Neon Genesis Evangelion is on Netflix, and, for better or worse, the streaming service has redubbed the entire series in English instead of recycling the original ADV dub from the late '90s. Many anime fans have become so attached to the performances from that original dub that it's hard to ever be satisfied with any new dub. Even the follow-up film End of Evangelion, while distributed by Manga, used most of the ADV dub cast and crew, since they were so iconic.
However, the reaction to the new dub from fans has been intense. Fans have criticized the dub, calling it dull and lifeless. They've taken issues with the changes made to the writing, arguing that they make the story feel flatter. Controversially, the Netflix release doesn't have the original ending theme, "Fly Me to the Moon," in it, which is a glaring omission.
Despite all that, Netflix's Evangelion dub is still a pretty good dub. The only problem is that it's replacing an iconic dub that was reached true greatness.
Overstated and Understated
The core difference between the new and old dub is that the new dub is understated while the old is overstated. Some fans have complained that the new dub sounds bored or lifeless. While some performances are more spirited than others, the core issue here is that, when compared to a dub as over-the-top as Evangelion's ADV dub, anything sounds lifeless, as this comparison by Twitter user @KaiserNeko proves.
So.— Scott Frerichs 🏳️🌈 (@KaiserNeko) June 21, 2019
New Eva Dub.
Here's a comparison clip of ADV VS. Netflix!
Misato & Shinji! pic.twitter.com/2QDURIQKsR
None of this is meant to imply that ADV's dub is bad. It's quite good, but every voice in the ADV dub (save for Tristan MacAvery and John Swasey's muted yet terrific performances as Gendo Ikari) plays their respective characters in an animated, energetic manner. On the other hand, the Netflix dub presents the characters in a more muted style.
While the ADV dub could be subtle and the Netflix dub could be animated, both oth aim to present the same subject matter in very different ways.
The original dub was not always a faithful translation of the original Japanese dialogue. It took liberties and colloquialized some language. The Netflix dub attempts to remain more faithful to the original Japanese. Some fans more familiar with the original ADV dub, therefore, are under the impression that Netflix changed things. The truth is actually the opposite.
In End of Evangelion, at the climax of the infamous coma scene, Spike Spencer's Shinji says "I'm so f***ed up." In contrast, Casey Mongillo's Shinji says "I'm the worst of the worst." Mongillo's line is far closer to Megumi Ogata's original line, but Spencer's is more memorable.
In the ADV dub, Kyle Sturdivant and Greg Ayres's Kaworu tells Shinji that he loves him. Netflix's Cliford Chapin merely says he likes Shinji. While many argue this makes Kaworu appear straighter, this line is closer to the original Japanese. And then there's the debate between calling Shinji the "Third Child" and the "Third Children." While it literally translates to the latter in Japanese, that phrase sounds wrong in English.
Arguably, Netflix's most noteworthy diversion from the ADV dub is the inclusion of German. Yuko Miyamura's Asuka speaks precious little German in the series. However,Asuka shouted out tons of German thanks to Tiffany Grant's Asuka. This is because Grant could speak German and replaced the original Japanese with German equivalent lines. The Netflix dub just translates the original lines.
This begs the question that incumbent to all dubs: is it better to literally translate the text or adapt the text, especially if those adaptations become an essential part of the series.
While many performances stand out from the Evangelion ADV dub (Amanda Winn-Lee, Sue Ulu, Tristan MacAvery), three actors stand out: Spike Spencer as Shinji Ikari, Allison Keith as Misato Katsuragi and Tiffany Grant as Asuka Langley Sohryu. These performances are so iconic that Funimation, when dubbing the Rebuild of Evangelion films, brought these three back to play their parts. These three have been the voices of the Evangelion characters for decades.
So immediately, no matter how good Casey Mongillo, Carrie Keranen and Stephanie McKeon are, the ADV dub fans have already decided that nothing could ever replace the originals in their hearts. Still, none of their performances are bad. In fact, Mongillo arguably is the cast stand-out. But it will be difficult for fans to appreciate any of their performances within the weekend that it would take to binge the series.
But that also said, it's also important for fans to remember that the ADV Evangelion dub was very clumsy in the show's early episodes. Fans might remember Spencer and Keith's performances later on, but the first four or so episodes, their lines are still awkward as they're learning the ins and outs of their characters.
If Netflix wanted to appeal to fans, it would be wise to at least include the original ADV Evangelion dub as an option. Fans should be able to choose which performances they want to hear when watching the series. All it would take was licensing an audio track. It's far cheaper, no doubt, than licensing "Fly Me to the Moon."
While the subtle differences between the Netflix and ADV dubs are ultimately a matter of personal preference, neither holds a candle to Funimation's dub for Rebuild of Evangelion, which is simply perfect.