Are UK and Australian Anime DVDs & BDs Any Different?

by Justin Sevakis,

Vanessa asks:

With the help of my region free blu ray player and easy internet shopping, I am excited to find anime series, not available in the US, come out in the UK or Australian markets. However, what is available overseas isn't much different from America. What is really no fun is they even have the American dub when one is included. I thought back in the VHS days the UK dubbed their own stuff. Are there business ties between English speaking countries or is this the easy way to go if a dub was already made? As a little test, I got the UK release of Ghibli's Tales From Earthsea knowing they got it way before America did, hoping for a British accented dub. The voices were surprisingly neutral, the way, it seems, American anime dubs are consistently achieving more than ever. Is this done purposely for use in various markets? Maybe I haven't noticed this is how voice acting generally works.

It's not just the dubs! Sometimes the entire discs themselves are the same! Cooperation between anime publishers in the US and the UK and Australia goes back decades. It's not uncommon for, say, UK publishers to pay the American company to just take their existing discs, swap out the logos, change the region code and maybe some previews for other shows, and send the disc to another replication plant in a different part of the world. I've personally made discs that will play in both regions, and whose logo you see changes depending on what region Blu-ray player you play it on. The packaging is different, but the menus, the video, the audio, the subtitles and usually the special features are the same.

The UK used to produce a lot more of its own dubs, back in the VHS era, but even then the same dubs mostly got released on both continents. Central Park Media released most of Manga UK's dubs in the US -- ones like Project A-ko, Dominion Tank Police, Venus Wars, and others, and in exchange would chip in for the cost of making the dub. In fact, they only stopped doing that when Manga Entertainment opened an American division and became a competitor. Manga UK usually re-used existing dubs from Streamline Pictures.

These days very few dubs are produced for the UK market, and even fewer are actually produced there. Unlike in the VHS era, the dubbed versions automatically become property of the Japanese rights holder, and so with the licensor's help, a dub can get re-used in another country as soon as it's made. UK publishers such as Manga UK, All The Anime and MVM regularly re-use dubs and DVD/Blu-ray authoring from everyone from Funimation and Viz to Aniplex of America and NIS America. There's really no point in dubbing things twice. Sometimes they work directly with the American publisher and chip in for the costs. Other times, the licensor has to step in and provide it to them.

That said, there are more than a handful of occasions where different dubs were produced for different markets for various reasons, usually just because a deal couldn't be worked out, or the parties involved weren't interested. Oftentimes those alternate dubs never even made it onto DVD, but many have. These are fun to hunt down and obtain. The UK has a dub of Millennium Actress that never got released Stateside, for example (although it's terrible). There are two different dubs of The Secret Life of Arietty, Battle Angel, Bubblegum Crash, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, A.D. Police Files and many old and obscure OVAs like Zeguy, Detonator Orgun and Hades Project Zeorymer. Sometimes new re-releases dig up those old dubs, but many are no longer easy to get. Others are easily available as import DVDs.

For years Mike Toole and I made a hobby of trying to collect all of these obscure UK dubs, and while occasionally we ended up with something really good or unique, most of those UK-only dubs kind of stunk, like the producers knew that their work would only be seen locally and weren't trying very hard. Still, it was a fun hobby, and lord knows Mike got his use out of them for convention panels. If you have some extra money to spend, I can think of worse nerdy things to spend your time collecting.

Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!)

Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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