Audio: English: Why I Disliked The Fullmetal Alchemist Dub (Article)

Audio: English
With the Audio:English series, PenguinTruth takes a critical look at the English
dubs which grace some of anime's most defining series in North America.

"What do you mean?! I sound good in any language!"
I love Fullmetal Alchemist. It's one of those rare shonen manga that has a decent complexity to it and maturity most other shonen titles lack, making it both exciting and thoughtful. I was a big fan of the first animated television series, my first exposure to that world. And of course, while I loved the original cast, I also had high expectations for the English version, even when I heard Funimation, a company with a somewhat mixed reputation for dubs was going to dub it. I was pretty excited that Cartoon Network was going to air it on the Adult Swim lineup, and tuned in with my hopes high.
I was let down.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a complete wash. I immediately took to Aaron Dismuke's Alphonse Elric, for instance. Though I also immediately noticed some strange directional and script oddities. At first I attributed the difference between this and the version I was used to as being the difference between fansub translations and professional translation into an English dub. Over time, however, these sort of things became more pronounced. What bothered me the most is characters speaking in one style in one scene and having almost entirely different voices in the next. There even seemed to be a bit of the old Funimation "add dialogue where there originally wasn't any", which irritated me.

Anyway, let me compare some of the Japanese and English casts of the first series to explain my stance on this dub.

EDWARD ELRIC

Japanese: Romi Paku
Grade: A+

Reasoning: Romi Paku IS Edward Elric. She brings such intensity and energy to the role, with a sense of sadness and pathos. She captures his every mood perfectly. It's hard to imagine anyone else in the role.

English: Vic Mignogna
Grade: D

Reasoning: Vic's Edward is just a little too dry and scratchy. He sounds like he needs some sort of lozenge or throat spray. Sometimes he whispers a bit too much. It's just not all that his fans make it out to be. I've heard Edward Elric, my friends, and Vic Mignogna is no Edward Elric. He may be fine in other roles, but in this one he's substandard. At least he managed to improve somewhat towards the end, and is more tolerable in the movie, but it's still no Romi Paku. An overrated performance.

ALPHONSE ELRIC

Japanese: Rie Kugimiya
Grade: A

Reasoning: I'm not familar with Rie Kugimiya's work, but apparently she voices a lot of those "tsundere" type of characters. It's funny thinking about Alphonse that way, because he's actually pretty gentle most of the time, not tsundere at all, and Kugimiya did a great job.

English: Aaron Dismuke
Grade: A

Reasoning: My favorite performance in the Funimation dub is the young Dismuke's Alphonse Elric. He's one of Funimation's biggest assets, in my opinion. He's very good in every role he's in, no matter how large or small. I've read rumors that he won't be returning as Alphonse in the dub of the second series, which is disappointing, because he was one of the few golden nuggets in what is largely a pile of garbage.

ROY MUSTANG

Japanese: Toru Okawa
Grade: A+

Reasoning: He's a dead-on Roy. He has the bit of Roy that's smooth, sarcastic, and snarky, but also that ability to bark commands like he really is in the military. He seems to really charge in with a very deep, authorative voice. It suits the facets of Roy Mustang. I missed him for a while in the new series, though Shinichiro Miki has filled out the role competently.

English: Travis Willingham
Grade: C

Reasoning: One of the more tolerable voices in the dub, and certainly more worthy of fan praise than Mignogna's Ed, Travis Willingham nevertheless only really captures the snarky side of Roy. He completely misses the boat on Roy's more serious manners during action or dramatic scenes. It's like he's only voicing one part of Roy's personality. He doesn't even seem especially interested in most of the really poignant material in the show, given his voice performance in them. I don't cringe when I hear his Roy, but it's not anything special.

