Was the Digimon Dub Better Than You Remember?

Was the Digimon Dub Better Than You Remember?


As a kid born in the early 90s my first experiences
with anime were pretty much defined by the era of hack dubs. Like we mentioned in a previous video, these
were the end results of Western companies heavily editing and repurposing a foreign
property for the sake of making it appeal to a young western audience. Most of the time, the purpose of these dubs
wasn’t so much to preserve a show’s original message for a non-Japanese audience as much
as it was to generate a brand that could be used as a means to facilitate merchandise. Saban Entertainment were not strangers to
repurposing foreign media for marketing purposes, ESPECIALLY before the turn of the century
when those practices were arguably the standard for localization. However, while that frame of reference might
serve to explain some of the arguably dated anime dubs that were produced at the time,
this reality can also serve to make something like Saban’s English adaptation of the original Digimon Adventure standout for the exact opposite reasons. After reaching out to Jeff Nimoy, the English
voice of Tentomon as well as one of the episode writers and story editors for the first two
Adventure seasons, he clarified that, as was the case with many shows airing on network
television, there was tight policing on what Digimon was and wasn’t allowed to show. Even today nothing goes on the air without
lawyers, producers, and a department of Broadcast Standards and Practices seeing it first. Back then, there was a stronger stigma against
“repeatable behaviors”, or scenes which display dangerous actions children could imitate. These scene included handling dangerous objects,
acts of violence or substance abuse and this was maybe most evident with any scene involving
alcohol as the staff had to get creative coming up with other…interesting ways to show characters
“hitting the sauce”. WIZARDMON: “Alright but if I show you, you have to promise not to tell anyone.” “C’mon, show me!” WIZARDMON: “Alright, it’s a bottle of green chilly sauce. It’s great on tacos!” However, the Digimon dub didn’t actually
have much in the way of removed scenes or cut footage and when it did, they were almost
always kept at a minimum such as quick cuts of characters fists actually making contact
with each other without completely omitting the fact that 2 characters were fighting. According to Mr Nimoy, time was a factor that
needed to be considered because you can only cut so much and still wind up at 22 minutes
worth of animated footage, the standard running time without commercials. Especially since
some scenes already needed to be cut to fit Western commercial breaks. So, when something deemed unsuitable for broadcast
was too long to cut, sometimes the staff had to make the story work by dubbing over it
as something else. For example, in episode 30, the main characters
spend a few minutes attempting to hitchhike a ride from strangers which could be deemed
as behaviour that most american parents wouldn’t want their kids to repeat. So instead, their dialogue was changed to
looking for a taxi or trying to get the attention of a police car, actions that still lend themselves
to the footage presented on screen without much deviation from what the characters are
hoping to accomplish. MATT: “The police? That’s his brilliant idea?” In the original version, the kids do actually
get picked up by a random stranger who only stops because he takes a liking to the girls
in the group which was of course re-worked so that the man was actually Sora’s cousin. Aside from snippets of the characters holding
up their thumbs, the only part of this segment that was noticeably cut was the scene right
before them getting picked up where Matt tries calling a ride, only for a grown woman to
pull up and seduce him to get in the car. Bear in mind that not a single one of these kids is older than 11 years old. TAI: “Not so easy is it, Matt?” MATT: “Well at least my cat’s not stuck in a tree!” Outside of similar moments of explicit material,
the ADR staff had a large hand in what to cut to fit their story but hardly ever seemed
to abuse it and there appeared to be an active, conscious push to show that the series could
find an audience with young viewers without completely changing it into something that
it clearly wasn’t supposed to be. The western insert song for Ultimate Digivolution,
“Hey Digimon,” sets us up with the overall premise: “7 young friends go to camp for
the summer and wind up living in a digital land” but the baggage they carry with them
throughout their whole journey could come off as more relatable than anything other
localized anime dared to even acknowledge at the time. While it’s true that every main character
in the series can be defined by a dominant character trait which easily fit them into
stereotypes that kids could find appealing, not only did the show embrace them almost
unapologetically, but it even found the time to show that at least some of those traits
could be grounded in relatable, real world issues. MATT: “I kept saying TK needed me, but really… I was the one that needed him.” GABUMON: “What do you mean?” Matt wasn’t JUST the typical moody, lone
wolf rival. He was a child of divorce, actively trying
to act cool so he could be seen as strong and reliable to his younger brother. Whenever he clashed with Tai, who aligned
himself more with the typical hotheaded shounen protagonist, it almost always felt more like
