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Review Who was the best voice director for the franchise to you? (You can pick more than one option in the poll, if you like!)

The best Pokemon English dub voice director(s) to you?

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Well-Known Member
Jul 25, 2022
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So I've been thinking about this topic for a while, and since no one has ever brought it up, wanted to discuss this for a bit (I'll include the Side Specials that we know of).

I'll begin the topic by posting a bit on my thoughts on things here (reminder: just my opinions as always, not facts, just curious if they align with anyone else's?).

Michael J Haigney, Eric Stuart & Jim Malone handled the vocal direction during the 4Kids/TAJ days from Kanto through basically mid Johto. My thoughts are most positive on the Pokémon English dub for the Anime during their tenure in general, they would swap in and out based on the credits in the studio, but I felt this triad did especially very well in handling Team Rocket vs what would occur later on (I think Michael Haigney made the correct call to swap out Ted Lewis for Eric Stuart permanently after he was initially bought in to voice match Ted Lewis early on: I know Dogasu & co. will hate this but I felt like the majority of people this was sound, and Stuart fit the role much more to me even if it's not my favorite role he's done in the franchise). Rachael Lillis was solid as both Misty & Jessie, the deeper Jessie voice is something I felt matched Megumi Hayashibara VERY well and it's something in hindsight I will miss forever from this Era of the dub. Additionally, I thought Eric Stuart's James was VERY close to Shinichiro Miki's from Seasons 2-4 especially, ironically enough & I liked it much more than Ted Lewis' take on the role (he wasn't bad, though, just bland to me) & excellent in Season 3 especially. Nathan Price was a decent Meowth to start, I did like they initially in Season 1 tried to replicate the "Nya" from the Japanese Version with "Meowth" too, but Maddie Blaustein (I agree with Dogasu on this one, though) was a recast for the best as well, and she really managed to make her role her own. Eric Stuart's Brock was always fine to me, and to round off, I thought Ted Lewis was fine as Tracey as well.

I think they also made the correct call to have Veronica Taylor drop the more nasal, deep voice she did in the first 15 episodes (again, Dogasu's tastes in this realm conflict violently with my own and a lot of people's apparently based on comments on various other sites VA wise, but that's fine as he's entitled to his opinion as well), but I think they had Ash's voice down best in the middle of Kanto of this Era, before it went a bit too high from late Kanto to early Johto (though he still sounded masculine & like a boy to me there, that wasn't an issue). However, I think they ended Ash well, and set the standard Darren Dunstan would follow for the remainder of the 4Kids run by mid Johto, as his voice began coming back down a little by Season 4 to a medium-high masculine pitch vs high pitched masculine take.

The only real complaint? Why did so many characters of the day get random accents? Some of them made me laugh, having Lisa Ortiz do a Southern accent as Lara Laramie actually turned out well and Maddie Blaustein do an Oriental-style accent as Otoshi was actually very cool too, but most didn't seem to fit. I think it was to make the roles stand out, but it felt a bit awkward at times.

Darren Dunstan was the second lead voice director, basically he was in charge from late Johto up until 3/4 of AG/Hoenn. I think he did a fairly good job overall: not my favorite I'd say, but he was one of the better ones to land the role and I really liked what he did with Veronica Taylor under his tenure, he brought out so much emotion & character to her Ash while giving him a medium pitch that was masculine yet also smooth, clear, plus age appropriate while May also received a cute, bubbly, energetic voice under his wing. He actually also made Butch's earlier raspy, gruff voice (Stuart hasn't ever smoked believe it or not and he stays far away from it period as it could damage his vocal chords according to Interviews he's done, the only person who has voicing a major character...was also accused of sounding like a smoker probably because it was valid at the time for the role she assumed as she DID smoke back then, but she's also stopped and no longer does as well, so there's that) a bit smoother and clearer, and it was actually decent under his tenure to me (yeah, Kosaburo still sounds better, but this was the most bearable English dub Butch got for me). Brock and Tracey were fine as usual, Misty got a bit lower pitched but was still smooth and age appropriate as well, sounding soft & calm overall. He also did a good job with Max, Amy Birnbaum's take seemed to fit very well, and various other roles to me.

