You might be wondering why I started this blog out with a video of Mortal Kombat’s theme song. Well it’s because this a heated subject and anytime I think about nerds duking it out with keyboard clicks to sling vitriol at each other, I try to make it more dramatic with this song. Cause otherwise it’s just two losers yelling through computers.
So today I’ll be talking about Sub vs. Dub and how the anime community goes into a shitstorm about it. I’ll also talk about what I enjoy more which will tell you if I’m a weeb loser or a normie fuck face casual.
So most of the anime community, when dealing with the topic of sub vs. dub, will side with that of sub, though the term sub is misleading. If you’re not familiar with the term or are a newcomer to anime (newcomers please…leave before you start to like anime. I’m trying to help you. If it’s too late and you already like it, please find other people who like anime or you’ll have a bad time. There’s something about being in Boston with no anime outlet that’s getting to me.), you might wonder what sub and dub mean. Sub means that the anime is going by the audio of the original Japanese dub, but uses English subtitles. As for dub, it means the anime is using an English audio dub.
There are two common arguments against dub. One is that usually English voice actors are bad at their jobs. Their voices aren’t as passionate as the Japanese voices, they massacre Japanese pronunciations, and their voices don’t fit the characters (sometimes). The second reason is that quite a few English dubs censor the original Japanese script and that’s really a fault of A) American censoring and B) 4kids TV. Well really A and B are sort of the same. 4kids TV has ruined quite a bit of anime for long standing anime fans because during the 90s and 2000s their means of translating anime took more serious scripts and shifted the content to something that would best be labelled as for kids (budum-tss. Murder me.).
Now, while with certain shows, I can come to agree with those arguments, I feel as though it isn’t fair to take the bad experiences and say that it’s all of the experiments because then you become literary snobs with genre fiction (I will always be salty. For a better comparison…um you’d be a person that hates fried chicken because of KFC?). Yes, certain anime were dubbed awfully. Though I notice that a good number of people who advocate subs are people who started with one of my favorite trash anime, Naruto (I can never escape this show). And Naruto has a horrible dub. The dub kind of censors things, but that’s because, to Americans, anime was for children. This was a sentiment during the early through late 2000s. It’s unfortunate, but that’s what Westerners thought. Due to this Naruto received some unfortunate content variations. For me though, the dub was awful because after the original series, I truly believe that Naruto needed a new English voice. Maile Flanagan is probably an awesome person, but her voice unfortunately didn’t fit Naruto once he was 15-16. And it surely stopped fitting him when Naruto was an adult father with children. I’ve never switched to Japanese tracks for the Naruto fighting games so quickly. But even though Naruto and other popular anime dubs were bad and at times janky, we shouldn’t judge all dubs that way.
Another odd defense of dub is in how English voice acting is recorded. While animation for Japan is made for the Japanese dub, it’s not the same for English. Writers have to write a script that is both somewhat true to the Japanese script and can fit into lip flapping of the animated characters. They can’t fully go into ideas or get the full aesthetic, because in most cases the timing is off. As a dude who used to speak Japanese on an every day basis, I know how timing can be off due to how much you can say in Japanese versus how much you can say in English in a certain amount of time. This usually leads to janky moments in anime. Also when recording, the voice actors don’t play off of each other, they just read the lines with no context and that can cause a large amount of emotional inconsistencies or what fans call a, “lack of passion”. Now am I saying that you’re supposed to enjoy dubs because of this defense? No. I’m just explaining it.
Now as I’ve said earlier, there are good English dubs out there, mainly it’s the anime we grew up with when we didn’t know what anime was. Dragon Ball Z/ Dragon Ball Super/ Dragon Ball (not so much the first 13 episodes of the series though. When I re-watched it all sounded so different compared to the rest of the series and personally I enjoyed the English version of “Mystical Adventure” more than the “Goku! He’s Gonna Show You!” opening). Most people prefer the more adult voice of Goku in the dub than in sub (I am part of that club, I just end up watching the sub because Japan is ahead by years). Even Dragon Ball GT had a good English dub if you ignore Pan’s voice… Other good/ decent dubs were for Yu Yu Hakusho, Sailor Moon, Inuyasha, Cowboy Bebop, and kinda Rurouni Kenshin (or Samurai X). I say kinda for Kenshin because the titular character’s voice in both the dub and sub can get to you. Now one might say, “Hey you’re choosing some old titles, so I guess the newer dubs sucked.” Yeah the 2000s decade, when it came to dubs, kinda sucked. I mean voice acting was kind of horrid no matter where you go, even in JRPGs. An example for JRPGs would be Star Ocean IV. Lymle’s “‘kay” is something only torture porn fans can enjoy. But even with that not-so-great dub came Tales of the Abyss and Tales of Vesperia which had decent dubs.
Now as we got to the 2010s I’d like to say that English dubs have gotten better. During the 2000s I was a jaded anime fan who was team sub all day every day and the utterance of English in my anime was trash. I was becoming what one would call a weeb. I realized, not of my own accord, but actually through looking in a comment section for a JRPG trailer, that I had mainly liked sub because I didn’t understand the nuances of Japanese. It just sounded like epic noises, and though it sounds epic, we just perceive it that way. Many fans who know Japanese will hear the Japanese dub and feel the same way English speaking viewers feel about American dubs. We’re just more critical on English dub because it’s a language we know.
One of my friends still considers sub to be superior and even if the English dub is decent she’ll want to switch to Japanese. And I get that you might want the full immersive experience, but we’re now reaching a point in anime dub where translation is true to the original source and we’re advancing to a point where America doesn’t look down on Anime. Also English allows for more accent variances that we can understand i.e. Final Fantasy XV with Cindy.
So based off this whole article being a defense of dub, you might think, “Well this guy loves English dub.” You’d be wrong. I still listen to way more Japanese dub than I do to English. It’s just that English dub is slowly on the come up where if given a choice you might want to choose the English dub. On occasion, usually with Netflix anime or old anime, I’ll choose English and that’s either because I like the voices or because I’m being lazy (I watch Devil is a Part-Timer quite a bit in English). Also JRPGs are even getting better with their dubs and I see no real reason to switch to Japanese when I play Persona 5 for a third time in like September. So no. I’m not a weeb loser or a normie casual. My case is circumstantial, but at this point unless the English dub is god awful, you should give it a chance. And you can find most of your dubbed anime pleasure on Funimation. I leave you with my favorite English dub anime opening. Later days.