Dubbed anime shows are usually scorned upon by anime fans around the world. But this does not stop anime studios from localizing it into the universal language, English.
Some say it’s better to watch anime shows in native Japanese, but others debated that it’s easier to watch anime in a language that you understand. For me, I would prefer the language that better depicts the show’s personality. As rare as it might be, there are shows out there that are ok dubbed, and also, some might even be better than it’s original Japanese version.
Here’s a top 7 list of outstanding shows that are just right for the English language. We’ve also added their main characters English voice actors.
7. Black Lagoon
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2006 – June 2006
Within Thailand is Roanapur, a depraved, crime-ridden city where not even the authorities or churches are untouched by the claws of corruption. A haven for convicts and degenerates alike, the city is notorious for being the center of illegal activities and operations, often fueled by local crime syndicates.
Enter Rokurou Okajima, an average Japanese businessman who has been living a dull and monotonous life, when he finally gets his chance for a change of pace with a delivery trip to Southeast Asia. His business trip swiftly goes downhill as Rokurou is captured by a mercenary group operating in Roanapur, called Black Lagoon. The group plans to use him as a bargaining chip in negotiations which ultimately failed. Now abandoned and betrayed by his former employer, Rokurou decides to join Black Lagoon. In order to survive, he must quickly adapt to his new environment and prepare himself for the bloodshed and tribulation to come.
A non-stop, high-octane thriller, Black Lagoon delves into the depths of human morality and virtue. Witness Rokurou struggling to keep his values and philosophies intact as he slowly transforms from businessman to ruthless mercenary. – MAL
Black Lagoon comes first in the list since it’s from a time where Toonami imports a plethora of anime shows. I may be biased on this since some of you readers might not even have Toonami back then. It was a segment of Cartoon Network featuring cool dubbed anime shows like B-Daman, Yu-Gi-Oh, Gundam, and etc.
Since all shows that appeared in that era had excellent dubbs, I can’t list them all. But yeah, Let’s all just say that G or PG shonen shows are sure to be suitably dubbed back then.
6. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26 ( 1 Movie )
- Aired: April 1998 – April 1999
In the year 2071, humanity has colonized several of the planets and moons of the solar system leaving the now uninhabitable surface of planet Earth behind. The Inter Solar System Police attempts to keep peace in the galaxy, aided in part by outlaw bounty hunters, referred to as “Cowboys.” The ragtag team aboard the spaceship Bebop are two such individuals.
Mellow and carefree Spike Spiegel is balanced by his boisterous, pragmatic partner Jet Black as the pair makes a living chasing bounties and collecting rewards. Thrown off course by the addition of new members that they meet in their travels—Ein, a genetically engineered, highly intelligent Welsh Corgi; femme fatale Faye Valentine, an enigmatic trickster with memory loss; and the strange computer whiz kid Edward Wong—the crew embarks on thrilling adventures that unravel each member’s dark and mysterious past little by little.
Well-balanced with high density action and light-hearted comedy, Cowboy Bebop is a space Western classic and an homage to the smooth and improvised music it is named after. -MAL
Cowboy Bebop has got to be one of my most recommended anime for you. It’s one of the classics that shaped how anime fans around the world see Japan’s unique style in design, characters, and music.
A lot of subbed anime fans tend to exclude this in their war against dubbed shows. You just can’t get it wrong with the English VA’s of Cowboy Bebop. Steve Blum’s voice just resonates with the main protagonist’s personality. So really, if I can’t iterate it enough, watch this show.
5. Pokemon Series
- Episodes: 985 ( 21 Movies, 1 Live-Action) – Ongoing
- Aired: April 1997 – Ongoing
Pokemon are peculiar creatures with a vast array of different abilities and appearances; many people, known as Pokemon trainers, capture and train them, often with the intent of battling others. Young Satoshi has not only dreamed of becoming a Pokemon trainer but also a “Pokemon Master,” and on the arrival of his 10th birthday, he finally has a chance to make that dream a reality. Unfortunately for him, all three Pokemon available to beginning trainers have already been claimed and only Pikachu, a rebellious Electric type Pokemon, remains. However, this chance encounter would mark the start of a lifelong friendship and an epic adventure! – MAL
Who doesn’t know Pokemon? Even people living under a rock (well, ok, a modern rock) would know what Pokemon is – if your mother calls Geodude or Onix a Pikachu, well, let’s include her too.
Maybe this is a cheat for dubbed series since Pokemon has continued to be popular throughout the world. Even non-anime fans appreciate how cute Pokemon is, and Pokemon has been targeted to all kinds of fans so it should be tailored towards everyone’s respective native languages, it’s an easy win for this series.
4. Dragon Ball Series
- Episodes: 667 ( 24 Movies) – Ongoing
- Aired: February 1986 – Ongoing
Gokuu Son is a young boy who lives in the woods all alone—that is, until a girl named Bulma runs into him in her search for a set of magical objects called the “Dragon Balls.” Since the artifacts are said to grant one wish to whoever collects all seven, Bulma hopes to gather them and wish for a perfect boyfriend. Gokuu happens to be in possession of a dragon ball, but unfortunately for Bulma, he refuses to part ways with it, so she makes him a deal: he can tag along on her journey if he lets her borrow the dragon ball’s power. With that, the two set off on the journey of a lifetime. – MAL
Probably the most shonen anime of them all. A lot of anime fans debate when it comes to Goku’s voice. In the Japanese dub, Goku has a high pitched voice, which a lot of viewers don’t appreciate, it just doesn’t fit our manliest man, and the “OG” of all legendary heroes. And that’s why a lot of viewers liked the dubbed version of Goku.