an outlet for dealing with an ever growing inferiority complex then it was just a petty
rivalry. TENTOMON: “I simply can’t understand this pre-occupation with who you are. Is there some kind of deep dark secret in your origins?” IZZY: “Oh, well…” Izzy wasn’t just a social awkward computer nerd. He was a kid who discovered he was actually
adopted at an early age and had to come to terms with how he felt about his parents after
discovering that they’d been hiding this fact from him. While we’ve seen what heavily bogging down
viscerally violent subject matter had done to shows like One Piece when they were first
localized, we shouldn’t forget that difficult real world living situations were also commonly
cut or altered. Granted, tiptoeing around Joey Wheeler’s
family situation in Yu-Gi-Oh! or tweaking Chumley’s alcoholic father in GX might not have affected
the main overarching narratives of those shows. However, while troubled family backstories
and personal self reflection sound minor in a story where the end of the world is constantly
at stake, the main characters need to come to terms with these insecurities and fears
in order for their Digimon partners to get stronger. Removing or replacing this context with something
less intense would not only cause the very impetus for story progression to change which
could bleed into every other aspect of the show’s localization (like what ironically happened
with One Piece), but when you’re given that additional context, it can arguably make these
characters feel more like real people. KAE: “Everybody thinks that he’s always perfect, but that’s too much to expect of him! We’ve got to give him some freedom to become his own man. Y’know? He’s got to make mistakes. That’s part of what it is to be a kid, don’t you think so?” As fun and imaginative as it could be, Digimon wasn’t just a silly power fantasy without consequences. Force or push for that growth artificially,
and the show will make it an active point to remind you just how much worse things could end up. As long as something dangerous wasn’t literally
shoved on the screen, then the staff seemed to think that there was no reason to remove
these important moments of character introspection, and in hindsight, maybe drawing the line there
explains how the series was also able to keep its cultural roots; not hiding the fact that
the story took place in Japan and keeping the cast canonically Japanese, something that was exceptionally rare for anime that was localized during the 90s. Japanese text wasn’t edited out, Japanese
cities were regularly called by their proper names, and while a few of the character names
were changed, these acted almost more like suggestions rather than full-on replacements. Characters like Tai, Matt and Izzy had their
names abbreviated into nicknames, but in the first episode you see their full, Japanese
name displayed. Granted I have no idea why Tai’s surname
was changed into a completely different one that was still Japanese…but I digress. None of this may sound impressive or surprising
by today’s standards where Japanese studios are more protective of their properties’ overseas
identities and most dubbing companies do everything they can to preserve the spirit of the original
material. But I think sometimes we get so caught up
in the dated cheesiness and puns of days long past that it’s easy to forget just how seriously
something like Digimon was trying to treat its young audience. Maybe the reason why Digimon still has a place in the hearts of so many Western anime fans is because the English versions of those characters
still showed us that we weren’t alone going through similar struggles, and that sometimes
relying on others to help you come to terms with those situations isn’t such a bad idea. MATT: “Ever since then, I’ve been alone. I figured if my family didn’t want me the I would just keep to myself and never tell anyone what I was feeling. And I swore I would never let anyone see me cry. But really…all I wanted to do was cry.” This is not a novel concept by any means, ESPECIALLY
for children’s programming, and the dub will go out of its way to constantly beat that
message over your head with as much additional offscreen dialogue as possible, but building
that message as the solution to feelings that can, at times, even be hard to explain to
adults shouldn’t be downplayed. IZZY: “I pretended to myself I hadn’t heard anything. Then I made believe I had misunderstood. Then I tried to wipe it from my mind and just act like everything was the same as before. But it wasn’t. And…I didn’t mean to but I just started drifting away from you a little more each day.” I wonder if there were any kids who were going through similar issues at home or in their
social circles that ended up seeing a little of themselves in these characters? And if you didn’t end up relating to them back then, maybe you’d find yourself relating to them now? JOE: “I’ve gotta be the cautious one around here.” I can firmly say that as a kid my least favorite character was Joe Kido because, compared to
everyone else, he was this neurotic pessimist who didn’t know how to have fun. But now I see the pressure he carried trying
to look after everyone and why he was seen as the most reliable of the group. Sora feeling depressed despite so many people
looking up to her because she thinks she’s not worthy of being loved is a state of mind
that I still struggle with to this day in my late 20s. And even TK, the youngest character in the
