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The magic of dubbing

Often times, when an anime is dubbed people, will say the dubbed version is inherently inferior to the original Japanese. Which in the case of many early 80’s to mid 90’s I would agree with to an extent. Often times the voice acting is poorly directed and cheaply done with amateur actors, but I believe that changed largely due to Dragon Ball Z. The massive popularity of Dragon Ball Z brought more money into the localization process of many Japanese products when they were brought over to the west and this can be seen in how the dubbing of Dragon Ball Z. Despite these improvements why do people continue to believe that dubbed anime is inherently inferior to the subbed version? Both types of localization have their own strength and weakness, so why does the western anime community hate over the other?

  • Being a keen fan of anime I can certainly agree with the points you've raised in this topic suggestion although I generally prefer to watch anime subtitled and hear the original language, but that's my personal preference. I have seen some dubbed anime in which the voice actors did a splendid job - Crispin Freeman's voicing of the Kyon character in 'The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya' series and film (2006 - 2009) is a good example, but in direct contrast to this is Emily Hirst, whose whiny, nasal drawl was not at all in keeping with the character Makoto Konno from 'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time' (2006) and annoyed me intensely. One of the problems with dubbing (and subbing) is transference of cultural idioms and references. Simply switching these from one language to another, e.g. Japanese to American English doesn't always work and (no offence intended towards Americans) it shouldn't automatically be assumed that everyone in the English speaking world will necessarily understand the American reference or idiom. One size doesn't always fit all! Whilst professional subtitlers will sometimes, by necessity, have to be linguistically creative with translations and transference of idioms and cultural references, any competent translator will never balk at translating a difficult turn of phrase - which can't be said for some fan 'subbers' I could mention - so will try to keep as close to the original as possible whilst still creating text that can be easily understood by non-Japanese speakers. This doesn't make subtitling superior to dubbing as the two approaches to translation are completely different, as any professional voice artist will confirm. There is, admittedly, some 'snob bias' from some who prefer subtitling and there always will be; it's just the way of the anime community. Coincidentally I'm presently preparing an article about the history of subtitling in which I also cover anime fan subbing - both its good and bad points, so it would be interesting to see someone take up your topic suggestion and write about the development of dubbing; I have some fascinating source material I could suggest for anyone interested. – Amyus 6 years ago
  • I tend to prefer subbed anime over its dubbed counterpart. My main reason for this being that I feel the original Japanese voice actors are able to capture concepts and convey them more effectively than an American voice actor. Abstract concepts that are unique to Japan like the red string of fate or even the various ways to say "I love you" may be things an English-speaking voice actor might not completely understand and will therefore not be able to capture the subtle nuances associated with the idea. However, that's not to say English dubs don't have their merits. There are a number of anime in which I actually prefer the English dub. FMAB, Rurouni Kenshin, Yu Yu Hakusho, etc. Possibly the reason why some people in Western audiences hate dubbed anime is a matter of superiority and originality. The Japanese dub came from Japan where anime was born and is thriving. Because anime is still a relatively foreign concept for Western audiences, it may take a while before the idea of something belonging to one country can successfully bridge the gap across cultures. – ceekim 6 years ago