Surprisingly Good English

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"I'll chisel your gravestone. Sleep well!"

Wolfgang Krauser, Fatal Fury 2, proving that even SNK can get it right when it comes to proper English

The trope of terrible Engrish in foreign works is often so expected that fans are caught off guard when characters speaking English actually do it well. Especially surprising when done by a minor character or as an aside.

This phenomenon may sound a bit cynical or xenophobic, but in fact there are good reasons that this can be so shocking. The brain begins to lose its plasticity at the age of 12 or 13, so good luck to anybody learning a language after that—it is possible but much more work.

The result of all this is that when you hear enough "English" spoken with foreign accents, your ear becomes trained to it, and it sounds natural. Then, when those same voices speak English with English sounds, it's like ice water down the back of the neck.

Contrast with Gratuitous English. Subtrope of Surprisingly Good Foreign Language.

Examples of Surprisingly Good English include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Devil May Cry anime has an episode about a ghost haunting people who played her Rock records. The song ("Future in my Hands" by Aimee B) is surprisingly well-spoken English.
  • Angel Beats! TK can speak perfect English. It probably helps that his VA is American, and also that he doesn't have many lines in the anime. What he actually SAYS, though, ventures wholeheartedly into Gratuitous English territory. "Dive into your body!"
    • To be fair, all (or most) of TK's English lines come from songs
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (the Japanese version) features some somewhat accented but quite understandable English. For example, just listen to Allelujah in Episode 6 of Season 2 say "I have control".
  • Momoko on Ojamajo Doremi is a native English speaker, and learned Japanese shortly after being introduced as a character. Her lines in English—even a simple "Yeah!"—can be quite shocking when unexpected. All this despite having a local VA (Miyahara Nami). Miyahara Nami moved with her family to Austria when she was a child and she spent much of her life there, and speaks almost fluent English and German. (It should be noted, however, that one episode has her referring to her earring as a "pierce", which is the Japanese translation for earring.)
    • In Dokkan, Onpu starts learning English and Momoko is glad to return the favor from the last season by helping her. Two of Onpu's image songs have a bit of English in them, in fact ("We can do anything if we can do it together~"). Momoko's have a ton, of course.
    • Not to mention that the English in "Arigatou" is really a translation of the first verse!
  • The first Digimon Adventure 02 movie, Supreme Evolution! The Golden Digimentals!, starred Wallace, an American character who was also voiced by Nami Miyahara. Many people didn't even believe it was a single voice actress. Amusingly, she still pronounced his name "Warrace" which was odd considering how fluently she spoke every other English word. The other characters do speak English occasionally in this film as it takes place in America; while it's mainly common phrases (good luck, thank you, see you soon, etc), they get them right.
  • Similarly, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has English voice actors for the main characters' magic devices. In the first season, their lines are relatively grammatical, but in the second season, they have extended lines with more questionable grammar. Similarly with the German devices—their collective VA, Tetsuya Kakihara, was raised in Dusseldorf.
    • As is often the case in the voice recording business, although the hired voice actors are perfectly fluent in their respective languages, they have virtually no authority in changing the script, even if to improve it. Their clunky delivery, however, is apparently deliberate to emphasize their artificiality.
  • In C the Money And Soul of Possibility, ATMs and Negotiations use English. Jennifer's boss at the International Monetary Fund is also voiced by a native English speaker, though Jennifer is not (since that character is not a bit part, most of her lines are in Japanese).
  • In the Sakura Taisen movie, Maria delivers a couple of lines in near-flawless English and manages something vaguely akin to a New Yorker accent, since (despite being Russian) she was supposed to have lived in New York for a while before coming to Japan. Ironically, the "American" characters in the movie speak typical Engrish.
    • With the exception of Ratchet, who's pronunciation (with the exception of "please") and inflection are actually pretty decent, as seen here.
  • Though not voiced by one of the characters, the opening theme to Hell Girl has the seemingly mandatory Gratuitous English sung in exceptionally good English, as the singer was raised in the US.
  • The soundtrack to .hack//Sign features several songs primarily in English, the main vocalist being American singer Emily Bindiger.
  • Ozaru and Kozaru in Jubei-chan 2 have an "English Interlude" specifically because they hope that the show is becoming popular in the States.
  • The baseball episode of Samurai Champloo features Admiral Joy Cartwright and his translator being voiced by - gasp! - actual Americans. (Subverted possibly by the translator's Surprisingly Good Japanese?) The opening theme to the series, "Battlecry", was also done by someone who knows how to actually speak English: Shing02, who had the benefit of a champloo-ish upbringing - born in Tokyo; childhood in Tanzania, England, and Japan; and adolescence in the States.
    • This troper noticed the Dutch in another VOC related episode. Chances are it was a Japanese person. "Opperhoofd" does mean chief, usually used for Indians, but also historically, a title for chief executive officers of the Dutch East India Company's trading posts, such as the outpost on Dejima.
      • The English language dub features surprisingly good Dutch in that episode.
  • Honey in Ouran High School Host Club. "I'm... still... sleepy...!" and the hired American film crew ("Yes, boss!")
    • Words cannot express how creepy and startling Honey's line is when you first hear it, what with the differences in voice and this trope.
  • Nana is full of good English, from the songs that various cast members sing to various lines they say. When Shin says "Good night, Rena, sweet dreams", it's actually shocking how good his English is, considering this is the first time he's used it. It's fitting, since the character was raised in America; Being a series with no small amount of time dedicated to vocalists Nana pays a lot of attention to the accuracy of its voice acting.
  • Beck, where all the American characters speak ludicrously bad Engrish aside from John Lee Davis—who sounds, for some reason, remarkably like Martin Sheen...
    • Quite a few characters in BECK are voiced by Americans - Leon Sykes, his henchman Goldie, Dying Breed, and the director of their documentary. Two songs from the soundtrack, "My World Down" and "I Call You Love", are by British singers Gary Stringer and Mark Gardener, with lyrics by Tim Jensen, best known for his work with Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Wolfs Rain and Ghost in The Shell Stand Alone Complex among them).
  • Blood: The Last Vampire has an American military base on Okinawa as the setting, and all the dialogue in English is done by American voice actors, with several characters having double cast (this also highlights the difference in acting levels, with English VAs being noticeably wooden but over the top, but that's a different story.) Seeing as Blood was done before a lot of major series caused anime to take off in America, the fact that the VAs are actually not bad, if not a little wooden, is quite impressive.
    • Yeah, or maybe it just highlights that Japanese ADR directors don't know how to direct American actors. Mamoru Oshii himself helped direct the dub for the original Ghost in the Shell, and it's not like that helped it.
  • Maybe not quite so perfect as the previous one, but the Tonight, Tonight, Tonight song that is also from Bleach makes enough sense that any minor mistakes are forgivable.
    • Listen to the Juushin Enbu opening, and try to figure out what they're saying. It's the same guys.
    • Many of the opening and ending songs combine Surprisingly Good English and/or Gratuitous English with the Japanese in varying amounts.
    • The first ending song, Rie Fu's "Life is Like a Boat". It helps that she speaks fluent English from living in Maryland for three years and going to school in London.
    • Ichigo's theme song, "Number One", is sung in absolutely perfect English. It's a woman's choir. In a rock song. It's really weird, but catchy.
    • A recurring song, "Nothing Can Be Explained", is in English and performed by a British singer - the guy who wrote the lyrics for Komm, süsser Tod, in fact. It's difficult to tell in show since his voice is rather faint, but it's clear on the soundtrack.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex likes to play everything backwards, and has both Gratuitous English and Surprisingly Good English side by side. None of the voice actors can pronounce English very well, and mangle the random English phrases. The opening themes are written almost entirely in Surprisingly Good English and Surprisingly Good Russian, with some verses even in Surprisingly Good Latin. The actual reason for this is the performer, Origa (Olga), being originally Russian.
    • The opening shot of |the original film contains simultaneous English and Japanese voiceovers; the soundtrack of the second film contains two songs - "River of Crystals" and "Follow Me" - sung in slightly accented but grammatically correct, intelligible English by Kimiko Ito, the former of which was composed by Kenji Kawai specifically for the film.
  • "Blue", the ending theme for the last episode of Cowboy Bebop, is in flawless English. In fact, half the songs by The Seatbelts with lyrics are in Surprisingly Good English, thanks in no small part to Yamane Mai and American-born singers Emily Bindiger and Steve Conte, who between the three of them sing the vast majority of the series' English-language music.
  • Serial Experiments Lain makes extensive use of Surprisingly Good English, from the opening theme to computer interfaces, C programming, English lessons, multiple allegedly historical documents, and different aspects of the Wired.
