ANIME DEBATES: SUBS VERSUS DUBS

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With a bit of knowledge and info from all corners of the internet, hopefully this will put to bed the whole Japanese dub versus English dubs debate. For those who read at least.

Submitted: August 22, 2015

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Submitted: August 22, 2015

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English Subs vs. English Dubs

In society today most people tackle these heavy, and universally debated topics. Topics like abortion, animal testing, and the government’s attempts at “protecting” the homeland via spying on us. But what about me? I on the other hand have a much more niche topic I would wish to debate. One that in essence doesn’t hold the same level of importance as those aforementioned topics. But it does to me.

Somewhere in the most obscure, and darkest parts of the internet… as well as YouTube, People often get in heated, and oddly enough sometimes angry debates on how Anime or Japanese animation should be viewed. Whether it should be watched in its original Japanese audio with subtitles or with English voices. What neither side seems to usually understand is the fact that it really doesn’t matter which way you want to watch it. And on top that who really cares? Or at the very least, who important cares? Despite what I said ironically I care because the people who argue this point actually piss me the hell off, and I will explain why they do later.

First off the real beef of the topic here is which is better? Something that I myself don’t have a clear answer to. And to summarize why I say that I have two major points to bring up. One: I do not speak Japanese so for the most part I can neither defend nor criticize a Japanese voice actor’s performance despite there being ones I really like such as Rie Kugimiya, and Mamoru Miyano. Two: The English, and Japanese company’s way of producing the voices for Anime are completely different.

Both are Businesses, and Gigguk from the AnimeZone informed me of just how expensive the licensing of an Anime can be to bring over to North America in his “Anime is Dying?!” video. After more research I found that Anime films can approximately be between 10,000 to 20,000 dollars just to license, and sometimes more. And TV Series which are more abundantly licensed as the average licensing company gets fifteen+ Anime television series a year, and those cost approximately 100,000 or more dollars to license. Yes this excludes paying the actors as well as releasing them on DVD, and Blu-ray which doesn’t guarantee sales.

So it is incredibly risky for companies, and on top of that you can’t expect Hollywood performances from the English Dub voice actors when the companies hardly have the money left to pay them anything. The industry is much more profitable in Japan making it easier to pay the actors as well as more incentive for the actors to try harder, and there are actors with more education in the performing arts… and actually voice acting specifically with schools in Japan for that very occupation.

Besides in my opinion there seems to be more passion in the voice acting on our side. When you listen to episode commentaries you can hear the excitement of the actors when speaking of their roles. And a lot of the actors such as Crispin Freeman who played Alucard the badass vampire from Hellsing said he got into the industry to improve it, and was a fan of Anime already. There seems to be more passion which makes me admire our voice actors over here, and makes it sound like a cool job despite the low pay. This isn’t me saying the Japanese voice actors don’t have passion, but I can’t understand what they say so it is a moot point.

On top of that let us get back to the topic of production. Due to the film “Adventures in Voice Acting” Produced by the company Bang Zoom! an English dubbing company I now know that the most difficult part on our acting side of things is matching lip flaps. Something the Japanese doesn’t have to do very often. When the Japanese create their audio track for an Anime series or film they usually (key word usually) do the acting before the animation process even takes place. We do the acting afterwards thus making it more difficult.

I would say the acting quality sounds pretty good most of the time despite the restrictions most of our actors are given. Restrictions such as pay, lack of education, as well as more complicated procedures such as matching flaps. And I would prefer passion from my actors rather than high pay. It makes their work seem less artificial.

Now one of the best ways to prove a point would be to mention someone else’s point, and then tear it right down. Sometimes when it comes to subs versus dubs in Anime it isn’t always an argument over acting quality but more actually an argument over translations. Many argue that the English subtitled version is better to watch because the writing, and dialogue stays true to the Japanese when the English dub changes things. This is total BS to say the least. When people say this they usually lack the knowledge that most of the English production companies produce the subtitles themselves by professional Japanese, and English speaking translators. And there is no such thing as a perfect translation.

For example of this FUNimation as well as the Anime streaming site Crunchyroll both produced subtitled versions of the same show “Attack on Titan” or “Shingeki No Kyojin” in Japanese as it aired in Japan. Both companies had their own professional Japanese speaking translators create the subbed versions for both. There were massive differences between the ways dialogue was said but virtually no differences behind the meaning of each word or sentence. On top of that the English spelling of words was different. FUNimation had the main characters name spelled Eren Yager when Crunchyroll had it spelled Eren Jaeger. One character was named John in one, and Jean in another, and the military group was named the Survey Corps in one, and the Scout Regiment in another.

See English translations aren’t much different from the subbed version keeping in mind that the translations can’t be 100% hell barely 90% like what it is in Japanese. With the acting being a matter of opinion, and whether you watch Anime subbed or dubbed being preference it is a stupid argument that gets people heated and angry on the internet, and at cons. I really just want people to see both sides and forgive and forget.

That is why the translations argument always bugs me. People try to argue a point using facts, and knowledge that they don’t fully understand. Knowledge that for the most part neither side is really aware of. People are allowed to have an opinion but it should be an opinion that can’t really be proven wrong by factual evidence such as the translations. And whether you think an actor is better than another is one thing. Also, I wish people didn’t argue so hatefully, and use the fact that they only watch in Japanese make them feel more superior and like they’re “bigger fans” than others because of this. Because they aren’t, they’re obnoxious.

For example Tristan “Arkada” Gallant from Glass Reflection my favorite Anime reviewer doesn’t like Sentai Filmworks Dubs and I do but you wouldn’t see him hate me for that. But some people do so after laying down the facts, and evidence as well as a hint of my opinion in this essay maybe it will shut up some of those elitists. Because at the end of the day your opinion is YOUR opinion so respect others opinions.

Because my opinion on the debate of subs versus dubs is that as an English speaker I prefer to watch in English, that doesn’t mean I can’t and won’t watch subs, I pay monthly for Crunchyroll, and I have a FUNimation subscription so I watch a lot of Anime subbed (Most of the time these days actually) as well as a lot of it in English. And there are few anime that have dubs that I prefer in Japanese such as the romantic series “Toradora!”, and the Dark, Dystopian Fantasy “From the New World” or “Shin Sekai Yori” in Japanese.

So after reading books, watching a few videos, and doing some internet searching hopefully I informed many. There is too much between languages and the different business aspects between companies involved to simply state that for subs and dubs one is better than another. Remember you aren’t king shit and other people’s opinions matter too. And as Arkada says at the end of his videos “Stay Frosty”.


© Copyright 2019 Joshua Lundquest. All rights reserved.

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