While more modern dubs have been more authentic, many older localizations turned out utterly silly with their unnecessary and excessive changes.
It's no secret that the localization of popular anime series isn't always the best. Anime fans are all well aware of the constant changes and censorship that happens when a series gets a dub. In recent years, dubs have improved, opting for translation over localization to keep the series more authentic.
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However, there are plenty of examples of abysmal localization still today, especially with series coming over to America. Some of these localizations are "so bad it's good" and get remembered fondly by fans. Unfortunately, many others are nothing short of insulting, both to the original material and the target audience.
The infamous series Ghost Stories arguably has both the worst and the best localization in anime history. The English dub of the series is entirely different from the original. Instead of directly translating the series or even coming remotely close to it, they scrapped all but the ghost stories themselves and made the dub into their own parody.
Even the biggest sticklers for authenticity can't deny that this dub is hilarious. It easily falls into "so bad it's good" territory and is well worth a watch, if only to laugh at how bad it is.
Yu-Gi-Oh is a beloved franchise with multiple series under its belt. Most fans' first exposure to the original series was the 4Kids English dub, and despite that, it's actually well-loved by the fandom and remembered fondly by many. However, there's no denying that the 4Kids Yu-Gi-Oh made some infamous changes to the series. Since their target audience was kids, they changed a lot of the more mature aspects of the series. One of the most notable examples of this is the inclusion of the Shadow Realm in place of actual deaths.
However, the biggest change made was the characters' names, going from Japanese to Americanized ones that kids can recognize. While many have warmed up to the changes made by the dub, they still irk some long-time fans.
Naruto is one of the most famous anime of all time, and even its English dub is popular. Despite that, when Naruto hit the international scene, many changes had to be made for various dubs to make it more suitable for younger audiences.
They censored out a lot of the more intense fighting, along with a lot of blood. Not to mention, many dubs traded out the original opening theme for their very own, including the original English dub. While fans were disappointed by this change, the English dub theme is, admittedly, pretty good. That's much more than can be said about the infamous German dub theme that's so cringy it's been immortalized by memes forever.
Pokémon is one of the biggest franchises in anime. After decades of episodes, it's a series with multiple generations of fans. Despite its popularity, many of the changes made by English localization seem odd, unnecessary, or downright goofy.
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One famous example is when the characters sit down for lunch, clearly about to snack on some rice balls. However, they instead refer to them as "delicious jelly doughnuts." While dubbers may have felt that kids wouldn't know what a rice ball is, it's safe to say they can tell when something's not a jelly doughnut.
Speed Racer came overseas decades ago, so many blunders can be attributed to its age. However, the English localization of Mach GoGoGo, also known as Speed Racer, made some pretty infamous changes. The biggest being, of course, the series title name.
However, what the series is most infamous for is its terrible lip-syncing. The voice actors' awkward attempts to match up with the characters' moving lips just makes every sentence sound sped up and incoherent. This, along with the many strange reaction noises made throughout, make for a very weird and hilarious dubbing that fans have meme'd for decades.
The original Sailor Moon anime series is a beloved classic that changed the landscape of anime and still influences series today. The DiC Sailor Moon dub was a gateway series for many veteran anime fans. Plenty look back on the dub fondly, but even the most nostalgic Moonies can acknowledge that the 90s dub has a long list of problems. It made many blatant changes to the original, such as the obvious name changes, like Usagi to Serena.
Other changes include completely altered dialogue, dated slang, and censorship galore. The worst example of censorship came under Cloverway's dub, where, to mask the relationship between Haruka and Michiru, they turned the pair into cousins. This awful decision still leaves fans cringing today and is the butt of many Sailor Moon jokes.
The English dub of Cardcaptor Sakura made so many changes that the two almost feel like different shows altogether. The first and most notable change is in the title, which was shortened to Cardcaptors to try and appeal to young boys.
They also removed almost all traces of romance. Little hints of crushes remain here and there, but the dub takes extreme measures to omit it, even at the expense of cutting out episodes completely. They hide it so much that they even get rid of one of the main plots of the series, the "rivals to lovers" story between Sakura and Syaoran. Coupled with bad name changes, and an Americanized theme song, the disappointing series easily faded into obscurity.
Despite being an iconic magical girl franchise, Pretty Cure has only three localizations, two of which are considered infamously bad among fans. Smile! PreCure and Doki Doki! PreCure are both localized under the name Glitter Force to appeal to young girls in the west.
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These dubs change so much that they almost feel like different shows from the source material. They change the original Japanese names to unfitting Americanized ones, such as Emily and Kelsey. Coupled with the cringy dialogue and removal of Japanese culture, Glitter Force is a huge disappointment and insult to fans.
One Piece was known as one of the "Big Three" back in the 2000s. With over 1,000 episodes, it's still a hugely popular series today. However, its first introduction to international audiences was rocky. Originally dubbed by 4Kids, it's safe to assume that the series suffered from the usual censorship and blunders that the studio was known for.
However, what fans hate the most about this dub is the abomination of a theme song. It's a rap song with some of the cringiest lyrics of any English dub theme out there. Between the awful theme song and the piles of censorship, the 4Kids One Piece dub is known as one of the worst dubs of all time.
When Tokyo Mew Mew was set to come overseas as a dub, fans were ecstatic. That is, until they found out 4Kids was in charge of the localization. Just as they did with many other beloved anime series, 4Kids butchered the original source material. And so, it became Mew Mew Power. As is characteristic for 4Kids, they gave all the characters new, unfitting names, they left out major plot points so that they could censor everything, and they created one of the worst English dub theme songs known to man for it.
With these changes, along with the grating voices and the infamous catchphrase, "Mew Mew Style, Mew Mew Grace, Mew Mew Power In Your Face!", the English localization of Tokyo Mew Mew remains one of the most hated to this day.
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Chelsea is a List Writer for CBR with years of writing experience and a love for all things anime. She specializes in literature and creative writing, with a focus on fiction. In her spare time, she writes middle-grade and YA fiction, does traditional art, and keeps abreast of the latest anime series to hit the scene. She's always eager to try new creative endeavors and uses them as inspiration in her writing.
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