When it comes to anime, fans have the option of either watching content in Japanese or English. They will usually have a preference for one or the other and almost exclusively watch their anime in either language. While more fans are becoming open to watching in both languages, it seems as though having a particular preference is still how most would prefer their anime experience.
To clarify, I am certainly more of a dub person. I have nothing against watching a show subbed but, more often than not, I enjoy dubs much more. Part of this is because I’m fascinated with the realm of English voice over work. I’ve studied voice and articulation and I love listening to all the unique voices that have come out of the anime industry. From some of the earliest dubs to new content, there is an impressive variety of actors with something interesting to bring to their characters.
Recently, it seems as though fans are not sharing my opinion of enjoying dubs and they take it to a ridiculous extreme.
The example I’m going to start with is of one of my favorite actors, whom many of you who follow dubs probably know. Bryce Papenbrook has landed many lead roles in some of the biggest anime titles to come out in the past five years such as Kirito in Sword Art Online, Eren Jaeger in Attack on Titan, and Meliodas in Seven Deadly Sins. Papenbrook’s voice is very distinct and certainly stands out in almost everything he does.
However, that doesn’t mean that it’s bad. There are certainly some seiyuu, or Japanese voice actors, whose voices stand out and fans are able to discern them if they listen carefully. In fact, I’ve often heard my friends talking about being excited for certain new anime because of a seiyuu they know will be in it or they will speculate a cast because a particular character type that they think an actor would fit.
So why does it seem like this excitement doesn’t translate into English casting?
When Papenbrook was cast as Eren Jaeger, many fans lost their minds without even hearing any of the dub. They said he would be awful at the role, that he didn’t fit the character at all, or he wouldn’t be able to pull it off in the same way the seiyuu did. But the one argument that I never understood was “Again? God, why is he in everything”. People were angry at him for essentially doing his job. Going in, auditioning for a role, performing to the standard the director set, and getting the part.
Papenbrook isn’t the only actor who has been called out as being in too many leads. For a while, Vic Mignogna was one of the biggest names in anime thanks to his role as Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist. Thanks to that popularity, he was a sell for quite a few anime to follow over the next few years. Todd Haberkorn also fell into that trend after his role of Allen Walker in D.Gray-Man. His popularity even continues to this day after landing the lead of Natsu in Fairy Tail. And let’s not forget the days when Viz or Bandai couldn’t put out a dub without casting Johnny Yong Bosch as the lead.
But none of that is a bad thing!
I think it’s important to remember that voice acting in America is not as prominent of a profession as it is in Japan. Many actors who make their way into the dubbing industry are actors first and foremost. Because of this, there didn’t use to be a lot of actors in either talent pool from dubbing companies. So when dubs seemed to have the same group of people, for a while that was true if only because there weren’t many actors interested in dubbing. It’s debatable how much that has changed over the years and I would argue that we have more leads now than we’ve ever had in English dubbing.
Now, if you want to have a preference for Japanese performances, that’s completely fine. There are some shows that I enjoy watching in Japanese over English as well. But, giving voice actors flack for not being like the original seiyuu or for being in too many things is just ridiculous. These guys are trying to do their jobs and it’s unfair to them to dismiss their performances without giving it a chance or to assume they will do poorly in a role just because they are part of an English dub. They are just as talented as their Japanese counter parts and, in my opinion, deserve the same recognition and respect we would give any one who worked hard at their job.