Sub Versus Dub: My Perspective

There has been a lot of talk about anime subtitling and anime dubbing lately. This has been because anime companies have been releasing a lot of titles in America that are sub-only. A lot of people have gotten up-in-arms about this issue and have started reacting very passionately; anime fans are normally very serious about what goes on in the industry. Everybody seems to have been chiming in lately, so I have decided to put my opinions in the mix as well.

I’d like to start off by exploring exactly why so many companies have been releasing their licensed titles in sub-only form. The American economy has basically tanked, and the anime industry has of course also been affected. Still not following? Let’s take a brief look at some of the basic things you need to pull off a dub:

  • Casting the dub, which includes hiring producers, ADR directors, and other behind-the-scenes crew, then putting in the time and money to hold auditions and pick a cast.
  • Hiring lawyers to draw up confidentiality contracts to make sure that the voice actors won’t talk about the project before they are legally allowed to (I assume that is how this is done, I may be wrong).
  • Record the dub, which includes paying the bills to run the recording studio, then paying each voice actor money to spend several hours a day in a booth saying lines over and over until the ADR director is satisfied with them.
  • Post-production, which includes paying people to edit the voice work together, calling back in voice actors and paying them AGAIN to re-dub anything that didn’t come out or that the director isn’t satisfied with, and laying the English vocal track over the animation.
  • Dub advertisement, which includes paying voice actors to attend conventions and the like to promote the title that they dubbed.

Keep in mind that the above steps are IN ADDITION to the following:

  • Paying translators to translate the Japanese language track and opening and ending theme songs.
  • Paying editors to create and format the subtitle text, time the subtitles correctly, and then finally lay it over the raw Japanese footage.

You can clearly see here that producing a dub is far more expensive than producing a sub. Everybody in America is struggling with finances right now, and this is the reason why many companies are deciding not to dub the titles they acquire. They also have very little funds coming in from products due to anime pirating, but that’s another issue that I’ve discussed previously, so I won’t repeat it here.

Now that I’ve shown why the industry is turning to subs rather than dubs, allow me to go into my personal opinion on it.

I personally love dubs. I’m a huge fan of voice actors and the industry. I love meeting voice actors, asking them about their craft, and of course as someone who doesn’t understand Japanese fluently, it’s easier on me to hear voices in my native language speaking from my screen; I can watch an anime while I run around and do things rather than sit in front of the screen and read.

However, I also am a huge lover of subs. I love seiyuu, and I love seeing different Japanese culture references in my anime, which often get lost in localization. I also love how Japanese sounds to the ear, and I enjoy picking up new words and phrases in Japanese. It’s an immersive cultural experience, and I’m one of the few people I know who actually don’t mind having to read words on the bottom of a screen.

So yes, I am a fan of both, and no, I’m not ragingly angry about American anime companies turning to subs. Why? Simply put, I’m mature enough to understand why they’re doing it. I know that they are short on money, and I’m honestly glad that they’re at least bringing these titles to America rather than just closing up shop and fully denying us the anime we love. I will continue to support official releases and do my part to ensure that these companies will still be here when the economy turns around so that we can once again see a day where dubs are commonplace. That’s my stance.

I’ve read some blogs lately that have discussed this issue, and I wanted to quote some parts for them here to give my opinion on some of the things said in these blogs. The Golden Waste released a blog about this issue that was rather harsh towards dub fans in my opinion. Here are some points I wanted to discuss.

It wasn’t until May 2009 that Bandai’s solicitation for July 2009 would include the sub-only Hayate [The Combat Butler] and at a steep price that only made people even more furious. It was 7 episodes for $39.98 suggested retail price (SRP). Many cried that it should have been more content for the price…

…And those people are immature, uninformed saps. Anime is overpriced because people keep pirating it and not buying official releases, which forces companies to up the prices to make a profit. It’s simple logic, people. Maybe if those people stopped complaining and started buying, their next favorite anime wouldn’t be offered to them at a sky-high price and it might, just might, have an English dub. Just a thought.

Sentai Filmworks had launched yet another major battle when they announced in the October 2009 solicitations that they had acquired Clannad After Story, He is My Master and Ghost Hound. Once again, the communties cried foul and moved on, ignoring the fact that ADV Films must rebuild their catalog and make money before even thinking of dubbing again.

THANK YOU. This is one of the few things in this blog that I agree with. These companies must make money in order to be able to afford dubbing again, and rioting against them or boycotting them is only going to be counterproductive. I cannot drive this point home enough.

But here, ladies and gentleman, is where I put my foot down.