show, has to confront the fact that his friend dies in front of him. This was arguably circumvented by the fact
that Digimon reincarnate but when they do “die” it’s treated as a legitimate death
with a lot of emotional weight. WIZARDMON: “I don’t have any regrets. If I hand’t met you… my life would’ve had no meaning. I’m glad that you and I were friends.” I can only speculate as to why Digimon was
handled in such a way, but even allusions to ghosts and other religious symbols were
usually preserved despite that still being a touchy subject for many properties across
different platforms of entertainment. It’s possible that they had an idea of what
kids could handle and trusted they could understand what they were supposed to take away from
the series. Despite acts of violence being edited out,
the context of those actions remained. Kids still fought over not understanding each
other’s feelings even if we never actually saw a single punch connect, and the physical, emotional
scars left by our villains were still exposed even if we didn’t get to see exactly HOW
they were inflicted. We were given an idea of what “evil people”
were capable of and this might’ve been kept in because it’s an important thing for children
to distinguish at a young age. Not only did that help reinforce our desire
to see the villains get taken out by the good guys that we could relate to, but it also
helped give kids a proper frame of reference regarding what a bad person in the real world
might actually do. Given the show’s success, that might’ve
set the standard moving forward as subsequent seasons would handle even darker subject matters. Tamers is still beloved by anime fans to this
day specifically because of how dark it could get but even in season 2 of Adventures, coming
to terms with feeling responsible for the death of others was still a very prominent
thematic beat. KEN: “Not again! Wormmon’s gone… just like my brother. I was helpless to save him and now I can’t save Wormmon either!” Granted that desire to maintain as much as
possible didn’t always work as sometimes those aforementioned expectations of the era
will get in the way of the dub’s ability to communicate these ideas as effectively as
the original version. Digimon still had its entire soundtrack replaced
with music that felt like it had its fingers firmly on the pulse of what was popular in
America at the time, with silly triumphant-sounding horns blasting in the background as if the
producers were terrified that any moment of silence would run the risk of boring any children
watching. Episode editing might’ve been limited, but
everything can still feel rushed leaving very little room to breathe when paired with so
much of that extra aforementioned off-screen dialogue. I respect the writing team for properly adapting
as much of the show’s humor as they could because sometimes supposed moments of tonal whiplash
were carried over from the original series, but while there were moments where proper
workarounds were found for more Japan-centered references, others can still come off as incredibly awkward. JOE: “Bakemon lose your power… Bakemon lose your power… Bakemon lose your power…” Plus, we can’t just ignore the various jokes
and puns that were crammed into almost every other scene to help make the show carry an overall lighter tone then what could be found in the original. FRIGIMON: “Hey dad are we there yet?” FRIGIMON: “Heh sorry, I just had to say that.” However if anything had to be cut or altered in
Digimon…I’m glad it wasn’t its heart. Throughout almost every season, Digimon as
a franchise showed us that you don’t always have to have the literal weight of the world on your shoulders for life to feel daunting and confusing. In fact, it’s almost never going to stop
feeling that way even as we get older. When you put your trust in the right people
who can help you find something in yourself nobody else might’ve, then that’s when
you have the potential to grow stronger and rise to the challenges that lie ahead. After all, Digimon weren’t the only ones
who could evolve and change their forms into something special and new. Regardless of how the franchise is seen now,
imagine what would have happened if so much of these details weren’t preserved. Would so many Western fans facilitate a rapport
so deep that it would continue to span generations? There’s still so much more about the Digimon
dubs that I don’t know about and I would love to do a follow up in the future that
answers some of these questions should the opportunity present itself. But for now, I think it’s enough to simply
look back, respect that fact that there were people working on this show who treated us
kids with some respect…and smile, after being reminded that even now, us DigiDestined were never alone. So a few special thank you’s are in order. Firstly to Jeff Nimoy for proofreading parts
of this script and answering my questions so I could have a better understanding of
what the dub’s production was like. As well as to Marissa Lenti for helping me
go over noteworthy examples, proofreading and just being an amazing Digimon fan who
helped inspire this video. Finally, thank you to everyone that’s tuning
in and supporting our channel, including Marissa Lenti, Regan Senpai, Seth Phillips, JRPictures, Spartacus, and Unknown Secret 1000. If you enjoyed this video, please leave a
like, share it around and tell us your favorite thing about the digimon dubs in the comments
down below. This has been the Cartoon Cipher and…until
next time.

