The latest Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot DLC is a nice throwback to the original Dragon Ball anime. It covers the final battle with Demon King Piccolo and the events of the Piccolo Jr. Saga, specifically the 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament. It’s the most work the English voice cast has done on Dragon Ball material before Dragon Ball Z since 2010. This game also marks the most work the newer English cast members who never worked on the original anime have done for this part of the series. In this sense, it invites the idea of the modern voice cast redubbing the rest of the original anime.
The last time Funimation dubbed the original Dragon Ball was between 2001 and 2003. However, the dub cast for Dragon Ball has changed significantly in the 20 years since that dub came out. Fans have come to appreciate the new voices and refined talent of the modern cast, which makes hearing them work on the original anime all the more desirable. Kakarot’s DLC is just a taste of what the Dragon Ball anime could sound like now. Hearing a complete dub with new voices, well-honed voice acting, and some newly spiced-up dialogue could be a dream come true.
When Was Early Dragon Ball Dubbed?
Funimation has yet to release a full redub of the original Dragon Ball. Anyone looking to buy or stream it will be greeted with the same dub used in the early 2000s. This makes the modern cast’s infrequent dubs of bits and pieces of the original Dragon Ball story something to cherish. The only piece of Dragon Ball media that’s been fully dubbed since the early 2000s is Curse of the Blood Rubies. This movie loosely covered events from the first arc of Dragon Ball before transitioning into a wholly unique story; all Dragon Ball movies did something like this. Funimation opted to redo this movie with its in-house dub cast from 2010, around the same time they dubbed Dragon Ball Z Kai.
Because of this, the film is a microcosm of what a full-on modern dub of Dragon Ball would sound like. Dragon Ball Z Kai could also have scenes dubbed. The original Dragon Ball Z had clips of characters reminiscing on moments from Dragon Ball; Bulm and Yamcha becoming a couple, Goku’s fights against Tien and Piccolo Jr., etc. Since these scenes were adapted into Kai, the dub cast had an opportunity to try out their newfound talent in these brief moments. However, most of the dub’s opportunities to tackle the original Dragon Ball come from video games. Most Dragon Ball fans recall the cast as they sounded in their initial dub of DBZ. However, the changes that would lead to what they got in Kai were steadily implemented through the games; this is how they got new voices for actors of the same character, characters whose actors were swapped out entirely, and so on. The English cast technically did a full redub of Dragon Ball’s story through Origins (2008) and Revenge of King Piccolo (2009), but if the anime were redubbed now, it would sound more like what was presented in Kakarot’s DLC.
How Has the Dragon Ball Dub Changed Over the Years?
One of the most prominent changes to how Dragon Ball is now dubbed comes in the form of kid Goku. He used to be voiced by Stephanie Nadolny, but she was steadily phased out around 2010. Kid Goku and Gohan are now performed by Colleen Clinkenbeard instead, who also took on the role of Mai. The voice Clinkenbeard uses for Kid Goku and Gohan in Dragon Ball is the same one she uses for Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece. Her experience with the latter anime has helped her develop a broad range of expression, which makes her an ideal fit for another main character like Goku. As for whether she’s better than Nadolny, that’s a matter of personal preference. Meanwhile, Sean Schemmel plays the same version of Teen Goku he did in the 2000s dub. There’s a notable youthfulness in this slightly higher-pitched performance, which matches this Goku somewhere between his kid self and DBZ self.
That said, Schemmel plays the youthfulness up more than he did in the anime dub. Christopher Sabat’s development as a voice actor is also apparent through his performances as King Piccolo, Piccolo Jr., and Kami. All three are more expressive in the Kakarot DLC, and Piccolo Jr. almost sounds like a different person. This new content shows how much Sabat has developed his craft over the last 20 years. The same can be said of the other returning actors like Schemmel, Mike Mcfarland, Cynthia Cranz, and Sonny Strait. Of course, this is still video game voice acting. Some lines still have awkward readings because of the differences in dubbing the anime and games. There are traces of good voice acting, but they need the proper voice direction of an anime dub to make a more finished product.
When Can A Redub of the Original Dragon Ball Be Expected?
Unfortunately, there are no plans to redub Dragon Ball. The series will continue to be sold with the same audio it had in the early 2000s. There is no monetary incentive to redub the series. The best chance of seeing the original Dragon Ball story redubbed is if Toei Animation gives it the Kai treatment. A “new version” of this anime licensed in English would be the push needed to get the new voice actors into the booth to read lines for kid Goku and Co. However, there are no talks of such a remaster in the works either. Dragon Ball doesn’t warrant a long-term commitment to new material.
Thus, most of the current franchise is focused on the more popular parts of the series, like Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super. Only occasional dips into the past, like the Kakarot DLC, will ever be made. Unless something proves the fantasy adventure will be as profitable as the sci-fi action series Dragon Ball became, things will continue to be played safe. Of course, this approach to presenting early Dragon Ball means an English redub will always be tantalizingly close. There may come a day when the original anime is deemed profitable enough to revisit. Until then, fans must make do with either the 2000s embodiment of the English dub’s unrefined infancy or the morsels of what could be today. Both are decent options for different reasons, but they also tease English audiences with the idea of something more.
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