A famous bard once said, “To watch dub or not to watch dub?” This was later translated to the eternal 90s anime question, “Dub or Sub?”
I think we can all admit that a good anime show/movie can be made or broken by voice actors. This is especially true when we apply English dubbing. Dubbing, as we all know, is a post-production process used to replace one actor’s voice with another. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. So, yes, let’s begin there…
Those Dark Early Days of Dubbing
Back in the VHS days, you could not click a button and bring up the subtitles. So, when it came to anime that meant you either had original Japanese-speaking actors with subtitles or you had (possibly terrible) English dubbing.
I’m taking a deep breath now.
“Is his name, Pern?” I would ask my friend, over and over. “Is it Parn? Or is it Pern?” I just couldn’t tell.
For many years, I second-guessed myself. It did not help that I had copies of Record of Lodoss War on VHS that were “subtitled by fans for fans” cause, yeah, they had a few different versions of his name on screen too. While I was thankful to have these early copies, sometimes the audio quality and the subtitle work was so bad, I could not tell who was speaking or what they were saying.
It was not until I got the official English dubbed VHS set that I was pretty sure the character was called Parn. Granted, I still had some issues with what other characters were saying, and some of the voices were simply…grating.
We’ve all been there. Bad quality copies of tapes, fuzzy subtitles, and the worst of the worst…poor dubbing. English dubbing had a bad rap in the 80s and early 90s. It really deserved the label. I remember shopping for VHS tapes and choosing subtitled ones over dubbed ones from time to time. But is hindsight always 20-20? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I was too hard on things in my youth.
Then again, if you Google “worst anime dubbing,” you will discover many…many lists. Some of your favorites, like Dragon Ball, Speed Racer, and Yu-Gi-Oh, might be found on these lists.
This just adds to the importance of needing good, qualified, and skilled voice actors. Let’s discuss a few of our favorites. Read on!
5 Voice Actors Who Dubbed 90s Anime
Chris has a long career working with the English versions of some very popular Japanese Anime and video games. You might know him from his work on Dragon Ball Z. Who did he voice? Well, let’s see. He played: Vegeta, Piccolo, Yamcha, Vegito, Guru, Shenron, Mr. Popo, Turtle, Nappa, Korin, and more. He even worked on the crew of the show.
One Piece, Fairy Tail, Fullmetal Alchemist. Attack on Titan, Tokyo Ghoul, and Black Butler, are just a few of the other shows he has worked on.
Wait, did I lose you at Vegeta? Yep, this guy voices him. But he also works as a voice director and has a production company that he founded that works closely with Funimation.
Fun Fact: Chris is known for his touch and gritty or gruff-voiced characters.
Johnny Yong Bosch
Can you believe one human being can be lucky enough to voice Kaneda (Akira 2001 dub), Vash the Stampede, AND play a Power Ranger in tv and movies? Whether you can believe it or not it’s true, because Johnny Yong Bosch is the person who did it all and more!
Probably most famous for his work on Trigun as the main protagonist, Vash the Stampede, Johnny has filled his career with a lot of anime and video game voice work.
His anime work includes Sailor Moon, Naruto, and Bleach, and his video game work on Mortal Kombat X, Star Wars the Old Republic, Persona 4, and Devil May Cry is legendary. I feel like I am name-dropping, but I’m not. This guy is so good he gets hired for all the best gigs!
Fun Fact: He taught himself martial arts by watching Jackie Chan movies.
Laura got her first voice acting job at the age of 18 playing Kid Trunks on the Funimation dubbing of Dragon Ball Z. Later, she was cast as Lust in Fullmetal Alchemist and Henrietta in Gunslinger Girl, which she also took the role of ADR Director for. In the 2000s, she played characters on Bleach, One Piece, and Claymore and voiced characters on the Marvel Anime: Blade and Marvel Anime: Iron Man shows.
You might even recognize her in her American roles on shows like Ducktales, Ultimate Spider-Man and Spider-Man, RWBY, and the recent release of The Legend of Vox Machina. She’s known for playing popular characters like Black Widow, Gwen Stacy, and Gamora.
Her list of video game voice actor work is massive and includes tons of amazing games, many of which were best-sellers. Just to name a few, she provided voices on Halo 4 and Halo 5, Street Fight IV (as Chun Li), Fallout: New Vegas, Mass Effect 3, World of Warcraft, and a slew of Lego, Batman, and Disney games.
Fun Fact: She is a cast member of the Dungeons & Dragons web series, Critical Role.
Here is someone who can give ole Johnny above a run for his money. Wendee Lee is the voice of the one and only Faye Valentine! Yes, that Faye Valentine. Not only that, but she also voices roles in many well-known series including Robotech, Dragon Ball, Digimon: Digital Monsters, Doomed Megalopolis, Dirty Pair, and the feature film Perfect Blue.
Go to her IMDB page and start scrolling. I’ll wait… Did you lose time? Is it a day later? Are you totally blown away? We are!
Wendee seems to have done it all! So many of the biggest fan-favorite shows from the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and beyond! She may just be the queen of anime voiceovers.
Fun Fact: When she voiced Scorpina, she even fought Johnny Yong Bosch, during his portrayal of the Black Ranger in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
We can’t forget the voice of Spike Speigel himself, Steve Blum. Steve has a long and illustrious career too. One thing you should know before searching his works, this guy has a lot of pen names, aliases, and secret identities (maybe?). Who knows. Just be aware that he is credited with several different names. Tom Baron, David Lucas, Richard Cardona, Daniel Andrews, and Roger Canfield. But trust us, it’s all him.
Steve has a very distinct deep voice which he lends to gruff and grumbly characters like Wolverine. In fact, he has voiced Wolverine in a ton of projects from Wolverine and the X-Men to the Marvel Anime: X-Men and many video game adaptations. He has also played Grunt on Mass Effect 2 and Sub Zero on Mortal Kombat X and Mortal Kombat 11 games.
From the start of his career, he has been involved in some famous intellectual properties. In 1992, he voiced Nexx and Lord Feff in Super Dimensional Fortress Macross II: Lovers Again. Following that, Guyver, Giant Robot, Perfect Blue, and Bastard!! all land on his resume. Impressive, right? It’s just a start, his resume is very long.
I wanted to end his write-up with something equally as impressive as playing Spike in Cowboy Bebop. So, here it is: Steven was T.O.M, the voice of the Toonami’s robot host, and did this for 8+ years.
Fun Fact: At one point, this guy held a Guinness World Record as the most prolific video game voice actor, with 261 credited appearances (as of May 10, 2012). This list has since grown.
Honorable Mention: Bryan Cranston
Yes. THAT Bryan Cranston. You might remember him from Malcolm in the Middle, or maybe the award-winning Breaking Bad. But before all that, he worked on Baywatch. Lol. No joke. I mean, I added that fact there to make you laugh, but it is true.
The truth is, Bryan was making big bucks ($50-150 a day) voicing characters for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers back in the early days. Not to mention, have you seen the anime movie Street Fighter II? He voiced Fei Long! He even did some voices on Macross Plus. Pretty darn cool!
There are a lot of good voice actors out there. When they are hired for the right projects, they can turn something good into something great. Anime in the 2000s on up has really proven this. Nowadays, you will even find some famous actors lending their acting chops to anime movies, even dubbed ones. So, we ask all our readers to take a moment to honor the voice actors who were all pivotal in making Japanese Anime popular in the United States.