I generally don't like to draw unfavorable comparisons between an anime series and the manga it's based on (IF it's based on one, as not all are); comics and animation are ultimately different mediums and have different needs, so really it all comes down to personal preference in most cases.
However, there is one manga that absolutely obliterates its adaptation in terms of quality: Natsuki Takaya's Fruits Basket. The anime isn't bad, but it's unfinished, covering about 5 volumes of material from a 23-volume series, and as a result it lacks many of the fascinating characters introduced later in the series, as well as the true emotional power that the manga eventually obtains.
Ergo, this fantasy cast will cover both characters who appeared in the anime and only in the manga, though I won't be casting EVERY character, just most of them. Funimation's dub was weak in some aspects (it was one of their earliest non-Dragonball Z efforts), but nevertheless well-acted on the whole. I'll be keeping many of the actors who originally portrayed their anime roles (this will be indicated by "Original" appearing before the actual casting reasons), but also recasting some, so hopefully this will be interesting.
YUKI SOHMA (Eric Vale)-Original. I never liked Yuki's voice in the Japanese much; it was obviously a woman, and while Yuki looks feminine, he doesn't act like it much, and is actually pretty masculine most of the time. That's why I liked Eric Vale's portrayal so much; his voice was soft, yes, but there was still an edge in his voice that spoke to the deeper complexities of the character. Since Yuki ends up growing much more as a person and even getting his own romance further into the manga, I think Vale would be more than up to the task of acting in them.
KYO SOHMA (Jerry Jewell)-Original. Kyo at first glance seems like a fun, showboating part, and Jewell certainly had fun with his comedic yelling and bravado in the original dub, but Kyo (like many other characters) is examined much more thoroughly from a psychological perspective in the manga. In the more dramatic scenes of the anime, Jewell brought a haunted quality to Kyo that would work wonders for the scenes where we peel back more of Kyo's psyche.
SHIGURE SOHMA (John Burgmeier)-Original. Much like Eric and Jerry, John did such a great job with suggesting Shigure's true nature (as it's mostly neutered for the anime) that I'd love to hear him take on the darker themes of Shigure's manga-self.
ARISA UOTANI (Colleen Clinkenbeard)-Colleen has a terrific "tough" quality to her voice that would work great for this ex-gang member, but she also has the talent to make that voice sound both young enough for a high-schooler, and vulnerable for Arisa's moments of self-doubt and insecurity.
SAKI HANAJIMA (Brina Palencia)-Brina has an underrated talent for deadpan creepiness, but she can also make creepy characters sympathetic, which is what "Hana" ultimately is. She could also play Hana's equally eerie little brother, Megumi, with no trouble at all as she can do a darn good "little boy" voice.
AKITO SOHMA (Stephanie Young)-The mysterious head of the Sohma family, Akito begins the series as something of a villain, abusing the other members of the family both physically and psychologically. Oh, and he's also secretly a woman. Yet Takaya takes Akito through some rather drastic changes by the end, and I was amazed at how sympathetic the character eventually became. I think Stephanie would manage to do a terrific job of mixing the early villainy with the eventual sympathy and understanding that Akito eventually gains.
KYOKO HONDA (Lydia Mackay)-OK, this is admittedly another "mom who's dead as the story begins" (Lydia previously played Trisha Elric in both Fullmetal Alchemist series), but I think Lydia would knock both Kyoko's motherly side and her younger, angrier self out of the park. Nothing against the original actress, Meredith McCoy, but Meredith doesn't seem to be working much anymore, so that's part of why I picked Lydia.
KAGURA SOHMA (Monica Rial)-Again, nothing against Meredith McCoy (who also originally played this part), but I think Monica could make Kagura a real comic highlight whenever she shows up, as well as handle her more dramatic scenes effectively.
MOMIJI SOHMA (Luci Christian)-The now seemingly retired Kimberly Grant did an OK job with this part in the original dub, but I think Luci, doing a variation on her Hunny voice from Ouran, could be light-years better in this role. Not only does she do a more convincing young-boy voice, she's a terrific actress, and Momiji is a surprisingly tough role that I think could give her a good challenge.
