Thursday, August 4, 2016

My Personal Follow-Up: Dubs vs. Subs

Before my formal introduction to anime, I unknowingly watched my first anime movie by the name of Kiki's Delivery Service that often played on the Disney Channel (when it was awesome). It had easily become one of my favorite Hayao Miyazaki films. When one of my best friends introduced me and another best friend into the wonderful world of anime back in 7th grade, majority of it was subbed. Back then, I was oblivious to the divide in the anime fandom, until I entered high school and Toonami exploded. And thus this is my personal follow-up to our first Muddy Cult Gathering about Dubs vs. Subs.

If you've read our discussion (or plan on reading it), you'll notice that I didn't say too much about what side I'm on, but pretty much...I don't have a preference toward either. That might sound a bit anti-climatic, if you haven't clicked on the link above. Of course, I have an explanation for this. I watch a lot of shows on a mostly daily basis. When I start a new show in my rotation [fyi, these are shows that are not new/currently airing], I check out my options if they are available. I'll watch two episodes subbed and two episode dubbed, then decide from there. How do I decide? Voice acting usually. If it sounds pleasing to my ears and suits the character, then I'll watch it whichever way. Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule where I like both versions about equally. So, let me break it down in categories, then maybe you'll understand what I'm talking about.

Anime Subs I Prefer

I have no difficulties with subtitles in the least, but I also know that watching subtitles after work or in the late evening is a losing battle. Subtitles take practice and adjusting, so I can understand the difficulty of trying to watch foreign films, new anime (or ones that have not been licensed outside of Japan), and Asian dramas. If you've seen the reviews that I've posted over the years, then you know that I'm no stranger to subtitles. Learning about this debate, it seems like the general preference for subs is usually an elitist mentality. In other words, I closeness with the language, culture, etc. As Ophelia mentioned in our Gathering, the viewer gets to hear what the director envisioned for his characters...or something to that extent. When I watch subbed anime, I never really think about the creator or what have you. To reiterate, it all comes down to what's pleasing to the ears and I must say that it's very rare that I dislike the subbed, or should I say Japanese version, of an anime.

Nerima Daikon Brothers is a show I watched on DVD from my workplace. Before going through the comparison procedure I've adapted recently, I felt like watching subs automatically and thoroughly enjoyed the show. At the time, I was watching it alongside a friend in another country and she was watching via YouTube, which only provided the English dub. Either during or after, I tried to find certain songs in Japanese to share with her on YouTube, but had no luck whatsoever. Out of curiosity, I listened to the songs and the main characters' dialogue in English and I was disappointed. Mako speaks in Okayama dialect in the Japanese version and a Southern American English accent in the dub, which was annoying. Then there were the songs and the humor of the show, which worked better in Japanese than in English such as the money song, Ichiro's various panda songs, and when an "enemy" arrived on the screen (especially when Yuukel Haksuhon appeared, which is a parody of the late Michael Jackson). It's really strange that some of the western humor failed to translate in the dub. Sadly, I still struggle to find any Japanese clips to compare to the dub, but trust me on this one.

Steins;Gate is a show that both myself and BlipMasta5 have reviewed. While I haven't watched a full episode of the dub, when I was looking for certain clips of Mayuri on YouTube, I knew I would have a problem adjusting to the voice acting, especially for her. It's kinda funny how one character can ruin the tone of a show, but the Japanese audio for Mayuri had an innocent, childlike quality to it and an occasional maturity during serious moments. The clips I've seen from the dub seem to completely negate that she is an adult and purely focuses on her childish traits. I also didn't care for Kurisu's voice too much either. I kinda wonder how the joke about her name would work in English, since it depends on katakana or certain pronunciation.

The Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) series is another one I had problems with the voice acting. I think when I was either watching the second season or "Book of Circus", but I really think it was the second season; I was curious and attempted to watch a full episode dubbed, but it missed that alluring, sinful voice in Sebastian that the subbed version held and Ciel just sounded too feminine. Young boys seem to be a challenge to voice and normally they're either voiced by an actual child (i.e. Hey Arnold!) or a female (i.e. Rugrats). So, it is possible to sound convincing, but this dub just didn't do it for me. Every time Ciel spoke, the illusion of a young, sophisticated boy detective quickly vanished because he sounded like a woman trying to be boyish.

Anime Dubs I Prefer

The perks of dubs is the option to multi-task, which was something that is mentioned in our joint post. We live in a multi-tasking society now and I'm definitely guilty of that. Usually when I'm watching a dub, I'm either reading a book or organizing things at work. When those programs were just starting out on Cartoon Network, it gave me an outlet to watch anime that wasn't available or speedy online as it is now. It also gave me an opportunity to introduce my mom into this brand new world I was getting into. Now when series get licensed in America and air on Toonami or Adult Swim's Saturday anime block, most of the time I get excited for the broad exposure a series is receiving.

