Subs Vs. Dubs

It’s the age-old debate. Which is better? Subs or Dubs?

Well, admittedly, I still argue this one… So which is better? It all depends on your context. Let’s start with the old-school anime. With the exception of a select few (I’ll name a few shortly) anime of the 80’s and early 90’s was poorly dubbed. A couple of exception include Akira and Neon Genesis: Evangelion. A few examples of poor dubbing would be Judge, Moldiver, and Samurai Pizza Cats among others. (If you don’t know them, look it up, yo!)

As the anime fandom has become more mainstream and popular, anime studios don’t have to scrape the bottom of the barrel for actors anymore. If you want some examples of successful voice actors, see Spike Spencer, Steve Blum, Crispin Freeman, Vic Mignogna, Richard Epcar as just a few examples of successful careers.

So… With some newer anime distributions (late 90’s onwards) I’m more torn about which version to watch. The English voice actors do an amazing job now, but the japanese can sometimes hit those emotional keys the americans can’t.

There is, on the other hand, some restraint to japanese voice acting. I’ve heard that there are only a few vocal ranges, which seem to almost be the same few actors for every show. For the males: young boy, old man, mobster, or heroic male lead voice. For the female, there are perhaps a few more variations:
Young girl, tsundere, energetic friend, androgenous character, heroic female lead, old woman.
But still, almost every tsundere character sounds almost exactly the same.

To be honest, for my personal preference, If there is the option, I will watch anime in English first. The reason? That way, its an easy way to get the idea of the story and the characters (modern anime tend not to re-write the story unless they want to angle it to young kids, like pokemon). And then, I can go back and watch it in japanese, be able to compare the voices, and get a bit of a feel for the deeper complexities.
(I find if you watch something in English first, you also won’t complain about how “horrible” the english is if you’ve seen the japanese version beforehand. Such as my first experiences with Bleach and Naruto in English.)

So in conclusion, which is better? That’s up to the viewers to decide, and think about. And really do think… Is the English so bad?

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17 Responses to Subs Vs. Dubs

  1. AceD says:

    Dubs suck, Purist weebo superiority wins.

    Reason i never watch dubs though, and this applies to everything…not just anime, is because programs simply look better in there original language. I really can’t stand it when the mouth movements don’t match the words coming out of the mouth.

    Also for whatever reason, the dubs i have checked out the voice actors just don’t fit the roles. American voice actresses can NOT do a tsundere loli character for example, period!.

    Cowboy Bebop and Black Lagoon are the only decent dubs imo.

    • DJ_Battousai says:

      Ummm you do realise they don’t even try to lip-sync on the japanese, right? they just enter random lip-flaps for most of it unless there’s a specific sound they want at a certain point (e.g. a character saying “oh”)

      maybe if you watched more than loli tsundere shows, you’d see some good voice actors. Hellsing is a good example.

      like I said, if you watch in English first, you get the idea of the story without having to fuss about with the rest.

      • AceD says:

        Tsundere loli was just the most extreme example of dub failure, i watch far more than just that.

        Most new anime i see with high production values (ie, not garbage anime), the words look pretty synced to me…only exception is some super deformed comedy’s.

        Hellsing…i’ve got a dual audio release of that, i did try the English for about 15 minutes, then watched the rest in Jap…I just feel Japanese seiyus poor more emotion into there role and generally do a better job.

        This blog post is just yelling out for flames, dub viewers vs sub viewers, always pops up on the forum now and again. Subs > Dubs is my opinion, you have yours…i won’t hate on that, like many would 😉

  2. Hellfire says:

    I personally prefer subs over dubs, the reason being: I play most games using the english voiceset, and if I hear a voice actor of an anime character, I just have to look up who it was, and where I heard him before. That actually gets annoying, because most careers of voiceactors are not documented that well. The CV development in germany was interesting. In the beginning there were only a select few, that were dubbing every anime. but around 2005-2007 they started to actively use the voice actors of children shows and cartoons. It’s just hilarious if the antagonist comes with the CV of Benjamin Blümchen (Germany exclusive audio book, that got adapted to a cartoon. I still have all the old VHS from when I was little). But then, that sucks if you don’t want to laugh. I simply think that drawing a line between different areas is better. So it’s german for audio books and german shows; english for games, and Japanese for anime. it’s not that I like subs better, but I don’t like wasting time looking up the voice actor of patrician 2, just because I thought that he voiced someone in gate keepers. It took me about 4 hours to find substantial proof that it was the same guy XD.