The only thing I would say I did notice a bit of change in was Team Rocket, in that Meowth's voice got higher pitched (which is pretty justifiable, Maddie Blaustein's take in this Era is arguably the closest dub Nyasu got to sounding like Inuko Inuyama's in fact, and I actually like her take like Maddie's in the dub even if they are different), as did Jessie (still lower pitched and deeper than most of Michele Knotz's take on the role, that said) plus James. The voice that came most under scrutiny and criticism here was Stuart's James, but in hindsight, I thought he was decent/okay. I didn't hate the voice, but it wasn't his best portrayal either to me, per se (this "Grandoise" take is probably the funniest dub James ever got, and was age appropriate, but was criticized for being overly goofy/silly in serious scenes). I could see how some might have found it a bit annoying, but I thought it was entertaining enough & bearable, though I prefer Stuart's James around the middle of the 4Kids Era most.

Armen Mazlumian was the TAJ director when PUSA took back over from 4Kids originally and...I didn't really like his take on a lot of roles. I think he did a better job with Brock & TRio than what the rest of the TPCi run would do with them (especially in S09, surprisingly, S10 Brock started to go downhill to me but TR was still bearable even if worse initially too), but Ash began with a more effeminate voice than he had prior, and then it devolved as things progressed to an overly deep, gruff, raspy voice under him, May had a very sultry and womanly tone to me, while Max had a very nasally, almost grandmother type stereotypical kid voice rather than one true to the character to me. I thought James was a bit nasally vs before, but I didn't hate Cathcart's at first, by Season 10 though I began to find it sounding goofier and that set the tone for what was to come (sadly). Meowth was a bit scratchy and raspy vs before, also his voice went medium pitched, and I felt it was OK but a step down from Blaustein's. Craig Blair's Tracey sounded like he had asthma issues sometimes, out of breath often. JCC's Oak was always worse than Zagnit/Hart's to me, but it was its least "fake" here I suppose. The same can be said of Natochenny's Delia, relative to Taylor's, here. He did okay in the Tag Battle episodes, though, I guess?

Tom Wayland was the DuArt director for most of their run as early TPCi...and I just...no comment, the only role I think that got better under him was Ash of the recasts as he brought it out of the super deep tone, but it still sounded strained and raspy at times, and he seemed to let every other role deteriorate badly under his wing (his approach was "Go in the booth, do what you like, and get out" apparently, explaining a lot). Dawn was okay, too, I suppose but a bit scratchy still. Paul was okay as well, but he sounds too old in both Japanese and English for his age, honestly. If I had to pick the overall worst, I'd vote for him, but that's not the topic of the thread (it helps he's easily the worst person to work on this franchise in English, I really don't like TPCi's dubbing style but I applaud them for taking him out of the Series given what he was accused of as well).

Theresa Buchheister was the interim director between him and Lisa Ortiz, and...she's still a better person than Tom Wayland, in fairness, but I didn't really care for her takes on the roles. I think Serena sounded a bit better under Wayland, it was around here she started to sound more like a teenager than a 10 year old girl especially (not Haven Paschall's fault, though, talented actress constrained by this director IMO).

Finally, Lisa Ortiz is the current director (she was one of the original 4Kids VAs for the Series, but relegated back then to countless minor roles, her most major being Sabrina and Flannery under 4Kids in Pokémon OS-AG) and...I think she's a much better voice actress (Dogasu may hate her, but I don't, I think she has a very pretty voice tbqh) than a voice director. Again, see her predecessor, I just haven't seen a discernable difference between her, Wayland, or Buchheister's approaches to date. The only real thing I noticed that's changed is Sarah's Ash went higher pitched around SM vs. XY, and also got more effeminate and somewhat forced when yelling, but that's it to me (and she likes to give Pokémon dub voices for some reason that didn't get them prior under any other VO director, Ash's Bayleef being the biggest casualty in the JN Series but I'll give her that at least she rectified it, far too late for me but it's something?). I feel like her cosplay approach is cute and all, but it's not ideal or serious enough (you can call me a stiff or whatever, but I think VA should be taken seriously in the director's chair even if they should have fun with it too sometimes).

