"It's just as everyone says, the dubbing is horrid," wrote one individual on Amazon Japan. The Avengers didn't exactly have a smooth rollout in Japan, but it did go on to dazzle audiences. Those who skipped the subtitled version in favor of the dubbed version were not happy campers, however.
Up until The Avengers, Hollywood comic book movies like Iron Man, Thor, or Hulk all used professional voice actors. They're pros for a reason—they're very good at their jobs. And in Japan, there are fandoms surrounding voice actors, with fan clubs and glossy magazines dedicated to them.
For some characters in The Avengers, pro voice actors were replaced with actors. Not every actor is a brilliant voice actor. Naoto Takenaka, a fantastic performer, voiced Nick Fury and was joined by actor-comedian Hiroyuki Miyasako as Hawkeye and model-turned-actor Ryoko Yonekura as Black Widow. They are also quite popular as celebrities in Japan, appearing in commercials and on variety shows, as well as TV dramas and films.
Online in the Amazon Japan reviews, the hatorade was less directed at Miyazako (many said he did a good job with Hawkeye), than the other two. The feeling was that they poisoned the water, clashing with the pro voice actors, such as Keiji Fujiwara as Tony Stark.
"Those celebrities they got to do the dub were friggin' awful!" wrote one comment. "For the best movie, I wanted the best voice actors," wrote another. People wrote that they cancelled their Blu-ray pre-orders, and much of the blame was also directed at Disney Japan, which released the flick, for bringing on these celebrities abroad to do the voice overs and—probably more importantly—promote the film. These are the folks that appear on the red carpet (see the below photo, courtesy of TimeWarp).
Japanese fans might be rather strict about voice acting, seeing how there often seems to be a tremendous appreciation for what professional voice actors do in movies, video games and anime. The irony is that Naoto Takenaka, who does have a powerful voice, has done numerous voice acting gigs for some time, such as for the Ice Age movies and even voicing Bruce Wayne for the Tim Burton Batman flicks. Earlier this year, he did voice acting work for Sega's sci-fi game Binary Domain.
The reason for this backlash is probably connected to another voice acting uproar from summer. Ayame Goriki, one of this year's most popular young female performers in Japan, voiced the lead role in Ridley Scott's Prometheus. In the eyes of fans, she wasn't a trained voice actor, and this seemed like the film's Japanese distributor cared more about doing PR than doing a top notch dub.
The next time you silently rage about crap dubs in a game or anime you love, realize that there's somebody in Japan still seething about how Nick Fury and Dr. Elizabeth Shaw were ruined.