    • The opening theme is actually a song written by a now-defunct British band, Boa, which features two of Paul Rodgers' children. Hardly surprising the English was so good, really.
  • The opening scene of Project A-ko has astronauts working on a space probe, and speaking perfect American English—such that this editor has gone looking for the remote to switch the language channel twice on different occasions.
    • Also, Project A-Ko is reckoned to be the first anime ever to have had the soundtrack songs in the original Japanese version recorded entirely in English. This editor thought he'd bought the dub by mistake.
      • Not sure if any of the songs fit this trope though, I forget the rest[please verify] but Project A-Ko 3 featured a song with the lyrics "Get ready, Get chance ready" amidst a barrage of incoherent gibberish.
        • The songs in the first movie had perfect English. Although, that's probably because they were composed by a couple of Americans.
    • Crest of the Stars has a very brief scene in the first episode that can cause similar reactions.[context?]
  • There isn't much English in Neon Genesis Evangelion, but there is lots of English writing on the computer screens, i.e. "God's in His Heaven, All's right With the World". All of it is perfect. Apparently, someone at Studio Gainax (or Tatsunoko) speaks English.
    • End of Evangelion has not one, but three songs (four, if you count the one cut from the final release of the film) sung in perfect, unaccented English with entirely sensible (and appropriate) lyrics. Of course, it helps that composer Shiro Sagisu went abroad to have these songs recorded by native English-speakers.
    • In the series itself, the American pilots carrying Unit 03 to Japan at the beginning of episode 18 speak in perfect English, going so far as to have Japanese subtitles. It also deserves credit for its references to numerous English/American authors and artists of various kinds, including a correct quote from Robert Browning's "Pippa Passes" (the now-iconic "God's in His Heaven, All's Right With the World"), the infamous excerpt from Handel's "Messiah", the reference to Bach's "Air on the G String", etc. Worth mentioning too is the fact that every single one of the series' English episode titles (which were all named by Anno) makes sense, and many are references to Western literature, film, music, and psychological theory. To provide examples of each respectively: "Lilliputian Hitcher", "The Day Tokyo-3 Stood Still", "The Beginning and the End, or 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door'", and "Introjection".
    • On the downside, however, Asuka's German in the Japanese version was horrible.
      • But Asuka's German in the English dub is reputedly excellent, since her voice actress actually spoke the language and was given leave to improvise German dialogue as necessary.
    • Rebuild 2.0 features Mari talking over the phone with someone in grammatically correct English, and speaks very coherently, though with a bit of an accent. Also, nearly all of the entire opening scene is in English, featuring native speakers as extras. Kaji also speaks some English, but...let's just say reading the Japanese subtitles were easier.
      • When Unit-02 is sealed away and then released by Mari, American voices can be heard in the background.
    • It should be duly noted that Evangelion is a storm of Gratuitous English. While English-speaking fans understand that the booklet Shinji is handed reads "Nerv" and says "For your eyes only" underneath, for someone Japanese, they can probably at first only grasp that "Nerv" is supposed to represent "nerufu", the Japanese equivalent. English letters are exotic in Japan, in a similar way to how Japanese kanji are exotic to English-speakers.
  • In the third episode of Martian Successor Nadesico Yurika addresses a United Earth Force assembly in English. Her accent is thick, but her pronunciation is much better than the supposedly English-speaking extras. Her exact words are, "We'd like to reach escape velocity from the Earth in three hours, but if you don't put the Big Barrier down for a moment, the Nadesico and the barrier satellites will be damaged. Would you mind pulling the barrier down PLEEEEEEEASE??" When UEF refuses her request she then adds, "So... we break through the barrier forcibly!"
  • Makoto Shinkai's movies Voices of a Distant Star (Hoshi no koe) and The Place Promised in Our Early Days (Kumo no mukou, yakusoku no basho) both feature English lines spoken by native speakers; in the former, it's a series of public address announcements on the ship Lysithea (Donna Burke, who also voiced Nanoha's Raising Heart), while in the latter, it's a brief conversation between an American intelligence agent and military officer.
    • Oddly, though the accent is (naturally) perfect, the actual words are All-your-base-are-belong-to-us weird ("Their block exists in orbit").
  • The voice actor Ryo Horikawa for Heiji Hattori in the Detective Conan anime is proficient in English, leading to his character speaking better English than a character who is supposed to be American. When he was a child, his family hosted an American girl. He helped her learn Japanese, she helped him learn English.
    • Also the anchorwoman from the sixth Detective Conan movie. Extremely unnerving having the first lines in a Japanese movie being in perfect English-- Justified as that's Boston, she's supposed to be a Boston-area news anchor.
  • The opening animation for Jyu-Oh-Sei features approximately 50/50 Japanese and English. The English makes about as much sense as the rest of the song does, and there is relatively little accent or "Japanese-isms". I should also say, it's a very nicely done opening...
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny and Bleach both feature ending themes (the third and first, respectively) which transition from Japanese to grammatically-correct English flawlessly. This should probably come as no surprise since the singer of both songs, Rie fu, spent four years in America and speaks English fluently.
  • Also, Bleach's Theme Music Power-Up song, "Number One", a Motown-esque song sung entirely in English. It is a step more surprising, however, because the lead singer sounds distinctly African American. Which she is (sort of): the song is sung by UK artist Hazel Fernandes.
  • The closing theme to Gun X Sword, "A Rising Tide", was written by a native English speaker and sung by a native Japanese speaker. Thus, the only time there's a goof involves the L/R problem - "give me my sword" sounds like "give me my soul".
  • Thankfully, the English parts of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann‍'‍s "Libera Me from Hell" were very good - so good, in fact, that if this troper didn't know better, he would've sworn the singer wasn't Japanese.
    • There's also Viral's theme music, "Nikopol", which is not only perfect English but also has lyrics that sum up Viral's philosophy very well.
    • The Eyecatch sting, however -- "RAW! RAW! FIGHT DA POWER!"—sounds like "ROW ROW! WHITE POWER!".
      • And if a Japanese man singing a rap song about white power isn't Mind Screw, I don't know what is.
      • And the full version of the song is actually in quite good English (and has a ridiculously long name[1]). It's also what the English parts of "Libera Me from Hell" are taken from.
    • There's also "Gattai nante Kusokurae!!", the background music played in a lot of fights at the beginning of the series (you'll probably remember it by the line "Into the eye of the storm"). This song (and "Nikopol") is arranged by Taku Iwasaki and performed by qadtbep. It's sorta-kinda Kamina's theme.
      • "Gattai nante Kusokurae" is the track known in English as "To Hell With Gattai (aka "Combine")", as the name would imply it tends to play when Kamina and Shimon aren't combined. And since Lagann exists only for the Fastball Special when the two aren't combined... yeah, Kamina and Gurren get a lot of screen time with "To Hell With Gattai" is playing.
        • Ironically, its most notable usage is probably when Lagann takes on Lazengann solo and wins.
      • The English actually spoken in the series is another matter. Some of it is pretty good, such as "Infhinity Bigu Bangu Sthorm" (letters added cuz of accent). On the other hand Gimmy and Darry horribly butcher any English they're given.
  • "Mr. Raindrop", the second ending theme to Gintama, was sung completely in perfect English; the band attended a school taught primarily in both English and Chinese.
  • Does it count that Maximum the Hormone's lead singer sings in such a convincing American accent that this troper had to show his friends lyrics to convince them the band played Japanese Death Metal, not English?
  • Kate in Sketchbook, who is Canadian. Also, her Japanese is heavily accented and far from perfect. Not many characters pull this off.
  • Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl has NASA using some well pronounced English in episode 1, which sounds like it was spoken by actual Americans. It's generally grammatically correct, unfortunately it doesn't sound like anything a real person would say and then it falls apart at the last second ("A CALL TO THE PRESIDENT!"). Also, it sounded like they just grabbed some random tourists off the street and paid them to read the lines because it's really badly acted.
    • While it doesn't sound like anything an English speaker would say, the words themselves are a practically perfect literal translation of the Japanese subtitles displayed, which themselves represent appropriate dialogue for those characters. This all goes to show you that there's more to translation than literally interpreting what was said.
  • Ergo Proxy‍'‍s opening song, "Kiri", is a flawlessly-sung, fittingly-sensical, all-English song courtesy of Japanese rockers Monoral (Anis Shimada and Ali Morizumi). Considering that lead singer Shimada was born in London and is quadrilingual (apart from Japanese and English, he can also speak French and Arabic) and Morizumi is Japanese-American (though born and raised in Tokyo, he can speak both languages fluently himself), this is quite understandable.
  • The ending theme of Trinity Blood is sung in English; although it has a rough Japanese accent, the grammar is actually fluent.
