I have a lot of fun on social media, sharing many posts about anime and J-List’s products on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. One thing I do every day is pick a random fanservice anime from years past and share it to Twitter, asking my followers if they’ve seen the show and like it. When I posted about the Gainax’s classic Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, an off-color anime animated in a Powerpuff Girls-esque style about two fallen angels who can’t get back into heaven because they’ve had too much sex, I mentioned that the English dub was excellent. This ignited a spirited debate about which was better, anime subs vs dubs. Clearly fans are very passionate about this subject.
Since I live in Japan and speak Japanese, I’m not the average target for dubbed anime — I also can’t enjoy the film Lost in Translation because I can’t share Bill Murray’s feeling of confusion at not being able to understand the people around him. I asked J-List’s Twitter followers to tell me which they preferred, anime subs or dubs, and why. Let’s see what some of the responses were!
So I’m writing about a topic fans love to debate, subs vs dubs. Which one are you a fan of and why? What dubbed anime would you say have been really outstanding?
(Personally I love Panty and Stocking and Yamada’s First Time. The cancelled Ishuzoku Reviewers was also fun) pic.twitter.com/yBrd1gcfZb
— Peter Payne (@JListPeter) February 12, 2020
Debating Anime Dubs vs Subs
Many fans opt for subtitles over dubbed tracks.
- Some fans prefer subtitles because they can appreciate the original voice actors, whether it’s Kana Hanazawa or Rie Kugimiya or the legendary Koichi Yamadera, who voiced Spike Spiegel, Kaji from Evangelion and Leader Dessler from the Space Battleship Yamato reboots. It’s a “pure” way to appreciate the original work.
- A few fans said they disliked dubs because there were relatively few active English voice actors in the industry, and they got tired of hearing “the same eight Canadian voice actresses” in every series.
- Some English voice actors are apparently just not good. “A lead’s voice should not make you wish you were deaf.”
- Infrequently, studios make changes to the dubbed vocabulary, which doesn’t sit well with fans who just want an accurate translation. This is another reason for them to sick to subtitled anime.
On the other hand, some fans validly prefer dubs, for reasons like
- It’s a lot more relaxing to watch a dubbed show, since you don’t have to glue your eyes to the screen constantly. Watching dubbed anime becomes a pleasant “sit back” activity, rather than a more intense “lean forward” experience.
- Subjectively, lines that are off-color or sexual in nature have more “punch” when delivered in English. I just love hearing Yamada talk about getting “100 fuck buddies” in the dub for the Yamada’s First Time. The raunchy “Valley Girl” voices in the Hajimete no Gal dub were also hilarious.
- Sometimes people like dubbed anime because that’s what they were first exposed to. If you get used to Azumanga Daioh in English, that becomes the “baseline” for you, and the Japanese version might sound strange.
- Sometimes dubbed anime can help raise your kids bilingually. My kids wanted to watch my Rayearth DVD boxed set, so I lied and told them the discs were only in English, which helped them learn English.
- It seems that for an anime to really become popular with mainstream fans, it needs to be in dubbed form — series like Sailor Moon or Akira or Macross/Robotech would not have had the same cultural impact if they’d been shown with subtitles. Thus if there’s a show you love and want lots of other fans to love it too, it becomes important to support dubbed anime to a degree.
My Wife Definitely Prefers Subtitles
When South Korea lifted a ban on cultural imports from Japan in 1998, something interesting happened: a flourishing of shared culture between the two countries, including the rise of talented KPOP groups inside Japan. It also lead to an explosion in popularity of Korean dramas and films which have become a popular staple on television here, loved by Japanese fans for the more engaging stories and high level of violence and drama…pretty much the same reasons why we all got into anime, in other words.
My wife is a huge fan of South Korean dramas and films, and watches them for several hours a day. When South Korean film Parasite surprised the world by winning best picture, despite viewers having to watch it with subtitles, she wasn’t surprised at all, and was already familiar with the director and several members of the cast from their past works. Predictably she has the same relationship with the subs vs dubs as me when it comes to Korean dramas, and hates it when certain Japanese channels only broadcast the shows she wants with Japanese dubbed tracks instead of her preference, subtitles.
Got any feedback for this post? What is your favorite dubbed anime? Let us know on Twitter!
If you love awesome and adorable anime figures as we do, then you’ll enjoy all the new stock of figures we posted to the site for you today. Just look at the detail of the paint in all of these figures, and imagine how good they’d look on your figure shelf! Browse all the new offerings here!