This past week, I finally got around to purchasing Sentai Filmworks North American release of Food Wars. It’s one of my favorite shows of the last couple of years so I just had to have it on Blu-Ray. However, until now, I hadn’t taken the plunge and given the dub a listen, and now I have. My feelings on this particular English dub are... mixed.
On one hand, the main cast aren’t badly cast. They sound great, with the exception of Erina. In the original Japanese, she’s just your average pampered rich girl whose grown up feeling like a goddess. There’s nothing really special to how she speaks, other than looking down on others. In the English dub however, I feel like they took her attitude a bit too seriously, and now she sounds like she stepped straight off the streets of New York City. It can honestly be a tad grating. And that’s on top of the fact that apparently nobody bothered to instruct the voice actors on how to pronounce names. Like, sometimes they get it right, but a lot of the time they just barrel through the word without thinking about how it’s supposed to sound. Of course, that’s to say nothing of the background character who literally sound like people they just picked up off the street with not even an ounce of VO experience. So many speech impediments and lack of emotion, not to mention accents that seem out of place in a Japanese setting. It reminds me of the SEA dub for Gundam Build Fighters. They speak English well enough, but they don’t seem to understand or know the nuances of the language to make me believe them. The only character who gets a free pass is Chapelle who is French, and speaks with a very heavy French accent. I almost felt like I needed the subtitles at points.
To point the finger elsewhere, they’ve also taken some creative liberties with some names. For example, the Polar Star Dormitory that the main characters call home is referred to as the Kokyusei Dormitory. To be clear, that does not translate to “Polar Star.” It translates to “Respiratory.” The titular Shokugeki are just simply called “Food War.” And the Elite Ten, for whatever reason, had their name extended to Council of Ten and it sounds weird like that. I’m dumbfounded by these sorts of translation decisions. But then, there’s a dub that is the polar opposite of this one.
Code Geass: Akito the Exiled was licensed by Funimation Entertainment and released last year on home video with an English dub, but not just any English dub. The setting of Akito the Exiled is Europe, and so appropriately, anyone that isn’t Japanese or Britannian(Well, mostly.), speaks with the appropriate accents that vary from heavy to light. As an example, one of the main characters, Leila Malcal, was adopted by a French family at a young age and as a result has a noticeable French accent. A good number of characters have a French accent of some kind, and there are some German accents mixed in for good measure. And the thing is, all of them are believable and it gives the series this sense of authenticity.
This move is consistent with Funimation’s other dub efforts as of late where they try to appropriately cast their characters based on their ethnicity, only defaulting to plain English for Japanese characters. Not saying this happens with every Funimation dub, but it does seem to be getting more common, such as their more recent casting of an actual deaf person to voice a deaf character.
At the end of the day, the dub of Food Wars is watchable, but I do feel that unless I’m watching it with someone else, I’ll stick to the Japanese with English subtitles. However, in the case of Akito the Exiled, the dub is of premium quality and I prefer it over the original Japanese dub. This more or less reflects my opinions on these two licensors. I’ve always seen Sentai Filmworks as the more budget company. They charge an arm for their home video releases, and their dubs are of 50/50 quality more often than not. Meanwhile, Funimation seems to spare no expense and typically releases their titles for reasonable prices. Of course, then you have Aniplex on the other end of the spectrum who view their titles as collectors items and appropriately sell them for both an arm AND a leg, maybe a kidney for good measure. But their dubs are just as premium quality as Funimation’s dubs.
So, to some extent, I do feel that a comparison between a Sentai dub and a Funimation dub is going a bit far. That isn’t to say that Sentai has never had any good to great dubs. Their dubs of Clannad and Angel Beats are quite good, and they managed to get back most of the Initial D cast for the Legend movies. The dub of Fate/Stay Night and the Unlimited Blade Works film were also equally great, and I still prefer Liam O’Brien as Archer over Aniplex’s choice of Kaiji Tang. But despite all that, Sentai does have a fairly long track record of middling dubs and Food Wars is just the latest in that line, while Akito the Exiled continues Funimation’s trend of excellent dubs.