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Worst English Voice Acting in Anime History
Please note that this is a list of some of the worst English voice-acted in anime history. By no means are all, or any, of the listed anime bad. What we're talking about here are the big and not-so-big titles that were great in Japanese and would have been just plain better off if they had left the language alone.
These judgments are based on several factors:
- Does the voice match the face?
- Does the voice capture the feeling of the moment?
- Portraying emotions
- Recording quality
- Quality of the anime in question (let's face it, a bad anime is a bad anime)
- Voices' impact on the anime
- Changes in anime due to dubbing
- Impact on anime culture
Also, as these are reviews, so SPOILER ALERT!
#10: Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children
Without a doubt, this is the greatest CG film in history, Japanese or otherwise, with textures and animation well beyond its years. The sequel to the best Final Fantasy game ever created and with the most realistic CG ever seen, even to this day. Advent Children has everything we have come to expect:
- All our favourite characters
- Answers to so many questions
- Perfect blend of technology and magic
- A new buster sword
- Great story
- A perfect sequel
This story has everything... except proper voice actors. While the choice for Sephiroth was good in terms of the sound of his voice, even that didn't compensate for his horrible inability to match his voice with the situation. On top of that, the timing is sometimes off as the actors didn't seem to have paid attention when they were doing this. The worst part is I don't think the American producers even bothered to do a retake on anything and just shotgunned through to get it onto the shelves. Now we all know it was animated for Japanese, but when you screw up a laugh's timing, there's something wrong. And let's not get into detail on how racist they were when they voiced Barret. For the fans, they completely ruined Reno and Rude. And I mean completely.
So if you're going to watch this epically beautiful movie, keep it on Japanese audio and read the subs. If you hate reading subs, either learn to love it or learn some Japanese.
#9: Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X) 2nd Release
Another masterpiece turned to almost unbearable crap, this anime is one of the biggest to be allowed to hit America and even managed to get aired for two seasons. While it has an extremely compelling story to draw you in, and plenty of comic relief to keep your attention, it was originally one of the very few anime that had perfect English dubbing. However, upon the release of the Blu-ray, the studio decided that it was best to re-dub the series. Why? Two reasons:
- They thought it needed to be a bit more family-friendly (dialogue-wise)
- They felt that some viewers were too dumb to understand the story since it was originally translated almost word-for-word.
The result is not only a disaster, but an insult to the viewers, especially anyone who ever watched the original release. To start off, there were only three of the original voice actors in the entire series, two of which were one-episode characters. Next, you now have poorly-timed voice acting (which seems to be a trend again) where it's obviously off the mark (whereas the original's dubbing was spot-on to the point where you couldn't tell it was animated for a different language). Most of the voices don't match the face anymore, and a lot of dialog has been rewritten. The rewriting was truly the hammering of the nail in the coffin. While the premise of the story is still the same, the complexities and genius of the story are lost in translation. On top of that, a lot of the humor and jokes are either lost, changed (dumbed-down), or omitted.
Example (spoiler alert!): There is a scene where Kenshin is on a "break" from training with his master. Incapacitated from fatigue, Kenshin is forced to listen to his master reminisce about embarrassing moments of his past. Revitalized from anger, Kenshin then narrates the legacy of his master and proceeds to list all the man's faults. This entire scene is shortened and part of it was also omitted in the re-release.)
Do yourself a favor. If you want to enjoy this great series in English, just buy the older DVDs.
#8: One Piece
One Piece is another wonderful anime and a great giant, but has some pretty bad shortcomings. While a majority of the voice acting is pretty spot-on, this anime still did worse than a few others. Its biggest fault is emotions: While the bad voice acting was mostly limited to the villains and temporary characters, there's a universal slacking in highly emotional scenes. While there's a lot of hit-and-miss, it's still mostly miss, and does very poorly in capturing moments. Much of the story-telling, drama scenes, and humor scenes are lost due to dull voice acting. The reason this trumps even Rurouni Kenshin is the fact that, at one point, RK had good voice acting.