57 thoughts on “Was the Digimon Dub Better Than You Remember?”

  1. In before the actual video comes out, because I'm a huge Digimon nerd and I'm excited.
    But I personally adore the dubs of Digimon a lot. I think they're in some ways better than most give them credit for. Especially the dub of Tamers- they didn't hold back on any of the dark content.

  2. Fun Digimon is the undisputed greatest animated series of all time. You may disagree with me, but I said undisputed, so you aren't allowed to.

  3. Nooooo BIIIIIIIIIIG NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I rewatched so I can safely say NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

  4. Agreed. While the first arc of Adventure definitely had a very flawed dubbing job(gosh, I wish they redubbed it a bit to make it more in-line with the quality of the other arcs), the rest of the arcs were greatly done. The voice actors were perfectly cast for their respective characters. Much better casting compared to the Japanese version. I mean, Matt sounds like he's in his 20s in the Japanese version. Lol.
    And considering the standards of the time and the guidelines they needed to follow for the network, they did an awesome job in adapting the general themes and plot of Adventure.
    Although I do wish that the original music was preserved. Overall, the Japanese soundtrack is superior, but I don't mind the English soundtrack as whole, aside from constant repetition.
    Oh, and who can't forget Elvismon(Etemon)? Lol.
    Tbh, Adventure 2, Tamers, and even Frontier had really good dub jobs

  5. Ivan Back From The Card Shop

    What do you mean better I clearly remember smash mouth in the movie it doesn't get better than that. jokes aside their are many bad changes in dub like most anime at the time but it got a better treatment than most and I also like a lot of the voices chosen

  6. 9:58 Wizardmon's death was special because digimon can't come back normally when killed in the real world due to the fact Primary Village doesn't exist there. That's why Myotismon had to jump through hoops to return and why Hurricane Touchdown isn't canon. (This isn't up for debate btw, there's not a single legitimate point to be brought up, all references to it were dub-exclusive and there's more evidence that it isn't canon, Tri had no one reacting to Orphanimon and it was a different writer, "it's not been officially called non-canon" is also not a legitimate point, they don't need to explicitly say it isn't, it's plainly obvious to anyone with working ears and eyes)

  7. I wouldn't say excatly better but it's still passable for what it was at the time. All I can say is that some of the dubbed lines borderline from incredibly cringy to hilarious at times. But when they hit on the emotional moments, they hit hard.

  8. I was never really into Digimon when I was a kid, or even now. Sure, I watched an episode of Tamers on ABC Family once, and found it a breath of fresh air that, unlike Pokemon, Digimon were capable of human speech and could revert back to their original forms after evolving, but I never found it a priority to watch it beyond that one time. Which is probably more foolish than my decision to just deal with the stuff 4Kids did to its properties that I bothered to watch.
    That said, great video.