  • Angela Burton from Genshiken is an example of this trope: actress Yuki Kaida's English is clear and mostly properly inflected, if unnaturally slow and stilted. And it's a good thing, because in the episode where she first appears, she has long stretches of unsubtitled lines. In contrast, Ohno (voiced by ppAyako Kawasumi]]) sounds like she has no idea what she's saying when she and Angela converse: despite the grammatical accuracy of her dialogue, her poor pronunciation renders many of her lines unintelligible.
    • And this, when Ohno's supposed to have lived in America for ten years!
      • Ohno is suppose to sound like Angela (i.e. slightly stilted but otherwise good English), and Angela is suppose to sound like a real native English speaker.
      • Much rather take the good voice acting in Japanese but poor English instead of the other way around.
      • Although the California "valley girl" accent is a bit strange for characters supposedly raised in Massachusetts.
      • Kasukabe's voice actress also speaks in a very good neutral English accent, probably the best international English of all the cast members.
      • Angela's voice actress was really good, her biggest problem is only due to the accent common when trying to change from one language to another. Wasn't surprising that she likes to speak English in real life from time to time. In all, though poorly pronounced, all the other character's English were easily intelligible (unless you just refuse to listen).
  • "For the love of life", the first ending to Monster, is sung in perfect, completely understandable English. Of course, it's written and sung by David Sylvian, an Englishman, so, really, there was little else to expect. The second ending proceeds to mangle the words 'harmony' and 'purity' in the expected Japanese fashion.
  • An episode of Kimagure Orange Road had the Power Trio on vacation in Hawaii, and kidnapped by a gang of thugs who mistook Hikaru for a local shipping heiress. Madoka spoke passable English (appropriate for the high schooler she was). The Hawaiian thugs all spoke English, oddly accented, but easily handwaved in that these were low-rent Mooks who spoke with a regional accent.
  • Although only one word, hearing Minori Chihara say "unique" aroused suspicions of fluency in this troper.
  • "All kids hold an egg in their soul, the egg of our hearts, our would-be selves, yet unseen..." the quote that plays right before the opening of every episode of Shugo Chara threw me for a loop when I first heard it, to the point I thought I'd accidentally caught a dub.
    • The sentence itself doesn't make sense, but it doesn't sound like a Japanese accent.
  • The soundtrack to Haibane Renmei has some songs by native speaker Paula Terry.
  • The episode title cards in Last Exile have the titles read in surprisingly fluent English—so much so that this troper, watching the first episode, had to double-check which language track he had selected on the DVD. (In fact, it only becomes apparent that it's not a native speaker in episode 5, in which "Positional" is pronounced "Pogitional".)
    • "Last Exile" itself though, is not pronounced even remotely right most of the time. This troper remember Alex's seiyu: "Rasuto Egisaiaru".
  • Texhnolyze‍'‍s second ED that plays at the very last episode, "Walking in this Empty Earth" features English lyrics and while they are heavily accented the grammar is correct and understandable. There is also the short intro spoken in the mostly instrumental OP, it may only amount to one sentence but it is uttered without an accent.
  • ef: A Tale of Memories uses English for its theme song lyrics, some parts of the novel written by Chihiro and in the post-episode trailer, which aside from some pronunciation-issues is well-executed.
    • Same deal with ef: A Tale of Melodies. Except all the text in the background is in German.
  • You've heard the original opening theme for Genesis of Aquarion. Now listen to it again in English. (It helps that Akino and family spent their formative years in the USA.)
  • Karen in Ichi the Killer.
    • She goes one better and later speaks Surprisingly Good Cantonese as well. The actress portraying her speaks all three languages fluently.
  • Yakitate!! Japan has "To All the Dreamers", a disco-ish rap song, for the second ending theme. This troper was caught offguard at how perfect the English parts of the song were when played in the credits.
    • Not only is the English pronounced well, but the rapper sings in Japanese with a American accent, too.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima‍'‍s first anime adaptation, Nodoka - played by Mamiko Noto - is able to read a long sentence in perfect English without a slip-up besides the word 'asked' (a-Su-ka-do). Ironically, Negi - played by Rina Sato - who was supposed to be giving the English lesson could barely speak a word of coherent English despite the surprised reaction from the class who apparently thought it sounded good. Interestingly, the Latin used in the series is spoken somewhat well.
  • Most of the shipwide announcements on the Macross in Do You Remember Love? are in superb English.
    • There was also a bit in the series theme that was rather decent English.
      • "Will you love me tomorrow?"
  • The first trailer for Kiddy Grade was accompanied by the song "If I...", which was a mix of Japanese and Surprisingly Good English. Heck, to this troper's untrained ears, it sounds like the Japanese is English-accented, rather than the expected reverse.
  • All the English spoken by the native English speakers in the first episode of 'Eden of the East, as well as all the written signs and the OP (which is done by Noel Gallagher) is in perfect English, even getting the accents acceptably well down.
    • In addition, all portrayals of DC are entirely accurate, down to the interior of Dulles International Airport.
    • That doesn't stop a little bit of hilarious Gratuitous English from being snuck in there. Cab Ass'n, anyone?
      • Er... that one's real. It's an abbreviation for Association, and is in fact written on cabs in the DC area.
    • This isn't really surprising given that all the native-speakers were, in fact, voiced by Americans. (And yeah, one should suppose Oasis can sing in perfect English).
  • Lots and lots in Code Geass.
  • The Big O Award Bait Song "And Forever" duet, sporting near-flawless English grammar, pronunciation and inflections. Additionally, each episode title is in English, with each next episode preview featuring a dramatic reading of the upcoming episode's title. Of course, the show is set in what was New York City, but that sort of thing doesn't tend to help in these situations.
  • The opening and ending to Wolf's Rain. Justified in the opening because Steve Conte is originally from USA.
    • And Steve Conte has collaborated with Yoko Kanno in other times, too. He sang various songs from the next anime series. Brain Powerd (with the song True Love), Cowboy Bebop (with various songs, such the male version of "Rain", "Call me call me", "Words That Couldn't Be Say", etc...), Wolf's Rain (the opening song "Stray", as mentioned before, and other songs, such as "Heaven's Not Enough" and "Could You Bite My Hand?") and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (with "living inside the shell"). Outside the anime material, there are two more songs: "Nowhere and Everywhere" from Yoko's album Song to fly, and "THE GARDEN OF EVERYTHING Denki Rocket ni Kimi wo Tsurete", with backing vocals from Maaya Sakamoto.
    • Second Gig has Surprisingly Good Russian and English combined in the theme, "Rise". The singer, "Origa" is Russian. The theme was written by her friend, composer Kanno Yoko.
  • Sword of the Stranger‍'‍s English dub has a lot of surprisingly good Chinese speakers. Only one character spoke hard-to-understand, heavily accented Chinese...the transplanted European.
  • The teaser trailer for the tenth One Piece movie is, for no apparently reason, narrated in surprisingly good English (except possibly because the characters are supposed to be speaking English), even though it's for the Japanese release and so is the rest of the text.
  • Don't. Touch. Me.
  • A rather hilarious example in The Legend of Black Heaven: the English was very good (and voiced by an actual American), but the voice did not match the character at all.
  • The ending theme of Black Butler, "I'm Alive", is in perfect English; not really that surprising, given that the singer, Bec "Becca" Hollcraft, is an American native.
  • The opening theme to the 80s Real Robot title Round Vernian Vifam is written and performed in almost flawless English.
  • The beginning of the newest[when?] Naruto opening is grammatically correct, though it is quite noticeably accented. The very first ending straddles the line between this and regular Gratuitous English.
    • Also, the fourth Naruto Shippuden opening, "Closer" by Joe Inoue, features some pretty precise English ("And the closer you get to something, the tougher it is to see it, and I'll never take it for granted, let's go!"). This isn't surprising however, since Joe Inoue was born and grew up in Los Angeles.
    • The ending "Wind" from the original series is also sung surprisingly well.
  • In an episode of Daphne in the Brilliant Blue, there are a few lines by some people from Siberia City who speak English flawlessly - justified in that they hired native-English-speaking voice actors for the parts.
    • Also Rena also speaks English and if her VA speaks English she did a damn good job IMO.
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle has a few songs that have some good English in them, which shouldn't be horribly surprising considering Yuki Kajiura composed them—she's also the one who composed "Obsession" and other .hack//SIGN songs. "tsubasa", an insert song is entirely in English, and although the singer has a recognizable accent, you can still understand what she's saying without subtitles. "you are my love", is another insert song entirely in English and there's very little accent that's only noticeable with a few words (that don't have Rs or Ls). The insert song, "ring your song", is also all in English and is very easy to understand. The only word that I noticed the singer had minimal trouble with was "ancient."
  • Soul Eater has some really good English on the OST. "Psychedelic Souljam", "Soul-Eater (So Scandalous)", "Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Have a Nice Dream" and "STEP UP" come to mind; all of them are rapped and the English is grammatically correct. "Black Star (Never Lose Myself)" has some good English, too, although the singer has an accent it's still easy to understand him. "Death the Kid (So Crazy)" also has nice English. The female vocals have an accent, but subtitles aren't needed at all. Surprisingly, the song "Butterfly in the Still" by the same composer, Taku Iwasaki, has just plain horrible English. Whole phrases are almost entirely incoherent; it's a shame since it's a beautiful song... just impossible to understand.
