Lethargic Ramble: There’s nothing wrong with English dubs

Disclaimer: This is going to come across as an incredibly mean-spirited post and may contain a minor hint of anger and intolerance. It is not my intention to offend anyone with the content of this post and I’m merely trying to get my point across. You have been warned. 

For the most part, I love the Anime community. It’s a wonderful place with so many different perspectives, it’s a community that encourages discussion and analysis and it’s a segment of the online world that is filled with a ton of amazing people who are just great fun to talk to and engage with.

But if there’s one thing I can’t stand, one thing that drives me up the freaking wall it’s Dub Haters.

I’m well aware that there are simply many who don’t like English dubbed Anime, and yeah, that’s fine. Like anything in the Anime medium, it’s all down to personal preference. It’s all completely subjective. Barring the horribly edited and highly censored 4Kids and Animax dubs, dubbed Anime and subbed Anime are not objectively better or worse than one another in any way shape or form.

But that’s also where the issue arises. Because there are a large majority of Anime fans who no matter what you say, no matter how much reasoning you provide to back up why you have a preference in the language you watch your favourite medium in, will judge both you and the entire existence of English dubs as if they were some kind of monstrous hellspawn. All the while treating the Japanese language as some kind of holy, sacred tongue that they totally understand despite the fact that English is the only language they speak.

Now, I’m not hating on subbed Anime at all. In fact, barring Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Sword Art Online and a bunch of shows from the 90’s, I hardly watch English dubs at all. Mostly because I dislike being two years behind what is airing in Japan and on Crunchyroll and because I just prefer subbed Anime. However, I appreciate the existence of dubs, and there are a good number of shows that I simply prefer to watch in English for various reasons, such as Dragon Ball Z or Yu Yu Hakusho.

So today, I’m going to be picking out the most common criticisms and arguments that these disgustingly, negative members of our community have for their constant bashing of dubs and dub watchers, and I’m going to do my best to explain how misguided and incorrect these statements are.

“The script of English dubs isn’t as accurate as the original Japanese!”

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This is one of the most common criticisms aimed at English dubbed Anime, and I’m not entirely sure where this criticism stems from, or how these fans even know whether or not this is even the case. Because… They don’t speak or understand the language…

My real issue with this argument is that the majority of the fans who rely on this criticism watch their subbed Anime through fansub groups, who are notorious for translation errors or taking things in the script far too literally. The Japanese language is a very different language and is filled with a ton of words and phrases that just don’t translate directly to English at all. And whether or not you watch the Anime dubbed or watch it using translated subtitles that is always going to be the case, because you’re watching a translation into English, no matter what voice track you’re using as a preference. And even in this case, the overall meaning of the word or phrase is always left intact, with only the word or phrase itself being altered ever so slightly to suit the language it’s being translated into.

Sure, there are a bunch of fansub groups out there who leave in the non-translatable stuff, but what’s the point in that? Why keep something in that we don’t understand due to the language barrier? Sure, I could go learn the meaning of all that stuff, but why should I have to when there’s a perfectly suitable translation out there that contains the exact same meaning with the only difference being they changed the word that was used.

And don’t even get me started on how many fansubs litter the dialogue with random cursing and swearing when it doesn’t even exist. There have been times where I’ve seen what were literally incomprehensible grunts such as “Ugh” turned into “SHIT!”

And to those that use Crunchyroll as their primary source for Anime, this counter argument also rings true, since the translations on there alter just as many things as English dubs do: barely anything outside of a few words or phrases.

Heck, in most cases, dubs even get the assistance of the original script writers and director in the handling of the dub script, allowing them full control over the alterations and if they themselves are unsatisfied with how things are going, they have the authority and power necessary to “fix” it.

Translation is not an argument here and the fact that the majority of dub haters don’t even speak the tiniest bit of Japanese and are using poorly translated and inaccurate fansubs to fuel this argument is downright hilarious. Go compare the dub track of any series beyond the 90’s to officially translated subtitles, then try and tell me there’s enough difference between the two to warrant all the complaining. Or just keep doing what you’re doing. I don’t really care.

“The Voice Acting is bad! My ears are bleeding!”

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This right here, is entirely subjective and there is no way in which this can be objectively proven.

What constitutes as “bad” voice acting is entirely dependant on the individuals own preferences and personal bias.

The “bad voice acting” argument in reality has nothing to do with the performances themselves being poorly acted, and in a lot of cases, it’s more to do with our bias towards hearing our own language.

Voice acting in Anime is over-dramatised to ridiculous levels. Characters are normally acting in a way that feels unnatural or unrealistic, and hearing a performance like that, in your own language, can seem pretty weird.