MAES HUGHES

Japanese: Keiji Fujiwara
Grade: A

Reasoning: Keiji Fujiwara is really very versatile and capable of tackling all the nuances of Hughes with his voice. He captures Hughes's hyperactive father side, his calm and confident officer side, his "friendly ear" demeanor. He's manic and even-keeled at the same time. He's a great Maes Hughes, and I'm glad he returned for Brotherhood.

English: Sonny Strait
Grade: C

Reasoning: He has a decent voice for the role, but his performance is too uneven. Sometimes it even seems like the character itself is just reading lines on a script. Other times it even seems like, much like Travis Willingham, he's playing it a little too casual during scenes he should sound more serious. But he's pretty tolerable in the role, otherwise.

WINRY ROCKBELL


Japanese: Megumi Toyoguchi
Grade: A

Reasoning: Toyoguchi brings a lot of girlish energy, but with a somewhat rough, sarcastic edge to Winry. She can be very upbeat, or shriek, but it never gets irritating. She can be gentle, too, very well without it sounding forced. She really was the character. She really made her believable. I wonder how the new voice of Winry will measure up.

English: Caitlin Glass
Grade: D-

Reasoning: Catlin Glass is just annoying as Winry. She just couldn't fill the shoes of the character, and any time she tried to work up the way Winry gets it was like nails on a chalkboard. She made a character I never particularly cared for to begin with even worse with her awful voice. One of the worst voices in the dub.

ALEX LOUIS ARMSTRONG

Japanese: Kenji Utsumi
Grade: A-

Reasoning: Utsumi's Armstrong has this very booming, rugged, over-the-top tough guy voice, but can also be rather gentle at times, too. It sort of resonates with each line, too, like it's carrying through in echoes. Great job, and I'm glad he's returned for the second series.

English: Chris Sabat
Grade: B-

Reasoning: Also good is Chris Sabat's version of Armstrong, though he does play up certain sides of Armstrong more than the Japanese VA and it comes off as seeming a little too corny for its own good. Still, I think Chris Sabat's usual gruff voice actually found a character it suits, which means I have no big complaints about it. His Piccolo, Vegeta, and everyone else in DBZ, on the other hand...

SCAR

Japanese: Ryotaro Okiayu
Grade: A

Reasoning: Okiayu's Scar is one of the most memorable voices in the Japanese version. It's got this deep, weathered quality to it, that works well for Scar. The voice suits a character that has seen and been through quite a lot, suffered a lot of tragedy, and can be threatening but somewhat wistful. It was hard to imagine anyone else voicing him, but they replaced him for the new FMA series with somebody who does nearly as well. I still think Okiayu's is superior.

English: Dameon Clarke
Grade: D-

Reasoning: Generic bad guy sounding. He doesn't sound nearly as threatening as Okiayu. It means that Scar in the dub doesn't really seem like he has much personality at all. I ended up looking forward to seeing him go away, and I should never do that, since he's a character I'm pretty fond of.

ENVY


Japanese: Mayumi Yamaguchi
Grade: B-

Reasoning: Yamaguchi had a great "casually threatening" voice. In other words, she made Envy sound like he was very comfortable with being the bastard he is, which is very Envy. She didn't always hit some of the more angry bouts, but was ultimately a very presentable Envy, making him very snarky.

English: Wendy Powell
Grade: D+

Reasoning: Another cringeworthy dub voice, Wendy Powell can't even decide what gender Envy is, so she approaches Envy with a different voice in nearly every line. She does manage to get Envy's sort of rough, scratchy snarkiness, but it seems a little forced most of the time.

GREED

Japanese: Junichi Suwabe
Grade: A+

Reasoning: Suwabe has this very jaunty, snarky, but deep-voiced arrogance to his Greed. He's pitch perfect for the greedy, concieted character. And he captures his sort of smooth, amiable, but barely supressed wickedness in the character. Really, Suwabe's performance was part of what made Greed my favorite character in the series.