  • The OST to Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas has flawless grammar and perfect pronunciation, even on difficult phrases like "Realm of Athena". It's startlingly good, to the point that it feels like a taunt to the English-speaking fandom that will never see an official release of the series in their language.
  • TOKYO TRIBE 2 has a minor character in episode 6 who speaks English... to a Japanese guy. Later on, we have Surprisingly Good Mandarin with Sunmi and Jadakings. The latter's Mandarin is so good, it actually confuses Kai as to what he's saying ("Where is the princess?")
  • The Japanese ending for the Pokémon movie The Rise of Darkrai (known in Japan as Pocket Monsters Diamond & Pearl the Movie: Dialga VS Palkia VS Darkrai) was sung entirely in English, by two Norwegian singers. The English was perfect. See for yourself.
    • Only one of the singers is from Norway. The female one is Sarah Brightman, a British singer.
      • The other singer is fellow Englishman Chris Thompson. The song itself is an English rendition of a Norwegian song, Where the Lost Ones Go. Still nice to hear, though.
    • Also, a number of Pokémon-related Widget Songs were done by a trio known as "Suzukisan". The songs often featured a large amount of Surprisingly Good English, mostly due to one of the members being an American. (Said American also provided the voice of the pirate trainer at the start of the Japanese version of Pokémon: The First Movie.)
  • Chiyo-chichi in Azumanga Daioh actually speaks grammatically correct English. The intonation is actually perfect ("How ah YOU?" "FINE, SANK you"), even pronouncing l's and v's correctly, sounds which don't exist in Japanese. He doesn't get the "th" right, but few foreigners do.
    • In an earlier episode, Yukari gives a speech in perfect English, though slightly accented. She was giving a speech about how Japanese English students are embarrassed about their poor English and would rather speak Japanese than bad English.
  • It's amazing how Hellsing OVA VI Ending theme "Magnolia" was sung in remarkable English, as was Schaft when they sang the ironically titled trailer song "Broken English".
    • And speaking of Magnolia, the end credits sequence had actual English spoken in the talk balloons.
  • Eyecatches in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood have series's title said by someone who gets his pronouncing done perfectly. Not the faintest sign of r's. To this troper's ears it sounds nice, however..
    • It's made even more obvious because of the... Difficult nature of the two main characters' names to Japanese speakers. Remember the issues they have with definitive L and R sounds, then look at Edward and Alphonse Elric. Bonus points to the fact that each name gets 2-3 extra syllables thanks to pronunciations. Aside from the names, there's only the barest smattering of Gratuitous English in the series itself.
    • A note left by Dr Marcoh in the original series is written in fragmented but accurate English. Given that Marcoh is trying to reveal as little information as possible for fear of it being leaked, this actually makes sense.
  • "Weather Observation Plane Easerly, calling Enola Gay. Calling Enola Gay. Weather's fair and clear over Hiroshima. Conditions favorable for bombing."
  • The eponymous Death Note was written in perfect English because, according to Ryuk, it's the most common international language of humans. It is the international language of business, after all. Light can read it because, as we see in the beginning, he's one of the best English students in the country, even understanding words like "therefore".
  • Rainbow pulls the English off very brilliantly. Not only do all the American soldiers speak real English (it's highly likely that their VA's are actually American since they have the accent to boot.), the Japanese talking English have the regular 'Engrish' you have in other anime. This makes the situations where a Japanese (with their natural accent) talks with an American (who talks real English) completely realistic. Respect for pulling that off.
    • On top of this, the opening song, "We're not alone" by Japanese band Coldrain, is written and sung in excellent English that also fits the plot really well. It helps that the lead singer, Masato, is American.
  • Most of the songs from the Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt soundtrack have perfect English. Honorable mentions go to the Ending Theme "Fallen Angel" (even if it has some flawed lines such as "flashes of moments of tragic"), "D City Rock", "Champion", and "CHOCOLAT".
  • Invoked in the cold opening of the first episode of Giant Killing, with the random Englishman's properly... English (as in British!) sounding voice, and with the Japanese observers' properly but not unintelligibly accented English. Sadly, the trope is subverted not more than a few seconds later in the opening theme.
  • |Ghost in The Shell 2: Innocence features two songs in English with sensible lyrics, sung with only a slight accent by jazz singer Kimiko Ito. The ending song, "Follow Me", is in fact an arrangement of a song originally written in English, but the earlier one, "River of Crystals", was written for the movie by Kenji Kawai.
  • The English spoken by the British soldiers in the Imperial Japan era Momotaro's Divine Sea Warriors sounds pretty authentic. Now, considering that Japan was a fascist nation at the time which didn't like foreigners very much, who voiced the British soldiers?
  • A fun example from the Sukeban Deka OVA. One of the Mizuki sisters makes a drug deal with an American dealer. The supposed American speaks terrible engrish, but the girl's english is flawless.
  • This troper was completely caught off guard when he watched the first OVA episode of Saint Seiya: The Lost Canvas and saw the opening. It is entirely in English, and makes complete sense.
  • In a rather hilarious example from Axis Powers Hetalia, the character who is supposed to be the personification of The United States of America cannot speak English to save his life. And yet... his pet alien seems to manage it just fine.
    • Hidekaz Himaruya's English is very good. Justified, since he spent about six years in New York.
  • The debut trailer for Red Line opens with a bit of fairly decent English, spoken by Australian-Japanese actor Mark Okita (also the voice of the Transformation Trinket from Kamen Rider Decade). Most of the songs are in English and sung by native speakers, such as the theme song "Redline Day".
  • Tiger and Bunny is set in a futuristic, No Communities Were Harmed version of New York, and so the English text seen is clear and accurate, everything from ticker tape news on TV screens to articles on newspapers. Episode 1 even features a detailed notice of foreclosure written in perfect English with Japanese subtitles on screen (ignoring the question of why something this detailed is posted across two screen doors rather than, say, as a letter). While the main character apparently can't read the English titles of the episodes, this seems to be an Running Joke rather than an in-universe fact.
    • The show's (second) closing credits include whole screens of English-language translations of the featured characters' lines from previous episodes.
    • The voice for the Good Luck Mode also has pretty clear English. And sounds remarkably like the Decadriver...
  • In the Great Saiyaman arc of Dragonball Z, Son Gohan has an English teacher who, despite having a slight accent, speaks very good English. Of course, Fridge Logic sets in when you note that everyone on Earth (And even aliens in most cases) in Dragon Ball appear to speak the same language...
  • There's an infamous Engrish scene in Itazura na Kiss, but as bad as the pronunciation is, the grammar and syntax are perfect.
  • The opening song to Deadman Wonderland is performed entirely in English by fade, a Japanese band that has four members raised in America. Three of the members are Japanese-Americans, and lead singer Jonathan Underwood was born and raised in Seattle.
  • Heiji from Detective Conan is revealed to be a fluent speaker. Especially when compared to Conan's, which sound like the regular Gratuitous English.
  • An episode of Sacred Seven features an auctioneer voiced by a British expat.
  • Sailor Moon had an episode where the characters went to a party at the British embassy, and the main characters spoke the language at various degrees of ability: Usagi and Makoto were terrible (apparently Makoto thinks "thank you" is a form of salute); Rei and Mamoru can speak it decently, if accented; Ami and Minako were speaking almost perfect Queen's English. Justified in Minako's case, as the anime version had her fighting youma in London for a period and the flashback of that period showed her having no communication problems, hinting she picked up the language pretty fast.
  • Rental Magica‍'‍s alternate opening theme, "faith", is completely in English. If you aren't listening for odd turns of phrase, you wouldn't know that the singer is Japanese.
  • Rail Wars! has a brief exchange between a foreign railway passenger and the Japanese-born security specialist Koumi. Koumi's voice actor's English is better than that of the voice actor who played the foreigner.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans features a note in perfect English. While nobody actually reads it in English, previous Gundam works have notes with notoriously bad English (he is a CHAR, P.S. If you will, you can see us.) so this was a welcome change.
    • The next main series, Mobile Suit Gundam - the Witch from Mercury continues this with every episode having paragraphs of background text on computer screens in correct and appropriate English (some of it even foreshadowing). The title of the seventh episode, Shall We Gundam unfortunately averts this ("Let's" or "Shall We" paired with non-verbs being a classic of everyday Gratuitous English in Japanese market branding since as an invitation it comes off as polite to Japanese sensibilities).
  • Koro-sensei, the Villain Protagonist of Assassination Classroom is a weird-looking octopus-like alien, with a head the shape of a perfect sphere and a large, comical smile; he never moves his mouth when he talks, but his voice seems completely human.