InuYasha was one of those worlds that my mom and I both enjoyed and watched together when it first aired on Adult Swim. At the moment, I'm currently watching it in my rotation as I've never actually completed the series. I started at the very beginning and I gave the sub a listen as I've never heard it in its original Japanese audio. While it wasn't bad, I couldn't handle Kagome's high pitch nagging and complaining. I know that's part of her character, but it tend to hurt my ears. While the dub can be a little cheesy at times, it doesn't lose the exciting adventures in this "feudal fairy tale". Richard Ian Cox really brings the right attitude and range of emotions in his portrayal of InuYasha that makes him such a lovable character. Sesshoumaru's nonchalant arrogance plays off as a powerful threat and, for me (and possibly Rin), strangely alluring.

When the local Hastings was shutting its doors, I bought the complete series of Trinity Blood and started semi-rewatching it. It was another show I didn't complete when it aired on TV and it was one I enjoyed very much, enough that I was reading the manga as well. If you haven't seen it, it is a fantastic series that pits vampires and religion against each other and the art is very beautiful. Like InuYasha, I've never heard the original Japanese audio track, so I watched 1-2 episodes and oddly enough, like Nerima Daikon Brothers' Mako's country accent, it seemed like these characters tried to have a hint of an Italian accent. If English is your native tongue, just imagine a Japanese person speaking Japanese with an Italian accent. It sounds really weird. I'm sure the same might apply to Japanese natives hearing English speakers with an Italian accent. I don't know. Clearly, I couldn't watch the whole show like that.

Angelic Layer is another series I watched completely dubbed and enjoyed. I've already mentioned my reasons in my review. The very enthusiastic and loud Tamayo was less annoying in English than Japanese. Hearing her voice in a higher pitch was obnoxious and not good for viewers listening through earbuds like I was most of the time. Aside from that, I really enjoyed the dub and everyone sounded age appropriate. It's something I've noticed that recent dubs somewhat fail at.

Anime Subs & Dubs I Enjoy

Yes, there are moments where I don't have a strong preference toward either. It's probably rare for a lot of people to enjoy both versions, even for me, it doesn't happen too often. If you haven't noticed, it's usually that one character that ruins the experience for one reason or another. These are the few shows that I've watched more than 2 episodes both dubbed and subbed.

As mentioned in our first Gathering, Trigun is a series I enjoy about equally dubbed and subbed. I originally watched the show (with my mom) on Adult Swim, which was dubbed. I also rewatched and marathoned it with one of my best friends, which ultimately led to our first cosplay. I want to say that during our marathon or shortly after, we did watch some of the episodes subbed and when it comes to my favorite character Legato, he remains cool and sexy in both Japanese and English. *shamelessly swoons* As for the other characters, Milly would probably be a concern in Japanese as she has a somewhat childish or at least naive persona and I found her to be just as amusing and entertaining in Japanese.

**Spoiler Warning**

Monster is another show I enjoyed both dubbed and subbed, but slightly less equally. Throughout the 74 episode journey, I switched between languages randomly and found myself enjoying either version of this amazing and crazy story. Unlike Trigun though, I do have a small preference toward the dub only because it just seemed to make more sense given the setting as there are a couple or so scenes that have to deal with language. One example of this is when Tenma and Dieter are picked up on the side of the road by an elderly couple. The husband worries that Tenma, being Japanese, doesn't know German and when he speaks (although in English), he soothes any worries the husband has. I'm sure in Japanese it would be the same, but for some reason, this scene just makes more sense to me in English. Nonetheless, both version are pleasing to the ears and are still effectively mindblowing because of the story's contents.

Lastly, the forever running Detective Conan (or Case Closed for the Americans). I started watching this show with my mom when it was airing on Adult Swim and with each episode, I slowly learned that I really enjoy mystery anime, which is probably obvious since Monster and this show are in my top five favorite series. Anyway, a few years ago, I decided to restart the series and hold some false hopes of catching up. [Like that's gonna happen! XD] Since I first watched it on Adult Swim, I was more familiar with the English dub and when I restarted watching the series I mostly stuck with that, but also tried out the subbed somewhere in there as well. I learned through Wikipedia that when it was dubbed or brought to America, some of the episodes were switched and I had to deal with that situation by either going ahead with the dub or switch to the sub to watch the episodes chronologically. It was kinda inconvenient and I didn't understand the order change when it was dubbed, but nonetheless, I watched the dub until there was no more dub left [episode 123 (Japan), episode 130 (Funimation/U.S.)]. While I do prefer the dub a little bit more than the sub, mostly because it's what I'm used to and am more familiar with, mostly concerning character names as they were changed in the Funimation distribution; I didn't dislike the sub at all. It took some adjusting with the name and a few slight vocal pitch differences, but I still enjoy the show and anticipate each episode while watching.

Much like my co-leaders, I do not discriminate those who prefer one over the other. Subtitles take a lot of adjusting, practice, and sometimes patience and I know a lot of people aren't used to that or have the time for it. Dubs are very convenient for westerners who want to multi-task or simply want to indulge in the anime world after a long day of school or work. As you can see, my preference mostly rely on what sounds the most pleasing to my ears. I enjoy hearing what was originally planned by the director and other times I want to work on other things and would rather listen to what's going on. As an anime community, I think we should squash the debate and just nerd out over our favorite shows. The characters, story, and art is what brought us together in this niche fandom, so why bring elitism into it and discourage newcomers from enjoying the wonderful world of anime.

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