Sub Vs. Dub War: The Final Verdict


I usually don’t make posts about this topic because it always ends badly. But I am being pulled into this Sub Vs. Dub war and before I am shot down I will say my piece before the trigger is pulled and my brains are splattered all over the wall.

Watching a medium the way the creators intended it to be sheds a deeper meaning on the work and conveys what would have been lost in translation during the dub but can the altered works help us understand the original content better or can they even ascend the sub itself?

As a whole I do not understand Japanese apart from a few words and phrase, but I can tell what is pleasant to the ear and a lot of the voice acting I prefer is in sub. Saga Of Tanya The Evil is one that I prefer in sub, because dubbed Tanya is more annoying than terrifying and listening to her is like listening to nails on a chalk board but your willing to be there which some how makes it worse.

During the process of voicing acting it is beneficial to have the director involved when making as they can offer directions to the voice actors so that there voice comes out polished. It’s why the voice acting in E.B.K Euphoria Season 2 (sub version) sounds natural not the generic anime voice that we get.

From what I hear in dubs it doesn’t seem like the director knows what he’s creating and just let’s the voice actors do whatever they want but that is for the older dubs, the newer ones have gotten much better and know which way they are going with the director having a better insight to the work whether because of the easy access to the source material or the faster ways in which we can communicate with each other.

In the 80’s and 90’s when dubbing anime was still in it’s infancy, actors were working out how to voice act, with out sounding stiffer than a board or awkward teenage boy and trying not to miss the lip flaps but somehow missing it. As time went on the industry has evolved so the dubs we get are better in quality with voice actors now knowing how to emote with their voices but there have been a few miss casting in the past due to how fast things are happening so voice actors will be selected from each actor’s pre-existing reputation. With minor roles depending on how big or small they are will just find someone from around the office to do it but since dub studios have several projects going on at once there are usually a few know decent actors milling about and asked to do a cameo which can differ between good and absolutely atrocious.

Due to how dubs began and even though they improved over the years they still can’t shake the stink from the past. Though some attribute it to how fast the subs came out faster to the dubs and how people associated those originals voices with the characters and felt a betrayal in their character as they became different with the change of voices, the person they once knew is gone.

Japans adoration of anime there is a lot of competition for voice actors in Japan vs. the nearly nonexistent competition elsewhere. Meaning that your getting the cream of the crop and this shows in the voice acting.

Compare the scenes for the subbed and dubbed version where Homura shoots Madoka. In the sub it’s as though she is shooting a person and in the dub it’s her accidently firing the gun and having a standard reaction, not shooting her best friend. It’s more emotionally charged in the sub and as there is little to misunderstand I prefer that option.

Due to the vast differences in language a lot of Japanese phrases can get lost in translation, changing the meaning completely as they cannot fit the context in English or the lip movements of the characters, sometimes scenes are changed so that it can fit a different audience perverting the original message, and even changing the traditionally Japanese food into Western food, we have seen this in Pokémon and the first couple episodes of One Piece and I have no idea why, no that’s not true I do have a bit of an idea (4 Kids…just why). I know this as I have a tendency to watch both translations to compare and contrast.

The reason for this is because when I look at the words I’m missing out on the battle that is unfolding and not getting the context of the scene. I could just watch it without the subs but I love dialogue it’s what I enjoy the most so whenever I’m listening to anime without the text at the bottom I try to figure out what there saying which isn’t what your supposed to do when your watching a scene unfold, which is why I watch the dub so as not to listen to hard but also just take in the scene that is unfolding. When reading the subtitles you can miss a lot happening because you are focused on the bottom of the screen, this can also throw off the comedic timing.

Comedy needs to done in English otherwise the punch line is more of a punch tap and the effect is lost which is truly depressing. Comedic effects and there expressions can be conveyed in sub but without the right context. But with dialogue it’s a problem as the Japanese love there puns as there is a lot of vocabulary overlap in the language which can cause for some very comedic misunderstanding but also don’t translate well into English. Then there is the tonal gap as with Japanese emphasizing on certain words convey different meanings, for example when saying Kawaii like a high pitched fan girl translates to cute but if you say Kawaii like a deadpan goth girl then you’ve got some problems as that translates to scary. The simplest words said in different tones can completely transform the meaning of the word itself as well as how a joke is made in Japanese. Bennett The Sage actually explained how the structure of a joke goes in the language. “Japanese is structured with the most important and stressed part of the sentence placed at the beginning where as English has no particular structure of the sort as such a joke is completely castrated because the object of the sentence is often where the punch line happens. English goes the subject the horse, verb walks into, object bar. Japanese goes, subject the horse, object the bar, verb walks into.” If a joke is made in a way that if your not a native speaker of the language and cannot understand it then it’s not a joke. So besides for comedy anime why bother why should you bother watching the dubbed version if it’s exactly the same. I would have to say if it’s better than the sub version or offers a better form of story telling, and yes there is an anime that does this.

Ghost stories ascends from the sub because instead of being easily forgettable tripe it makes jokes about it self and the medium it’s using. Whenever I watch Ghost Stories I’m reminded of SAO abridged and how they fixed the problems with the anime and at the same time made fun of it.
From my vast experience if the dub cannot transcend the sub or offer a better quality of story telling to the viewer, then that makes the sub a far superior product. But that is just my opinion on the matter. You can do whatever the hell you want, I’m not your keeper.

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