Fan Works

  • Stories that claim "Sorry, English is my second language", generally fall into one of two categories: lazy writers looking for excuses, and actual foreigners with highly proper English.


  • The Japanese film Ichi the Killer features actress Alien Sun playing Karen, a waitress who speaks perfect English and presumably decent Cantonese.
  • The first Japanese Death Note movie has an American playing Lind L. Tailor, L's decoy, and talking in English while a voice-over speaks in Japanese.
  • The female lead in Densha Otoko speaks a bit of English to an ambassador near the end of the film. In a damn British accent.
  • The aristocratic German and French officers in Jean Renoir's masterpiece La Grande Illusion both speak each other's languages fluently but use English as a sign of class solidarity, giving the audience a trilingual bonus
  • After becoming used to at least a few mistakes in the subtitles of Chinese films, this troper and his friends were impressed by the Chinese release of Red Cliff having completely perfect subtitles.
  • A French character (Shoshana), who never spoke any English at any other point in Inglourious Basterds, makes a speech to a large audience of Germans, in perfect English. Because her family was slaughtered in part due to their inability to understand English, it makes sense that she would have made an effort to correct that lack.
  • Jackie Chan's Around The World In 80 Days features several fellow Hong Kong actors in cameos -- while in real life, only one of them (Sammo Hung) did not speak Surprisingly Good English, the movie had all of them with halting accents except Karen Mok, playing the Black Scorpion chieftain, presumably for the creepy factor.
  • And the David Niven film Around the World in 80 Days has Fogg talk to a stereotypical looking wise old Chinese man in loud pidgin English, only for him to turn out to be fluent with a perfect accent.
  • The Deliberately Monochrome film The Juniper Tree, loosely based on The Brothers Grimm fairy tale, is shot in Iceland, yet its characters (one of them played by Bjork) speak very good English.


  • A classic example occurs in John Steinbeck's East of Eden. Adam Trask's cook Lee speaks perfect Engrish when he's first hired, but that soon is revealed to be a ruse; Lee speaks perfectly good English, but he found it ran so counter to people's preconceptions that the only way he could be accepted in American society was to conform to the stereotype.
  • Considering Dracula is depicted as an uncouth, filthy warlord in Anno Dracula, many characters are surprised by his excellent, accentless command of English.

Live-Action TV

  • Duke Watari from Cutey Honey the Live often switches between Japanese and English, even in the middle of conversations. He also swears in English when angered. This is due to actor Mark Musashi, while born in Japan, is half-American and grew up in Maine before returning to Japan to act.
  • On Deadwood, Mr. Lee, the new Chinese arrival from San Francisco and rival to Wu, speaks perfect English. Al Swearengen is visibly shocked when Lee reveals this.
  • The opening narration of Garo is spoken entirely in grammatically correct English. Garo also features Mark Musashi as the mute Kodama until an appearance in the the Mind Screw DVD-only episode Garo Gaiden: Smile, where he literally appears out of nowhere and verbally assaults the female lead with a whole string of Surprisingly Good English, with some Genre Savvy and Medium Awareness thrown in.

"Oh, you must forgive me because I usually don't have any lines and I have SO MUCH that I've PENT UP that I WANT to SAAAYYY!! Oh, but you know if I get out of hand the directors will be so upset with me... so if you don't mind I think I'll just call it a day, please continue with your... 'performance..."

    • This is followed immediately by the female lead complaining that she could not understand a word of what was just said due to his thick Kansai Regional Accent.
  • Kamen Rider has more than one example:
    • Kamen Rider Faiz (aka Kamen Rider 555) from 2003 has, in early episodes, a rather creepy commercial that's in very good English (it doesn't make perfect sense, but it's not supposed to: Faiz has a bit of Mind Screw to it.) At the end of each episode, the ominous voice from the commercial introduces the preview of the next episode with "Open your eyes for the next Faiz" (and for the finale, "Open your eyes for the last Faiz.") The transforming belts have computer voices that also speak decent English (however, the phrases are one or two words only, and the only time you get awkward English in Faiz is when a computer phrase gets longer: When summoning the Jet Sliger rocket-bikes, the computer says "Jet Sliger, come closer.")
      • Leo, The Dragon of the Non-Serial Movie, is apparently an American, and speaks perfect English. He was not introduced as such, and didn't speak until his second scene, so it was very jarring.
      • Leo's actor, Peter Ho, is Chinese-American and speaks Chinese, Japanese, and English. Supposedly, the filmmakers found his Japanese bad, so they had him say the lines in English instead.
    • Kamen Rider Blade is an exception, since, unlike 555 and Kabuto, its computers speak horribly accented English. Which is a shame, since they have a awful lot of lines.
    • Kamen Rider Kabuto from 2006 has its computers speaking very good English. Typically, the Rider will call "Raidaa Kikku!" and the computer will repeat "Rider Kick" flawlessly. Also, in a few post-credit scenes (not part of the series continuity), Tendou Souji reveals that he can speak English with almost no accent if he puts his mind to it.
      • His actor, Hiro Mizushima, was raised in Europe at a young age and can speak perfect English. It's quite jarring when, in one of the post-credit bonus scenes, one character talks about Kamen Rider "Stron-gaa" and moments later Tendo refers to him as "Stron-ger", the correct English pronunication of the name, and even puns off of his name by saying Kabuto is "strongest".
        • Mizushima gets to show off his talent more in some of the Super Hero Time Crossover bumpers, affecting a falsetto voice to "impersonate" Zuban and mess with Kagami's head. "No, no, repeat after me!"
      • In the Non-Canon Movie, The computer on the ZECT Space Station speaks in Perfect English, however Kagami (who gave the orders to the the computer) speaks in Heavily accented Gratuitous English.
      • It should be noted that the Zecters were voiced not by a Japanese actor, but by an Indian actor, Surage Gajria.
    • Kamen Rider Decade doesn't seem to know what to do with this trope sometimes. The voice for the tools for both Decade and Diend calls out various rider names and attacks in seemingly random accents. For riders with English words for names, they're called out in clear English accents. Some attacks with English names are called out in gratuitous English accents. Others still are actual Japanese words or phrases that are spoken as though it's new to the language.
    • There is a Blink And You'll Miss It moment in Kamen Rider Double: A to Z - The Gaia Memories of Fate. In the opening the helicopter pilot has 2 lines, both in perfect English (the actor being a Westerner): "What the..." and "Kamen Rider".
      • Earlier example: Aya Kujo in "The T That Came Back" pronounced English fairly well, Justified by the fact that she had spent several months in Los Angeles.
    • Kamen Rider OOO has its own brief moment in an early episode when Chiyoko, thinking Ankh's rather coarse Japanese is because he was raised overseas, determines to correct it and starts the lesson with a perfect "Repeat after me". Given the character is an international traveler it's not too odd but its still sufficiently polished to cause a double take.
  • In Tomica Hero Rescue Force, the Supreme Commander, Natsuno "Nancy" Nanbu/Rescue Universe, unconsciously speaks coherent English while in the heat of battle. Her underlings (most of which can't understand English) ask her to speak Japanese in very broken Gratuitous English.

"Please... Talk... me... Japanese. JAPANESE!!"


Tourist: Excuse me. Can you help me find this place?
Tsubasa: Ai. Kanto. Supiiku. Ingurisshu.
Tourist: Oh...
Makito: Yeah sure. Where would you like to go?
Tsubasa: Nani?! ("What the?!")

    • "Crime no Theme", the Villain Song from JAKQ Dengekitai is strewn with lines such as "Go and kill 'em!" and "Go to hell!" in perfect English, which is pretty unnerving if you're not expecting it. It should be noted that the voice in the song says "JAKQ" as "Jacker", adding to the effect.
    • Masato Shimon's rendition of Seijuu Sentai Gingaman's opening theme in English is very well pronounced due to his fluency in English, however the translation is not that good, which is naturally not his fault.
    • In Juken Sentai Gekiranger each of the core 5 have a Surprisingly Good English line.

