Ink and Paint: When Anime Dubs Attack?

Back in college, I was an anime nerd.  I still have a fondness for anime, but the genres I prefer usually aren't imported (legally) because of the same "girls don't buy shit" mentality that afflicts Western animation.  That and the boom on that medium has ended as well; I can't think of any anime series right now that are on TV and aren't tied from the foundation with some sort of toy, outside of a few overnight blocks on basic cable.  But that was how we got into anime, and I'm sure that would be how future generations would as well.

So when I hear a quote like this one, from an individual named "moonlight01" on Livejournal, I want to scream:

Dubs have scarred (meaning injured) me greatly since BSSM so it's not my fault I don't like English dubs.

(It's worth noting that this quote came after a prolonged "OMG, someone should call the POLICE before they dub any more poor, innocent PreCure!" that was completely devoid of irony and he/she/it felt the need to explain why he/she/it wasn't being ironic.)  Really? SERIOUSLY?! A bad anime dub is more traumatizing to you than anything else?!  It makes me wish desperately for a natural disaster at best to hit you, if not something more personal and lasting, so that you can realize that there are FAR more traumatic things out there.

Look, people, I know that not all anime dubs are great.  I've seen 4Kids' stuff; hell, they mangle stuff that's from any country, not just Japan!  And I was a big fan of Sailor Moon (still am, honestly), so I know how bad the dub of that could be.  (However, I disagree sharply with the strange insistence that Cloverway's dub was superior because they kept the original music; they had terrible recasts, were blithely inconsistent with names & attacks, and had even sloppier censorship than DiC, so why should retaining the BGM give them a magical crap pass?  DiC's might not have been great, but at least they tried to make it passable instead of painful.)  But there are also good dubs out there, even if  they aren't on TV anymore, and just because they aren't available for broadcast doesn't mean they're bad.  Many are quite faithful, and it's the networks' view of anime as a fad that is preventing them from finding a wider audience.

I WANT to see the YTV dub of PreCure in this country; from what I've heard from viewers, the changes were mostly in names & cultural elements (such as takoyaki, which is still largely foreign in North America), and the story & characters are largely intact.  The only things preventing it from taking a spot on a network schedule are the attitude of anime being a played-out fad (it's not) and the attitude of girls not watching TV enough to justify their own programming (again, they're not).  If the reason it failed & will not be brought here is because of the "dubs are inherently evil" mindset of the moonlight01s of the world, I will be even more livid.

I know I'm not alone in watching dubbed anime, even if there are certain ones where I will always watched the subtitled version.  Like reviewer JesuOtaku said, it is easier to follow a TV series when it's in your native language, so if the opportunity to do so presents itself, you might at well take it.  Many of my favorite anime series I first saw dubbed, since that was what the video stores stocked and what Toonami aired, and when I saw them subbed, I found that they were usually equals (or, in the case of Cowboy Bebop, superior).  So long as the snobbery reigns, a medium that could easily reach a wider market and lose any nerd stigma it has will always be hampered from reaching its full potential.

And I don't care how cruel it sounds.  If the worst thing that happened in your life was that you saw a badly dubbed anime, then you DESERVE any bad that comes to you, just to give you some much needed perspective.


  1. I'm with you on this one. I prefer to watch my initial viewing of anime series dubbed in English. Then if I want to revisit it, I'll give the sub a try. Like you said there are hits and misses to both of these approaches.

    But I got into anime in the mid-90s, when things were really starting to take off. Companies like Pioneer went out of their way to provide good dubs and even attempted to create dubbed versions of songs. Some of these were more successful than others but, it was good to see the trend starting.

    Still companies would get a lot of flack from changing place names, food terms and job titles. I can understand that. But I figure the purists can always deal with an accurate sub, which is what you usually got. Not sure if dub-titling still goes, on, but you'd see every once in a while in the

    One place where dubbing is almost essential is when handling comedies. Some Japanese humor just doesn't translate well at all. In that case, I don't mind the dub going for a more liberal translation and having some fun. Two of my favorite anime comedies from the '90s have very loose dub translations but are much funnier that way: "El Hazard" and "Ranma 1/2".

    Still there will always be the otaku who just despise the dubs on principle. As long as the companies see the value in providing both, its fine with me. Hey, back when I started collecting you didn't have DVD to allow you to select either version. One of the reasons anime was able to really explode in the later '90s was because of DVD and that ability. Most fans couldn't afford the Laserdiscs at that time.

  2. I'm weird when it comes to dubs/subs. I like to watch it subbed only because there's a part of me that thinks that the idea of Japanese people speaking fluent English in Japan is silly.

    At the same time, despite Bleach being set in Japan, I prefer to watch it dubbed because the English cast is the first one I heard, and that's the voices I associate with the characters.

    As far as name changes go, I understand the reasoning for television, but I'm still bugged that the "City Hunter" dubs change Ryo's name to Joe, and leave everyone else as is. Not only is it inconstant (and odd to do this), but I figure 99.9% of people buying it are capable of understanding the concept of Japanese names.

    At the end of the day, watch what you wanna watch, and if the only way we can get the show is dubbed, than dang it, I'll take it cause it's better than nothing.

    One place where dubbing is almost essential is when handling comedies. Some Japanese humor just doesn't translate well at all. In that case, I don't mind the dub going for a more liberal translation and having some fun. Two of my favorite anime comedies from the '90s have very loose dub translations but are much funnier that way: "El Hazard" and "Ranma 1/2".

    Reminds me of when Working Designs was translating Lunar 2 (the making of video is on youtube) and found out that the Japanese writers were big on puns so a literal translation just plain wouldn't work. Maybe "Pickle? I thought you said baseball card!" works in Japanese, but in English, it's just bizarre.


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