While some may not agree, there are just certain voices that never really matched and lines that just didn't translate well, like...
- Zorro (While his voice does match, avid anime watchers know his voice more as someone who's exceptionally buff, so it's just plain wrong to hear a strong voice and see someone so scrawny)
- Sanji (Another voice that matches, but when he turns into his perverted love-bird mode, the moment that is supposed to be funny or semi-romantic is gone)
- Bon Clay
- Alvida (Original fat version)
#7: The Sailor Moon Series
Okay, this was not the most well-written anime ever and was more of a chick anime than a guy's or unisex (although most chicks didn't like it, either). However, a lot of its lack of success can be attributed to its exceptionally poor dubbing. Like in the above video, a majority of the screaming throughout the entire series is extremely pathetic and never captures the scene, ever.
First off, as some may know, this series is one of the best anime ever produced in the '90s, despite the half-assed storyline and many loopholes concerning said story. But by no means is this a terrible anime in original Japanese. When first dubbed into English in the late '90s and since, the translators cycled through several different casts almost every season. Initially, there were only four major problems with the dubbing: Serena (Sailor Moon), Luna (the cat), Artemis (the other cat), and Sailor Jupiter.
Serena, a high school girl, gets the voice of a middle-aged hag, the same as Luna, whose human form is supposed to be very young as well. Artemis gets the voice of a 50-year-old who should be announcing sports, even though his human form puts him in the 20-somethings. Finally, while Jupiter's voice matches her looks, it's the most emotionless voice you can hear on the market. Sad, angry, happy, excited, solemn, getting punched in the face, etc.: In every single scene, there's no change in her emotions, or rather there's no emotion at all.
As the seasons advanced, the translating studios hired different casts to replace existing ones, trying to make them "correct." However, the more they replaced, the worse the voice acting got. While the timing never suffered, the voices themselves did. Voices stopped matching faces, a lot of the sound effects were lowered (sometimes made completely inaudible), and BGM (which are pretty well-written in the later seasons) were lowered or even replaced with an American take (which 90% of the time in dubbed anime, ends up terrible. i.e. the Dragonball Z opening theme).
Long story short, guys, keep that dial on Japanese.
#6: Yu Yu Hakusho Movies (Poltergeist Report and Golden Seal)
Okay, this is a kick-ass anime series and one of the few that was perfect in English dubbing. However, the two movie OVAs sucked like no others. Talk about a super bummer on an awesomely written series.
While Golden Seal has some similar-sounding voice actors from the series, it was still an extreme flop with getting voices that matched. On top of the fact that it was early 90s dubbing (which means bad timing, too), the 2011 re-release did not see a re-casting. Not at all. The movie was sold solely on its name, and anyone who's seen the old VHS/DVD copies knows how bad it is. Apparently, Funimation felt it unnecessary to fix something that was broken.
Poltergeist Report, despite being a later release, was even worse. Not only were 99% of the voices completely off (except Botan), the timing was off, and the sound effects were dramatically reduced to the point where the voices sometimes overshadow them. And if that wouldn't be enough to piss you off, real fans will notice that half the characters' names are mispronounced constantly throughout the movie.
#5: Astro Boy
Okay, guys, we all knew this was gonna make the list. Debuting in America in 1963, we go through almost 30 years of voice-acting hell thanks to this little buster. Considering the date, you all should already know the stereotyping for anything prior to the '90s so I won't bore you by describing how badly the dubbing was done.
#4: Dragon Ball Franchise
Let's face it, you all knew it was coming. While the translation of this anime has greatly increased its popularity and also the number of people opening up to the anime world, the English dubbing of this franchise is an utter disgrace to the anime itself and its original fans. Aside from dubbing problems, you have the heaviest amount of censoring and dialogue/story rewrites across the board.