English: Chris Patton
Grade: C-

Reasoning: Patton isn't a bad voice actor by any means, he's just not terribly good either, and this was not the right role for him. He played Greed the way he plays most characters. In other words, with a lot of their personality drained. He comes off as being just barely tolerable, because the voice itself isn't bad for Greed, but his approach is lacking (perhaps due to bad directing?). I was very disappointed, because, as I said, Greed's my favorite character.

FUHRER KING BRADLEY



Japanese: Hidekatsu Shibata
Grade: B+

Reasoning: An excellent, stern, authorative voice fit for a character that is the leader of a nation. He's also able to lash out in a deep rage (this will come in excellent use for the new series, I'm sure), too. My only issue is that at times he seems a little muffled. I'm glad he's returned for the second series, because he's still in top form in the role.

English: Ed Blaylock
Grade: C-

Reasoning: Somewhat tolerable, but unfortunately there sems to be some poor direction, because Blaylock's voice changes to completely different ones over time. It starts off almost as a mix between Sean Connery and Edward G. Robinson, but then it evolves over time in strange ways. I also wish they would have gone a little deeper or weathered for this.

SHOU TUCKER


Japanese: Makoto Nagai
Grade: A

Reasoning: Nagai's Tucker has a subdued, matter-of-fact quality to it, but with a tad of menace or distress hidden behind it. It becomes increasingly creepy as the character changes.

English: Chuck Huber
Grade: C-

Reasoning: While establishing Tucker as a guy who can be both mild-mannered and creepy, Huber's usual threatening voice is wasted in a character that never really lashes out. Besides that, he seems to have problem keeping to one approach to Tucker, because Tucker begins with a British accent and then loses it by the end of the episode. Strange. Chuck Huber is a fine voice talent, but he recieved some bad direction here.

NINA TUCKER

Japanese: Satomi Koorogi
Grade: A

Reasoning: Sounds like a cute, playful little girl.

English: Brina Palencia
Grade: D-

Reasoning: Sounds like some half-baked impression of a little girl, or really more like "baby talk" an adult would use to talk to a child or pet. "Wittle big bwatha?" No child sounds like that. With all respect to Brina Palencia, this was a total wash. I found myself looking forward to Nina's fate.

TIM MARCOH


Japanese: Kouji Totani
Grade: A

Reasoning: Totani has that beaten, weathered sounding voice that an older character that's been through the ringer like Dr. Marcoh should have. Perhaps, in a way, it sounded a little too feeble for its own good at times, but in the short time Marcoh's in the series, it suited him.

English: Brice Armstrong
Grade: A

Reasoning: What I enjoyed about Brice Armstrong's voice in Marcoh was that it sounded authorative. The actor has that sort of deep, booming, but consistant voice that is perfect for those types of roles. I'm reminded of his performance as the principal in Yu Yu Hakusho. He is definitely one of Funimation's finest talents.

HOHENHEIM

Japanese: Masashi Ebara
Grade: B+

Reasoning: Ebara's sort of distant, whistful, but wise-sounding Hohenheim made the character seem palbable. What you got was a character in which you felt sadness and a sense of timelessness. Hohenheim has that quality to him, a sense that he's elsewhere, but he's still capable of affixing himself to the current world if necessary.

English: Scott McNeil
Grade: C-

Reasoning: I felt like Scott McNeil, one of my favorite English dub voice actors, had entirely phoned in this performance. There was just this sense of unevenness and disinterest that made the character seem empty. He just didn't quite hit with the same accuracy as Ebara. Even so, there were certain spots when he did suited the role, so I factored that into the grade.

IZUMI CURTIS

Japanese: Shoko Tsuda
Grade: A

Reasoning: Tsuda's Izumi is strong, swift, and reverberates. There are few who do as good a job as she does in her role in the Japanese version. She never faulters, despite not being as active as some of the other characters (but being a bit more active than her manga self). You buy her as being this incredibly strong woman who is carrying a terrible burden but handling it.

