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DRAGON BALL Z #5 - - Watch & Learn

Not afraid to say... the sub is terrible!

Well, every other day it seems, I learn something new about this show…

Whilst trolling around on the ol’ YT recently, I came across a trailer for the fast-approaching new DBZ movie, BATTLE OF THE GODS. I haven’t had an opportunity to comment on that flick yet (and doing so feels doubly-apt now that I’ve learned a bit more about some of DRAGON BALL’s mythological inspirations - - more on those in sec), and the most salient point now is actually Goku’s Japanese VO actor. Having grown up on one dub or another, it was honestly shocking to hear him speaking with such a shrill, feminine voice that sounded somewhere between Ed Elric’s and Monkey D. Luffy’s.

Well, I opted to watch this episode subbed and, sure enough, that awful voice has been Goku’s voice the entire time. Masako Nozawa, the same actress behind Tetsuro in GALAXY EXPRESS 999.

For me, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the endless “sub vs. dub” debate. I do believe that there really are cases where the dub actually makes the material more enjoyable. I felt that way about YU YU HAKUSHOand I absolutely feel that way about DBZ, now. I don’t care if Nozawa's the originator of this role. I’m going to be stubborn here and say that she just doesn’t like Goku to me. At all. And I’m never watching the sub, ever again. Nuh-uh.


On the loftier level I alluded to above, this episode really reinforces the show’s roots in world religion for me. A month or two back, I finally got around to reading the Hindu epic, the RAMAYANA, and it was really an eye-opening experience, because it read exactly like a superhero adventure. Heroes fighting demons with special weapons, super-moves with their own highly-descriptive shotc alls, et cetera... it all seemed remarkably familiar. The chain of inspiration is pretty solid, of course, with the RAMAYANA's Monkey God Hanuman inspiring the Monkey King of JOURNEY TO THE WEST; which, as everybody knows, inspired DRAGON BALL in turn.

Why does the connection seem especially pronounced here, though? Well, look past the heroic sacrifice that’s the center point of this episode and it’s hard not to see more significance in a lot of notions that are just thrown out offhandedly. Goku accepts his own death without any fear, confident in knowing that he’ll just be reincarnated soon enough in what might as well be this world’s equivalent of the Samsara cycle. Vegeta and Napa are casually introduced in what might as well be another plane of existence, just as Goku just sort-of casually ambles to yet another plane.... and so on.

The parallels are really hard to miss (even while Goku's squeaky voice is bugging you out).

Watch this episode, "Gohan’s Rage" here and decide for yourself, then read my comments on the previous episode here.

Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk

LordTerminalon Feb. 8, 2013 at 6:57 a.m.

Killed? Don't you mean "sent to another dimension"? Oh wait that's Saban dub. Sorry, nevermind.

Lurkeroon Feb. 8, 2013 at 7:03 a.m.

Excuse me, Tom, but the Japanese voice of Goku is representative of his inner-self, the child-like innocence that followed him from his childhood and into his adulthood. This makes the Japanese dub vastly superior to the English dub, and you once again prove that you have no idea what you are talking about.

- Japanese purest fanatic

NONSENSE! Goku is an adult! He went through puberty! It sounds weird!

There are other adult male characters with the awkward voice, but for the most part I am displeased the the voice direction of DBZ. I have seen many people defend Goku's voice as childlike innocence, but I never accepted that explanation. It doesn't sound right to me.

In regards to Goku dying so soon, I think it is actually cool. Of course he went straight to heaven in the next episode so the sorrow doesn't last long, but the story of Monkey (Journey to the West) was nearly the same. After extensive training Monkey caused havoc in heaven with his powerful skills. DBZ kinda mixes the two and has Goku both training and causing havoc in heaven.

YotaruVegetaon Feb. 8, 2013 at 7:42 a.m.

@Lurkero: That sounds hilarious, that someone would imagine such a rationale to say "subs are better."

"Japan can do no wrong, uh, because they make the anime!"

