So back when I watched Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust for #Horrorpalooza2021, I mentioned to several people that the dubbed version was honestly just as good as the original Japanese, which isn’t super common. Granted, I haven’t been watching a lot of anime recently, and I’m sure that there are plenty out there now with stellar English casts, but at the time I was getting into the medium, pickins’ were slim. As much as I love Bubblegum Crisis (I’ll be doing a challenge on that show in February!), the English dub is horrendous – so much that I refuse to watch it – and the voice actors for Sailor Moon, Outlaw Star, Gundam Wing, etc. were just so much better in Japanese.
But Cowboy Bebop?
I honestly can’t pick between the two, and I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the creator of Cowboy Bebop had trouble figuring out which one he liked better, too. The actors are just phenomenal, each version giving their own distinct read yet not detracting from the other’s performance: 1) Yamadera Kōichi/Steve Blum as Spike Spiegel, 2) Hayashibara Megumi/Wendee Lee as Faye Valentine, and 3) Ishizuka Unshō/Beau Billingslea* as Jet Black. Although the translation isn’t perfect – and I don’t expect it to due to the cultural differences of English-speaking and Japanese-speaking audiences – it doesn’t remove important context (ahem, Sailor Moon, Uranus and Neptune were not cousins) or make really weird exclamations to fill the cultural void.
And I guess if the creator can’t pick, then I don’t have to, either. Good job from literally everyone on this, Cowboy Bebop casting team!
* NOTE: Part of me likes to think that Beau Billingslea’s performance as Jet inspired the live-action people to make him Black, too.
Art Credit: PennLive