English: Christine Auten
Grade: A-

Reasoning: Likewise, Christine Auten also carries Izumi's burden well. Auten isn't one of the most stand-out VAs in English language-dubbed anime, but she does seem to come into her own in this role, building off some of the personality traits that made her a decent Priss Asagiri in Bubblegum Crisis 2040's middling dub. You can count on Auten to play strong female roles well.

LUST

Japanese: Yuuko Satou
Grade: A

Reasoning: Yuuko Satou came off as a Lust who was unsure how to exist, what to feel when, and how to react to it, the way Lust was portrayed in the first series. In other words, she was able to be, on the surface, very confident and snarky, but at other times, also very distant and introspective. There was a certain quality to her voice that was otherworldly and longing. It made her a great Lust.

English: Laura Bailey
Grade: C

Reasoning: Bailey's Lust was more of a hammy impression of a sexy voice rather than a geniunely sultry, silken one like Satou used. It was servicable, and probably the best performances among those doing the voices of the homunculi, but it felt a tad too forced for my tastes.

ZOLF J. KIMBLEY

Japanese: Yuji Ueda
Grade: A

Reasoning: A wonderfully devious, estatically crazy voice, with a tad of smugness. It was perfect for Kimbley. The Kimbley in this series may be different than in the manga, but Ueda played him perfectly. Hear him again as Jean Havoc in the new series.

English: Eric Vale
Grade: C+

Reasoning: Not bad, not great, but not bad. Eric Vale's voice is very similar to Vic Mignogna's, but I call him "the talented Vic", because he tends to emote a little better. Here, he is decent at the crazy Kimbley, but doesn't really have the same energy Ueda does.

Now, all right, I may seem a little harsh in my judgements, but this is how I honestly feel. I'm used to the Japanese version being better than the English dubbed version, but with so much hype and praise this dub deserves, I just can't see how it can be this bad to my ears. I mean, I like most of the other popular dubs: Cowboy Bebop, The Big O, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Hellsing. They're some of my favorite dubs!

But this one, this one, I just can't. I can't bring myself to like it. A lot of the voice acting is just substandard, and I'm not going to just sit idly while people heap praise on it. Sure, Funimation could have done much worse. It's better than some of their other dubs. It's certainly better than what they probably would have done with it years ago before it was made. Still, I can't help thinking that the company could have done better.

Who do I blame? Largely Mike McFarland. Not only was he the ADR Director on the Fullmetal Alchemist dub, but he was also responsible for the the ADR Script, and did the voice for Jean Havoc. Of those three jobs, Havoc was done competently, at least. The direction was abominable in this dub, with several voices that would have been fine in the roles if they had recieved some molding. And the scripting was shoddy at times, too, with inserted lines and jokes that were just too corny and broke the mood. "Smellric brothers", anyone? "Give mommy a hug, my prince of cool?" Come on.

Okay, is the Fullmetal Alchemist one of the worst dubs ever? No. Not even close. But most of the worst dubs ever are for shows I couldn't care less about. I care about this one, because I felt FMA deserved a good dub, and didn't get one. I might be able to sit through this dub without beating my head into a wall every two minutes, but it doesn't make it a good dub, nor the one a show as good as this one deserves.

- Penguin Truth
(2009)

It wasn't that bad

My measure of a dub boils down to this: if I can listen to the dub without wanting to run to the nearest fansub, then it's good.

FMA was, in that sense, very good, as I've never once thought that I needed to watch the orignial Japanese in order to really "get" what's happening and who's feeling what.

Dubs in general are increasing in quality, mainly cause companies are realizing that following 4Kids example is likely to get them screwed over in time, so I'm really looking forward to what Funimation will do with the new series.

... well, it's more like what can they salvage, as the new series can best be summed up as crap with a side of "that was bullshit," so here's hoping for the best!

