Sub vs Dub has been a debate ever since the first dubs came out in several languages. At first, there was one clear victor. The Japanese subs were almost always better than the English dubs during the early decades of anime’s introduction and mass availability in the west. However it was a shaky start, with infamous censorship, localisation and bad voice acting, the obvious option was to just watch the anime in it’s original Japanese audio with English subtitles.
Recently, the quality of English dubs have risen dramatically, sometimes even gaining so much popularity and acclaim that they surpass their original Japanese dub. However, first impressions are always important, and because of the failed first impressions of English dubs before the 2000’s, a stigma has been created against them. Nowadays, the solid line between dub and sub is being crossed, and now it is more and more common to find people watch anime solely in it’s English dub.
So what about Hyouka?
Hyouka began airing in 2012 in Japanese. It wouldn’t receive a dub until 2017, when Funimation finally picked up the series and made it available to stream.
So how good was this dub that nobody really asked for?
The answer of course is completely due to preference. However, I personally find the Hyouka English dub to be borderline perfect, able to stand up to even the original Japanese dub. In fact I would even go as far to say it beats the Japanese sub in some areas.
Hyouka was the first anime I watched in English. This was for many reasons, but it was also the first time I had watched an anime in it’s English dub before the Japanese original. This helped me appreciate the dub, and also made me confused as to why it is subject to the same old ‘dub bad, sub good’ stigma that is still so common nowadays.
So why is this, and why do I hold the Hyouka English dub in such high regard?
Adam Gibbs voices Oreki in the English dub of Hyouka. His voice is regarded as the best voice in the series, and I agree. His voice fits Oreki’s voice perfectly, surpassing Yuuichi Nakamura in some parts of the show. He perfectly gives Oreki his ‘Not lazy, just low on energy’ persona through just his voice. It isn’t forced at all, nor is it simple speaking, but genuine great voice acting. Oreki’s English voice is a perfect representation of character, and is even soothing in some parts.
One part of the show where Adam’s voice really shines is during the confrontation with Irisu. In the scene, Oreki becomes furious with Irisu. In the original Japanese dub, Oreki confronts Irisu with a raised voice and anger. In the English dub, Adam shows genuine anger and confusion in Oreki’s voice, which is much less composed than it is normally. It makes the viewer almost uncomfortable with how realistic it is, and amplifies the shock of Oreki shouting for the first time for the viewer.
As for Mayaka and Satoshi, although their voices may not be as good as their Japanese counterparts, they are almost as if the Japanese voices were magically made English. In other words, they are close! Mayaka is often described for her young appearance, which is also made apparent with her Japanese voice. Unlike her Japanese voice, Mayaka’s voice sounds a little more mature, fitting the age and description of Highschool girl. This is a subtle change but does a lot to change her character. Those watching in sub would see Mayaka as more immature than people who watch Hyouka in Dub. Despite this, Jill Harris does an excellent job of voicing the character, especially during the more emotional scenes.
Likewise, Satoshi’s English voice actor Dallas Reid sounds like a perfect American incarnation of Daisuke Sakaguchi. Their voices both perfectly capture Satoshi’s energetic and upbeat character, while also doing a good job at expressing his more darker emotions near the end of the show. Even if nothing new and outstanding is bought to the table, Dallas does a perfect job at voicing an English speaking Satoshi.
Finally, there is Irisu and the main lead girl, Chitanda Eru. Irisu has the same thing that Mayaka’s voice had, in that it sounded much more mature than their Japanese counterpart. In the case of Mayaka it slightly changed how we perceive her, maybe in a way unintended by the creator. However, in Irisu’s case it helps her, and in my opinion it is even better than the original Japanese sub. Her more mature sounding voice helps give off her condescending and manipulative aura. She sounds older, giving her a sense of authority which simply wasn’t felt as much in the original being older than the main characters, having an older sounding voice definitely conveys this.
On the flip side, Chitanda’s voice which was so perfect in the original, is easily the most controversial in the English dub. Many people would agree that Madeleine Morris may have been a bit of a weird choice, and it is easy to hear especially in the first episode. To some, Chitanda’s voice might even be downright annoying because it seems ‘forced’. I agree, the first time I watched the first episode in dub, I also couldn’t find myself to like Chitanda’s voice. But as the episodes went on, I became more and more familiar with it, and I ended up loving it.
Although it would never beat Satomi Sato’s legendary voice acting, Madeleine Morris did a good job of portraying Chitanda’s childish and feminine personality, and Alexis Tipton bested the original Japanese dub by making Irisu feel more mature, manipulative and authoritative.
Another thing I found the English dub do a great job at was help make the more ‘Japanese specific’ parts of the show more understandable to foreign viewers or viewers with little knowledge of the language. The segments which required knowledge of Kanji or hiragana were handled in a way in which viewers who had no knowledge of a foreign alphabet can understand what was being said. For example, Satoshi’s ‘power family’ rumour that he tried to circulate in episode one, and Juumonji’s elaborate plot both involved the Japanese language, but the dub handles it in a easy to digest way.
I watched Hyouka with people who didn’t even have English as their first language, nor have they seen anime before, but they did not become confused in these parts of the show.
The dub does not localise for a western audience like other dubs may do. The Hyouka dub made sure it kept the original Japanese, and the English voice actors even speak Japanese in some parts of the show to avoid convoluting the plot with western and eastern dialect and cultures. One of my favourite changes was to Chitanda’s signature catchphrase. It changes from the signature ‘I’m Curious!’ to a much more natural sounding ‘I have to know!’
This is just one of the dialogue changes that I think are much improved. Some of Irisu’s dialogue is also much more passive aggressive and suggestive compared to what the English subtitles imply.
In conclusion, watching Hyouka in it’s original Japanese audio and the English audio are both different and separate experiences, each with their strong points. Hyouka’s dub is one of my favourite dubs, and that is coming from a person who usually avoids dubs.
If you’ve only seen Hyouka in it’s original Japanese dub, try out the English dub for a new experience!