As a seasoned voice actor with decades of experience across thousands of projects that touch a lot of edges of the industry, I find myself examining TV and film through the lens of voice over. After sitting on a panel last summer with fellow voice over artist Stephanie Sheh (Sailor Moon, Naruto, Bleach, K-On, and Eureka 7), I got to thinking about the not-so-subtle nuances between Anime and its English dubbing. Why do some people love English anime dub voice over, and why do others outright hate them? It’s a decades-old topic that has inspired countless debates, subreddits, and fandoms – it’s even torn some fan bases asunder.
They can be quirky and memorable, missing the mark entirely, or even inspire their offshoot fan bases because they’re better than the originals. Hate or love them, most fans agree that the English dubbing for Anime is usually a hit or miss, but the heart that goes into making them deserves a second look.
Here are five reasons to give English Anime dubs just a little bit more love (from a voice artist’s perspective).
- English dub voice over actors are notoriously underpaid
- English anime dubs are a labor of love
- A lot of voice over actors work on multiple animes
- More work goes into English anime dubs than you might think
- There’s usually more than one English dub to an anime
English Dub Voice Over Actors are Notoriously Underpaid
English dub voice over actors is notoriously underpaid. Most anime voice actors are freelance and earn some of the lowest industry standard rates. Despite starring in series with massive cult followings, the average English dub voice over actor only makes about $70 an hour with less than a few hours of actual recording work per week. If you look at the English dub cast of Jujutsu Kaisen, the highest salary paid out to any voice artist on the payroll was $600 – for the entire series.
Some were even less fortunate and earned a total of $150 without royalties. Jujutsu Kaisen has already made more than $172.2 million US and is considered one of the most lucrative Japanese franchises.
English Anime Dubs Are a Labor of Love
Despite being the industry’s worst-paid voice-over jobs, English dubs for anime are a labor of love. Most voice-over actors who perform dub work are either fans or new to the industry and eager to work. Anime fandom is infamously relentless in their criticisms of English dubs and is one of the toughest crowds to please.
Voice Over Actors Work on Multiple Animes at Once
Because it’s not the most competitive market, most anime series are produced by a small handful of studios. Many voice-over actors are prolific and work on multiple projects at one or portray various characters in the same series. Examples include Kyle Hebert, who voices both adult Gohan and the narrator for Dragon Ball Z, and Christopher Sabat. He plays multiple fan-favorite roles like Vegeta and All-Might over two.
More Work Goes Into English Anime Dub Voice Over Than You Might Think
When you think of voice over for anime, what comes to mind? Is it sitting in a cozy booth all day drinking bubble tea or dedicated character craft and attention to the finer details?
Whether you realize it or not, there’s more work that goes into English anime dubs than you might think. Like any other kind of acting, voice acting is an art form, and each voice over artist has a unique style, sound, and method. One of the voice actors who plays Goku in Dragon Ball GT’s Funimation dubs fainted while voicing a transformation scene.
There’s Usually More Than One English Dub To an Anime
Most anime is dubbed for different populations, languages, and regions – so if you don’t like how a dub sounds, there’s a solid chance there’s usually more than one English dub to a series.
The professional voice over term for this is localization, and it’s the practice of keeping voice over region-specific based on subtle (or overt) language differences. Long-running series like Dragon Ball (in all its iterations) is filtered through different production companies between Canada and the United States and offer anime fans more than one option for English dubs.