Unbreakable Body
Honest Heart-o (This is the only one with a accent)
Fantastic Technique
Iron Will
Amazing Ability

    • Tensou Sentai Goseiger's Leon Cellular is a rather jarring example, speaking perfect, unaccented English in a season otherwise full of poorly pronounced Gratuitous English.
    • Tokumei Sentai Gobusters has the Go-Busters' equipment say some short phrases in perfectly unaccented English (though a few grammatical errors, such as "Let's Driving" still exist).
  • Persons Unknown has an interesting meta version of this trope. When the captives first meet Tom, the owner of the Chinese restaurant, he can only speak in very bad Engrish. In later episodes, however, he speaks English perfectly due to his true identity being revealed as a member of the organization behind the kidnappings who was putting on the accent just for show.
  • Invoked in the original Japanese dub of Sesame Street. The dub's intent was to teach proper English to Japanese children, and did so by keeping several parts of dialogue undubbed, producing this effect.
  • When lost in Japan on an episode of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson is quite impressed by the English directions of a local police officer, yet mystified that the officer repeatedly used "signals" to refer to traffic lights despite this. しんごう, the Japanese word for traffic light, is also a general word for "signal" (and sounds vaguely like it).


  • Israeli singers Geva Alon and Ehud Banai both have songs written completely in perfect English, even though Geva's song is just a remake of an old song.
  • Both X Japan vocalist Toshi and bandleader/drummer Yoshiki have very good English. For Yoshiki, it's a result of his having lived in the US since the early 1990s and have studied the language since long before then. He writes songs such as "Art of Life" with quite coherent English lyrics, blogged only in English, regularly speaks in English, and otherwise is stunningly good with it for a non-native speaker. Toshi can sing in quite coherent English and could as far back as 1989 with the song "Desperate Angel".
    • hide also demonstrated the ability to sing in English with his band Zilch and as seen on What's Up Mr Jones only had a slight accent; otherwise, the pronounciation is near-perfect.
  • Likewise, Visual kei artist Gackt is a fairly fluent, though accented, speaker of (mostly American) English. He's made the comment that a good part of his book collection is in English, since that's the language a lot of the more interesting things are published first. He also speaks a fair amount of Mandarin Chinese. His French, on the other hand, is nigh-indecipherable...
  • Ex-Galneryus vocalist Yama-B not only sings in perfect (albeit heavily accented) English, but posts in it on his site BBS.
  • Several songs by Itou Kanako are sung in Japanese mixed with some English, but she always sings it accentlessly. In an OST for a BL Game Lamento-BEYOND THE VOID by Nitro+ CHIRAL, she sang a song with Watanabe Kazuhiro, both voices singing entirely accentless English. Even Watanabe's voice sounded like someone singing a song out of Lion King (in the sense that his accents are so English-like, rather than Japanese-like). They also each sing one completely-English song well in the Original Image Soundtrack of Fate/Zero.
  • The song "Candy Pop" by the Heartsdales, made famous outside of Japan through the Haruhi Fan Vid "Skittles". Much like the above, this is quite understandable, as the group consists of two sisters who were born in Japan but raised in the US.
  • In the Complete Symphonic recording of Les Misérables (a must-have for the die-hard fans of the musical), the role of Eponine is played by Japanese-cast-member Kaho Shimada. She sings in English with hardly any accent, and is, in this troper's opinion, the best Eponine to be recorded, despite not knowing any English at the time of recording.
  • Listen to "Space Sonic" by Ellegarden. Sounds like a typical rock band from USA? How if I say that the band is entirely Japanese? Having a vocalist that worked for nearly a decade in California sure helps.
    • A good half of their songs are in English, actually. There's a few slips of the tongue or strange use of emphasis here and there which betray the origin, but it's still quite well-done.
  • Japanese rock band L'arc en Ciel (yes, the name is French for "rainbow") sings in both Japanese and English. Their opening track for Fullmetal Alchemist (as well as the ending song for the movie, Conquerors of Shamballa) switches between the two, but the ending song they did for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was fully in English, and while not absolutely perfect, is very easily understandable.
    • Their lead singer, Hyde, actually pays an American woman to proof-read his lyrics, and provide him with a pronunciation guide.
  • Rie Fu. It helps that she spent three years in Maryland, and went to school in the UK. She basically has an American accent with her English, which is also grammatically correct.
  • Singers Utada Hikaru and Crystal Kay threw many people for a loop upon exhibiting flawless English. Utada was raised in America, but the fact that Crystal Kay sounds like an American R&B singer despite being born and raised in Japan is still considered astounding (her father is African-American, however, so it is justified in a way).
    • Crystal was actually a military brat and went to international schools, so perfect English is to be expected. It also helps that Japanese was neither of her parents' first language (her mother is Korean).
  • Maaya Sakamoto has some songs with nice English. Wolf's Rain's "gravity" comes to mind. A song on her latest album Kazeyomi has "colors", which is entirely in pretty well spoken English. "THE GARDEN OF EVERYTHING" which she sang as a duet with Steve Conte (mentioned above) has flawless English vocals, both in her backups and solos. Funny enough, a comment from the Nikopachi Singles compilation album the song is featured on has a comment from Maaya saying, "Steve emails me all the time, but I can never respond back because I don't understand English!"
  • Boa (aka Boa Kwan) has some nice English. Born in Korea, she knows Korean, Japanese, some English, and has sung one or two songs in Mandarin. She has full songs in English, including a translated version of "Every Heart", "Amazing Kiss" and other pop songs she's done—she also has "The Christmas Song" and "Last Christmas" on two of her holiday singles. Her English is accented a little, but she's improved a lot over the years.
    • She recently had an American debut album and her English sounded pretty good. There were even some songs where it was hard to tell that she had an accent.
  • Yuna Ito has flawless English. This isn't surprising considering she was born and raised in the United States. Her English songs are amazing—she's done "My Heart Will Go On" originally by Celine Dion" and "All I Want For Christmas is You" by Mariah Carey.
  • Jyongri has perfect English. She's of Korean descent, but was born and raised in Japan, and speaks both Japanese and English fluently—she did attend an international school, though. Her song "Winter Love Story" is about half English and half Japanese.
  • The Korean band Clazziquai has vocalists who can sing and rap in solid English, resulting in a good number of English-language songs.
  • Japanese band Godiego (pronounced Go-dye-go) has songs that are partially in English or entirely in English, not surprising as two of the five members are American (although the main vocalist and lyricist are not). Their songs include "The Galaxy Express 999" and "Monkey Magic", the theme songs for Galaxy Express 999 and Monkey. The soundtrack they performed for Monkey titled Magic Monkey consisted of 11 entirely English tracks and was the Number 1 Record in Japan for 1979. They also have the distinction of being the first rock band to play in China and Nepal.
  • Loudness, being a band that takes heavy inspiration from American hair metal and The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, more or less required this. They also took this trope to its logical conclusion when they had a need to replace their vocalist by hiring an American instead of another Japanese singer.
  • Italian comedian Adriano Celentano released a particularly catchy single called "Prisencolinensinainciusol", sung in "surprisingly good English-sounding gibberish" which supposedly sounds very authentic to people who don't actually speak English. In fact, it's pure gibberish in any language.
  • Hyadain's take on "Terra's Theme" from Final Fantasy VI, which is entirely in English, must be heard.
  • Joe Inoue is either an example of Surprisingly Good Japanese or just being straight up bilingual, considering he was born in, raised in, and still lives (off and on) in L.A.. Whatever the case, the guy does whole portions of his songs, and whole *songs*, in perfect English and sounds like he'd be right at home in any American pop-punk band.
  • Miyavi of the Visual Kei band Dué le Quartz spent six months studying English in California. Consequently, he speaks pretty good, coherent English and blogs in both Japanese and English; granted, the latter is mainly textspeak, but this just seems to be his idiolect, since he renders "with" as "wiz".
    • It's Miyavi-ish, more or less. His Japanese is the same way, when he's not making a particular effort to be more formal. The English in his song lyrics is pretty coherent, insofar as any of his lyrics are coherent in any language, and in one song he even managed to not mangle some Spanish. He's also no longer with Dué le Quartz—he's gone solo and started his own label.
    • Being married to a Hawaiian probably doesn't hurt either.
  • Lotus Juice may be part of the Pantheon of Surprisingly Good English.
  • There's a group of German musicians who call themselves Fiddler's Green. They perform Irish folk, both old and new standards and their own work, in English that makes you go "What's wrong with his accent?" instead of "Dear Gods that's a German trying to sound Irish." It's not surprisingly good, it's surprisingly amazing. T"he Night Pat Murphy Died", admittedly a song from Newfoundland, and it still sounds like a weird Irish accent.
  • Bonnie Pink is also quite good, if "Ring a Bell" is anything to go by.
  • Both Koshi Inaba and Tak Matsumoto AKA B'z is fluent in english. Considering how they have worked and played with many western artist such as Slash, Billy Sheehan, Pat Torpey, Eric Martin, Larry Carlton, Aerosmith, etc, this is easily understandable. In their latest live in USA and their special live together with Linkin Park, Inaba easily change between English and Japanese. The band also employed many western artist for both studio recording and live performance and many times in their live DVD, it's shown that they talked to them without translator. This is an example of a B'z song in English.
  • This English version of Denji Sentai Megaranger‍'‍s (the Japanese source for the U.S.'s Power Rangers in Space) full opening theme is in surprisingly good English, barring the (very) few odd grammar intonations and native accent: (Right now, the full lyric list can't be found, so some lyrics might be hard to interpret.)
  • Tokyo Incidents can pull this off, as proven by "Noudouteki Sanpunkan". The first time you hear it, you may be shocked by the sudden transition to Japanese.
  • While Miliyah Kato usually only sprinkles English phrases here and there throughout her songs, she's rather good at it. Granted, she does make a few mistakes, but it's actually a surprise when she messes up.
  • Original Pilipino Songs (OPM)'s. Especially the ones sung by Jose Mari Chan plus the old 70's songs don't sound local at all. Some examples to go by, mostly love songs though. And oh some rock, too.
  • BENI - aka Beni Arashiro, is half-Japanese, half-American, therefore, she is fluent in both English and Japanese. This can be seen in her cover of "The Boy Is Mine" with Tynisha Kelly, and also in some of her Japanese songs.
  • MiChi - Japanese-British & speaks English fluently with a British accent. Wanna see?
  • Japanese-American Anna Tsuchiya - Although her English is not perfect (she was bilingual at a young age but her parents divorced and her father went back to the States), she has a pretty good accent.
  • OLIVIA - aka Olivia Lufkin - is Okinawan-American. She speaks both English and Japanese. She even has an english version of her song "Wish".
  • Japanese singer and actress Ayaka Komatsu released an English-language single with excellent pronunciation (you can hear it here). In a strange case of Ink Suit Actor, she was in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon playing the role of Minako Aino, who in the anime version was another example of this trope.
  • RM from BTS is very fluent in English (a fact he atrributes to have watched Friends undubbed during his childhood), and he often serves as translator for the rest of the band when in their international tours.

