Hey guys! Samurai here! As you’re probably already aware, on November 8, Dragon Ball Z Kai made its debut on Toonami with much fanfare. One piece [no pun intended] of that fanfare that greeted Kai upon its arrival to the anime time slot was the opening theme song “Dragon Soul”. However, instead of the original Japanese opening, we were given the Sonny Strait English version of the song. Upon further research, I discovered that there are at least 7 different versions of “Dragon Soul” floating around out there, performed by different Funimation voice actors/actresses. I found myself wondering “I wonder how they stack up against each other?”
So, like the good otaku scientist I am, I went to YouTube, collected 7 versions of “Dragon Soul” like the mystical dragon balls, burned them to a disk, and went to the one place where I know I can get quality results–my 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, nicknamed “Jiro 2”. Don’t judge me; music just seems to sound better when played through my stereo. After driving around the greater Baton Rouge area for most of the late afternoon blasting “Dragon Soul”, I came to a conclusion–I have WAY too much time on my hands. Then I came to another conclusion–that all the versions I listened to were different in their own way. Some were flawless, some were flawed. But all of them were good overall! So, that being said, here’s my countdown from “Meh” to “HELLZ YEAH!!”
#7 – Vic Mignogna (Click Here To Listen)
Coming in at #6 is, Mr. Vic Mignogna. Now don’t start throwing tomatoes at me, ladies! Lemme explain first. Vic’s version of “Dragon Soul” is really good. In fact, it was good enough to be used on Nickelodeon when the show first ran. Vic has a great voice that goes well with the song, but…well…it sounds like Vic. [Insert “No Duh, Samurai” comments here] I’m not getting any kind of DBZ character feel from his vocals. It just sounds like Vic Mignogna in a studio singing another song. If I may offer a comparison; in the “Revix” of DNAngel’s opening theme “White Night, True Light”, Vic actually sounds like he’s singing as his character, Dark Mousey. There’s something in his voice that he adds that makes me believe that this is something that the Phantom Thief Dark would sing. I’m not getting that feeling when he does “Dragon Soul”. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an AWESOME singer, and he goes note for note, emotion wise, with the original Japanese. It’s just that, well, I’m not getting any kind of character from him.
#6 – Brina Palencia (Click Here To Listen)
Okay, I’m gonna say this right here and now; I love her voice! I love, love, LOVE her voice! She sounds great in dubs and sounds great when singing…especially this song. This song sound even more epic when a female sings it, and it reinforces the fact that, while DBZ is a shounen series, there are some really strong females in this anime who can hold their own. Brina represents for the ladies and does it well. HOWEVER…to my ear, her voice is WAY too soft for this particular song. It’s like she’s being drowned out by the instrumentals. I listened to the song again on my computer with headphones turned up as loud as I dared; and she still sound too quiet. Truth be told, the first few seconds of the song, I honestly didn’t know who was singing until the “We can find paradise” line. Now, it could just be that the sound engineer didn’t adjust for her particular voice, I don’t know. All I know is that her awesome performance is marred by the fact that she sounds too quiet.
#5 – Justin Cook (Click Here To Listen)
Justin adds a little something extra to this version that makes it sound like an actual character is providing vocals, and it sounds cool. Alas, to me, it sounds like he’s going a little overboard with some of his vocals. He reminds me of Gohan’s voice when he took on the persona of Great Saiyaman. I would’ve much rather he performed the song straight without all the variations and warbles. To my ear, it just sounds silly and over exaggerated. But, to his credit, it does add personality to the performance…but to me, it strays quite a good deal away from the original.
#4 – Greg Ayres (Click Here To Listen)
Ah, my favorite V/A in this list. As Beck Mongolian Chop Squad has proven, Greg has rock music in his soul, and that gravely rasp really harmonizes with this song. He really does an awesome job with his “Dragon Soul” cover. If I had to fault him with anything, it would be that, like Vic, I’m not getting that much of a character feel from him. It just sounds like him singing a regular song instead of belting out an anime theme song. Greg’s saving grace in this countdown is the fact that he brings real emotion to the song, just like the original Japanese artist. He makes the song sound natural. It doesn’t sound like someone just handed him a piece of paper and said “Here, sing this.” It sounds like he took time and wrote it himself.
#3 – Sonny Strait (Click Here To Listen)
PERFECT. Absolutely perfect. I seriously can’t find any flaws with this version of “Dragon Soul”. Sonny really makes it happen with his vocals. He actually sounds like Krillin singing which adds that little extra something that Vic and Greg’s version was missing, his voice rides the instrumentals which the Brina version was lacking, and he doesn’t bob and weave his voice like Justin. Add to the fact that he performs the closest to the original Japanese artist out of all the above V/A’s and Justin’s cover of “Dragon Soul” stands out as being one of the best around.
#2 – Sean Schmmel (Click Here to Listen)
Out of all the actors I listed above, Sean really knocks it out the ball park. He honestly sounds like Goku singing, and that’s what makes him stand out above all the others. He took this song and made it his own, adding energy and emotion to the lyrics that the original Japanese didn’t. In fact, when compared to the others, Sean’s cover of “Dragon Soul” really stands out from all the others. He actually gives the song a new sound and tone that the other actors, with all due respect, couldn’t. I honestly can’t say much more about it. It’s a perfect performance…or rather, a NEAR perfect performance…
#1 – EVERYBODY (Click Here To Listen)
Yup. YouTube user RasenKamehamehaX100, bless their heart, decided to combine Vic, Brina, Sonny, Justin, Sean and Greg’s version of “Dragon Soul” into one song, giving each singer a verse to belt out solo, and bringing all five together for the chorus like some awesome Thunder MegaZord of awesomeness. In fact, that’s an awesome metaphor for “Dragon Soul”; Vic and Greg are the Triceratops and Saber-Tooth Tiger respectively, Justin is the Mastadon, Brina is the Pterodactyl, Sonny is the Tyrannosaurus Red Dragon and Sean is the White Tigerzord. On their own, they’re okay, but somewhat weak. However, when you combine them together, you get this monster Zord song that you will feel no shame blasting in your car.
So, that’s my countdown of the English dub of “Dragon Soul”! How do you think I did? Are my ranks off? Are they spot on? Did I goof somewhere? Hit up the comments and let me know! Until next time, guys! See ya!