We'll admit, first and foremost, that Goku is the only character that has been properly dubbed. Compared to his Japanese counterpart who sounds like a whiny little high-pitched brat, the English Goku is a much better alternative, and let's not even mention the constant switches in voice actors in the Chinese dubbed episodes and movies.
The voices for all the characters are overly "cartoony" and the constant recycling of voice actors on different characters is extremely obvious. It's a classic example of exceptionally high budget and extremely low return. The accents of all the characters (for example: Krilin and Vegeta) are over-emphasized with their faces and just end up sounding like complete garbage.
On top of the unbearable voice acting, you also have the tampered dialogue and extremely cheesy one-liners. Any true anime fan would want to slit their wrists after only a few minutes of this murderous use of the English language.
#3: Naruto Franchise
Alright, all you Narutards, you have to admit, this is an absolute abomination in English. Having been crowned by American fans as "The New Dragonball Z," this anime franchise is the biggest to hit Japan and the world in over 20 years. Having a fan base larger than the Dragonball franchise in its first year of release (and wouldn't be dubbed for another good eight years), the Naruto franchise is the biggest translation flop from Viz Media's history, and so terrible that even Funimation can feel good about itself in all respects.
For some people who don't know, Viz Media and Viz Publishing are the biggest advocates in exposing the West to anime and manga that are among the upper echelons of quality and popularity. Even back in the '90s, they introduced the best in English-dubbed anime, including Street Fighter. One would think that with their history, Viz would do well with this big name in anime society, but it truly set them back.
The English version of the Naruto franchise has absolutely no voices that match the characters. Aside from the voice mismatches, the actors try too hard to mimic the original VAs so much that they end up sounding even worse. This stacks exponentially as you hear the terrible translation (plus additions or omissions) of catchphrases. It turns even some of the most dramatic and downright serious moments into mere jokes.
Do not even attempt to listen to the English version because I can guarantee that your ears will bleed.
#2: Yu-Gi-Oh! Franchise
It's time to d-d-d-d-d... oh, screw it. Excuse me while I go vomit in the corner. One of the grandest anime ever created (despite the dodgy storyline) and one that even has its own nationally and internationally recognized card game and tournaments, the YGO franchise is literally one of the most brilliantly written anime ever to grace the screen. However, it had one fatal flaw: Toei Animation sold all rights to 4Kids Entertainment.
This English-dubbed anime is truly the definition of an abomination. Not only has this disgusting company changed many parts of the story, but it has thoroughly brought out some seriously racist and downright ugly voice acting. While making sure that over 90% of the voices were terrible, they also had to make a lot of them as racist as possible. Brooklyn, Australia, India, China, etc. There are no limits to the butchering of the voice acting.
On top of that, it led to editing that is not seen anywhere else in the world. We're talking funds wasted on changing an entire line of printings of cards across the world, and video editing of the anime. Originally, cards were shown as they do in real life, situations were more realistic, and the story was more serious and dramatic. However, having the sole rights to the YGO franchise, 4Kids Entertainment has gotten away with murder in killing a story that rivaled even Death Note.
Japanese versions of this anime are very low in number, and 4Kids Entertainment has gone far out of their way to make sure it stays that way, knowing that should the original cut be openly available, their sales will drop to absolutely nothing.
Do yourself a favor, just skip this anime. It's not worth the tears of a true fan.
#1: Speed Racer (Original Release)
Yes, here it is, #1. The absolute worst English-dubbed anime of all time. This anime is the cause of all bad anime stereotypes to date and is the reason anime almost completely lost its popularity in the West. It almost single-handedly prevented all anime from coming to the West. Due to the release of this series, low-quality productions like Total Drama, Adventure Time, and China Illinois were allowed to develop and come to be. Had Speed Racer not been released, we might have seen a much better evolution in animated quality in the West, rather than a trending devolution.