  9. I always like the dub for what it showed as a kid and thought it had a better quality compared other dubs especially 4kids

  10. Mystic Mind Analysis

    One of the episodes I vividly remember returning to was from the second season. Cody was both battling with a personal phobia of being trapped underwater, as well as his personal moral code over lying. Few other "Kids" anime at the time would ever present the concept of white lies or moral ambiguity in such a way. Even when there were such clearly defined extremes of good and evil, there were still some who weren't so clearly defined.

    I'd also argue that Shaman King was a dub which was relatively untouched, especially by 4kids standards! Like with Digimon, most of the names were presented as abbreviation or nicknames of the Japanese names. Many of the special move names from the Japanese were kept, including many cultural references. Not to mention some of the darker elements with Faust!

    Also like with the Digimon dub, the few changes they did make preserved the original context regardless. I don't know how much, if anything, Digimon's success influenced this, but it's not something I expected from a 4kids dub!

  11. I have a question about the Digimon dubs, one of the greatest mysteries about them: Why wasn't Digimon Savers The Movie dubbed? There's two major hypothesis regarding this (it sucked and it may have been too dark) but I want to know what the real, definitive reason is.

  12. Adrian Dezendegui

    Digimon is like the Megadeth to mainstream basic Pokemon's Metallica. The superior underdog series. I always appreciated this dub

  13. At Animation is Film 2018, Mamoru Hosoda was presenting his at-the-time new film Mirai. I attended and stayed through the Q&A afterwards, at which a healthy variety of the questions referenced Digimon, Hosoda's first directoral work. There was the typical who's your favorite digimon (agumon) and so on, and I couldn't help but wonder if Hosoda-san felt awkward that the questions weren't all focused on his new work. Until he posed a question back at an unsuspecting audience member, asking "How old were you when you first watched my Digimon?" The person asking, probably in his mid-20s, answered that he must've been about 7 back then. Hosoda replied "My, how you've grown!"

    The room laughed but I think it's worth remembering that those were truly the words of a director who saw something in children that many adults wouldn't, even 20 years ago at the start of his career, and that in some way, it's little wonder that spirit would cross even the cultural barrier in making Digimon Adventure a piece for the ages.

  14. Hate to be that guy, but it’s “WE Digidestined are never alone “.
    But anyway, Digimon was and always will be a big part of my life, and I agree with everything here. The music was weird, but it was one of the most memorable things for me.

  15. About Tai’s surname becoming Kamiya. I’ve heard it was because it was a mistranslation of Yagami that they realized too late and just stuck with it. But so far it just seems like a rumor, I’ve never seen it being outright confirmed.

  16. Waking up every morning catching the latest Digimon episode before school was the best. That's one of the things i loved most about Digimon is that it told a long story with actual character development. Nowadays it's in every cartoon, but back then I wasnt used to that! It treated me like an adult, it didnt talk down to me.

  17. That “in memory of Michael Lindsay and Robert Axelrod” bit at the end really got me. I don’t think I even knew they had both passed away. Great vid, guys.

  18. my parents got divorced when i was four years old. it was very traumatic and digimon really made me feel more comfortable with knowing that other kids went through things like that. my household was not open about emotions and digimon also really helped with that when they talked about it.
    good show, good show. <3

  19. I think a comparison between Digimon and Pokemon should be in the list there. For me, I always thought Digimon was the better show than Pokemon especially in it's early seasons, but then when I tried to start up a discussion I would be met with "they were different types of shoes so a comparison wasn't fair." And yes they did like Pokemon more than they liked Digimon which was fair but not wanting the comparison discussion tells me that maybe they tested having the fact that Pokemon in it's early years wasn't that good of a show to begin with, and having a two decade long attachment could be why they're so averse to coming to terms with the fact that the writing a Pokemon doesn't hold up as well as other shows at the time.

