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Rising Sun: Rurouni Kenshin – Dub vs. Dub

Two versions of a classic go head-to-head

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Rising Sun: Rurouni Kenshin – Dub vs. Dub

Photo by Jacob Cox

Photo by Jacob Cox

Photo by Jacob Cox

Noah Meyer, Blogger

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Welcome back to Rising Sun! Starting now, every third post is going to be something special and unique, like a Dub vs. Dub, where I compare two translations of an anime show to see which one is better. We’re going to start things off with Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X).

Rurouni Kenshin is a historical fiction series set 10 years into the Meiji Restoration, the period in which Japan was transitioning from a isolated feudal society to what it is today. The narrative follows Kenshin Himura, a wandering samurai once feared as Battosai the Man-Slayer, who has to deal with an impostor as soon as he enters Tokyo, saving the honor of Kaoru Kamiya’s dojo. From that point, the series follows Kenshin has he protects his friends, new and old, while ensuring he doesn’t kill anyone in the process. The series became incredibly popular after Media Blasters released their English dub on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block (henceforth refered to as the Toonami version), but there is also a dub produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment for Southeast Asia’s Animax channels (the Animax version).

Credits and Theme Songs

The Animax version features the original opening and ending credits: the names are written in Japanese and the theme songs are the Japanese originals. On the other hand, the Toonami version gives us English credits and English covers of the theme songs. Personally, I feel the opening theme sounds better in English, but both versions are too high-pitched in my opinion.

Above: Animax Opening, Below: Toonami Opening

The Actual Episodes

Now we get to the really juicy part of Dub vs. Dub, comparing how both translations handle the characters’ names and their dialogue. If I were doing Sailor Moon, it would be an easy verdict: the 2014 redub outdoes the original 1995 dub in almost every way. With Rurouni Kenshin, it’s a little trickier. The Animax version goes the Sailor Moon approach and changes the characters’ names so they’re easier to pronounce. Kenshin becomes Kenji, Kaoru becomes Cory, Yahiko becomes Yoshi, so on and so forth. Also noteworthy is that Kenshin’s discarded alias of Battosai the Man-slayer was changed to Battosai the Slasher, and some of the dialouge at the end of episode 2 is a little confusing, hinting that episode’s antagonists’ return in a later episode (which doesn’t actually happen). But the Toonami version makes a conscious effort to stick to the original scripts, with all the names intact, the Japanese writing accurately translated, and Kenshin’s verbal tics (but not the famous “oro?”) even make the translation. Watch how the Toonami version handles Kenshin’s first encounter with Sanosuke Sagara below.

Which voice actors best suit the characters is a controversial matter, but Rurouni Kenshin makes it less jarring by having Kenshin played by the same actor in both versions of the show. The Animax version’s cast sounds good, but the weaknesses of those scripts undermines their talent and allow the Toonami version to stand out. Since Kenshin has the same actor in both dubs, this isn’t a issue for him.

Conclusion

So the question still stands, which version of Rurouni Kenshin is better? My preferences lie towards the Toonami version, which is available on Crunchyroll. However, since the changes in the Animax dub aren’t as bad as the changes in the original Sailor Moon dub, I can also say the Animax version on Hulu could also be enjoyed by newcomers. Or if you want to dodge the whole issue, watch the original Japanese version on Crunchyroll. Rurouni Kenshin, with colorful characters, fluid animation and a accurate depiction of the Meiji Restoration, is a very appealing series regardless of which dub you watch.

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Rising Sun: Rurouni Kenshin – Dub vs. Dub