Subbed Vs Dubbed : Which is Better?

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I’ll tell you right off the bat that I prefer Subbed Content over Dubbed Content. I’ll elaborate on my personal preference later, but will try to not throw my bias in everywhere.

Table of Contents

What are Subs/Dubs?

When talking about Subs Vs Dubs its important to know the difference between the two.

Subs are shows that are made in their original language and subtitled in a language for the viewer.

I’ll specifically be using Anime as examples, but this conversation can and does apply to any content that is considered foreign in relation to wherever you are.

So, Animes. The source material is Japanese, they are made by Japanese Studios with Japanese Scripts and Japanese Casts.

These versions of the shows are mostly unchanged when being released internationally, they just add a text bar translation at the bottom of the screen so, even if you don’t know Japanese you can still watch.

A Dub is a version where the audio and sometimes the story are changed to fit the intended market. Some of the most common Dub languages are English, Chinese, French, Latin American and Castilian Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, German, Polish, and Turkish. Of course, it’ll differ based on the country the Studio is trying to market the specific Anime to.

How do They Differ?

Aside from the obvious differences in Language, there are quite a few key differences between Subbed content and Dubbed content.

Dialogue

Since time is of the essence for any sort of Film or TV Show a change in the language usually means there’s going to be a change in the structure of the dialogue.

What might take a few seconds to say in Japanese, might take much more time in English and vice versa. In many cases scripts need to be rewritten specifically for the language they are going to be dubbed in.

This includes things like Cultural References, Slang, and Tone which can prove to be incredibly difficult to translate properly into other languages.

This leads into the next important note.

Budget

Producing any sort of content costs money, serious money. And as time goes on things only get more expensive.

Translating and rewriting whole scripts, as well as casting brand new voice actors for a specific language can become a costly endeavor. Studios that want to dub their content, usually outsource those projects to other countries.

Of course, dubbed content has a legitimate place in the industry, especially when one of your target markets is children, who, may not have the reading skills to consume subbed content.

And of course, when money and international cultures get involved, we get another massive issue.

Censorship

While this isn’t the biggest issue anymore in 2022, Censorship will always play some sort of role when you’re watching international content. Whether its an Anime, or maybe another foreign language Film or TV Show. Different cultures view things very differently.

Take this classic Anime, and probably one of the first Anime that Americans were introduced to as kids; Pokemon.

Team Rocket did a Nazi Salute
Americanized Version (left) vs Japanese Version(Right)

There’s a key difference between the two images. I’ll give you a second to look at it again. You surely see it? Team Rocket does something eerily close to a Nazi Salute. It makes sense why some things get censored.

The reason these things get censored though is because of how different cultures perceive things. Pokemon itself is rife with a shocking amount of adult themes that many Americans wouldn’t really know about because of well censorship.

Let’s Take a look at another Image from Pokemon below.

Giovanni's glass swapped out for juice
Japanese Version(Left) and Americanized Version(right)

The censorship here is very subtle. Can you see it?

In the Japanese Version Giovanni, the leader of Team Rocket is holding a wine glass, by editing out the stem that visualization of alcohol has not become some orange juice. While obviously not on par with something like alluding to the Nazis, this is a clear difference in how the Japanese and Americans viewed things like alcohol.

Of course, they don’t want to encourage young children to drink alcohol. But was this necessary? Idk.

The last example i’ll use here is pretty obvious.

I’ll assume you watched the video and holy hell did this kid just ask to drink milk from Misty’s Breasts?

You bet he did! Again, it’s very obvious why this was censored, in America we used to not want to “expose our children” to overly adult themes.

Just to simplify censorship comes down to a few different things : cultural perception of events, cultural themes and symbols, and intended audience. I know I didn’t cover all of those, I’ll be going much more in-depth on censorship in a later and separate article.

Censorship can drastically change the tone and the content itself when you go from subbed to dubbed.

Advantages of Dubbed

Just because I don’t prefer dubbed version of content doesn’t mean I can’t see their value.

Dubbed Versions allow for content to be more accessible, especially for those who struggle with reading for whatever reasons.

More content being consumed means more interest internationally and in turn, more content being created.

I know people who’ll watch a subbed version then rewatch it dubbed just because they want background noise. Hearing Naruto go “I’m going to be Hokage” will always warm my soul, no matter the language it’s said in. Hokage Dattebayo

Personal Opinion on Subbed Vs Dubbed

Like I said at the beginning of the article, I really prefer Subbed versions of content to their Dubbed counterparts.

Censorship : I don’t like the idea of it. To take someone’s story and change it strictly because you might not “accept” it for your audiences could undermine the original creators intent. Also, censorship is a slippery slope. When does it end?

In the case of Pokémon there is a drastic difference between the original Japanese version and the Americanized Version that so many of us watched as we were kids. I’m not saying I don’t understand why we censor certain things, but It always rubs me the wrong way.

Instead, let’s use these uncomfortable topics to start healthy and appropriate conversations with each other, and begin to understand that different cultures may see things differently.

Dialogue : As someone who grew up speaking a different language(Russian) I know from personal experience that certain things just do not translate properly. The more you change dialogue, the more you change the story. If you change the story too much you’re just ending up with a bland and bare version of the original.

Maybe the audiences want to understand a bit of other cultures, I know I do.

Also, in the case of script changes, Dub teams aren’t always good. There are rare cases, like Dragonball and Dragonball Z where the dubbed versions tend to be better received by audiences than they are in their original language.

Budget : The difference in budgets are pretty big and when something gets dubbed it’s pretty common for the content itself to be butchered just based on the fact that they can’t exactly hire the best people for the job.

This might not be the case for massive projects, such as Demon Slayer or any Studio Ghibli film.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Take Bong Joon Ho, director of the 2019 Academy Award Winning Film Parasite. In an acceptance speech at the 2020 Golden Globes he said “Once you overcome the 1-inch barrier of subtitles you will be introduced to so many more amazing Films.”

You can watch the acceptance speech yourself below!

Bong Joon Ho 2020 Golden Globe Acceptance Speech

The debate between Subbed and Dubbed will never fully end because everyone has their own preferences and that’s ok! But at least we can all set aside our differences and together truly despise Live-Action remakes of classic animes.

Shameless plug

I also have a series, “I watched It! Should You?” check out my thoughts free of spoilers on Attack on Titan!

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