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Where Do Animax Asia's English Dubs Come From?

by Justin Sevakis,

Skye asks:

Why does Animax Asia broadcast anime with English dubs, and who dubs them? I recently watched Toward the Terra, and upon further research (wikipedia), I learned it was dubbed by Animax Asia, which broadcasts dubs in Southeast Asia. I was wondering why they don't dub the shows into the language of the countries it's aired in, or, if that might be too bothersome or expensive, but then why dub it at all and not sub it? And who produces these English dubs? The actors in Toward the Terra sounded like native English speakers.

Animax Asia is a 24-hour anime TV network owned by Sony Pictures Television, and one of the last remaining parts of Sony's once near-worldwide Animax empire. The service broadcasts in English -- and it does so because while the countries it covers do not predominantly have English as most people's native language, English fluency across them is very strong. As a result, it's something of a universal language among those countries, and broadcasting in English makes providing content to them collectively quite easy. These include Singapore, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Maldives, Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia.

Animax Asia shows both dubbed and subtitled versions (including a few simulcasts). Most of its dubbed programming is simply re-used English versions from the standard American dub studios -- Funimation, Sentai, Bang Zoom, Studiopolis, etc. However, on occasion the network will acquire broadcast rights to something -- often long kid-oriented shows -- that went unlicensed in the US. In those cases the network was forced to produce their own dub. This has only happened a handful of times over the 12 years Animax has been around.

These dubs are entirely uncredited, and when I asked Animax directly what studios dubbed them, they shrugged and mentioned that there are vendors they use within the Asian countries they service (most likely in Singapore and Hong Kong). These dubs are produced extremely cheaply, and as a result most of them really don't sound very good to American ears. Many of them cast American, British or Australian ex-pats or students that happen to be in the area. Most are not trained actors. Since some of these people tend to leave or go back home, there are occasional re-castings.

How cheap are these dub studios? We do know about one Singaporean dub studio -- Odex Pte. Ltd. -- which at the time was also a local anime publisher as well. There's a long and sordid story about the time they tried to sue local fans that were torrenting, which resulted in a huge backlash against the company that made the local papers. They eventually folded their publishing division and last I heard, they were simply a licensing agent for Aniplex and other local interests.

At any rate, when the anime bubble in the US was bursting and publishers like Bandai Entertainment and Geneon were looking to cut their dubbing costs, they gave Odex a try. Odex's prices were ridiculously low: where a standard American dub might cost $6,000 per episode at the very lowest to $10,000 at the very highest, Odex was charging somewhere around US$2,500 per episode -- and throwing in free DVD authoring, to boot! Unfortunately, the publishers got what they paid for -- the quality was so poor that after a few shows, both companies retreated from using Odex entirely.

But in Asia, where advertisers in small and emerging economies are all that keep Animax afloat, every penny counts, and so an expensive American dub is simply out of the question. A few shows, such as Nodame Cantabile, are owned worldwide by Sony Pictures, and these are still dubbed in Los Angeles (by studios such as Dubbing Brothers and Spliced Bread Productions). But most are dubbed quietly and cheaply for the local audience within Asia.

Because these dubs are done so quickly and cheaply, they aren't subject to much oversight by Japanese licensors, who often barely seem to know that they exist. Unlike American produced dubs, they don't ask for copies, or for any involvement in their production. As a result, these dubs are very rarely seen outside of Asia. The sole exception so far has been NIS America's release of Cardcaptor Sakura, which included the Animax Asia dub as a bonus (since it was mostly uncut). Other American publishers have tried to secure these dubs and failed.

Unfortunately that's about all I can tell you about them. I also wish these were more freely available -- even if they're not the best, I do enjoy hearing obscure dubs.

Full disclosure: I worked with NIS America on that Cardcaptor Sakura release.

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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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