Saturday, May 28, 2016

Muddy Cult Gathering: Dubs vs. Subs

Whether you've been part of the anime fandom recently or for more than a decade, you're more or less aware of the ongoing debate between subs and dubs. Subs, short for subtitles, is the original format most anime is first aired in, which is usually Japanese. Dubs are usually the redistributed version that is voiced over in a different language outside of Japanese. In our first Muddy Cult Gathering, I present this ongoing debate to our Cult leaders Ophelia and BlipMasta5 and see how they feel about it.

Miko: I'm sure both of you are familiar with the ongoing debate among anime fans. What are your thoughts on this topic of dubs vs. subs? Do you think it hinders new anime fans from getting into the genre/hobby?

Ophelia: I think the dubs vs subs debate has kind of taken a bad turn. Casual anime fans might feel that if they don't watch subs they aren't real fans which I think is a terrible stigma. The elitist mentality can become overwhelming in any fandom. To someone just getting into anime, they might feel that they have to enjoy one or the other in order to be accepted. These things are certainly hindering for someone trying to break into something new. Especially, if that person has difficulty with reading subs.

BlipMasta5: I've always had a preference to dubs for the ease of watching, but I have watched subs when it's the only option. This has given me a few puzzled looks when I run into anime fans, but I haven't been exposed to the heated debate personally. I know it exists, yet my aversion to the comment sections in most controversial videos has me slightly inexperienced on the topic. From the sub only POV, I can understand that the original voices hold the director's pure vision and many things can be lost in translation or just poorly acted. Nowadays though, English dubs have gotten to a point where less of those cons are prevalent. The elitist mentality isn't something I encounter, but I can see if a person finds a group of fans that do feel that way can certainly be off-putting. I agree that subbed shows can be difficult for new anime fans if they have trouble reading them, especially if they're trying to keep up the popular shows in each season. But, I don't know if this is beginning to take the discussion in a different direction.

Miko: Well, you definitely gave more to the question, but that's fine.
Were either of you aware of this debate or elitism in the anime community when you started getting into anime? If you did, did it hinder you from getting into anime?

Ophelia: My exposure to anime originally came at the hands of someone who was very elitist about it. This was the type of person who boycotted Toonami because it wasn't playing anime in its purest form. I avoided the more popular titles because I worried that all fans were like that one person. Eventually, I met other people who simply wanted to enjoy anime.

BlipMasta5: I never knew of the elitism since I got into anime because of Toonami & Adult Swim and that was how my friends and family also became fans. I learned of it much later when streaming became much more available and other fans told me of their run-ins with elitists. But by then, my friends and I already had our own opinions on the matter.

Miko: Since you (BlipMasta5) mentioned having more a preference for dubs out of ease, let's think like elitist to an extent. What do you guys think the appeal is of strictly sticking to subs? (This is not necessarily your personal opinion of why you like subs, but what elitist may enjoy/enforce them)

BlipMasta5: When it comes to the elitist state of mind, I think it's pretty much like I mentioned before. Subs are the shows in their original glory. You don't have to worry about unnecessary localization in the translation (4Kids anyone?) and it may give a sense of being part of Japanese culture. Also if you are a sub viewer, it allows you to stay up to date with all the latest shows and have more options since not every show gets dubbed at all.

Ophelia: I agree with you. I do think that it's the idea of seeing what the creator really imagined for the material. Elitists want to fully immerse themselves in the culture as well as the show they're watching. These are often the people you see planning their trips to Japan and how their lives will be once they get there without a whole lot of realistic expectations. Subs are the closest thing to being able to understand the actual language. However, they can have their flaws where translations are concerned.

Miko: Despite elitist opinion, what influences your own personal preference when it comes to dubs and subs? Does voice acting play a part in that preference or are you able to enjoy both audio tracks?

Ophelia: For me, I tend to lean toward both, because I'm very picky with voices. There are times when a voice actor or actress simply bugs me. Cowboy Bebop is a great example. I love the dub! In the sub, I feel like Faye's voice doesn't suit her character. She should be a strong woman with a confident voice that hides her softer, vulnerable side until the right moment.

BlipMasta5: My personal preference is for a very weird reason. I honestly don't mind most voice acting performances at all. Also, I have no problem with keeping up with subtitles when I'm giving the show my full attention. The reason why I go to dubs first though is because I often watch shows as I'm going to bed and if I get tired and close my eyes for a bit, I can still listen and have an idea what's happening. Same for if I have to multitask when doing certain chores. When it comes to differences in performances, though, I usually won't be able to give an opinion since most shows I only watch in one format and that's it. So comparisons are rarely something I do.

Ophelia: I think that's something we all do. Subs require complete attention, while the dub gives you the ability to still follow along while multitasking. We're really a society of multitaskers. For me, I try not to watch when I'm too tired because I know I'll fall asleep every time. Poor Miko has had her share of me falling asleep on her!

BlipMasta5: Lol I've gotten used to the backtrack method due to sleep and watching them alone means it doesn't bother anyone.

Ophelia: I'm so bad that I fell asleep watching an episode of Hell on Wheels over Netflix. When I woke up, it had auto played the rest of the season.

Miko: I probably put a little extra effort with subs and dubs. I don't like one more than the other, it varies from show to show. When I start a series and I do have an option, I'll listen to one the first episode and then the other in the next episode and decide from there. The ones I do decide to listen to in English I take advantage of by multitasking, usually reading or coloring. I know with some foreign movies I might not be in the mood to watch subtitles, so I put the English track on and work on my blog. Anyway, Trigun is a show I love in either language, but would most likely watch in English for convenience. Trinity Blood is a show I can only watch in English. I vaguely remember hearing the Japanese voice actors trying to do a slight accent to match the setting and it kinda bothered me. On the other hand, Nerima Daikon Brothers's humor was much more appealing in Japanese than English. Plus the country accent was annoying.

BlipMasta5: *thumbs up*
Off the top of your heads, how many shows have you heard in both forms? I'll count series if dubs didn't go all the way to the end. I don't have many but Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, Zankyou no Terror, Gangsta., & Yona of the Dawn come to my mind.

Miko: Completely or at least a couple episodes?

BlipMasta5: At least a couple of episodes

Miko: Off the top of my head, I know for sure Trigun, Monster, Hellsing/Hellsing Ultimate, Case Closed, InuYasha, and Magic Knight Rayearth are some. After counting the ones I'm sure of, it's about 15. There's a few I'm uncertain about, but there's some I have no idea what the Japanese even sound like...and a few I've never heard a sample of the dub.

[Editor's Note: The number has increased since this conversation, but I'll go into more detail in another post]

BlipMasta5: I see, I just figured it might be interesting to know how often we actually hear both versions of shows since I know it's rare for me to do it.

Ophelia: Cowboy Bebop, Inuyasha, Trinity Blood, Chrono Crusade, Ghost in the Shell, Full Metal Alchemist, off the top of my head. I prefer Motoko's English voice typically.

BlipMasta5: Nice list.

Ophelia: I think I've only ever watched Trigun dubbed.

Miko: Let's have some closing words.

BlipMasta5: After talking to a couple more people about Subs vs Dubs, their experiences with the debate are quite minimal like myself. A few share similar thoughts on preferring dubs when available. I actually ran into a unique person; she told me that she'd rather watch the shows dubbed and subtitled to decipher the nuances of what's being said/performed. In conclusion, I think everyone is free to make their own decisions as we have and we should be open-minded enough to never shame one's methods of watching. We all love the same stories in the end anyway, so it's true that there's love in any language. (Cheesy, I know...)

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