Subs vs. Dubs
When I started watching anime, it was dubbed. The voice acting didn’t really bother me but mostly, I wasn’t interested in having to read subtitles and miss some of the amazing visuals.
But since those early days, I have stayed far, far away from dubbed anime. After recently catching a dubbed episode of Bleach on TV I was reminded of why. It also made me want to start a discussion about the rift that exists between subs and dubs and how I think dubs can be improved.
The number one advantage of watching dubbed anime is that you won’t miss any on screen action. I don’t buy the whole “accessibility” argument – audiences that are so lazy that they won’t bother reading, probably won’t enjoy the content (which is the reason why, I think, foreign films don’t do so well in the US). Anime is all about a story coming alive in line and colour and a dub allows you to be fully immersed in that world. However, because of the current state of English dubs, I am willing to make that sacrifice.
My two main problems with dubs are Americanization and over acting.
Many companies, in the hopes of making anime more accessible to US audiences, will change jokes or cultural allusions. Most subtitled shows – especially fansubs – leave all the cultural context in place because, guess what, this was made elsewhere. I strongly feel that anime isn’t simply another form of entertainment, it’s an opportunity to get a little closer to Japanese culture through its storytelling.
But overacting is the thing that turns my stomach about most anime dubs. I realize that this might be going on in the original Japanese but that still doesn’t excuse it.
And before I go any further, let me say that I am a huge fan of The Venture Brothers and it is full of overacting. But it’s supposed to be. It’s an over-the-top parody of 70s cartoons and each character is a caricature. However, most English anime distributors seem to think that all animated shows need voice acting that is BIG and RIDICULOUS.
I know there are some reasons why voices are unrealistic: a limited number of actors means some have to play multiple roles, thus having to exaggerate their voices for effect. Also, there is the unfortunate practice in the US of recording all the voice actors separately, so they never have an opportunity to interact like real people. I have recorded drama for radio and I know that as soon as actors are recorded separately, their scenes become much less natural.
So I implore all anime distributors to let your actors act like they would on stage or in a movie: with their real voices. Or how’s this: hire an actor who naturally has the voice you’re looking for. And please respect the cultural context the storytellers worked so hard to inject into their work.
What do you think? Do you prefer dubs to subs? Why?