This anime has a boundless list of terrible voice acting: poorly-timed speech, sarcastic emotions, and inabilities to capture even the most basic moments. There is never a single time where the voices actually portray what is going on, even something as simple as taking a bite out of a sandwich. And this is merely a small chip off the overwhelming pyramid of garbage that makes it fall short of even mediocrity.
Though the animation and story-telling are far beyond its time, the dubbing of this anime ruins any of its good qualities. If you ever saw the original Japanese release, you will cry rivers of blood upon hearing just one minute of the English dubbed version.
Brendan on June 29, 2020:
This is one of the worst Top 10 lists I've ever seen! The Naruto, Dragon Ball, and One Piece dubs are excellent! And nearly none of your criticisms are valid! This list just makes me angry.
genetics3 on May 15, 2020:
@Danny..don't know what you are smoking but I want some! Dubbed Naruto enjoyable? Do you even watch the original Japanese when you watch anime or do you just listen to English? If so then I can understand your comment. Some Americans don't do well with subtitles....too much. You watch a Japanese episode and then the dubbed....the dubbed just misses the nuances that the Japanese nail. Maybe it is because I lived in Japan and know the language better...but I don't think so. They just ruined it. you are certainly in the minority being on the list who like the dubbed Naruto..but most that do are a bit younger and can't tell the difference when they hear Asian languages. So what I am saying is try listening just to Japanese and also live a few more years and then see how you feel. More experience will most likely bring you onto the other side.
Danny on March 08, 2020:
You are really going to put Naruto and dragon ball that high up?! Are you serious?! There's absolutely nothing wrong with the dubs at all. I'd rather listen to English vegeta than Jap vegeta who constantly sounds like he has something stuck in his throat and Goku and krillin who sound like little girls. As for yu gi oh well yeah the English dub is bad but you have to remember it was marketed for little kids in the western world so of course they were going to make the characters sound a bit goofy. Doesn't take away the enjoyment of the show though
Nikwigi on April 23, 2019:
Worst dubbed anime Ive seen was Moribito. (only watched the first episode, as I couldnt handle it) Sounded like they rounded up some people at the bus station, there was no effort or emotion, on top of bad match ups.
Wow this article tho on July 15, 2018:
You guys...honestly don't know what the heck you're talking about. You need to understand the difference between bad DUBBING and bad CENSORSHIP.
김동화 on May 31, 2018:
Dude, have you never seen Fire Emblem anime for christ's sake?
that's the worst dubbed anime, not freaking "naruto and friends".
Marco on May 09, 2018:
You guys put Naruto on the list and didn't even think about Fairy Tail?
Pete on March 12, 2018:
"The English version of the Naruto franchise has absolutely no voices that match the characters. Aside from the voice mismatches, the actors try too hard to mimic the original VAs so much that they end up sounding even worse. "
Utterly wrong. Aside from Naruto himself (arguably), the English VAs match their characters perfectly. They don't try to mimic the Japanese VAs either, since the Japanese version of Naruto is the substandard one. None of their voices except Madara and Guy match... all the rest are bland and unemotive. Though many who don't know better confuse normal intonation for it in Japanese.
The English cast are great though, having a very vibrant and unique mix of voices that perfectly suit their characters. The writer doesn't know what they're talking about.
A Human on November 18, 2017:
I disagree with most every topic on this list. The only bad dubs actually listed were 4Kids dub of One Piece, Speed Racer and Astro Boy because they are both very dated.
nobody you should know on May 31, 2017:
i think 10 9 8 7 6 4 3 2 has one the best english dub i don't know why are you saying they are the worst english dub
DEO on April 22, 2017:
The Naruto dub isn't even bad. It's better than a lot of dubbed anime out there though. Also, I prefer Goku's voice in English since I don't think the Japanese voice fits him at all.
kHk on January 31, 2017:
I agree with most of your list, but regarding DragonBall, well I'll simply disagree with Goku's English voice being "the better alternative" because in my opinion, Japanese voice fits his personality more. Goku is NOT accurately dubbed because the English version fails to do justice to his personality. It changes him from a naive manchild to a Superman-esque hero.