I could get used to the sub Dragonball, and I've never seen the English dub as "inferior" in comparison. I really like Goku sounding like how I'd expect an adult to sound, but it's a fantasy show, so I'm not scared off by a man still sounding like he did when he was a kid.

redbird3rdboywonderon Feb. 8, 2013 at 10:20 a.m.

I never watch subs anyway

jj_jacksonon Feb. 8, 2013 at 5:53 p.m.

no no no gokus japanese actor sounds way more feminine than luffys or ed's he almost sounds like a 14 yr old japanese girl. I have to go with the dub here.

its kind of the same for cowboy bebop when people say sub is better.. i just dont think they did the better job in this sub vs dub war.

Now theres anime's like steins gate and soul eater i prefer the subs because the dubs are terrible

YotaruVegetaon Feb. 9, 2013 at 1:41 p.m.

@jj_jackson: 14 is every generous! I don't even know if Luffy's VA is female. Sounds like, I guess, how a guy luffy's age and weight would sound like. Goku's a big bruiser. It's not impossible that a big dude would have a high voice (they say Lincoln's voice would be higher than expected) but It's odd for me.

Petiew is online on Feb. 10, 2013 at 12:41 p.m.
@YotaruVegeta: Luffy's VA is a woman, she plays Krillin as well. 

Goku's voice is kind of a downer in Japanese, but I think a lot of people have so much nostalgia for the dub they champion it far too much. Christopher Sabat taunts Christopher Sabat over the death of Christopher Sabat? Nah.
I prefer Vegeta, Piccolo, Bulma, etc in Japanese.
Top8caton Feb. 10, 2013 at 2:43 p.m.

Some people say nostalgia plays a part, but I disagree. I got into Naruto and One piece through dub and many years later went back though them with subs and after getting used to the change I much preferred the sub, same thing with dubs. I prefer FM dubbed. So no, I don't think nostalgia plays that much of a part. One of my childhood favorites(InuYashsa) I rather watch subbed and I originally watched it dubbed.

In the case of DBZ do however prefer the Japanese Piccolo, but not the Japanese Vegeta, and I think Goku's a down right miscast. Although I never really liked Goku's character to begin with(It's all about Piccolo).

Also, I think Japanese purist either don't know a lick of Japanese or don't care, because there are some down right horrible VO's at times.(Made this comment and was down rated the crap out of on youtube lol)

Petiew is online on Feb. 11, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.
@Top8cat: You're right, some people do just prefer the English voices due to personal preference which is fair enough.
You're also right in saying that some watchers also always prefer the Japanese simply for the fact that it's Japanese. On the other hand, like I said previously people also do this with the English voice acting.
I don't think it's necessary to be fluent in Japanese to prefer listening to the Japanese track though. I'll list off a couple reasons for why I often prefer the Japanese versions. 

Lip Synching/Timing - The dubs have to match the timing or lip movement of one character's sentence with the original. Often results in weird and unnatural readings and translations in order to fit. 

Names/Places - Most characters have Japanese names. American pronuncation of these names is again unnatural sounding and weird, if they try and pronounce them with the Japanese pronunciation it also sounds out of place with the rest of the sentence. (Minor point, but it's odd) 

Quality and availability of actors - Voice acting is more of a profession in Japan. There're schools dedicated entirely to it. As a result there's a bigger pool to pick from when it comes to casting. You're always going to see the big names across multiple series and seasons but I think it's less of a problem than dubbing. Funimation for example is Texas based and can only really employ actors from there.  There's an even smaller pool and anime voice acting isn't held to the same level as in Japan.
Familiarity - I watch a ton of subbed anime so I've become familiar with a lot of the people voicing it. Not an anime, but I play blazblue with the Japanese voices because I'm so familiar with the actors. Ranga's, Tsubaki's and Noel's voice actors host an online radio show, and ocassionally live panels, where they read fan letters, talk about the game, act out skits in character, etc. Since I've seen so much in character material with them it's odd playing as Tsubaki with another voice. 

Just personal preference for me, I imagine people that only ever watch dubs would also prefer the dub actors because that's who they're most familiar with.

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