Let’s also not forget the glory of Dragon Ball Evolu… Actually, no, that didn’t happen.
3. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Episodes: 2003 Version – 51, 2009 Version – 64 (3 Movies, 1 Live-Action)
- Aired: October 2003 – October 2004, April 2009 – July 2010
“In order for something to be obtained, something of equal value must be lost.”
Alchemy is bound by this Law of Equivalent Exchange—something the young brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric only realize after attempting human transmutation: the one forbidden act of alchemy. They pay a terrible price for their transgression—Edward loses his left leg, Alphonse his physical body. It is only by the desperate sacrifice of Edward’s right arm that he is able to affix Alphonse’s soul to a suit of armor. Devastated and alone, it is the hope that they would both eventually return to their original bodies that gives Edward the inspiration to obtain metal limbs called “automail” and become a state alchemist, the Fullmetal Alchemist. – MAL
Fullmetal Alchemist has always been one of my favorite anime. The plot twists, poor Nina, the action, and the style of those transmutation circles never ceases to amaze my young self.
I even used to draw those on the back of my notebook or something. Makes me think now, what if all the people that looked through my notes are speculating that I’m a satanist or something worse?
Now what I liked about FMA dubbed is the way it preserves drama, the emotions that are usually lost on dubbed series are non-existent in FMA. It’s the perfect translation in voice acting that enables fans to capture the raw emotions of the characters. The great “one-liners” in the show shows the thought process of the producers when translating scripts into English, which is great since it’s really uncommon to have those on dubbed shows.
2. Death Note
- Episodes: 37 (2 Specials, 2 Live-Action, 1 Live-Action Western Adaptation)
- Aired: October 2004 – June 2007
A shinigami, as a god of death, can kill any person—provided they see their victim’s face and write their victim’s name in a notebook called a Death Note. One day, Ryuk, bored by the shinigami lifestyle and interested in seeing how a human would use a Death Note, drops one into the human realm.
High school student and prodigy Light Yagami stumbles upon the Death Note and—since he deplores the state of the world—tests the deadly notebook by writing a criminal’s name in it. When the criminal dies immediately following his experiment with the Death Note, Light is greatly surprised and quickly recognizes how devastating the power that has fallen into his hands could be.
With this divine capability, Light decides to extinguish all criminals in order to build a new world where crime does not exist and people worship him as a god. Police, however, quickly discover that a serial killer is targeting criminals and, consequently, try to apprehend the culprit. To do this, the Japanese investigators count on the assistance of the best detective in the world: a young and eccentric man known only by the name of L.
This show has been branded the most entry-level anime ever, which also means there will be a lot of language localization for the series.
It’s not that hard to dub Death Note, a majority of its scenes can be voiced in a usual way, actors don’t have to adjust their tones to some absurd dramatic emotions. It’s also great that the dubbed version of Death Note did not alter any significant Japanese terms, one example is ‘Shinigami’ they could have easily replaced it with ‘Death God’ but no they didn’t, which is great. Ryuk’s voice is also better dubbed in the English version if you want that “I’m a scary shinigami” feel, the Japanese Ryuk for me seems a little goofy.
There’s also an English Live-Action of this series, which is meh, but it’s ok.
Here’s Light laughing like a serial killer in 12 languages:
Italian’s the most horrific laugh while Japanese is next, and then lastly, English.
Excluding the recent Netflix movie
1. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2010 – December 2010
The “Anarchy Sisters,” Panty and Stocking, have been kicked out of Heaven for, to put it mildly, misbehaving. Led by a priest named Garterbelt, these angels must buy their way back by exterminating ghosts in Daten City. But this task requires unconventional weapons for these unorthodox angels—they transform their lingerie into weapons to dispatch the spirits. Unfortunately, neither of them take their duties seriously, as they rather spend their time in pursuit of other “hobbies”: Panty prefers to sleep with anything that walks, and Stocking favors stuffing her face with sweets than hunting ghosts.
Follow these two unruly angels as they battle ghosts, an overflow of bodily fluids, and their own tendency to get side-tracked in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. – MAL
The show’s theme may be explicit, but that’s the beauty of it. Using English profanity at it’s fullest made the show great for me. I firstly watched Panty and Stocking in Japanese, but as we all know, Japan doesn’t really have any strong cusses, like “Repent Mother f*****r” and the Japanese version of that is… I don’t even remember.
The art style of Panty and Stocking is cartoony, and the main characters are from a western descent. Panty is a pale blonde, Stocking’s a western styled goth, Garterbelt is a big black dude, and Brief is a soul-less ginger.
If you don’t like pointless potty humor avoid this, but, if you’re like me who loves this kind of shows, by all means, watch it.
What anime shows can you add to the list? Are you an anime purist? Or would you rather watch anime without reading subtitles? Why not share your thoughts by leaving some comments below.
Freelance writer and game developer writing for Anime Athena