Dubbing anime is one of the lowest-paying voiceover jobs around. Only those with a true passion for the medium may actually succeed. Actors like Christoper Sabat, Johnny Yong Bosch, and Cherami Leigh have carved such rock-solid reputations for themselves that it’s now expected to hear their voices.
But from time to time, a certain celebrity may allocate time in their hectic schedule and lend their skills to an anime production. So, here are 10 celebrities you didn’t know were in an anime dub. By the end of the list, readers may be intrigued to watch these anime and hear these celebrity’s performances for yourself.
Author’s Note: Studio Ghibli movies will be excluded from this list, as they’re already known for casting big-name celebrities.
10 Jennifer Carpenter as Black Widow (Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher)
Jennifer Carpenter will always be remembered for portraying Debra Morgan, the adoptive sister of Dexter Morgan from Dexter. A year after Dexter ended its seven-year run, Carpenter went onto play the scarlet-haired superspy in Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher. An anime co-production by Marvel Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Madhouse; the last of whom are known for popular anime such as No Game No Life, One Punch Man and Death Note.
Just like the name implies the film sees the Avengers’ superspy teaming up with the Punisher to defeat a common enemy. Four years later, Jennifer Carpenter would go onto voice Selina Kyle/Catwoman in 2018’s Batman: Gotham by Gaslight.
9 Norman Reedus as The Punisher (Iron Man: Rise of Technovore)
Continuing the Marvel/Anime streak is Norman Reedus/Daryl Dixon himself as The Punisher! When he’s not launching arrows through zombie’s brain Norman Reedus is lending his fierce voice as Frank Castle in the anime film, Iron Man: Rise of Technovore. As if Norman Reedus couldn’t get any more awesome. This film by Madhouse, who also produced the aforementioned Avengers Confidential: Black & Punisher, follows Tony Stark tracking down the dangerous Ezekial Stane, with assistance from Castle.
Coincidentally, Norman Reedus’s The Walking Dead co-star, Jon Bernthal, would don the skull emblazoned vest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, what would make any Marvel fan’s day? Norman Reedus making a cameo as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, of course! Double fingers crossed that this happens.
8 Matthew Lillard as Eko (Karas)
Wait, the actor who plays Shaggy Rogers and Stu Macher from Scream was in an anime? Surprisingly, yes! Although to be honest it’s not that hard to forget. Karas is arguably the most obscure title on this list. Matthew Lillard plays the main antagonist, Eko, who served as the protector of Tokyo. But now he seeks to remake the city in his image… for some reason.
Honestly, the plot is so nonsensical that even the actors didn’t understand it. It’s basically the anime equivalent of Death Stranding. Despite the convoluted plot, Matthew Lillard delivered an impressive performance and it’s nice to hear him play as a villain again.
7 Evan Rachel Wood as Yi Lin (Flavors of Youth)
Now for the second most obscure title on this list, after Karas. Westworld actress Evan Rachel Woods lends her acting skills to this Japanese-Chinese anime co-production. The anthology film follows the daily exploits of three individuals as they go about their lives in modern China. Evan Rachel Woods plays one of these individuals, fashion model Yi Lin.
Based in Guangzhou, her story is so relatable. Realizing she’s not getting younger Yi Lin begins doubting her future in the fashion industry as more young, aspiring models enter the scene. This one is a really gripping story featuring a character confronting fears anyone would find relatable; a story that Evan Rachel Woods told spectacularly.
6 Tony Hale as The Joker (Batman Ninja)
Remember Buster Bluth from Arrested Development? This is him after watching Joker and losing all sense of morality and sanity. Tony Hale from Veep and Arrested Development joins Mark Hamill and Zach Galifianakis in the long line of actors who’ve voiced the Clown Prince of Crime. And, at the time of writing this article, he has the honor of being the first English speaking actor to play the Joker in an anime.
Batman Ninja is one of the most unique animated Batman films around, as it’s set in a very different feudal Japan. The story sees Batman allying with Nightwing, Catwoman, and Red Hood to stop the Joker from altering history.
5 Bryan Cranston as Fei Long (Street Fighter 2: The Animated Movie)
Yes, before he was Hal from Malcolm in the Middle and way before he was Breaking Bad’s Walter White/Heisenberg, Bryan Cranston was Street Fighter’s Fei Long: the awesome Bruce Lee inspired martial artist. No really, that’s actually Bryan Cranston himself! In fact, he was one of the first actors to voice Fei Long in any medium, alongside Japanese voice actor Masakatsu Funaki.
At the time, Bryan Cranston was an unknown actor doing odd acting gigs, with one of those gigs – surprisingly – being Street Fighter 2. For the film, he was credited under the name Phil Williams. However, for anyone hearing Fei Long in the movie for the first time, it’s clear that this fighter’s voice belongs to the one who knocks.
4 Alison Brie as Natsumi Suga (Weathering With You)
After six seasons of playing Diane Nguyen in Bojack Horseman, Alison Brie puts her voice acting skills to the test in her first anime production. The Community and GLOW actress plays college student Natsumi Suga in Makoto Shinkai’s most recent production, who anime aficionados may remember as the director behind the widely beloved Your Name.
Alison Brie is also joined by two other actors who both coincidentally starred in Marvel films: Lee Pace (Guardians of The Galaxy) and Riz Ahmed (Venom). The casting of the three aforementioned actors marks a significant turning point in Makoto Shinkai’s films, in regards to the casting. After their appearances in Weathering With You, it may become common to hear celebrities in Makoto Shinkai’s films from here onwards,
3 John Cho as The Father (Mirai)
John Cho received widespread recognition when he appeared as Hikaru Sulu in the rebooted Star Trek film, and he is set to star as Spike Spiegel in Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop. Unfortunately, production is on standby after Cho sustained an injury. In the meantime, fans can hear him as the Father in Mamoru Hosoda’s feature-length film, Mirai.
This film broke new grounds by being the first non-Ghibli anime film to be nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2018 Oscars. Just like Weathering With You, this is the first of Mamoru Hosoda’s films to feature a Hollywood actor. John Cho’s casting could mean they’ll be more celebrities appearing in future Mamoru Hosoda films.
2 Josh Hutcherson as Shinjiro Hayata (Ultraman 2016)
Hutcherson actually made his anime debut as Markl in Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle. But after starring high-profile films such as The Disaster Artist and of course, The Hunger Games quadrilogy, it would seem like he’s moved on from anime. This is why it was such a surprise when he was cast in Netflix’s 2016 Ultraman series.
Hutcherson plays the lead role of Shinjiro Hayata, the son of the original Ultraman Shin Hayata. After hanging up his costume, all Shin wants is for his son to lead a normal life – that is, until alien threat arrives on Earth. This spurns Shinjiro to don the armor and become the new Ultraman.
1 James Marsters as Zamasu (Dragon Ball Super)
Being a fan of the original anime series, Marsters accepted the role of King Piccolo in the Dragon Ball Evolution live-action film. When the film received scathing reviews, poor office returns, and endless warranted hate from the Dragon Ball fanbase, one would think Marsters wants nothing to do with the franchise, understandably.
But Shenron beholdeth he makes an unexpected, and triumphant, return as the evil Zamasu in Funimation’s dub of Dragon Ball Super. On top of that, Marsters has gone onto reprise the role in the video games: Dragon Ball Fighters Z and Dragon Ball Legends. Amazingly, this proves his love for the series hasn’t wavered.