I Hate Snatch Steal on October 28, 2016:
You forgot to mention, in Japanese Yu-gi-oh they explained the card game's rules as they made their moves to the point were you could practically learn the game from the anime except for where the rules or card text differed between the anime and TCG. [Not counting DM season 1, that was an entirely different rule set]
Sigh on June 28, 2016:
Bad list. One piece dub is fabulous not to mention Yugioh which is designed for kids was one of the top anime at the time of it's airing. I love Advent Children but I agree with the timing, but the voices I think are fine for the most part. Naruto also had some bad timing but nice voices especially in the games. There are many more anime that deserve to be on this list instead of the ones you chose. You should add this is YOUR opinion and not absolute or correct, as many do love the dubs of some of these more than the original sounds. :)
Roberthy on June 16, 2016:
And Pokémon lol the english dub is so dreadfull i watched the new season XY/XYZ just with subs!
Ryan on January 04, 2016:
One piece funimation dub is fantastic, same with dbz. And while you bag yugioh I really like the English version it has a good story and the voices suit the characters. Just remember just because you have an opinion doesn't mean everyone has to agree with you
Ryan Paroz on January 04, 2016:
I don't care what you say, I will always prefer dubs as it is much easy to watch and take in
Niki on December 11, 2015:
Lol most people actually prefer the english dub of dragon ball z to the Japanese version, especially since goku sounds completely ridiculous.
sparksfiend on November 19, 2015:
Very good article, although, I do disagree that Adventure Time is a low quality production or that Speed Racer had anything at all to do with Adventure Time being on TV.
Kroas on November 17, 2015:
I can't agree more with the one piece dub. Nails-on-a-chalkboard bad.
natsonya on July 27, 2015:
Oh gosh yes, YYH Ghost Files was the best dub I've ever encountered and is probably the only anime I would rather watch dubbed rather than subbed. One of the reasons why those movies were dubbed badly and with different voice actors was because were released in North America before the TV series was, as a trial run perhaps. It's a shame they didn't re-voice with the TV series actors after the show's success.
bigg3469 on June 09, 2015:
You can thank 4Kids Productions (Sonic X, One Piece), DiC (Sailor Moon), Saban (Maple Town,Samurai Pizza Cats) and Funmation Productions (Drangon Ball) for turning these anime into train wrecks by using 4th rate VO actors (I've seen the now infamous "The 4Kids stars Sing The National Anthem of the United States of America" clip on YouTube and how they sounded...AWFUL!!!) and on Astro Boy come on! Billie Lou Watt did an outstanding job as Astro Boy (She also did Kimba the White Lion and Gigantor) and Peter Fernandez a Corrianne Orr did a great job on the original Speed Racer.
Pat Servin on June 05, 2015:
I usually prefer english sub when I watch any anime. I actually thought Naruto had pretty good english Dub.
solthebat on April 21, 2015:
I would like to point out that ALL of these anime (except advent children) have generally worse production value than adventure time, china illinois was a youtube short with spinoffs that became so popular it got a TV show.
Also 99% of anime out there is WAY worse than ANYTHING on North American TV. Japan has been playing limbo with standards since the early 2000s and the average story in any anime is nothing but recycled tropes and characters, so shallow and contrived that you would only need to watch an average of 6 episodes of most to get the whole story. That's not to mention all the moe and fans service garbage of late. Anime has become lazy, and apathetic towards their audience. You want to see a trending devolution? Take a look at anime since 2005.
Nigel Kirk from Calgary, AB, CAN on January 09, 2015:
A couple of small things: Unless you actually understand Japanese, it's probably unfair to say that poor quality voice acting is a factor in whether something should be dubbed or not. From what I've heard, to a native Japanese speaker, the voice acting in the original language is just as horrible.