Video Games

  • In the Nintendo Hard arcade game Strider, all of the characters actually speak their respective language (the Russian government speaks Russian, Strider speaks Japanese, Ton Pooh speaks Chinese, etc. etc.)
  • The Fighter's History series also had characters speaking their respective languages fluently, for the most part. It almost lets you forget how big of a Large Ham many of the characters are.


  • The character Eriko from the Japanese version of the Persona series spent some time studying abroad in America. As such, she periodically slips into English that, although technically gratuitous, is generally well-formed and sensical. This is likely due to Atlus' willingness to do the research, and was entirely dropped, rather than shifted to another language, for her American counterpart, Ellen.
  • The ending songs for the Xenosaga games are in English, in both the Japanese and English releases. Unlike many Japanese songs in English, the words would be intelligible if not for the fact that the lyrics tend to be a bit overshadowed by the melody. In This Serenity (the ending song to the anime) isn't quite as well done, but is better than a lot of gratuitous English songs you hear in anime...
    • Ditto for the original Xenogears. Yasunori Mitsuda composed the songs for Gears and Saga Episode I, and Joanne Hogg, from Ireland, sang them.
  • Considering that most American characters in the Fatal Fury games speak Gratuitous English (Mr. Bogard being the worst of the bunch), it's a bit of a shock to fight Wolfgang Krauser, who has an actual English voice actor, B. J. Love (who also doubles as Fatal Fury 3‍'‍s announcer).
    • The great irony of this all being that Krauser is quite explicitly German. So...we have All-American-ish Terry Bogard speaking with such blatantly over-exaggerated Engrish to the point of parody...and on the other side, we have German Noble Wolfgang Krauser, speaking in perfectly clear, American-accented English. Yeaaaahhh.....
  • Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike also does this with Alex, Gill, Urien, Hugo, Dudley, and Q, all of which have not only English VAs, but ones who do their characters various regional accents fairly well (especially Dudley).
  • Don Pachi. While spoken by a Japanese actor, the accent is minimal and the grammar is correct. Granted, the acting isn't always perfect and some of the lines are downright corny, but it remains believable and sets the mood well enough.
  • One song in Katamari Damacy, "Que Sera Sera", is fully-sung in Surprisingly Good English. I dare say, the only giveaway it's not sung by a fluent speaker is the lyric "with you" being pronounced "wizyuu".
    • "Lup up" and "Word you up" (meant to be "lump up" and "wad you up", respectively) is somewhat of a giveaway, too.
      • There are other clues throughout the whole song that it's not a native speaker. Every word just doesn't feel exactly right, but you'd notice that only if you're looking.
    • The singer Charlie Kosei apparently grew up with English speaking parents.
  • The entire intro to the original Star Ocean is spoken in English with Japanese subtitles and doesn't have any real glaring errors to speak of, this probably being mostly due to natural speakers delivering the lines. This doesn't carry over to other uses of English later in the game though, as seen from a computer that asks "CONNECT WITH WHAT?" when prompting for an username and responds to a successful input with a "COLLECT".
  • Before it was released internationally, Sonic Battle had the default Japanese script and an English script that could be turned on in the options. The latter is entirely grammatically correct and understandable by a native speaker - so much, in fact, that the only change made during localization was the removal of a mild swear word from Rouge's dialogue in her respective chapter.
  • The Japanese video game Metal Wolf Chaos is voiced entirely in perfect English—it's horribly cheesy English, but perfectly pronounced and structured nonetheless. If not for the Japanese menu text and subtitles you would have sworn it had been made in America.
  • Fire Emblem: Thracia 776, one of the games in the series which never left Japan, has its entire opening in excellent, grammatical English, only really fudging up insofar as an occasional lack of commas in the appropriate places. Of course, it also has Japanese subtitles. Dummied Out data for the later Blazing Sword shows that at one point they intended to do the same for it, except it... wasn't well-written.
    • The Japanese logo of Fire Emblem: Awakening has a vague outline of the game's plot described in perfect English underneath the stylized and very Japanese title.
  • The ending theme of Final Fantasy IX, "Melodies of Life", is performed in both Japanese {for the Japanese version} and very good English {for every other version} by Emiko Shiratori.
  • The song "Eyes on Me", from Final Fantasy VIII, is sung with good English pronunciation by Chinese diva Faye Wong (and is actually used for part of the ending medley). The grammar leaves something to be desired, however ("Whenever sang my songs"/"Whenever said my words" and "If frown is shown then"/"Just reach me out then").
  • The intro of the first Mega Man X includes a warning from Dr. Light not to disturb the capsule X is kept in until his 30-year diagnostics are complete, with an explanation of what X is, and why the diagnostics are being performed. In the original Rockman X, this is written entirely in fully understandable and 100% mistake-free English, with Japanese subtitles running along the bottom. Consequently, when it was released in North America and in PAL territories, literally nothing was changed about it apart from removing the subtitles and spelling Dr. Light's name differently.
  • One of Gradius Gaiden‍'‍s attract demos, a Star Wars-like narrative, is narrated by an announcer speaking perfect English, though he puts unusually high emphasis on the "di" in "Gradius".
  • A large number of Konami's original songs in Dance Dance Revolution, Beatmania, and other Bemani games have perfect English—Naoki's songs ("Dynamite Rave" and "Love Again Tonight" just to name a couple), in particular, have a lot of natural-sounding English thanks to the addition of Western vocalists such as Paula Terry. Some other English-language songs, like "Moon", "Roulette" and other songs sung by Erika Mochizuki, on the other hand...
    • And for yet another "on the other hand" case... there's "Gold Rush".
    • Dance Dance Revolution‍'‍s and Dance ManiaX‍'‍s announcers speak in perfect English. Those of other Bemani games, not so much, with a few exceptions (Pop'n Music 16s and Beatmania IIDX 16s announcers are two such exceptions).
  • Raiden and Eagle's lines in Capcom vs. SNK 2 Mark of the Millennium sound, like, really good. Hell, Raiden's "ICHIBAN!" actually sounds like a non-native Japanese speaker is saying it. It's even grammatically correct and totally in character for him. "SAY YOUR PRAYERS, WIMP!"
  • Billy Kane in the Fatal Fury and King of Fighters series, sometimes. While he gets the occasional line like "I wish I could tear him apart!", most of his intros feature him saying generic things like "HEY HEY HEY!"
  • Tekken makes almost everyone (except those two from Brazil) speak their countries most widely spoken language, often times having two characters speak to each other in different languages at the same time. So it was surprising to hear Jin speak English in Tekken 4.
    • As of Tag Tournament 2, Christie and Eddy speak their appropriate Portuguese, Miguel his Spanish, Leo her German, and Lili wrongly accented French.
  • All spoken dialogue in the game Sin and Punishment is in Surprisingly Good English, only marred by the somewhat muddy audio quality caused by the game originally being cartridge-based.
    • Justified by the little fact that the game was always developed with an American release in mind, a release that was only canceled due to the Nintendo 64's pre-death decline stateside (the Virtual Console release proves that people would have bought it if it was released before).
    • Of course, none of this changes the fact that the dialogue still makes no fucking sense.
  • Persona 4's lyrics are in English and barring a few lines (The "My Life" in "I reach out to the truth of my life" for instance) is fine (if a little hard to make out due to speed). The the lyrics covering things like the sterilization of eyes (but it would be less than honest to say western songs don't get confusing). They get much clearer eventually actually...
