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The age old Debate Subs vs. Dubs

So I have been a very big anime fan for most of my life. I've always loved the stories and the characters you find in anime. I mean lets face it, you just can't find anything like it anywhere else.

Now unlike most so called "Hardcore" anime fans I am an avid supporter of anime dubs. Why? Well there are quite a few reasons. All of which I will be talking about here. So set aside a little time and read a bit and maybe your opinion will change. And if not at least you will be better educated on the topic.

First if you are unaware what dubs and subs are let me give you a bit of background on it. Simply put Dubs are the process of adding voice over to anime. However in the West the term has come to mean English voice over instead of simply voice over. Subs are simply the original Japanese with subtitles.

Shockingly enough the vast majority of anime fans(I would posit somewhere in around the 75% range) watch nothing but subtitled anime. I have always been left wondering why. There are plenty of reasons I have been told in defense of subs and most of them are either wrong, weak excuses and just plain ignorant.

The most common reason I hear is "I want to watch the show the way it was intended". Well I'm sorry to say that you can not watch the show the way it was intended unless you speak fluent Japanese. Why? Well think about it. Do you honestly think the Directors of these incredible shows want the viewers to be reading text at the bottom of the screen? No they don't. They want the viewers to be immersed in the story and be free to look at the incredible looking artwork that anime is so well known for. Sorry to say you can't do this while reading subtitles. All to often you will miss key visual details while reading subs. Maybe a piece of information key to the plot line or maybe even a visual gag. You are much more likely to miss things like this if your eyes are glued to the bottom of the screen.

Up next we have the "The Japanese performances are always better". Um... Wow.... well that's more often then not completely wrong. The truth is that most anime performances are simply average. So why do people think the Japanese is always better? Simple they don't understand what they are hearing. If you can't fluently speak Japanese you can't possibly know if the performance is any good or not. With this being the case you incur the illusion that the acting is better when it is indeed average. If you want a amusing story about this head over to ANN. There is quite a funny story about a guy who had always said his favorite anime ever Dirty Pair was better in Japanese. Until that is he learned to speak Japanese and was horrified to find that it had horrible acting in it. This is not to say that there is not good acting in the Japanese. In fact quite the opposite. I would say that the amount of good performances out weigh the bad.

It seems as if dubs have incurred a negative stigma that all English dubs are horribly acted. After all most who are watching the English dubs speak English and everyone is a critic. It's obvious why dubs got a bad rap though. Back during the 80's and into the mid 90's nearly every dub was HORRIBLE(with a few great exceptions). However those times have passed and now more often then not English dubs are incredibly well acted. There are even cases in which the English dub is vastly superior to the original Japanese. How is that possible you might ask. Well let me give you a prime example.

The anime Black Lagoon was vastly better in English then it was in Japanese. The reasons are many. Firstly the English script corrected numerous factual errors the Japanese script contained. For example the names of numerous places and guns. In addition to that the Characters are far more genuine. In Japanese a character will always sound Japanese and that's something that cannot be fixed with a deeper voice. Dutch is a prime example of this. He is your classic bad ass big black guy. In English he sounds as such. In Japanese he sounds like a deep voiced Japanese guy. Needless to say he sounds better in English. The same can be said for nearly every character in Black Lagoon be it Benny and his obvious white boy from Florida look and feel or Revy and her harsh words and sometimes psychotic attitude.

The simple fact is that English has accents that Japanese doesn't have and being able to authentically use or not use these accents makes characters closer to the way they should actually be.(and in all honesty what the original creators envisioned them to be) Another good example is the anime BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad. In this anime the character Maho grew up in America and speaks fluent English and sings in fluent English as well. However in the Japanese she has a heavy accent when singing in English. Obviously a character who grew up speaking English would not have this problem. In the English dub Brina Palencia sings the same songs with the same lyrics and the result is vastly better then the Japanese simply because she does not have the heavy Japanese accent the original did. On top of the fact that Brina is a incredible singer with a stunningly beautiful voice. She isn't the only one either. The character Koyuki also has a English performance and again in the Japanese he has a heavy accent. However in the English dub Greg Ayres performs the piece beautifully. Keep in mind that these songs were in English in BOTH versions of BECK. However they sound more authentic in the English. So much so that many rallied to have Funimation release a English version of the BECK soundtrack. Which sadly didn't happen due to licensing reasons(believe me though. Greg himself told me they did everything in their power to get it to happen but it was just not meant to be)

The fact is that most dubs being produced these days(which in all honesty isn't very many thanks to the hard times the industry has found itself in) Are very well acted by all those involved. The days of every dub being laughably bad are behind us. Now don't take all this to mean I hate subs. That's not the case at all. In fact there are shows I simply cannot watch in English for various reasons. For example recently I watched the Fate/Stay Night anime. No matter how hard I tried I could not watch the English because I had played more then 150 hours of the original game. I got so used to the original Japanese(which in this case was indeed better acted and cast) That I could not stand the way the characters sounded in English. This would be the case for alot of other shows I have seen like K-ON! and Kara No Kyoukai. If these were to be released in English I would more then likely still watch them in Japanese. That's not to say that I would not give the English dub a chance however as I have been surprised before.

To me anime should be experienced in whichever way is better. If the English performances are just as good or even better then the Japanese who cares if you are not watching the original. If it's better you are going to get more from the experience. It's still the same story be it in English or Japanese. On the flip side it's nice to be able to have a back up option in the form of subs. I watch anime about half subbed half dubbed. That's the great thing about being open minded. You don't have to be held back in anyway. I have friends who didn't like the subs for a show and stopped watching the show entirely despite the fact that they liked the story. If they were more open minded they could have switched to the dub and continued on and seen the ending.