HATORI SOHMA (Kent Williams)-Original. Kent's older-sounding voice was a perfect fit for the mature doctor, so I don't see any reason why he shouldn't reprise the role.
MITSURU (Cynthia Cranz)-Original. Cynthia was so funny as Mitsuru in the original dub that I can't see anyone else doing as well in the part.
HATSUHARU SOHMA (Justin Cook)-Original. Justin can do "tough" in his sleep, but what's surprising about his original portrayal of Haru is how low-key it is much of the time, as he tends to get cast as exuberant, screaming fighters. True, Haru's "Black" mode is like this, but that shift doesn't occur all that often, so I think Justin could do fine with Haru's own manga-only romance.
AYAME SOHMA (Chris Sabat)-Original. An early bit of playing against type for Sabat, Ayame is simply, well, fabulous in everything he does, and Sabat's deep timbre managed to get that across without using the typical, stereotypically "gay" voice (which is inappropriate anyway as Ayame really isn't gay). It was also hilarious, so I have no complaints about letting Sabat back into the booth for this one.
KAZUMA SOHMA (Sonny Strait)-As Kazuma's original VA Dameon Clarke no longer works for Funimation, I decided to go with Sonny because he's another actor who can sound both genuinely nice and yet still have a certain "edge" to his voice (look at his Maes Hughes from Fullmetal Alchemist for a great example). I think this would work quite well for Kyo's martial arts sensei and surrogate father.
KISA SOHMA (Jad Saxton)-Jad's performance as Eve Genoard in Baccano! convinced me she'd be great for this role, as she sounds young but not saccharine, which fits Kisa perfectly.
HIRO SOHMA (Anastasia Munoz)-As much as I liked Aaron Dismuke's hilariously petulant performance in the original dub, he's waaaaayyy too old-sounding now. Anastasia's voiced some young boys, so I think she could do wonderfully here.
RITSU SOHMA (Mike McFarland)-Original. Despite only appearing in one episode in the original (and only a few chapters in the manga), Mike made Ritsu both hilarious and relatable enough that I'd love to hear him again.
KAKERU MANABAE (Joel McDonald)-Here we're getting into "manga-only" characters, and I had admittedly thought of a couple other voices for this goofy soul who ends up becoming a good friend to Yuki: Todd Haberkorn and Greg Ayres. I ultimately decided on Joel because while Todd and Greg are both great, I can imagine very easily how they'd play this role. Joel's a bit more unpredictable, which suits Kakeru's own hidden depths quite well.
MACHI KURAGI (Maxey Whitehead)-Yuki's eventual love interest in the manga, I decided on Maxey for this complicated girl because, well, frankly she needs more female roles. But I also think Maxey could work wonders with Machi's mixture of deep-seated fears and comic neuroses.
ISUZU "RIN" SOHMA (Kate Oxley)-Kate has a terrific voice that can sound tough and vulnerable in equal measure, which suits this temperamental lass to a tee.
KURENO SOHMA (Vic Mignogna)-Vic doesn't get to play purely nice guys that often, so I thought this would be a fun change of pace from all the loudmouths and scenery-chewers he does, and he has a certain softness to his voice that Kureno needs to have for his nice-guy persona.
REN SOHMA (Stephanie Young)-There's a reason I cast Stephanie in both this role and Akito; as Ren is Akito's mother, I thought it would make sense for some of Akito's voice to "come from" Ren, and Stephanie could break out both the uber-sexy part of her voice and the screaming, crazy aspects as Ren grows steadily unhinged.
KATSUYA HONDA (J. Michael Tatum)-Tohru's father, Katsuya is a cold man who softens and warms after he meets and falls in love with Kyoko, and I think Tatum could perfectly capture that change, as well as sound young enough for the role.
Whew! That was a rather large post. I should have more coming soon, especially my long-in-the-works review of one of my favorite dubs, Baccano!, as well as reviews for the dubs of Paranoia Agent and Haibane Renmei. Catch y'all later!