/guitarist for the band BECK — along with Ryuusuke, vocalist Tsunemi Chiba, bassist Yoshiyuki Taira and drummer Yuuji "Saku" Sakurai.
Beck already has a solid story and cast to begin with, and fortunately, the dub doesn't take away from that. Aside from their high-quality acting, the English voice actors also sing the translated songs themselves. Now that's a feat to beat, no rhyme intended!
3. Samurai Champloo
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: May 2004 – Mar 2005
Another show that has an excellent English dub, even though it's set in Edo-period Japan, is this one. Samurai Champloo revolves around an unlikely trio: a plucky girl named Fuu, an uptight and reserved samurai named Jin, and a dance-battling swordsman named Mugen.
Somehow, Fuu manages to drag the guys into a quest for the "samurai who smells like sunflowers", which is the closest thing this show has to an overarching plot. Otherwise, it's a collection of mini-stories that are just so entertaining to watch, thanks to Shinichiro Watanabe's masterful direction.
Since Fuu, Jin and Mugen are the main characters, it's important that they have strong voice actors. In this regard, the English dub doesn't disappoint: Kari Wahlgren's Fuu is headstrong yet endearing, while Kirk Thornton's Jin is exactly who you'd expect him to be. The award for "Knockout Performance", however, goes to Steve Blum, whose brash, guttural voice fits Mugen's personality so well. If you've already seen the original Japanese version, I suggest you try this one too!
2. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr 1998 – Apr 1999
At first, Cowboy Bebop's premise seems to be nothing more than "bounty hunters in space". After you watch it, though, you'll understand why anime fans continue to rave about it even after nearly two decades of its release.
Everything about this show is so well-done. From the characterization of Spike Spiegel and company, to the various stories told in every episode, Cowboy Bebop hits all the right notes. And speaking of notes, Yoko Kanno's score makes this series stand out all the more. If you're a fan of jazz music in particular, you'll find something to love here.
Like Samurai Champloo, Cowboy Bebop is directed by Shinichiro Watanabe. Also like Samurai Champloo, a main character — namely Spike himself — is voiced by Steve Blum. It's great how Blum captures Spike's cool personality, while lending him an air of mystery. As for the rest of the guys, their voice actors also did justice to their roles, so no complaints there.
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: Apr 2000 – Mar 2001
Every now and then, a show comes along that'll make you go "WTF" in the beginning, and "OOOOOH" by the end of it. FLCL (also known as "Fooly Cooly" or "Furi Kuri") is one of those shows.
Basically, it's a coming-of-age story about Naota, an ordinary grade school kid. When he literally crashes into a girl named Haruko, his life instantly gains 10,000 points on the weirdness scale. Through increasingly bizarre visual metaphors, FLCL shows us how Naota grows up, and hands us a nice conclusion that only a show like this can deliver.
And speaking of "delivering", the English dub for this show is awesome. All the voice actors fit their characters to a T, and the writers took great pains to localize the script without diluting the charm of the original. If there's ever a must-try dub for dub haters, this is it.
I'm not gonna lie: This was a tough list to put together. I had to leave out a lot of shows with equally fantastic dubs, like the two Fullmetal Alchemist series, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Yu Yu Hakusho, Death Note, Spice and Wolf, Highschool of the Dead, Steins;Gate, Kill la Kill and almost all of the Studio Ghibli films. So if you know of other shows that sound great in English, especially if their dubs are underappreciated, we'd love to hear more about them in the comments!
I'll start with Mushishi and Tiger & Bunny. What about you?