[Dub fans] believe every anime should be dubbed in English. Oh please. These people need a reality check. Badly. Dub fans still have Funimation, Viz and Media Blasters to rely on for dubs, but how long can they really take on the financial losses? Get a dose of reality English dub fans, because at this point, you should be looking for a new hobby or adapt to the changing market. You don’t get what you want anymore. Got that? Good.

First of all, as a dub fan, I’m annoyed by the fact that this person lumped every dub fan into a group of only a few that seem to spew anger all over the place at the dub versus sub debate. I agree that money must be pumped into the industry to produce dubs once more, I’ve said that several times here now, but the way this person phrases it is downright rude and immature. There are better ways to inspire anime fans to support official sub-only releases than insulting them, trust me.

I’d also like to point to this blog, written by a good friend of mine. He is also a huge dub fan and while he checks out anime online, he buys official releases mainly for the English dubs. He is also angry at the loss of subs, but unlike some other people, he’s handling his opinion in a mature manner.

It’s not that us dub fans don’t understand why the companies are doing this. It is simply the fact that it frustrates us that so many great series’ are being “wasted” through a sub-only release.

I understand that frustration, and as someone who loves voice actors and hearing English dubs, I agree with you. What I love about Jon, the writer of this article, is that he still wants to buy these sub-only releases, because he recognizes that not buying them is only going to make the situation worse. This is the mentality that I think more anime fans need to have.

Now, after reading both of these articles, The Golden Waste made another blog replying to the strong response they got from the first blog I mentioned. There’s a part towards the end of it that I want to bring to attention:

Dub fans need to stop complaining about the sub-only releases and tearing apart all the communities and causing a rift.

I find it funny that he accuses dub fans of ‘causing a rift’, yet this blog has caused more controversy than I’ve personally ever seen over this issue. Nobody is tearing any communities apart here. This person is taking this issue way over the top, where it doesn’t need to be. This person is also continuing to be very rude to dub fans. I understand that this particular blogger has a very blunt style of speaking, and I respect that, but if you’re going to be rude and blunt, you’re going to get the same in return.

So, there you go. As a fan of both dubs and subs, I’m sad to see that dubbing has begun to fade out due to lack of funds, but I’m also smart enough to understand why it’s happening and supportive enough of the anime industry to continue to do my best to support official releases, whether they be dubbed or sub-only. I hope that one day the industry will build itself back up to the point where we will have dubs for every anime once again, but until then, we must fight to keep the industry alive, and that requires action.

Buy official releases. Buy official products. Encourage others to do the same. If you’re going to refuse to do these things, then you, in my opinion, have no right to complain about the lack of dubbing or funding in the American anime industry, because that makes you part of the problem.


6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    calaggie said,

    I have been considering writing something about this topic and I think you did a good job explaining most of what I might’ve said in a better way than I could have, particularly the financing component.

    As someone who likes to sample the English dubbed versions of anime I watch, I feel like something is lost by not having a opportunity to see how it might have been adapted (similar to what Jon was referring to). It doesn’t irritate me, like it may some other people, because the story is still being told by the original Japanese voice actors and translated script but it’s still a concern.

    I’m a little disappointed that Hayate, Kannagi, and the Lucky Star OVA lack English voicing, especially Lucky Star given the TV series got a dub. But I still bought them because I liked those series and felt like I should support them being brought over at all.

    • 2

      I’m glad you enjoyed my blog! I agree that we’re definitely missing out on something great but not getting our dubs, and I think that by still supporting the official releases, you have the right idea. Keep on doing that, and thanks for reading and replying!

  2. 3

    Cello said,

    I touched on this too:

    But nowhere near as in depth as you, this is amazing, would love if you added to the conversation!

  3. 4

    Otaku Dan said,

    the only problem that I have with some sub fans is that they dont buy the U.S. release of an anime because its dubbed in english. it seem that these morons have not discover the audio changing button and subtitle button on their remote controls.

  4. 5

    FoxNaruto said,

    I honestly love both subs and dubs. My preference tends to fall onto the subs because I feel that the japanese voice actors put more feeling and reflect the character’s voices better than the dubs do. While saying that I do feel that a good majority of voice actors do a pretty decent job at voice acting, and I believe sometimes the people who are picking the voice actors go for something that isn’t well suited for it.

    One main example for this is Apachai from The World’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi, in the japanese version he sounds more like a happy go lucky kid at heart guy. But, in the dub the person playing Apachai seemed more like somebody who was mentally challenged and deep voice.

    Even with all this I do love hearing my “native” language, since English is my 2nd language but my main one now, opposed to Japanese because it’s easier to listen to than to have to multitask at hearing and seeing the translations.

  5. 6

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