But the voice acting in Japanese is the same. In many cases, it’s even more over-dramatised and unrealistic. People will constantly tell me that dubs are bad because “the performance was unnatural”, yet the original voice acting is just as unnatural for the exact same reasons!

And this all boils down to one, simple thing: we don’t speak Japanese. How can we understand how good a performance of a character really is when we can’t even understand the freaking language the performance is being portrayed in?

And yes, this applies to Japan as well with their own language. There have been many Japanese viewers who have claimed that they found the dub of a show to be “better acted” and that the original Japanese is “badly voiced” in the exact same way you people do. Go figure!

And while there are many cases in which a character can be portrayed in a completely different way, again, that’s all down to personal preference. There are many cases where the portrayal of a character in an English dub actually exceeds the original performance by miles! Are you honestly trying to tell me that The Major’s performance in Hellsing Ultimate, complete with a German accent and the use of actual German words and pronunciations is inferior to the Japanese version, which just sounds like a regular, elderly Japanese guy?

Now don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of Anime I prefer in Japanese, but does that mean I feel the need to hate on the performances in the English version? No. I don’t feel the need, because those performances are, for the most part, still very solid, and people enjoy them!

It doesn’t help the majority of people who criticise the English voice acting haven’t even watched any of the series they happen to be criticising in English beyond a 30 second trailer. How can you consider the voice acting of a series to be bad, from a trailer? It’s like watching a live action movie trailer and instantly going: “Well, I only saw 30 seconds of that movie, but I can definitely see that the acting is terrible. The whole movie must be like that.”

“Watching English dubs means you don’t appreciate the series as much as I do because I’m watching it in the way it was originally intended!”

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This is the one that really gets under my skin.

First of all, there is no tangible hierarchy in the Anime fandom. There never will be. We’re all equal in our opinions and preferences. Get off your high horse.

This is the same problem that I have with Elitists. Nobody is better than anybody in this community. We are all equal, and what we say and believe in should be equally valued.

Your preference of viewing language does not make you any more or less a fan of the original work, and if anyone truly thinks so, they don’t understand how appreciation of a medium works at all.

Are people honestly trying to tell me that because I watch One Piece in English that I don’t have as strong a passion for the series as the rest of the fans who watch it subtitled? Do people honestly believe I don’t fully appreciate the hard work that Eichiro Oda puts into the original Manga every week or that I don’t fully understand the effort and dedication that Toei Animation put into adapting and directing the series for Television?

I don’t understand this. Why should someone’s preference of language determine how big a fan someone is? We’re digesting the same story, we’re following the same characters, and we’re being entertained by the same bloody series!

As for the whole nonsense of “the creators intention” I’m pretty sure the creators also didn’t intend for us to watch their series plastered with subtitles in a completely different language distributed illegally via fans.

It should also be noted that there have been many cases where a dub has actually made a shows success. Trigun was a flop in Japan and the only reason we ever got the Badlands Rumble movie was because of how popular it was in the West. The same applies to countless series. The dubs you hate so much can actually help a creators work to become more recognised and potentially get more seasons!

“Dub watchers are just lazy, illiterate people who can’t be bothered to read!”

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Yeah sure, that’s why I’ve been writing a post about this for the past two hours instead of watching Anime: because I’m totally illiterate. I’ll give you “lazy” though, because I’m incredibly lazy. Not when it comes to reading though.

Has it ever occurred to these people that maybe some people just have a bloody preference? I was a dub purist for years and it had nothing to do with having to read subtitles. I just preferred dubs for most of the shows I watched at the time, and I didn’t have access to a lot of series outside of what was already dubbed, because I lived in a small village in the hills with the modern day equivalent of dial up internet. Therefore, I had to buy all my Anime for a decade until I left my parents home and moved into my own place in the city.

This argument just doesn’t hold any ground. It has nothing to do with laziness or illiteracy. Some people just prefer to watch Anime in English. Again, this is an example of people in the fandom trying to convey some kind of superiority. You are not more literate just because you read subtitles while watching Anime, and you’d need to be illiterate yourself to even believe so in the first place!

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You know what? I get it. People don’t like English dubs. People prefer subbed Anime. That’s all fine and dandy. Go like what you like. Everyone is entitled to their own preferences and people are allowed to openly dislike things. I’m not against that.

What I am against is hatred for the sake of hatred. Just because you don’t like something that doesn’t give you the right to belittle others for preferring it. Just because someone likes to watch dubbed Anime that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to act like they’re some kind of cancer to the community. Just because you don’t like dubs, that doesn’t give you the right to spend hours upon hours of your time ridiculing them and broadcasting your distaste for them to rest of the world.