    • Persona 3 on the other hand is so-so, while not completely outrageous has many odd bits, for example in When the Moon's Reaching Out Stars' the line "You gotta tell now you love came all over me" is very odd (not to mention the songs title)
  • The soundtrack for Space Invaders Extreme features English narration telling the story of the invasion between each group of songs. It doesn't explain much, but it's voiced perfectly.
    • Both SIE announcers too, especially the one for Space Invaders Extreme 2.
  • In Punch-Out for the Wii, every character speaks their native tongue (except for the voiceless ones, like King Hippo) and are incredibly spot-on. Next Level gets bonus points for giving Great Tiger fluent Hindi. Not only is there Surprisingly Good Hindi, but also Turkish, Russian, Spanish, French, Japanese, and German.
  • In the EXIT games (PSP, DS, Xbox 360), just about everything was in Surprisingly Good English, from the voice acting (more hits than misses), to the menus and text bubbles that show up in-game.
  • Capcom's X-Men Vs Street Fighter has Surprisingly Good English from all the Marvel characters - thanks primarily to the voice actors of the 90's X-Men animated series.
  • No More Heroes is a great example of this, as almost all the voice-overs are performed by professional American voice actors, the game features several songs in English, and even the in-game billboards are written in perfect (and oftentimes downright funny) English. The dialogue itself is still batshit crazy, but for that I think we can mostly thank the creator more than bad translation. Also, in a bizarre form of self-subversion, a number of minor characters in the game (namely the Part-Time Job guy, the clerk at K-Entertainment, the owner of Area 51, and Thunder Ryu) speak in thickly accented Engrish. Not that this is a game afraid to make leave its players scratching their heads.
    • In Thunder Ryu's case, it's actually quite likely deliberate - to this troper, Thunder Ryu always sounded like the American idea of what Engrish sounds like, rather than actual Engrish.
  • Capcom has a tendency to do this with their games when voice acting is involved. Viewtiful Joe and Resident Evil both have English voice acting, even in Japan. Viewtiful Joe‍'‍s is excellent. Resident Evil's is... not so much. It Gets Better by the fourth game though.
    • Don't forget the Devil May Cry series! When this troper first played it, he thought it was a dub. Granted, the voice acting is very cheesy, especially in Dante's case, but anyone who plays it soon realizes that's practically the entire point of the series.
  • Nearly half the dialogue in Siren: Blood Curse is in Surprisingly Good English. The rest is either in Japanese, or intentionally heavily-accented English.
  • Even though it was a Japan-only title at the time, the entire game Pulseman is spoken in good English (even by characters who are meant to be Japanese). While the English is correct, it doesn't technically match what it should be ("Water will destroy Pulse Man" doesn't mean Super Drowning Skills.)
  • In DJMAX Portable Clazziquai Edition, a Korea-region game, there is a bonus behind-the-scenes video about the video for the song "Dark Envy". The protagonist's actor answers the interview questions in fluent English with, oddly enough, no subtitles in Korean.
  • Guilty Gear is a mixed bag, for the characters that actually have moves with English names. Somewhat ironically, Chipp has fairly good English pronunciation... and instead yells gratuitous Japanese because he's a wannabe ninja. Also, the announcers from XX onward speak perfect English, justified tha tthey are Americans (Gregory Payne in XX to Slash and Neil Moody in Accent Core).
  • Freeware Game Genetos. All of the English was translated by (a) Japanese speaker(s), and with the exception of a few odd word choices, could be understood by a kid who doesn't know what Japanese is. The English help HTML file even has a slightly heartwarming message from the author asking if "his friends overseas" would send him an email to correct any mistakes in the manual and the game. Of course, make sure you see the little prompt in the game's menu screens that says L SHIFT = English.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Melee, all characters (except Jigglypuff) retain the same voice actors between the Japanese and English versions. This results in some characters speaking in Gratuitous English due to their Japanese voice actors, but Peach is voiced by an American actress and speaks in perfect English. The same applies to Mario and Luigi, although they have heavy Italian accents and only speak in very short stock phrases.
    • In Brawl, while there are a lot more characters with different voice actors depending on version than in Melee, Captain Falcon, Zero Suit Samus, and Peach retain the same voice actors between the Japanese and English versions and speak very perfectly passable English, as do a number of Assist Trophies. Mario, Luigi, and Wario all have a heavy Italian accents, but this makes sense.
  • In the Parappa the Rapper video game series (i.e., PaRappa the Rapper, Um Jammer Lammy, and PaRappa the Rapper 2), all characters speak, rap, and sing in surprisingly good English, even though the video game series itself was made in Japan. (By the way, isn't it odd that Grey's Anatomy star Sara Ramirez voiced Lammy among the list of the games' American voice actors?)
  • The PC Engine CD/Turbografx-16 CD version of the Japan-only soccer game Super Formation Soccer '95 della Serie A, the opening narration is narrated in surprising good (but corny, since the narrator overblows how popular is the Serie A league in Italy) Italian.
    • The funniest thing is that the narrator, Edison Mineki, is a Brazil-born Japanese-Italian
  • Also, the Japanese game Tengai Makyo Kabuki, when Kabuki travels to London to try to rescue Okinu there, the British people he finds when he lands on England on the London's customs speaks in perfect English until Zeami (his partner) uses a translating spell on him, so he can be able to speak English without problems, but the text and dialogues are still in Japanese for the players' benefit.
  • Tales of Vesperia has its theme "Ring a Bell/Kane wo Narashite" sung in perfect English/Japanese by Bonnie Pink.
  • Final Fantasy XII has "Kiss Me Goodbye" sung in English and Japanese by Angela Aki.
  • The X-Men arcade game from Konami has an odd mixture of both this and the "other" kind, with the latter instances being the most famous (at least among gamers).

Western Animation

  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • Steve, the Monster of the Week from the episode "Super Zeroes". He's a giant, slimy, blob with strong-looking arms, beady red eyes, and a vertical mouth full of sharp teeth, but when he talks, he sounds like a normal guy.
    • Also true with other giant monsters, such as Fred, a dragon-like monster from the episode "Major Competition", who seems to be a friend of the Girls.

Real Life

  • Actor James Hong was born and raised in Minnesota and speaks impeccable English (as would be expected from a Minnesota native). For most of his film roles (especially roles in which his ethnicity matters), he's actually had to fake a Chinese accent.
    • And unfortunately, it shows. This troper's mother, born and raised in Beijing, cringed at Hong's Misplaced Accent whenever his character (a top Chinese government official, no less!) spoke Mandarin in the Hawaii Five-O episode "Presenting... in the Center Ring... Murder".
  • Inverted in the case of Jake Adelstein. Being the first American journalist to work as a Japanese-language reporter for a major Japanese newspaper, Surprisingly Good Japanese was a requirement; he even scored better in proficiency tests than native speakers. The flipside: because he spent so much time speaking it in an all-Japanese environment, when a case required him to interact with English speakers, he found himself stuttering over his words and even veering towards Engrish at times. He recovered pretty quickly.
  • Yukio Mishima spoke really eloquent and excellent English. Even more impressive as he taught himself the language - as a student in post-World War II Japan, Japanese students weren't permitted to study abroad, and so he listened to tapes of English speakers every day. He could apparently speak German and Chinese as well.
  1. "Rap is a Man's Soul! Heads Up and Listen to the Man Who Seeks the Heavens, Kamina's Theme!" Told you so.