And I really disagree with your #1 pic. Certainly, even in it's time, the re-writes, edits, and voice acting were pretty awful, but that show is also the only reason why there is any interest in anime at all in the west. Other shows built their credibility based on Speed Racer. Could you imagine if no American networks took a chance on Sailor Moon, or Dragon Ball? Speed Racer - as campy and cheesy as it is by today's standards fit in perfectly with American entertainment in it's era, which was chock full of Hanna Barbera. If Speed Racer failed in North America, there would still be anime, but no one in the West would have any interest.
Heimon on December 29, 2014:
What about Bleach's dub, or Soul Eater's, or in fact how about Pokémon?
How the hell does One Piece make this list, but those dubs don't, this list is flawed.
SalVito on October 19, 2014:
I'm gonna disagree with One Piece. I thought the dub was actually better than Yu Yu Hakusho (FUNimation dub anyway, speaking of which the movies I agree with, those... were... bad). Of course the best dub ever is still High School DXD.
I do agree with Naruto and Sailor Moon, but not One Piece.
Carriath on September 24, 2014:
peachy from Home Sweet Home on September 23, 2014:
didn't take any notice of the narration or subs, just love to watch them
Shinzuu Katame (author) from Maine, USA on September 16, 2014:
Not everyone has the patience to read subs or learn Japanese, jin. Deal. I made this for the westerners.
SouthAsia-jin on September 16, 2014:
Just be original!!
want English dub? watch cartoon
i didn't say cartoon worse than anime
Hey Arnold! is the best cartoon i ever seen
and i still watch Transformers series until now
Just be Original my friend!
Sorry for my bad English
Shinzuu Katame (author) from Maine, USA on August 25, 2014:
Unfortunately, its impact in anime's place in western society is almost non-existent. Video games, probably.
KABren on August 24, 2014:
Sonic the Hedgehog (The Anime)
Tails especially - sounds like he's got a stuffed up nose.
TWF on August 18, 2014:
Finally someone who agrees that things like Total Drama Island and Adventure Time aren't any good!
Shinzuu Katame (author) from Maine, USA on August 07, 2014:
I've seen it, and it IS bad, however, it didn't have as much impact on the anime community and anime's influence to the world.
AnimeFan on August 07, 2014:
I take it you've never seen the Green Green dub? http://www.animerelief.com/watch-anime/green-green... I strongly urge you to check it out if you think the dubs of these series are bad, lmao.
Shinzuu Katame (author) from Maine, USA on July 28, 2014:
America's inability to accept those who are different are just far too high. It ruins a lot of good stories and anime.
Lana Chase from United States on July 28, 2014:
All good points, and I especially agree with #7. I didn't think it was that bad watching it as a kid, but then I compared it to the original Japanese version: the characters' voices were much better, first of all. It is especially annoying how Sailor Moon, along with some other anime shows translated into English, also have to Westernize and/or censor the main characters' names and their dialogue. Like how Usagi became Serena, and Haruka/Amara and Michuru/Michelle were changed from lovers to cousins.
Casey White on July 11, 2014:
I love Final Fantasy: Advent Children but I totally agree with you that it should be on this list. It is a great story and graphics though.
Ashley Davidson from United Kingdom on July 11, 2014:
Omg, #1 killed me! XD I had totally forgotten about Speed Racer, I was almost sure #1 will be Naruto, or Yu-Gi-oh! thank you so much! You made my day!
Ayu from Sorajima on June 26, 2014:
Interesting blog, voted up!!! :D
Shinzuu Katame (author) from Maine, USA on June 26, 2014:
It really depends. A lot of the good Latin dubs tend to be the smaller name anime. I have a lot of Latin friends who abhor a majority of the big-name Latin dubs, but a lot of smaller names are greatly praised.
Yussef Jeber on June 26, 2014:
Great article. I find it curious that in Latin America occurs the opposite, Latin dubs are often appreciated as much as the Japanese ones.