One of the best ongoing stories in anime and manga is Makoto Yukimura’s “Vinland Saga.” Set in Europe during the 11th century, it follows a young man named Thorfinn, who after having lost his renowned warrior father Thors as a child, has devoted his life to getting revenge on his Viking killer Askeladd. In his blind vengeance, Thorfinn wound up serving under his quarry. As his journey continues and he loses what drove him, Thorfinn learns there’s more to being a warrior than wielding a sword.
The manga, numbering just under 200 chapters, is currently in its final stretch. The anime, meanwhile, is currently in its second season. The first season’s 24 episodes adapted the manga’s first eight-volume arc (out of four major ones), featuring Thorfinn fighting in Askeladd’s band during the Danish invasion of England. Season 2 adapts the second arc, where Thorfinn is enslaved on a Norse plantation and must find a new reason to live.
For American audiences, there are two options to watch “Vinland Saga.” All of season 1 is available on both Netflix and Crunchyroll, and both services are simulcasting new episodes of season 2 — a weekly episode release in conjunction with Japanese airing. One complication is that the two services are producing their own English dubs, with different casts, crews, and scripting — as if deciding to watch a sub or a dub wasn’t enough of a hassle already.
If you’re confused, you’re not alone. So, why are two companies dubbing the same anime, and which one should you watch?
Release Schedule And Distribution Rights
“Vinland Saga” premiered in Japan in 2019 on NHK General TV. The manga had been running since 2005, so the anime came with an established fanbase. Perhaps because of this, it didn’t have to wait years to reach the West as some anime do. Instead, it was confirmed from the outset that Amazon Prime would be streaming the series both in Japan and internationally.
However, Amazon didn’t do a great job — there was no physical release and no English dub. That void would be filled by Sentai Filmworks, a Texas-based anime distribution company responsible for dubbing projects such as “Akame Ga Kill!” and “Food Wars.” Sentai announced in May 2021 that it would release “Vinland Saga” on home media with a new English dub — and a Blu-ray of season 1 arrived a few months later in August. In between, a second season of “Vinland Saga” was confirmed in July.
Almost a year later, in June 2022, it was announced that Netflix, Crunchyroll, and HiDive would join Amazon in streaming “Vinland Saga” globally. Moreover, Netflix would produce its own English dub in conjunction with the VSI Group. Any fan of “Neon Genesis Evangelion” will tell you Netflix likes to have control of the anime dubs it streams. The following month, the Netflix dub’s cast was confirmed with a trailer.
Then in October, both Netflix and Crunchyroll announced they would be simulcasting season 2. Crunchyroll’s dub debuted on January 23, 2023, and reused the Sentai cast. (The dubbing studio for Crunchyroll, previously Funimation, is based in Texas and often uses the same pool of actors as Sentai.) Netflix’s dub arrived later on March 9.
So, which dub of “Vinland Saga” should you watch? Only you can choose, but I’m here to help you make an informed decision. The differences between Netflix’s dub and the Sentai/Crunchyroll one aren’t just in who’s voicing the characters, it’s also in how they speak. The Sentai dub uses more accurate Norse pronunciations (thur-finn, a-sha-lad, vee-kings), while Netflix goes for phonetic (thor-finn, æ-ska-læd, vai-kings).
Furthermore, the text of “Vinland Saga” acknowledges that the Danish and the English speak different languages. However, this doesn’t translate into dialogue, where the audience always hears the same language. This can lead to some dissonance when characters can’t understand each other, despite the audience hearing the same words out of both their mouths.
The Sentai dub tries to reflect this by having its cast employ different accents. English characters have Cockney accents, contrasting American English representing the Danes’ language. The French soldiers in episode 7 and Welsh characters in episode 13 likewise have regionally appropriate accents. The Netflix dub doesn’t bother with any differentiation and has its actors all speak in American-accented English, regardless of their characters’ nationality.
The Lead Performances
Now we get to the real meat of the differences — the performances. Fans have compared the performances before and I think it speaks to both dubs’ quality that for many characters, there isn’t an outright winner. I’ll admit the Netflix dub is the one I watched first, which probably makes me pre-disposed to it. However, I still think it’s worth defending on its own merits.