Well, yes, it does get the

Well, yes, it does get the message across, despite its mediocrity. It's just that it doesn't do it as well as the Japanese version. Like I said, the FMA dub is a lot better than Funimation would have done years ago, but it's just not as good as I've come to expect of a dub done this decade.

And for me, some of the voices ARE really hard to hear. Glass's ear-splittingly shrill Winry, for instance.

Agreed.

ahh, someone else for whom the Dub just doesnt work. :)

From the moment I heard Vic's Ed, I didnt belive it. Having read the manga beforehand, he did sound way too scratchy and lacked the emotional depth that I associated with Ed. :/ It was kinda like he had an angry voice and an angsty voice and that was all.

Don't even get me started on the "Smellric Brothers" lines >.>.....

Interesting, I largely

Interesting, I largely disagree with several of your assessments, but to hear another perspective was nice.

I was originally introduced to Fullmetal Alchemist through the manga, and later purchased the series for a long car ride to watch. It never crossed my mind to switch the language, but Funimation at least did a competent dub with FMA, especially considering their others. Aaron was definitely the highlight of the show though.

I know this is an old post,

I know this is an old post, but I really wanted to bring something to light. It may not apply for EVERYONE, but most, and yes - I do mean MOST, people seem to lean towards the *first* voices they hear.

The first time I watched anime was the English Sailor Moon, followed by Bubblegub Crisis Tokyo 2040, Trigun and Cowboy Bebop.

Being from a remote area in Australia, we really didn't get -fast- internet until 2003 or 2004, and as such, I reallied on the english dub anime played on TV.

When I first watched Naruto, however, was a fan-subbed Japanese SUB version downloaded online, and as such, I got -used- to the japanese voices. When I tried to watch the English version, I cringed - Naruto's voice was WAYYYYY too childish for the role, and I resorted to hating it.

Why is that? Because I watched 100+ episodes of the japanese version, and as such, I had expectations on voices.

If you watched the english version first, I'd be thinking you'd be saying the complete opposite, and point out the flaws in the FMA Sub version.

Anyway, fair call, there are some anime's I dislike in English, but it just depends on what you watch first, and, to be honest, I enjoy both, but if I watch the english or the japanese one first, I won't even THINK about watching the other.

Well, I don't quite work

Well, I don't quite work that way.

My first exposure to Dragon Ball Z was in English, but I cast off the English dub when I started watching it in Japanese with subtitles. Even with the improved dub for Kai, I still mostly prefer the Japanese track.

But I will concede that it's not so much that I dislike the FMA English dub, so much as I just prefer the Japanese version.

answer

I think that to get the credit loans from creditors you must present a great reason. But, once I've received a credit loan, just because I wanted to buy a bike.

Because most of your role

Because most of your role assessments basically said "Japanese VA fit the character, English VA didn't" I'm not inclined to take you very seriously about a lot of them. Even if you decided you liked DBZ's Japanese cast better after having already gotten used to the English cast, this review just reeked of someone saying "Not what I'm used to so bad." You formed all these notions about the subtle (and not so subtle) quirks of the characters based on your first viewing (which was of the Japanese version), and so when the English voice actors brought something different to the table (everyone interprets characters differently, after all), you didn't like it. Again, first reading your assessments of the Japanese VA performances and then your assessments of the English VA performances, it really does just seem like you're criticizing the majority of the English cast for not being exactly like the original VAs except speaking English.

Don't get me wrong; I agree with you on several points. Palencia's Nina is atrocious, and Chris Sabat does make Armstrong a bit cheesy (not in a good way) sometimes, and I know exactly what you mean about Sonny Strait sounding like he was just reading lines off a sheet of paper every now and then. And yeah, Bradley's voice was really, really different at the beginning of the series. (It got much better later on, and in my opinion it became one of the best voices in the dub.) I've never cared for Chris Patton as Greed (really didn't like it when I first heard it), and I actually HATE Eric Vale as Kimblee. (I'd rather Steve Blum have done that role with something close to his Roger Smith voice. To be honest, I think Vale's Kimblee is far more "generic villain" than Dameon Clarke's Scar.) I'm in no way telling you you're wrong or blind or stupid or whatever other things anonymous people on the internet might throw at you, and if I've seemed disrespectful up to this point, I wasn't trying to be and I apologize.

