I think all of us anime viewers have had this discussion at least once in our lifetime, and if not a discussion, more than likely a heated debate. Which is better – subbed or dubbed anime? We all tend to have pretty solid opinions about the best way to watch our favorite shows, but is there really a right or wrong answer?
First of all, let’s break it down for the noobs late to the party or not on the up and up with terminology!
Subbed: When viewing anime in the original language with subtitles in your native language appearing at the bottom of the screen
Dubbed: When the original voices have been removed from the anime and “dubbed” over with a vocal cast in your native language
Much can be said about subbed anime. After all, most anime that has been subbed is in its original form (of course, there are always exceptions) and therefore are nearly pure to what the creators intended. Some things are difficult to translate in other languages and cultures. Honorifics are a pretty mild example of this. While English speakers have our own set that we use – Sir, Ma’am, Mr., Mrs., etc. – other cultures, like in Japan, have suffixes such as -kun, -chan, and -san, among others. While you might catch these honorifics in some dubs, you truly get the effect of them in the subbed version. Even the way they are used can completely change the way the character intended!
Which brings me to the next point. Oftentimes in dubs you will notice that there are some *ahem* changes. If you pay attention, you’ll see it when comparing older anime or anime that are geared toward the younger audience. There can be missing episodes, artistic liberties taken to where body parts are covered – or even removed! – and change in character dynamics, such as homosexual relationships, to either make it seem as if the characters are heterosexual by giving one character the voice of the opposite sex, or rewrite the dialogue itself to promote the characters as cousins or siblings. Yeah, we’re all looking at YOU, Optimum Productions for the original English dub of Sailor Moon!
I could go on and on about the comparisons between the two but it all boils down to one thing: which does the viewer prefer?
Personally, I am a dub girl. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. While I completely appreciate subbed anime and there are some shows that I find to be better subbed, I have been fascinated by the way dubbing works nearly all my life. I love the feeling of watching an anime and knowing that a group of people worked hard to line up dialogue perfectly to represent a character in a completely different language, all while still carrying the storyline smoothly. One of my greatest dreams is to one day work in professional voice acting. I’ve done indie work and side projects since my late teens and though I know it is not the same as a professional dubbing session, there are many behind-the-scenes work that goes into the final product that you end up enjoying. I will most likely write an article on the way dubbing works in the near future, but that is a story for another time.
So, what do you think – is subbed or dubbed better when watching anime? Do you have a preference either way or does it just depend on the anime? Join the discussion (or that heated debate!) in the comments below!