So on the one hand, I feel like I’m the perfect one to talk about this topic because I often re-watch series when they’re released in English dubs and I’ve got so much dual audio anime. But on the other hand, I don’t really analyze things like voice acting, so I’ve been feeling ill-suited.
It’s never a good idea to generalize, but from my experience, English dubs are usually met with a bit of contempt, even maybe revulsion. Personally, I wonder why that is so. Honestly, I’ve never had problems with watching an English dub. Maybe this speaks of the time I have on my hands, or maybe it speaks to ignorance of the subtle differences.
So what’s the problem? I suppose one possibility is the translation issue. I understand that because of the transition from Japanese to English, much is lost. For example, when the Japanese version has a pun that doesn’t carry so well or if the Japanese version uses English words.
I think the most notable example in my mind of the latter case is the scene in the first episode of Death Note, where Light picks up the Death Note and says “Death Note. As in a notebook of death?” In English, this makes little sense, but if you watch the Japanese version, you’ll note (hehe…get it?) that Death Note is in English, but he says notebook of death in Japanese.
What’s another possible explanation for the disparity? Possibly the voice actors? Do the Japanese actors just do a better job? Do they convey scenes more effectively? I’m not really one to analyze the quality of a voice actor, but with Japanese dubs, I run into the problem of recognition. Sure, I can recognize notable voices like Rie Kugimiya pretty easily, but I’m going to have trouble recognizing Jun Fukuyama, the voice of my favorite character.
On the other hand, my recognition of English voice actors is almost spot-on. No matter the role, I can almost pick out the voices of actors like Johnny Yong Bosch, Yuri Lowenthal, Crispin Freeman, or Wendee Lee. Is this because I don’t have to spend so much mental power parsing out the Japanese language in the voicing? Or is it proximity? I was once at an anime convention where Crispin Freeman gave a talk. I’m sure that has something to do with it.
I’m aware there are many out there who are quite fluent in Japanese, and quite a few that have learned Japanese to satiate their desire to watch anime. Unfortunately, I lack this skill, so I’m forced to watch fansubs. But I’m certain that I’m not alone. How does this factor into the whole topic?
Personally, I think that having to read subtitles to understand the scenes forces me to focus on the different shows I watch. When I watch an English dub, I have a tendency to alt+tab and do something else while I continue to listen to the show (I love to multitask). Is this because I can still understand the show or is it maybe just because I’ve seen the show already in Japanese?
Nonetheless, I feel like I’m forced to appreciate the show more when I’m reading the subtitles. On a completely unrelated note, it also makes me feel like I can contribute to the anime society by joining a sub group and learning something about the process.
So what do you think? If you’re response is “Shut up and watch the Japanese like a good boy,” then let me know. Is there anyone out there that just watches both dubs like I do? Is there anyone that will dutifully wait for the English release before they even approach a show? I know there are people who will ignore the English release and just watch Japanese all the way (I know you’re there…put your hand down). Maybe the only reason for the difference is that Japan just gets the shows out first. Or maybe there are fewer English dubs available. Let me know!! That’s an order…