  3. allouh says:

    True fact; Over 90% of Dub viewers only watch the Dub because they are not used to watch with subtitles or to run the show while getting busy…NOT because it’s better.

    • michael15286 says:

      True fact; Over 90% of statistics are made up on the spot.

      Also, I agree with what you’re saying. It’s convenient to be able to look away once in a while. I usually watch a dub if there are a lot of action scenes; it’s rather hard to see what’s going on and understand what they’re saying at the same time. And you often can miss things while your reading. Just my 3 cents.

  4. DJ_Battousai says:

    AceD: if you actually READ the entirety of the blog, I did mention that the Seiyu do often tend to do better with emotional performances (Although I think Hellsing is one of the few exceptions to voice actors getting it wrong), but that I find watching in English first A) means you won’t necessarily just sit there and bitch about the English track later, because now you’re used to the Seiyu’s voice for the role B) Means you get the idea of the story without too much hassle (unless it’s a 4Kids dub, in which case, you’re screwed). As for calling for flames… if the mods thought so, they likely would have denied the posting of this blog. as you and I have both said, these are just our opinions on the matter. There is NO right answer.

    Hellfire: I can’t say too much about how things are recorded in Germany for voice acting… in terms of games, if you want either japanese or English voice actors, go to imdb.com I wouldn’t know where to look for Germans… as for on anime, go to ANN (Anime news network) they tend to list all the different lists for the different languages they can get their hands on.

    allouh: True fact – not everyone has huge amounts of time with which to watch anime. I’m lucky if I can watch 4-5 episodes in a week generally. I can keep up with subtitles just fine, and actually, 99% of your statistic is made up. it’s not because they’re lazy or can’t keep up with the subs, it’s because they’re now being introduced to anime through mainstream media, and are becoming accustomed to hearing their shows voiced by american voice actors, and then tend to stick to it (name two shows which put me off the english as soon as I heard them? Bleach and Naruto. but I’d heard them in japanese first)

    I’m not attempting to bait or flame or anything, just making a reply to the comments that have been made, and still trying to respect other people’s opinions. as I’ve said above, there is NO right answer, only preferences.

    • Hellfire says:

      I know it is easy to find the anime voice actor, but most voice actors won’t admit that they took part in a game, meaning there is little to no information from that side^^

  5. DJ_Battousai says:

    actually, part of that is because they have to do the work under pseudonyms, as to whether it’s a unionised job or not (yes, voice actors do have unions, like any other actor)

  6. allouh says:

    The reason you introduced in your comment fall under the very same first reason i mentioned.
    And for my second reason, you apparently misunderstood it, what i meant is many people only watch the dub when getting busy with other stuff; chatting, playing online, being intimate,…any activity that take the focus.
    You apparently an exception to these two

  7. marvx says:

    It’s funny–I didn’t start watching anime in the original Japanese until I had difficulty finding English dubs for some of my favorites. Due to some visual impairment, I have difficulty following some subs without having to pause/rewind a bit to read it. I have to say this: I think it is only fair to consider several subjective variables when critiquing the value of one over the other. My visual impairment aside, I definitely see the value of subs, but not necessarily over the value of “dubs”, and I’ll explain the quotes in a bit. I’ll share this:

    InuYasha: The Final Act
    I was fortunate enough to have watched the entire original series run dubbed in English on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. Not being able to procure an English dub for The Final Act (I believe still in production at the time of this writing), I watched the original with the English subs. Two things came of this: 1) I found multiple subs for the series of varying quality which really bugged me–I was hoping for some consistency in that I do not understand Japanese and truly wanted to understand the creator’s original intent, though I realize that one can’t simply do a straight translation from Japanese to English. 2) I was simply floored by how moving The Final Act was listening to it in Japanese, most especially during some very poignant moments, regardless of how bad the written translation may have been. I seriously doubt the English version will be as moving when it finally comes out.

    Jigoku Shoujo (Hell Girl)
    Okay, I could complain about inconsistencies again here regarding subs, but I found the subs offered by Shinsen Subs to be very good. Having said that, I found the English dub absolutely outstanding! Brina Palencia did as tremendous a job of portraying Enma Ai as did Mamiko Noto. My only complaint here is that the English scripting for the dub lost a bit in translation, especially when Ai both spelled out the contract and then when subsequently carrying it out. There’s nothing about cultural differences amongst viewers that justified this in my opinion.

