Growing up, watching anime was simple. You turned the television to Toonami or Adult Swim and watched the shows that you enjoyed. If you really liked a certain show, you could go to your nearest video store and purchase a box set for the entire season.
The box set consisted of all of the show’s episodes, special features, and bonus commentary. Oftentimes, there was also the option to switch the audio from English to Japanese and hear the original acting track. Times were easy.
Then, I went to college and started attending anime conventions.
I was immediately thrown into the world of “Dubbed vs. Subbed”, where people argued viciously over which was better. “This is America! We speak English here and give work to Americans,” dubbed fans would scream. “The Japanese version contains the director’s true intentions, you uncultured swine,” subbed fans would scream back.
The arguments were as annoying and relentless, and they were ridiculous as the memes debating whether or not pineapples belong on pizza. (Disclaimer: They do.)
I couldn’t understand what the debate was about. Sometimes, the dubbed version was better. Sometimes, the subbed version was better. Sometimes, they were equally amazing. Why the animosity?
For anime like Ghost Stories, the dub wins hands down. Featuring the talents of Chris Patton, Greg Ayres, and Monica Rial, the voiceover talent by the English voice actors deserves every award possible for such dynamic and downright hilarious performances.
For anime like the original three seasons of Ranma ½ and the original Sailor Moon ViC dub, the Japanese audio tracks with subtitles are definitely the way to go to steer away from the sometimes cringe-worthy voice acting.
For anime like Yu-Gi-Oh! (the original series with Yugi Muto and his friends) and Ping Pong Club, both the dubbed versions and the subbed versions are classics, where both bring something unique to the show and deserve a good listen-through.
While watching nearly any show, I multi-task. It is how I’ve always been since childhood, and it is likely how I will remain as I continue through adulthood. I am normally writing, crafting, or checking emails while watching television. In the more recent years, you can add “fiddling around on social media” to that multi-tasking list. Dubbed episodes are a godsend to me since I can glance down at whatever I am doing and not miss much of the action from the show.
But what about when an anime becomes especially dear to me? This always leads to me bingeing the dubbed version, and then immediately rewatching it to binge the subbed version. At that point, it is a show that I have fallen in love with and will likely not multi-task through. As such, I have no qualms about putting down my day’s tasks to read subtitles.
During some of my most obsessive rewatches, I will watch a favourite scene in Japanese, then English again, then Japanese again…finding myself in fascination about the different ways the two voice actors interpreted the scene and what those differences bring to those scenes. Acting is an artform, and seeing how two different people perform their craft from the same set of instructions is astounding and inspiring.
It is okay to prefer one form of anime over the other. I have friends who will not watch dubbed anime unless they have to do so. I have friends who will always wait for the dubbed versions to be released because they don’t want to spend their evening reading a television screen. Both of these are acceptable reasonings.
Dubbed anime has also led to the rise of the abridging community on popular video streaming sites like YouTube. English dubs normally run around one year behind the Japanese version’s release. Not wanting to wait for an English dub to be made (or sometimes just wanting to highlight the differences in the sub vs. the dub), many talented voice artists have created their own abridged versions of anime episodes that they direct and act in themselves for free.
Some of the most popular abridged series include LittleKuriboh’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged, TeamFourStar’s DragonBall Z Abridged, and TheSchmuckSquad’s Seven Deadly Schmucks. The success of their shows has led for voice actors from all of these series to land official roles in other anime shows, animated movies, commercials, and video games.
All-in-all, watch what you like, and enjoy what you like. But don’t belittle an entire artform just because of a few lackluster performances on either side. It is not fair to the voice acting industries in Japan, Canada, and the United States to do that, and you are likely to miss out on some anime gold by snootily pushing one or the other aside.
Keep the bashing to a minimum, and chow down on a giant Toblerone instead.