For starters, there’s Thorfinn. We first meet him as a young child and frankly, Laura Stahl in the Netflix dub blows Shannon Emerick in the Sentai dub out of the water. Thorfinn’s declaration of revenge is laughable in the latter dub compared to Stahl’s pitch-perfect anguish.
Moving onto teenage Thorfinn, Aleks Le in the Netflix dub is just exquisite. Le’s passion for the character bleeds through every line delivery and when he yells, he feels like both a murderous warrior and an angry teenager. In the Sentai/Crunchyroll dub, Mike Haimoto isn’t bad as Thorfinn, but he sounds too old. Conversely, David Wald sounds too young as Askeladd, whereas Kirk Thornton in the Netflix dub sounds fatherly, better emphasizing Askeladd’s relationship with Thorfinn. Wald’s Askeladd is slyer than Thornton’s ill-tempered take, so it comes down to which side of the character you prefer.
Netflix Doesn’t Have Sentai Totally Beat
That’s not to say the Netflix dub has the Sentai dub totally beat with casting. Jason Douglas as Thors in the Sentai dub is the superior performance, sounding older and more paternal compared to Greg Chun’s flat and distant Thors in the Netflix dub.
Prince Canute, the heir to Denmark and England, becomes an increasingly important character as season 1 goes on. He’s voiced by Josh Grelle in the Sentai/Crunchyroll dub and by Griffin Burns in the Netflix dub — I’d say this casting is another victory for the former dub. Burns is good at sounding fragile, but Canute’s arc is about coming out of his shell and Grelle sounds more natural as a king. Season 2 also sees the adult Canute, now a hardened ruler, in an antagonistic role. To reflect that, Grelle reinvents their performance with a deeper, firmer voice. In fairness, Netflix hasn’t dubbed Canute’s season 2 debut yet (episode 5, “Path of Blood”) but just comparing their season 1 performance, I’d be more interested to hear Grelle’s take on this new Canute.
The one I’m undecided on is Thorkell the Tall, a bloodthirsty Viking (and Thorfinn’s grand-uncle) voiced by Patrick Seitz in the Netflix dub and Joe Daniels in the Sentai/Crunchyroll one. Seitz is one of my favorite English voice actors — I adore his acting and ADR directing work on “Monster.” In theory, his deeper voice is a better fit coming out of Thorkell but performance-wise, he often sounds genial — not quite the right vibe. Daniels’ Thorkell, on the other hand, sounds out of his f***ing mind, which complements the characterization better.
When it comes to the supporting cast, I generally prefer Netflix’s choices, such as Ray Chase as Askeladd’s second-in-command Bjorn and Jamieson Price as Canute’s father, King Sweyn.
Owing to the change in studio, the Crunchyroll dub of season 2 saw a crew change compared to Sentai’s work on season 1. At Crunchyroll, the ADR director is Jerry Jewell, while at Sentai, it had been Kyle Colby Jones and John Swasey. This might be why the Crunchyroll dub ditches the accents. In the season premiere, new co-protagonist Einar and his family have American accents despite living in North England. However, I actually preferred Crunchyroll’s version of the premiere.
Ian Sinclair (Einar), Wendy Powell (his mother Emma), and Marisa Duran (his sister Lotta) give their characters more energy and personality, better selling the family bond before disaster strikes. Both dubs nail Einar’s primal scream at his family’s death, but Sinclair sounds broken and Alejandro Saab in the Netflix dub sounds vengeful. Similar to David Wald and Kirk Thornton as Askeladd, I don’t think there’s one clear winner — they’re just different. But then I watched episode 2, heard Aleks Le’s Thorfinn again, and I knew which version I would be sticking with.
If you’re totally new to “Vinland Saga,” Netflix is probably the more convenient option. Despite reusing the Sentai cast, Crunchyroll isn’t offering Sentai’s season 1 dub, leaving viewers with only the subbed option. If you want to watch the Sentai dub, you have to buy the Blu-ray — that’s a big ask for a first-time viewer. If you’re familiar with the series, though, Crunchyroll’s quicker release schedule is definitely tempting. Like the quality of the dubs themselves, one choice isn’t obviously better than the other here.
New episodes of “Vinland Saga” are released on Netflix and Crunchyroll every Monday.
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/Film – Why Are Both Netflix And Crunchyroll Dubbing Vinland Saga?
Author: Devin Meenan
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March 13, 2023