That covers the main Series, really, now to delve into other voice directors for the side projects.

The Evolutions one, IDK who it is, was okay. Nothing special, a lot of generic voices cast everywhere and often times without concern to me for eliciting varied emotions and such, but serviceable. I don't hate whoever this was, better than the Generations director (we'll get to that soon, I promise!).

The Origins one, Bob Buchholz, has had prior experience with kid-centric Anime in Digimon and I thought did a good job. His choice for Red wasn't ideal, but he managed to still get Papenbrook to emote pretty well & I liked his pick for Brock more than Armen Mazlumian's current main one, even if I prefer Stuart's w/the same applying for Professor Oak as well in Hebert. He also cast Jamieson Price well as Giovanni, IMO, and generally it felt like he did at least care about the end product. However, I didn't think Hebert's Oak or JYB's Brock were anything more than average on the whole, and he should've cast a woman as Red even if Bryce is a fine VA and I don't have any issues w/him outside of the age range. Lucien Dodge as Blue was decent, same thing applies though as w/Red in hindsight here.

The Generations one, Mrs. Stern...I didn't like it at all. It just felt rushed, haphazard, and like they phoned in most of their takes while recording them all in one go. She didn't even seem to try, and just cast high profile LA VAs based on name recognition, and it turned out extraordinarily badly both for her as well as these VAs, who I KNOW can do far better (and in fact, have!) in the past as has she in multiple roles.

Chronicles...Anthony Salerno was VERY hit or miss. I did think he had some worthwhile contributions (Eusine/"Eugene," Flint, and Forrest) but I hated what he did to the Magikarp Salesman, and several of the other voices as well: I would say he was easily of the three, the worst VO director 4Kids had in their arsenal though sadly.

Lastly, Masters...Kathy Pilon was a fine writer for the Series, I liked her a lot vs. JCC's writing in fact, she was the later 4Kids dub writer head after Haigney dropped that role around Season 5 and she did quite well in most regards. However, as much as I haven't been the biggest fan of Natochenny's Ash, I thought even Ortiz did a better job w/her in the main Anime than this raspy, scratchy effeminate gruff mess that it was in this video game, Cathcart's James/Knotz's Jessie sounded the same as they always do to me so no change, etc. etc. Melody's May was...just middling, not a match for Taylor either to me, and Bauer/Arciniega's Brock was fine voice wise but his acting was as flat as a pancake and rather dull/stiff to me.

So, what are your thoughts? (Whew, I'm tired!)
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I voted Michael Haigney and Darren Dunstan, the rest of them sucked. The other voice directors of the anime took the characters in a bad direction voice wise with no chance of recovery, Origins was hit and miss, the others had lower lows than Origins with the highs not even being nearly as high.

If I was forced to choose only one I would go with Darren Dunstan, I didn't notice a decline or even change for most characters, new characters were cast very well, and the ones that changed I actually preferred like James.
I voted Michael Haigney and Darren Dunstan, the rest of them sucked. The other voice directors of the anime took the characters in a bad direction voice wise with no chance of recovery, Origins was hit and miss, the others had lower lows than Origins with the highs not even being nearly as high.

If I was forced to choose only one I would go with Darren Dunstan, I didn't notice a decline or even change for most characters, new characters were cast very well, and the ones that changed I actually preferred like James.
If I’m forced to pick one period I’d go with Michael Haigney and his other two fill ins, but I liked what Darren Dunstan did to Veronica’s Ash and Eric’s Butch vs prior whereas I didn’t like where he took Eric’s James as much personally (I still didn’t outright hate it, though, I could tolerate it the whole way through his run at least and I actually miss that take given what Cathcart’s turned into for the majority of his tenure with the role and even Bosco’s is a little worse so far to me than he was there even if a bit of a step up from what Cathcart’s rendition had become by the end of his run to me).

I hope everyone comments regardless of different opinions and votes, so far it’s interesting to see who is winning overall (warms my heart it’s not who I expected, for the main Series I liked 4Kids in both Eras most & for side Series Origins direction most while I disliked TPCi’s Wayland era most in the main Series as well as Stern in Generations direction the most overall).
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