The Death of the Canadian Dub

Lately the idea of a Canadian voice cast tackling the world of anime hasn’t been all that big of late. There’s a few reasons for that, a strong Canadian dollar, the current anime industry’s economics, and a lack of desire to get a dub to help ensure a show gets a broadcast up here.

But before we go into the why, we need to see how bad it really is. The three main cities in Canada that do the audio work (in the order of body of work) are Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. Of those three, the only one confirmed to be working on anime projects is Toronto with Beyblade: Metal Fusion, and Bakugan: Gundalian Invaders.

The Vancouver scene was the one who took the largest of hits. Vancouver’s Ocean Productions (also known as Ocean Group, and Ocean Studios) was one of the bigger studios who took most of the work in all of North America. Now, in 2010, the last dub they produced was for Viz, in the shojo title NANA. NANA’s first DVD set was released in September of last year. Ocean currently doesn’t have any announced projects. Previous Ocean dubs include InuYasha, Death Note, and Black Lagoon. The Vancouver scene is the home to many acclaimed voice actors such as Brad Swaile, and Scott McNiel.

Ocean’s sister studio, Blue Water is located in Calgary. They’re the lesser used of the two, and have historically only been hired out to do low budget work. While their output was cut back, they’re still doing work. Recent titles include HunterxHunter, Deltora Quest, and Pretty Cure. Previous titles include Zeta Gundam, G Gundam, and the alternate English dubs of DragonBall and DragonBall GT.

The Toronto voice acting scene is the least used of the three in Canada. You can literally list all the titles dubbed in the city and see very little. The city’s claim to anime fame is for the dub of Sailor Moon. The city was the least hit of the three, in fact when the other two were losing work the Toronto scene was gaining. But there’s a saying that goes like this, “You can’t lose what you don’t have”. That saying is pretty accurate for the Toronto scene, as very little work was done there outside of the failed Toei USA/Geneon tag team, and some of Nelvana, and DiC/Cookie Jar’s backlog. As I mentioned earlier, the only anime work being done in the city now are Beyblade, and Bakugan. Which to be fair, is more than what the city was home to a few years back. Although those two titles are produced by Nelvana, a Canadian company.

Now raises the question of why. Well, it all comes down to money: who’s got it, who doesn’t, and how much.
The death of anime distributor Geneon Entertainment was a major loss for the Canadian voice acting community. Geneon, along with Viz, and Bandai were the only major R1 companies who used Canadian talent. When Geneon, one of the largest anime distributors in North America, went down it shook the entire industry. They were one of the few companies to license everything under the sun, and give it a dub. Their demise was a precursor to events to follow.

With Geneon dead came the realization that the anime industry truly was in a severe decline. Studios began to cut back heavily on the titles they picked up. This is especially true for Bandai Entertainment. Once a major force in the anime industry with a large variety of titles being released annually, to today. Bandai Entertainment is a company who can’t release a series without it being delayed multiple times. They have only a small handful of titles that are ongoing, and of that handful, few are receiving a dub. As one might expect, with so little work to go around, many studios have become quite competitive with their prices.

Viz is an interesting company. They’ve paid for countless dubs and have only partially released them, or have never released them at all (Uncut Blue Dragon, and Zoids: Genesis, I’m looking at you). The company always prided itself as a manga company, and never an anime studio, so it was never leading in terms of series being released. But now things are even worse. Viz’s current lineup of ongoing series include Bleach, Naruto, and Pokemon (of which they distribute for Pokemon USA). None of those are dubbed in Canada. Although to be fair, they do have InuYasha: The Final Act in the pipelines, and that has a Canadian dub.

So with few companies who still outsource audio work (as Funimation, and Sentai Filmworks do their work in house in Texas) releasing such meager amounts of content, price wars were bound to happen, and they did. Bang Zoom Entertainment just outside of Los Angeles, California has reportedly slashed their audio costs by such a large margin that they’re receiving the bulk of the audio work now. Leaving the other big voice acting cities (Vancouver, Calgary, and New York) to pick up the scraps. But why aren’t Ocean and Blue Water being price competitive? Well, the loonie is preventing that.

Many of the Canadian dubs we’ve seen over the years were only produced simply because our dollar was so low that it allowed foreign companies to get their work done here cheaper than in the US. However, the loonie has soared due to the US dollar taking a beating, meaning the Canadian studios lost their price advantage. Now with American studios cutting recording costs to record lows, there’s simply no real reason to send work up here. Especially since a Canadian dub no longer means a Canadian broadcast.

Ever wonder why Canada got an alternate dub of DragonBall, Z, and GT? Well, those alternate dubs were all produced in Canada. Being that they were produced in Canada, they counted as Canadian content, and would help fill in the CRTC’s mandates of Canadian programming. This would encourage broadcasters to pick up anime if it had a Canadian dub. Just think about it, what were some of the first older youth oriented anime series to air on YTV? Escaflowne, Gundam Wing, InuYasha, and Gundam SEED. Guess where all those shows were dubbed at? Ocean Studios in Vancouver. In fact, most of the anime series YTV has aired over the years had their English audio work done in Canada. The problem is, YTV isn’t biting anymore (I’ll explain why YTV isn’t biting in the future). While I doubt many Canadian dubs were done with the intention of getting a Canadian broadcaster interested, it sure didn’t hurt. Getting on a TV channel meant more exposure, more exposure means more fans, and more DVDs sold.

Despite having written over 1000 words about doom and gloom, it’s not that bad for the actual voice acting talent. While anime work has decreased significantly, there has been a much greater increase in foreign demand for Canadian animation, as well as an increase in video game work. That said, some of the more prolific Canadian voice actors have either opened an at home studio, or have moved to the US to get more voice acting work. The anime industry in North America is on the cusp of a rebound, and eventually our dollar will go back to its normal power.

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    • Bernard
    • August 22nd, 2010

    Anime in Canada is like in a crisis right now. Hope this will change back to the glory days soon.

    • Rajesh Motie
    • March 20th, 2011

    Canada seems to get landed with all the merchandise-driven anime (like Pokemon and Bakugan) and the magical girl anime (like Sailor Moon and Pretty Cure). Not only that, but the american based anime companies (such as FUNimation) seem to be practically hoarding all other anime.

    • Rajesh Motie
    • March 20th, 2011

    Whoops, actually no, Pokemon isn’t based in Canada.

  1. This is actually depressing, and Bakugan is terrible. UGH.

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