  20. Tai is and always will be my favorite Digimon character. The journey I went on with him through my life is a special one, as just thinking of him helped me cope with tough times. I always wanted even a slice of his bravery. But I realized the past couple of weeks that my personality is more like Matt's. I end up isolating myself even when I don't want to, and I feel so many things but don't know how to properly react to them. Matt is who I am, Tai is who I want to be, and I treasure both.
    The dub may be goofy at times, but I'm lucky it preserved what it did. Otherwise, I would never have encountered these characters in my childhood as they were intended to be. I wish this video picked Jeff Nimoy's brain a bit more, but it was still a good way to spend 15 minutes.

  21. I think that Tai's last name was changed because Yagami can be seen as "I'm a gay" spelled backwards. But thats just what ive heard.

  22. 11:38 that's where that sound is from…I had dreams with that sound and couldn't figure out where it came from! D: omg

  23. Before watching the video: I rewatched Digimon 01-Frontier recently, I adore what this series has done with it's characters. I'm tempted to make my own video about some of the elements I like.
    ie Blackwargreymon and Impmon.
    After watching Video: It's kinda weird if I remember right Joe has two brothers but the dub made them into one older brother.

  24. I don't think I would be the anime fan I am today if they had dumbed all the drama/dark parts. I'm thankful for that.

  25. DunsparceAndDiglett

    When I think of the anime dub I think of Richard Epcar as Myotismon/Etemon, how magnaangemon's skills grew old like his voice, and how often they keep making that Man/mon joke. (Why don't you come down and fight like a Mon)

  26. They had a really good voice cast, it was the direction and music that was the issue.

    The same with the voice actors in 02 and ESPECIALLY Tamers

  27. Joe'sShockingToons

    One scene that stuck out to me back in the day when Izzy was told by his parents that he was adopted, but the scene ends peacefully with Izzy still accepting their love. Didn't know anyone at the time that was adopted when I saw the episode as a kid, but it was definitely my first exposure to the concept of adoption and how not all families have the same setup (outside of those that had missing parents/relatives).

  28. Let us not forget that they kept in the cat fight between Angewoman and Ladydevilmon and the implication of Izzy being turned on by it

  29. CaptainRaccoonWhitly

    As a kid, I was often doubted and insecure amongst my peers. Seeing myself in TK, Cody, Jeri and Tomi was really something special with the franchise, as it allowed me to realize that I wasn't alone.

    I think that's why the dubs for the franchise work even now: they're not "perfect" by any means, and they'd only improve as time went on, but that they weren't afraid to let the dramatic beats shine through where possible, even at the expense of some "questionable" content, was something you really only appreciate fully once you hit adulthood. But it also works as a child watcher, too.

    By the way, I'd like to make one small correction: the dub's score DID have one moment of comedic silence: when the kids are on the subway train and Sora's Digimon yells at a baby to stop tugging on her hair, the music stops altogether for a few seconds. Juxtaposed with the moment itself, it's a clever moment of musical artistry that, accidental or not, makes the scene that much funnier.

  30. "Most dubbing companies do everything they can to preserve the spirit of the original material."

    Unfortunately, Funimation can't make that list.

  31. Even as a kid I was REALLY struck by how believable and natural the dub VA's all sounded for the DigiDestined kids; Michael Reisz (Matt) especially REALLY floored me more than once with how sincerely emotional he could get (though funny enough he's one of the only VA's of the original dub that didn't really have a big career otherwise; he did some odd roles here 'n' there but he really wasn't all that prolific, which strikes me as something of a shame).

  32. Japanese Text was in fact edited a lot of the time !
    The moment you showed where Sora reads what Joe wrote on the ground was actually edited in the English version 😉

  33. Honestly the Dub gets more hate than it deserves. Elitist Sub fans write it off as some sort of sin against humanity, but it was just geared towards a different audience. Most of the content is preserved and I would dare say a few small aspects are actually better. There's hiccups sure, the constant jokes can be grating some things aren't conveyed as well as they could be, but overall the show still holds up pretty well today.

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