The Subbed Vs. Dubbed Debate

Thinking back to Anime Expo 2015 it struck me how often I heard in personal conversations and in passing other conversations the topic of subbed anime vs dubbed anime.  This is a topic I thought for sure would have been laid to rest years ago, but it seems some people in the community cannot allow others to simply enjoy what they want to.  So in the interest of keeping my (incredibly small) audience informed on my personal stance, I decided to put my thoughts down on the blog.  First a little history, if you’ll indulge me.

My history would be a pop-up book.

Years ago when I started my anime addiction there were only VHS tapes to watch anime on.  I used to go down to the library and pick up manga volumes and anime VHS tapes.  These tapes were 2 episodes per VHS, and were either subbed or dubbed.  So every week I would watch tapes (mostly Ranma 1/2) in both English and Japanese.  I think this is what helped me get into subbed anime, as I learned to read quickly to keep up with the action.  Before this I had Toonami, or the Sci-Fi  channel’s anime night which was all dubbed.  I found the Japanese audio felt more natural to the show in some cases, and I enjoyed the sense of cultural diversity.

Some things are intrinsically Japanese.

These days I do enjoy most of my anime subbed for those reasons, but I also have reason to enjoy dubbed anime as well.  The anime I watched exclusively dubbed as a youth (DBZ, Cowboy Bebop, Outlaw Star, etc) are difficult for me to watch subbed.  It’s probably just nostalgia, but it’s something I can’t get over.  Another reason I like dubbed anime is that when an anime’s story ventures out of Japan, English voice actors are much better at imitating other culture’s accents.  Examples of this include Black Lagoon and Nobunagun where the ethnically diverse characters were better portrayed by English speakers.  I know they have an accent for English speaking people in Japan (which is hilarous, do we sound like that?), but outside of that they default to every culture speaking Japanese for the most part.

Moo-tan has an “English accent”… and boobs.

The major problem with this debate is that too many people fanboy/girl for one or the other.  The subbed crowd are often elitist about their preference, treating anyone who doesn’t watch subbed anime like ignorant children for liking English voice acting.  The dubbed crowed is usually more laid back, but the argument “I don’t feel like reading while watching a show” chafes many with it’s laziness.  After all how hard is it to simply learn to read faster?  The only people who should be able to use the above complaint are the dyslexic and the mentally handicapped.  Also with dubbed fans you sometimes get voice racists, where every Japanese seiyuu “sounds the same”.  So my fellow BrOtaku what is the solution?

That’s not it, but I like where your head is.

Simple, don’t be a dick.  Four easy words to summarize how to lay this debate to rest for good.  If art is in the eyes of the beholder (D&D), then good voice acting is in the ear of the listener.  The major issue stems from entitlement.  Many fans see the years they have invested in loving this medium as a reason for indignation whenever someone disagrees with their tastes.  Their otaku philosophy should instead be to treat all fans of anime/manga/J-video games/etc as one big (crazy) family.  You probably have different tastes and opinions from your family, but (except in extreme circumstances) you still love them and might even enjoy their company.  The same should be said for the otaku community, and hopefully one day it will.

“Don’t be a dick.” -Nozomi Tojo 2015

Wow that shit got deep, just call me the BrOtaku Jesus/Buddha/Gandhi.  Still it’s an issue that I felt needed discussion, and there will probably be more in the future.  Let me know what you think of the sub vs dub debate in the comment section or on social media.  Don’t know where to reach me?  Just follow the contact me page to the social media site of your choice (I’m bad at updating Google+ and Pintrest, sorry).  Tell me if you’ve run into anybody that’s given you crap for your voice acting preference, and we’ll keep the anime discussion going.  This has been a fun article to write!  Till next time…

Arigatō my fellow BrOtaku!

Photo Sources:

Shimakaze Reads : Love Live Kimono : Moo-tan : Abyssal Boobs : Nozomi Tojo

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About the author


A gamer, otaku, and booze enthusiast. I pursue writing for the love of my interests, and the joy of sharing them with others. I am currently studying Journalism at my local community college.

Readers Comments (3)

  1. Holy shit I’ve spent 2 days trying to word my reply to my satisfaction and I’ve got nothin’. So I guess I’ll just spout words and hope they make sense.

    Dubs: suck when the language gets censored or if a translation makes something lose an important meaning (like, from shitty translation or when the translator tries to get creative with it). Dubs are cool though because like, the voice actors for male characters fit way better than their Japanese counterparts. Case in point: Goku in DBZ.

    Subs: I’ve learned more Japanese from watching subbed anime than from 2 years of high school classes (which I only took because I wanted to try and maybe understand DBZ when it was airing new episodes, unsubtitled, on the International Channel back in the day). Also, even if there has to be an explanatory note, I like it when word play in a dialogue is preserved.

    P.S. I’ve probably spent more time editing and revising this single post than I have for 99% of all my school work. Holy shit I rule.

    • Yeah, I do hate how dubs sometimes have to change words to fit the scene. No Game No Life had a game of shiritori (word game) that didn’t seem right in English. I also think that the explanatory notes in subbed anime are excellent tools to learn some of the culture behind Japan. They also provide useful tips to Japanese words that sound similar but mean different things. For example 恋 (Koi = Love) and 鯉 (Koi = Type of Fish).

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