The thing is, most of the points on which I agree with you are in regards to the actual performance of the actors in question; not the voices themselves, but bad things they did with their roles. And maybe you tried to give an explanation of that sort for every role you analyzed (I didn't read as thoroughly as I could have, but I didn't skim either), but it just seemed to me that you really didn't give some of the roles a fair chance. And you're free not to like them; that's fine. But I don't think it's cool to say that it's due to some error on the part of the voice actors if your main beef is that they're different in the first place. (And like I just said, maybe you really weren't doing that. I just kind of think you were for some of them.)

Personally, I thought Vic Mignogna brought a hell of a lot to Ed's character. Romi Paku is brilliant as Ed, and she IS Ed, as you said, but in the Japanese version. To me, Vic is just as much Ed as Paku is, and he conveys just as well the complexities in Ed's character. (I'm really confused as to how you think Vic Mignogna and Eric Vale sound anything alike.) I agree with you that Aaron Dismuke was excellent as Al. I actually like Clarke a lot as Scar; he doesn't sound like a generic villain to me; on the contrary, J. Michael Tatum in Brotherhood makes Scar sound more like a generic, solemn religious fanatic to me. But I thought Clarke did a lot for Scar; it sounded like every word he spoke was painful for him in a way that I felt suited the character.

Anyway, I'm starting to lose direction here, so I'll stop. :P

justifying english VA

mustang, Hughes, and bradley have the PERFECT VOICES. They all compliment eachother if you really think about it. i mean ARE YOU SERIOUS they are too calm? hughes and mustang are hardened vets with wits as sharp as nails they are purposely portrayed as calm and collected even when discussing sensitive information. makes sense to me. there is plenty of over the top hyperbole throughout the show in the english version without mustang and hughes constantly flipping out as well. the voice cast absolutely nails it, not exaclty c-. regardless of opinion if were going by the grading system that says you earn a c- by doing very poorly at what you were trying then no its not c-.

"Bradley starts off sounding one way and then starts sounding different" almost.. and bear with me... almost as if his identity changes.. there's is something unknown at first, and as his identity is uncovered (which he IS aware that hes suspect to a few) he gets more comfortable and drops the facade. the emotion is there. he smoothly transitions from honorable fuhrer to psychotic villain seamlessly. people forget that any series, whether its based on a book, manga, show, anything, or is new, it is made to be viewed by new eyes as well as returning viewers.

in my opinion Paku's ed is good but vic's has some substance and attitude which really makes ed's comments during battle very enjoyable. im sure everyone feels this way about that which was experienced first however. whether it was english or japanese

The Fullmetal Alchemist dub

The Fullmetal Alchemist dub has become a legend for obvious reasons people brag up and down about the Behop english dub but I've always felt the english dub of Fullmetal Alchemist was always above it personal opinion of course but its ill willed to be so negative about the dub when in fact it was Funimation strongest dub of the early 2000's outside of Yu Yu Hakusho which is excellent as well.
Do you still feel the same way about the Dub and its performances three years later?

I would like to see this

I would like to see this grade type of rating with the recent performances in the Brotherhood anime!
Think about it!

A quick glance will burn out your eyes!

I see you forgot to mention Monica Rial's Dante!

I'm as surprised as you are.

I'm as surprised as you are.

Anyway, this is an old article, and my opinions have changed somewhat since this. I wouldn't say that I "dislike" the FMA dub per se. I just don't prefer it.

I've never read anything on

I've never read anything on the site about Techi? I would like to hear your opinion on the many dubs of the show do you have a favorite or do you hate them with a burning rage?

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