Nobody cares. Nobody ever will. English dubs will always exist, whether you complain or not. Get over it. Get over yourself and take your negativity elsewhere.

If you don’t like the English dub for a series, then great. Good for you. Nobody is forcing you to watch it. Go watch the subbed version and be happy, and let the people who like the dub do the same. It doesn’t affect you. It doesn’t affect your enjoyment of the show. It affects nothing.

*sigh*

I think I’m done here. I apologise for the rant, but I hope you all found this entertaining or interesting in some way.

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What is your stance on English Dubs?

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23 thoughts on “Lethargic Ramble: There’s nothing wrong with English dubs

  1. I definitely prefer subbed but I watch anime with plenty of people who won’t read subtitles so I watch a lot of dubs as well. My issue isn’t so much that the English voices are bad (now that we aren’t in the 1990’s where you really could use that argument), it is more that I get used to hearing characters sound one way and switching to the dub feels a bit off becasue of how I’m used to hearing them. That said, Ghost Hunt I’ve only ever seen dubbed and the one time I did see an episode in Japanese I had the same issue. The characters sounded off because of how I was used to hearing them.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue.

    Like

  2. I also prefer subbed but am starting to open up to dubs…I was probably the type of anime fan you described at some point …maybe point one…but realized quickly as I watched more and more that translations cannot be perfect…but now I’m finding it hard to find dubbed animes…my friend keeps asking me to suggest an anime that’s dubbed but each one I’ve looked up doesn’t have dubs yet…

    I actually really enjoyed the dubbed version of psycho-pass 🙂

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can definitely relate to that. I used to be an incredibly narcissistic elitist who belittled other people because they didn’t agree with me. So dont worry, you could have been one of those guys instead! 😛

      I’m glad that you can appreciate dubs though and yeah, I agree that Psycho Pass had a pretty great dub.

      And yeah, dubs for more recent shows are pretty hard to find, since it takes forever for them to get licensed and released. One of the main reasons I watch subbed anime is so I can keep up to date with the most recent shows and enjoy and experience things without having to wait 2 years. That and the fact that a ton of shows don’t even get dubs at all, which is a real shame. Certain companies like Funimation are starting to do broadcast dubs though, which dub a show at the same time it’s still getting subbed on Crunchyroll. So that’s a good step in the right direction!

      Thanks for your comment! As always your thoughts are appreciated! Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Though I prefer subbed, I am not at all against watching a dubbed. I actually love to turn on a dubbed anime when I’m multi-tasking, so I can divert my eyes every so often. The complaint about voice acting is absolutely ridiculous. There are so very many talented English voice actors, like Brina Palencia, Vic Mignogna, and J Michael Tatum (just to name a few); who have a wide range of skills. Thank you for your observations though! I enjoyed reading them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only subbed watcher who feels this way, it’s comforting to know I’m not alone here haha!

      I do the same when it comes to multi-tasking and it doesn’t affect my enjoyment at all!

      And yeah definitely, there are a wide range of dub actors who are superb such as the ones you mentioned among many others.

      I’m glad you found the post enjoyable! Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That was some rant. I hope you were able to vent a little of your frustration with this post. I know a few choice things I’d like to say to some elitists myself. 😉

    While it’s always fun to shoot back at people who try to make themselves seem better than you, I think being the bigger person is generally the way to go. Negativity usually has a way of making people seem less appealing overall, and if someone wants to criticize the way you enjoy your hobby, I see no reason to give them the the satisfaction of annoying you. I believe the number of people who enjoy dubs or don’t care if others like them greatly outnumber the vocal haters. This sort of sentiment will die out eventually, so no worries.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah haha, it’s something that’s been an issue for me for quite some time now and while I don’t necessarily care all that much, these kind of comments are just so misguided and negative.

      I agree that being the bigger man is often the best way to approach these kinds of people, but these people have literally never left me alone since 2006. I’ve been holding back for a decade!

      That being said though, you’re totally right, there’s very little point in giving them the satisfaction of getting to you.

      As for Elitists, that’s an entirely separate and less ranty post I intend to do in the future, more focused on the subject of taste in general.

