It’s the age-old question that divides many anime fans, should you watch anime in subbed or dubbed?
When I first started watching anime, about 20 years ago, you would only be able to watch dubbed versions unless you went to an art cinema to watch the film. Back then, the internet was just a baby and it would take forever to load one picture, watching videos online was not an option! The dubbed version of animes were awful. They were badly translated, heavily ‘westernised’ and the English voice acting was poor and often rushed.
By westernised I mean that the production companies were fearful that the western world wouldn’t understand Japanese culture therefore they would substitute Japanese words with English ones. There are many examples but the best one is from Pokémon. In 1997 translators thought that the western audience would relate more to the show if they renamed Japanese foods with popular western foods. In Pokémon, Episode 25: ‘Primeape Goes Bananas’, one of the main characters, Brock, repeatedly refers to the rice balls he is holding as ‘jelly filled doughnuts’. This lead to much mocking of the distributer and even these days many memes are still trending.
Subbed (subtitled) has always been held as the ‘superior’ of the two language options, with many anime fans stating that unless you watch a series subbed you are not a true fan. You get to watch the animation with the original voices, without any dodgy lip sync, in the way that it is meant to be watched. However, the downside of that is that you end up paying too much attention to the words written on screen and not to the actual animation itself.
Dubbed (English language voices) versions of anime are now very well translated and very rarely ‘westernised’ as they used to be. The voice actors, both English and Japanese, are really amazing now and are celebrities in their own right, even receiving awards for their work in various anime award ceremonies.
I watch a mixture of both. I sometimes like to draw whilst I watch anime, so it’s the dubbed version then. If the anime is animated really well with lots of action, I usually watch it dubbed so I can concentrate on the animation. However, if I get really into a dubbed series and can’t wait to see the next episode, I tend to switch to subbed as it can often be 3 episodes ahead. That is also the reason I like watching my favourite anime subbed, as I like to be as up to date as possible, but then that often leads to me reading the manga too…which is a conversation for another day.
There is no right or wrong way to watch anime and I can honestly tell you, that currently, it’s just down to your own preference.