Something also needs to be said for Fansubs. A disturbingly large amount of "fans" get into anime via this method and as such get stuck up to a degree and think they should only be watching something subbed. Never once do they stop to think that the fan subs they are watching are probably way off the real meaning.(look at the countless posts on Japanator about fansubs laughable failures). But I digress this is another topic entirely.

So at the end of the day it's simple. If you are a anime fan start trying to give the dubs a shot. You may like what you hear. As I said nearly every anime dub being released these days are very good. You may end up liking what you hear and will not have to be constantly looking at the bottom of the screen.

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Archaic4590d ago

Do the majority of fans watch only subtitled anime? I'd actually be very surprised by that. If it's true, it's a massive turnaround from as recently as 5 years ago. There's certainly a lot more willingness out there for people to watch subs compared to what there was previous (with fansubs and Crunchyroll probably a big factor there), but if people were setting aside the dubs to that extent I'd be surprised that dub actors are still held in the esteem that they currently are.

Don't really have the time at this moment to go through this and reply point by point, but I do want to note one thing on the fansub translations. While it's true that there are crap translations out there, which are well documented, any tier 1 or 2 subbing group will tend to have translations on par with official translations. Which isn't really surprising, given that the licensors have often hired their own translators out of this group. Case in point, Strato of a.f.k.

Reibooi4589d ago (Edited 4589d ago )

Overall I would say that Dubs are starting to become more popular. Funimation has been letting it be known that according to their own polls on their site and via DVD inserts that more people watch dubs then subs. They used this as a point to say that they would not stop making dubs. However one must keep in mind that Funimation as big as they are don't = all anime fans. I would be willing to bet that in the totality of it all that subs still win.

Go to any anime forum and make a thread about this very topic and you will get a good 90% of replies saying Dubs all suck and they only watch subs. I have seen this myself first hand on forums like and while I am aware that those users are not all the fans either there seems to be many more of them.

And I am aware that fansubs more often then not are not to bad on their translations however I have had horrible experiences with them and as such don't hold them in high regard(aside from the fact that they are slowing killing the industry as much as people would like to deny that). I remember awhile ago a friend of mine showed me some fan subs of Love Hina and I hated the show. The reason was because of the horrible translation that was literally changing Naru and Keitaro's personalities. Years later I saw the real DVD's and Keitaro and Naru were almost completely different characters then they were in the fan subs. I ended up rather enjoying the real version of the show compared to the horrible fan sub version. This has happened to me quite a few times on many different shows(although not quite to that extent) and as such I very rarely watch the fan subs anymore.(The only real translation group I ever really respected was Mirrormoon and they never did anime as far as I am aware of)

I also cannot testify to fan subbers getting hired "often" talking to reps and a few friends from within Funimation I can tell you that very few of them ever actually try to go pro with translating and the majority of those that do fail Funimations incredibly demanding translators test(They joke about it at cons saying it's the hardest test of it's kind in the US don't know if that's a joke or not) I cannot speak for the rest of the R1 anime companies as I have no friends who work at them but I would assume it's a similar situation.

Archaic4589d ago

Internet forums are a really bad representation of the fan community. Generally, the more hardcore a fan is, the more likely it is that they prefer subs. But you have to be pretty hardcore to really want to participate a lot in forums, as a general rule, so the population there is going to be significantly biased towards sub fans.

Comparing fansub translations on the basis of Love Hina, which would have had its sub done at a time when digital fansubbing was still in its infancy, isn't really a legitimate comparison. Things have just progressed too far from then. While a persons first experiences with fansubs are often bad (because those first coming into the scene tend to go to speedsubbers without realising the quality difference), anyone who's been in the scene for a while can generally name about 5 groups off the top of their head who could be relied on to produce solid translations.

It's true that very few fansubbers try to go pro and many who do fail...but that's fansubbers as a whole. I was referring specifically to the elite, those who work in the tier 1 and some tier 2 groups.

Megaman42xX4589d ago

"Funimation has been letting it be known that according to their own polls on their site and via DVD inserts that more people watch dubs then subs."
I think that Funimation cares more about the people that actually go through the effort to buy and then fill out those inserts. So even if the more hardcore fans prefer subbed it doesn't matter to Funimation.

jwalkerz4589d ago

people watch subs over dubs becuz company are too slow dubbing plus subs are free :P

Archaic4589d ago

Not necessarily. There used to be a fairly substantial group of dub fans who avoided watching fansubs simply because they didn't like subs. That may have changed with subs having gone a lot more mainstream in recent years.

Honestly, what probably did the most for the popularity of subs is the transition to DVD from VHS. Sub VHS used to be 50% higher in cost to the dub VHS, if not more. Which when you think about it, is rather odd, but explained by the lower production runs on the sub versions.

SynGamer4572d ago

I'm someone who prefers dubbing simply because I'm watching an animated film/show. I want to enjoy the visuals instead of focusing primarily on the bottom half of the screen. And when companies get dubbing right, which is the case of the Hellsing OVA's and Fullmetal Alchemist, I have no problem waiting to watch the dubs.

SynGamer4579d ago

My thoughts can be found here: (my thoughts are in the comments, the original article is someone else's thoughts).

Archaic4573d ago

Why don't you post your thoughts as a blog, Syn?