      Thank you for reading and for your feedback! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I used to watch dubbed when I was new to Anime and personally I don’t feel there is much difference at all between the two. As you accurately pointed out, the subtitles in the dubbed version are just as ridiculous, if not more. It depends from anime to anime and from person to person. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Man I loved this post, and I feel like it was something that totally needed to be said. I for one prefer subs to dubs, but I don’t think it is fair to just belittle someone’s preference for one over the other. I think both dubs and subs have their own merit. Like, as someone who speaks Japanese and is living in Japan, there are a lot of times where the Japanese voice acting sounds “awkward” in the same someone says the dub sounds “awkward.” I felt that that was a great point you brought up, since hearing acting in your own language can indeed sound awkward. Like trying to hear someone pretend to have a British accent or something, when they really don’t have one.

    Also I really liked your point of the skill of the voice actors all being objective. I don’t see why more people don’t realize everything is a preference. Like, I may think The Beatles were/are amazing, but if you don’t like them it doesn’t mean they weren’t amazing to me, it just means they weren’t to you. It is all preference, and I think you proved that beautifully. I honestly couldn’t agree with this post more. Though I suppose there are always exceptions. Searching “bad anime dubs” can yield some truly not so good dubs. But maybe they are so bad they are good??

    Anyways, great post! It was a pleasure to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

      Exactly, that’s the main issue I wanted to address with this post: the belittling and the attitude.

      That’s exactly my point, just because you like something and think it’s good, doesn’t mean everyone should think it’s good. Opinions are subjective and aren’t universal truths.

      I’d actually love to do a more in depth post on opinions and subjectivity in the near future, since I feel I have a lot more to say on that topic.

      And of course, there are plenty of expections, such as the 4Kids dubs from the Western Anime boom of the 90’s, but those are long dead and are rarely a thing in todays dub market.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, I really appreciate the lengthy feedback, it means a lot!

      Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more posts in the future 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I did a post about Sub vs Fun a while back, and I think it all boils down to the mindset of extremes the world has settled into. “You’re either with me or against me” is basically how most people express their opinions nowadays. There’s little to no room for open discussions being able to agree to disagree.

    Great post, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I agree with that. A lot of the attitude is definitely to do with that exact mindset. I just wish we could all discuss things more openly without all the hate, hence my anger in this post haha.

      Thanks a lot, it’s great to have support! Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I used to hate dub just because everybody else seemed to hate it. I didn’t even watch ANYTHING in dub. Not even a trailer. Yet, I still hated it. But one day I watched one episode of The World God Only Knows in dub and I thought ‘that wasn’t so bad. The girls’ voices are still cute’. From then on, I am more open to dub.

    Their excuse about ‘bad voice acting’ is probably the worst for me. They just can’t seem to realize that they can’t find flaws in the Japanese voice acting because they don’t understand the language. I find that really frustrating.

    In any case, i enjoy reading your posts and I’ll continue reading more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find that a lot people who dislike dubs just need to find the “right” dub for them to help broaden their perspective a little.

      I agree, it’s pretty frustrating. It’s not even the fact that they dislike dubs that I necessarily have a problem with, its the attitude that they bring with their opinion. Don’t be mean just because people like dubs and don’t give abuse to the English voice actors who clearly try really hard to make their performances as good as possible.

      And thank you! I’m glad you enjoy my posts! Thanks for reading!

      Like

  9. I’m going to say something I don’t think I’ve ever admitted online before: I prefer the 4kids dub of One Piece to the Funimation dub. I can’t help it. I find the most of the new voices inferior to the 4kids one. There’s not arguing that the translation is better but in my opinion the 4kids Luffy is Luffy (sorry Colleen Clinkenbeard).

    I but also I’ve never understood people in either side of this argument. I’ve enjoyed shows in both English and Japanese with Subtitles and I don’t know why people refuse to watch dubs or subs. The only time I understand dub only is when people have a hard time reading subtitles (my mom just can’t keep up and so we only watch things in English) but some dub only people are just as ridiculous as sub only.

    Either way I think we should just watch and enjoy anime the way we like, even if we can’t understand the way someone else enjoys it.

    Like

  10. I’m someone who watches subbed anime, other than my childhood days when I watch Pokemon in English. Everyone around me watches subbed anime too as far as I know, so I don’t really hear the argument of sub vs dub too often. Although I don’t watch dubbed anime, I don’t diss off people who watch dubbed anime and I most definitely agree that to everyone has their own preference. However, I would like to address your point of “We don’t speak Japanese. How can we understand how good a performance of a character really is when we can’t even understand the freaking language the performance is being portrayed in?”. What if those who are able to converse fluently in Japanese come up to say that they prefer subbed over dubbed? I do think it’s slightly unfair to assume that every single one who thinks that subs are ‘oh-so-awesome’ is not fluent in Japanese.

    Like

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