    I was going to share a couple more examples but realize how long this response is already (LoL). The are two more points I want to make before clicking the “Post Comment” button:

    First, I feel that some subbers try to (not all that well) anticipate how the anime in question will/should be viewed/received by those from Western cultures. Unless the animation was originally geared for Western audiences, I’d much prefer to hear English dubs that better reflect the original creator’s intentions as best as possible. I believe this accounts for some of the varying quality of multiple subs for the same series.

    Secondly, “dubs” is fast becoming an obsolete term for some projects as we are finally seeing more and more convergence in anime/animation production. Cowboy Beebob, Witchblade, and others were and are, while not exclusively, geared with Western sensibilities in mind. For me, English voice acting gets “dubbed over” anime originally shown for Japanese audiences. Projects, such as Witchblade, while originally produced in Japanese, was always set for a North American audience. Thus, I thoroughly enjoy both versions as they both bring something unique to the experience.

  8. Daii says:

    Hmmm,

    Back when i was a wee little animefan i once had the problem of having a show with no japanese track. And it is the only time when i’ve actually watched something dubbed, and my experience wasn’t so bad.

    I think that the reason why i prefer subs is because that’s what felt most natural, coming from a country that isn’t native english speaking i was already used to movies with subtitles, and watching movies dubbed to my native language?… pretty much out of question, and i guess i brought that mindset with me when i started watching anime.

    Now a few years later it would seem unthinkable to watch the dub, simply because all those hours of anime have given me a small understanding of Japanese, and some words just don’t translate all that well to english.

    And then ofcourse there’s the westernization or americanization, i could be wrong but the general idea i have is that dubs are more keen to skip using -chan -san and all the prefixes, and things like that, and that is something i dislike, since i strongly believe that how people address others with either their surname or lastname and what prefix they use is actually important because it shows what kind of relation they have.
    That happens in subs aswell i know, and i have to admit that my knowledge of dubs is too little to know whether dubs are more keen on westernization or not. But in any case being able to hear the Japanese language spoken these things will always be there.

    And that pretty much wraps up why i prefer subs.

  9. Soryon says:

    There are still some nice dubs around if you look hard (such as Princess Mononoke or FMA) but I don’t see many. What irks me is that the largest source of dubbed shows these days on TV is Funimation and I have never once heard anything that did not make my ears bleed from that channel.

    I find dubs to be more of a niche market. Either the people who dont really know anything about subs and arent concerned with losing some of the small characteristics and details that don’t translate well, or the people who have a legitimate reason to watch dubs (like those who watch anime while doing other things, cant spend time reading) Not true for everyone, but seems to hold true for many.

    I don’t care if people watch dubs, more power to ’em, I just wont. They are normally poorly done but most importantly, I like to watch my shows as close to the original as possible.

    subs vs. dubs- opinion.

  10. TsubasaChronix says:

    I think Dubs don’t suck all the time.

    Some like “Code Geass”, “Death Note”, “Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles”, and a few others had some really good dubs. However, it’s not the dubs that suck on most animes. It’s people like FUNimation and Anime Network who want to spend as little as possible but make good money off these “dubs.”

    Some are good, but others are bad. Taking the recently dubbed Baka to Test as example. Awesome show, very good japanese voice acting. Dubbed, horrible, FUNimation probably spent as much as nike does to make sneakers and is charging the same amount. (**exaggerated**). I started watching animes dubbed because I too was not used to the subtitles, however, after watching a few dubs, I started noticing that the voicing was terrible compared to the first anime I watch which was “School Days” which has no dub, only subs. Then I realized japanese animes aren’t as low budget as english dub-overs. (English dub-overs almost sound just like fan dubs)

  11. zalalo92 says:

    for me…dub vs sub…dub has it own ..(sometime usefull)…i like sub mostly.

    Q:when to watch anime with dub?
    A:when the scene is to much action+talks so i will sitch to dub..(hate to miss the action whn my eye focus on word for subs)

    • El Sora says:

      i think dub don’t suck at all…but for emo animes, well thats a different story…first of all i don’t watch dubbed coz i want to learn japanese and with the subbed i could understand a little now…and yahh japanese voice can hit the emo keys unlike dub actors…

  12. Islidox says:

    I was expecting a more objective and analytical post regarding the pros and cons of subs and dubs. Like someone mentioned before, this is asking to be flamed since your post title is a bit misleading and you take a stance that favors dubs more than subs.

    The people above me that favor subs over dubs pretty much sum up my opinion as well. Good dubs are far and few in between. Factor in cultural differences and the strength of the voice-acting industries of each respective nation, subs take the cake. And of course, this is my opinion.

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