Akemi's Anime World

In Defense of Dubs Editorial

A defense of dubbed anime from back in the days when people actually cared about those arguments.

[Editor's note: This essay dates back to the pre-DVD era when the dub-vs-sub debate raged far more passionately than it does today. Bach then fansubs were a rarity and English-dubbed anime was easier to find on video, almost always much cheaper than the same tape subtitled (if a subtitled version even existed), and the voice acting was often of questionable quality. We featured it as a counterpoint to our own strongly pro-sub stance.]

There has been and always will be among anime fans in America a friction between those that like or tolerate dubs and those who despise dubs. This essay is not being written to convince people to watch dubs, rather I write this essay to deal with some common criticisms of English dubbed anime and some hypocrisies I find among the haters of dubs.

I find that most people who hate dubs hate English dubs. I never see them complain about dubbed anime from any other country. So a anime fan may watch anime in Italian, Chinese, Tagalog etc. but not English? This argument has no logic. If an anime can be dubbed from Japanese into Italian or anything else, it can also be dubbed into English. Attack all dubs or do not attack any dub but do not just attack English dubs.

A lot of people who attack the English dubs claim that the voice actors can not act in the dubs or that only one or two actors can act but not the entire dub cast. I disagree with this point. In most dubbed anime the entire casts are great actors. Ranma, El Hazard, Slayers, Record of Lodoss War, Tenchi Muyo, and many others have a great English dubbed cast. The subtitle watchers assume since voice acting is a fringe job in America that most or all American voice actors suck. This is not a logical argument. The place of voice acting in America just means that American voice actors receive less pay than Japanese seiyuu and are not national celebrities like Japanese seiyuu, that's all.

The third attack people place dubs is that the dub scripts are Americanized and less accurate translations than the sub scripts. On Americanization of the scripts, I do occasionally detect an Americanization but never with the frequency claimed by those against dubs. I agree with sub fans that dubs loose the Japanese puns but I also say that in reading subtitles a viewer misses the puns as well. Read the AnimEigo linear notes for Urusei Yatsura. The translators frequently ask forgiveness for not being able to translate the Japanese puns in way that will keep the pun's meaning in English. The only way a viewer will catch the Japanese pun is if he or she is fluent in Japanese. I agree with those who promote subtitles that the subtitled anime is a more accurate translation of the original script but there are two reasons for this. One, it needs to be more accurate in case a Japanese speaker is watching the script. (This is usually true I saw a fansub of the second Slayers movie where Shabernigdo was translated as the Devil. Most anime fans can recognize this as a very liberal translation.) Two, unlike live action dubs (which I don't support), it is possible in anime dubs to have the lip movements always in sync with voice actors no matter what language. Long sentences need to be shortened to keep this possible.

I want to end my essay with a point. In July, Miramax is releasing "Mononoke Hime" in movie theaters and latter this year the anime version of "A Chinese Ghost Story" and "Perfect Blue" will receive theatrical release. All three movies will be dubbed. Only the most passionate haters of dubs will not see these anime movies in theaters if they had a chance to. However, I met a few fans who are refusing to see a dub of these movies. Most of them only refuse to go because the movies will be dubbed but one person gave a reason, a stupid reason but a reason none the less. He or she (Its on the Ranma ML, I'm not sure of the gender) stated the Claire Danes who is around 20 will be playing 15 year old San. (Like the Japanese seiyuu for San was 15.) I just want sub fans to stop insulting dubs and their fans without watching the dubs to see if the voice acting is good or not. There is a website called MacTamahomes that mocks the English dub of Fushigi Yuugi but the two creators stated that they never saw the dubbed FY. This is wrong. A sub fan needs to see a dub before they can criticize it.