I'm really feeling it!

Let's Talk About that All-new Evangelion Dub

It feels a little weird to have something new to talk about in the world of Eva without it being related to the heavily-postponed final installment of the re-imagined (sequel?) films.

For many fans, myself included, Eva is more than the sum of its parts. Re-watching the series now on Netflix, just the first few notes of “Angel Attack” is enough to give me goosebumps. I have watched both the subbed and dubbed versions of Eva many times over the last twenty or so years. It’s one of the few anime from that era where I actually like the English dub as much as the original Japanese cast’s work. For many of us, the English voices for these characters have become inextricably linked to the characters. Which means hearing new voices speak from familiar mouths feels incredibly weird. For a fan like me, who can recite dialogue from the English dub from memory, there’s a fair amount of discomfort here.

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But, I don’t hate it!

I understand the legal reasons behind needing a new dub and I’m sure there were also good reasons for not using members of the original cast again. Despite some openly saying they’d be up for it. I also understand that this new dub does not erase the original. It is a shame that newcomers to the series won’t get to experience exactly the same thing we did in the late 90s, but that’s OK.

Deciding whether this dub is good or not is then obviously colored by the experiences of the person who is listening to it. A total newcomer will hear something a little different to a long time fan like myself, but nonetheless I’d like to share my feelings about the new dub as objectively as I can. Regardless, I think that the new dubbed version is absolutely fine for new viewers and for you these voices might become as iconic as those of people like Spike Spencer and Amanda Winn Lee.

Technical Improvements

One of the main things I immediately noticed about this new dub is an improvement in technical quality and effects. Listening to them side-by-side it’s obvious that recording techniques and technology has improved a heck of a lot since the mid-90s. No surprises there. We also get plenty of new effects to make voices match the environment. For example, when Gendo speaks to Shinji at his first encounter with Unit 01, we hear an effect to make it sound like his voice is coming through an intercom. Likewise, there’s a nice reverb effect on Gendo’s voice at the scene of the Unit 0 test accident with Dr. Akagi.

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Translation Choices

I’ve read that the new dub team aimed to translate the show in a way that’s closer to the meaning of the Japanese script, which is admirable in a way. Of course, localisation now has very different goals than it did back in the 90s. Audiences are more open to other cultures and don’t need every rice ball turned into a hamburger.

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In practice I have found the vocabulary choices and the way the new dialogue is written to have a tinge of machine-translation. Sounding stilted and weird to an Anglophone ear. Perhaps literally closer to the original Japanese, but significantly less natural and believable than the original English script. Different vocabulary choices also change the personalities (or what we are shown about character personalities) in subtle ways. After all, your choice of words says something about how you see the world.

The Performances

With new actors and directors, you are going to get new interpretations of character performances. This is probably the biggest impact that the new English dub has had. Gendo comes across as slightly less menacing and calculated. Misato sounds more adult and reserved.

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Shinji in particular is like a different person. Compare Spike Spencer’s original performance upon discovering how messy Misato is or that her fridge is filled with nothing but ice and beer. They’re like two completely different people, with the new performance showing us a Shinji who is much more deferential and reserved.

Impact: 3.5th

So basically the new dub is, in my opinion:

  • technically superior in general
  • has a less natural-sounding translation
  • changes character personalities in significant ways

Still, watching it all again with new performances has been a lot of fun and there’s little point in being negative about this. I appreciate Netflix bringing one of the best television series of all time to new and old audiences. What a time to be alive!

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About me: I make a living as a researcher in the education and psychology fields. I’m currently pursuing a PhD in research psychology. I also work as a ghostwriter for multiple sites and outlets, mainly covering technology and pop culture topics.

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