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Subbed Vs. Dubbed
By Roman Martel
October 01, 1998
Now I know this subject is like opening Pandora?s Box but I think we need to address it, especially now that it?s such a hot topic on the forum. Where do I stand on this whole thing? I am not a hardcore dub fan or a hardcore sub fan. In fact I will watch both versions of any anime and be perfectly happy. When I buy an anime tape for the video store I always buy dubbed. Why? Two reasons. First of all most of the customers who are renting anime may be seeing the film for the first time and most first time viewers (most!) prefer to watch the dub. Second the dub is cheaper. This makes sense. The object of the video store to make a profit. The cheaper the product is, the quicker you make the profit.
Now most viewers of anime or any movies in general are (as one person on the forum put it) lazy. They don?t want to read. I can?t tell you the number of times that a customer has picked up a great foreign film, has read the back and been intrigued by the plot, brought it to the counter and I?ve said, ?Now you know this is French (Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, German) with English subtitles,? then they make a face and put it back. It?s discouraging to me and makes me wonder about Joe Public. To me it is a real shame that they won?t work a little to experience some of the best of cinema. How many great foreign films are there? Too many to count.
What about anime viewers? Well most of them aren?t Joe Public. But many still don?t want to read the subs when they can have dubbed. That?s just the way it is. If it isn?t dubbed will they not pick it up? I?d have to say, in most cases, yes. Unless they?ve heard some great things about it or are not too picky, most renters will pass on subbed tapes.
I think this is the reason why many companies are not willing to put a subbed only DVD out. Unless the anime is very popular (EVA, Tenchi, Ranma) they will be loathe to put it out subbed only. So they will A: wait to finish a dub, or B: not release the show at all.
If they pick B, it?s a real shame. There are plenty of great anime that aren?t too popular (yet) that deserve to be on DVD. Just because they don?t have a dub doesn?t mean they shouldn?t be released. This will hurt the customer base more than help it. It alienates the people who don?t mind reading. If the anime is good enough than word of mouth will help convince the dub only and the mostly dub audience to give the anime a shot.
Another thing you can do with a sub only DVD is load it with some really great extras. I don?t know how much room the lack of the dub track gives. But, even so, if the DVD has some extras that you can't find anywhere else, many dub fans will get the disc so they can play with the extras.
I really don?t think that the lack of a dub should prevent the release of any show on DVD.
Neither should the lack of a sub.
Now I?m not sure if the door swings both ways, but I for one wouldn?t refuse to buy a title because it came in dub only. I would be disappointed but I could live with it, especially if the title had some cool extras.
This whole problem can be avoided with the simple act of releasing a sub/dub version of many shows on DVD. That is one of the great things about this format. You can get what you want; if you love dubs, you love subs, you love both, it doesn?t matter. DVD is a lifesaver in that department and I think it?s one of its best selling points especially with anime titles.
This is how I think anime DVDs should be released. If you have a sub and a dub of the show than release both on one disc. You?ll make all the parties happy and keep the freedom that DVD provides alive. If the sub or the dub is not available at the moment but will come soon, then wait. Most of us won?t mind waiting for a good sub or a good dub, especially if you tell us that is what is delaying the release of the product. If the sub or the dub looks unlikely or will happen in the distant, distant future than release the title with what you have. Sure, you?re gonna disappoint some of your audience, but many will be happy just to have the title. To ensure more sales of the title, add some killer extras (behind the scenes, story boards, interviews, trailers, in depth looks at scenes, DVD-Rom fun, the list goes on and on). In the future if the missing sub or dub becomes available you can re-release the DVD with both tracks but without the extras (that will influence people to get the original release if they want the extras).
Now what about the BIG question here? Are subs better than dubs or are dubs better than subs? Hopefully DVD will make that question irrelevant (it already is, in my humble opinion). With the ability to appeal to both markets DVD has done what tape hasn?t been able to do. It has the ability to reach a wide audience and give them what they want. DVDs players are spreading rapidly in the U.S. and there are plenty of anime fans here. Some a prefer dubs, some prefer subs, but DVD can deliver both, with excellent picture and sound. I think we should encourage the freedom that DVD gives us fans and try to get a sub/dub version for every title.
(By the way I prefer to watch Anime dubbed first and then subbed afterward. Most of the time the sub acting is better. But I think both voice actors should be given a fair chance. Sure the dubbing may not be the most accurate interpretation, and sure there are times when you are pretty sure that the Japanese voice actor wouldn?t be caught dead saying that line, but both version can be equally enjoyable. I love the subbed versions of Ghost in the Shell, Iria, and Ninja Scroll as compared to the dubbed. I?ve only seen the dubbed versions of Oh my Goddess, El Hazard, Gunsmith Cats, and You?re Under Arrest and find them all very well done. I?m sure the subbed versions are just as good but I don?t think I will ever not like hearing Jinnai?s English voice actor and his psychotic laugh, or dislike Bill Collins? smarmy English performance. They all deserve an equal chance to entertain.)
P.S. Thanks to everyone one who commented or responded to my article. I love to read other points of view and don?t mind defending my own.