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Anime 101: Sub or Dub?

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Sub or Dub? This question often arises much debate among anime watchers. Most people have a preference, rather to watch the show with subtitles or watch it dubbed.

I usually watch the English dub first and then watch it subbed to catch some of the edited things and jokes. The dub has to be really bad for me though to watch it subbed right away.

I have never taken any Japanese classes; but after watching subtitles for while you can pick up on words and their meanings.

Here are some recognizable words (If anyone sees misspellings, please correct me!):

Nani – What?
Oswari – Sit! (when commanding a dog)
Chibi – Small, Runt
Ohio – Good Morning
Neko – Cat
Inu – Dog
Bento – Boxed Lunch
Senpai – senior (ex/1: just starting high school everyone is your senpai. ex/2: Starting a new job and someone is teaching you the ropes, he/she is your senpai. In other words, not only people older than you but people with more experience regardless of age.)
Kouhai – Opposite of senpai; junior
Feh – Hmph!
Hikari – Light

Matte – Wait
Hiaku – Hurry up

As for the suffixes I understand for the most part but then I get thrown for a loop when they are used differently. If anyone could clarify them more precisely, I’d much appreciate it.

– sama – Lord/ Lady (high respect)
– san – similar to a Mr./ Ms. (shows respect)
– kun – used primarily for boys
– chan – used primarily for girls.

As for English dubbing, early works tend to have poorer translations and voices to match the characters. But as the industry grew, it became clear that the voices and translations needed to improve. Granted not all of the early works had bad dubbing, but the quality has grown over the years. For example, when I went to Anime Next, I attended a Q&A panel with some of the voice actors from Full Metal Alchemist (Vic Mignogna, Caitlin Glass, and Travis Willingham). After auditions for their roles, the producers sent their choices to be heard by the Japanese board and had gotten their approval for the voices. More attention is being given to the tone and pitch of the original Japanese voices when choosing an appropriate English dub.

Voice Actors:

The only Japanese voice actor I can repeatedly recognize is Kappei Yamaguchi. There was not a lot of information I could find about him beyond being born on May 23, 1965 in Fukuoka, Japan. Also his original name is Mitsuo Yamaguchi, this along with a long list of credits was pretty much it.

His debut into voice acting was the voice of Ranma Saotome in Ranma 1/2, but is probably most well known as Inuyasha of Inuyasha. As for a couple of U.S. shows dubbed into Japanese, Yamaguchi voices Kyle from South Park and the American classic, Bugs Bunny.

One of the most respected and highly used English voice actor (also one of my favorites!) is David Lucas/ Steven Jay Blum. It is debated with this actor about whether or not he is the same person (one being a pseudonym). I was convinced he is the same with the credits for Cowboy Bebop: the Movie. The actors for Cowboy Bebop, the series, were much appreciated by the audience and it was decided to use the same people for the Movie. In the series he is credited as David Lucas whereas in the movie he is Steven Jay Blum.

He has a very distinctive voice and so has earned quite a list of credited voices. He is most know for though as the voice of Spike Spiegel on Cowboy Bebop. Some of his other works are:
S-cry-ed – Kazuma, Samurai Champloo – Mugen, Wolf’s Rain – Darcia. This is just a sampling of his anime work for he has also done various American cartoons and video game voices.

Lastly, he was born April 28, 1965 in Santa Monica, California.

So which do you prefer? Sub or dub or both?

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About Lindsay Beaumont

  • Ryan

    It’s ohayo for good morning and hayaku for hurry. and anyone who watches dubs is not a true anime fan. the edits and censorship they put into the dubs makes it a completely different show from the original uncut japanese version.

  • KuroKami

    I can easily see what anime the author watches fairly regularly, just from the word selection s/he offers.

    As to subs or dubs, I prefer subs. I like to hear the original Japanese, with the original nuance of each character, rather than the bastardized Americanized version.

    Nothing illustrates the differences more than the American version of an old (elderly) man. The Americanized ones all end up sounding like Mr Turtle from the old Tootsie Pop ad…

    A note to the author…Mr Yamaguchi also voices Usopp in the anime One Piece (also much MUCH better in the original Japanese).

  • The Theory

    Although my anime experience is fairly limited, I prefer to watch it once with the dub– if one available– then go back and do the subtitles.

  • Lindsay Beaumont

    Thank You, Theory! I am curious about how a series sounds in dubbed that’s why I watch it dubbed, but then to get over the censorship etc. watching it in Japanese is good. Thanks for the corrections, Ryan, I knew Ohayo, but I couldn’t find a dictionary online that would give english spelling and not the Kanji/Kana of the word. another voice Mr. Yamaguchi did is Ryuichi-san from Gravitation and little Zenki of Zenki (the dub made my ears bleed). Speaking of comparison has anyone compared the sub and dub of Excel Saga? the story, if there really is a story to Excel, is much, Much, MUCH better in Japanese.

  • Technically all anime is dubbed.

  • >>Speaking of comparison has anyone compared the sub and dub of Excel Saga? the story, if there really is a story to Excel, is much, Much, MUCH better in Japanese.

    I’ve watched both the sub and dub of Excel Saga and I enjoyed both. It was really like getting two shows for the price of one. Excel’s voice is a little hard to take in English, but I loved the English voice of Hyatt.

    As for the whole sub/dub debate, I think it’s a ridiculous debate. It kind of annoys me that people automatically assume that Japanese voice actors are all great. They only seem great to us because most anime fans are not fluent in speaking Japanese. There are definitely anime with poorly acted Japanese versions but we’d never know it because we can easily tell if the English version is crap. I try to watch both versions whenever I can (although I tend to watch the subbed first). There are even some dubs that I like a whole lot better than the original. I only watch Cowboy Bebop in English.

    One trend that is both interesting and disturbing is ADV’s “original” dubs where they take a show and completely rewrite it. They did this with The Super Milk-Chan Show (although the true-to-the-Japanese dub is what was aired on Adult Swim) and they will be doing this to another show as well. I kind of like the idea of taking a mediocre anime and turning into something good…but at the same time, the anime fan in me is reeling.

  • Morris

    Nice info, but Hello = ‘Ohayo’
    Properly romanicized Japanese is perfect.
    Thanks for the info, and I watch subbed, btw.
    Japanese w/ English subtitles roXXorZ.

  • Amy

    The correct spelling for Hello is Ohaiyou. I like to watch anime in both dubbed and subbed form. The subbed versions are cool, but the dubbed versions allow you to take a break from reading.

  • Tong

    Hello is NOT ohaiyou, ohaiyou means good morning. it means hi in the morning ONLY. afternoon is konichiwa, then its konbanwa (evening) and etc. depends on the time of the day.

  • alexstarr

    i find that it depends on the mood i’m in. Dubs if i’m feeling lazy and aren’t really paying attention and subs is i can actually be bothered to focus completely on the screen. I mainly watch in subs, as thats all thats avaliable but i watched all of fullmetal alchemist in dubs and i did think it was good. 🙂
    It is interesting to see the differences in the language used between the two versions.

  • AnimeFan

    Keh….When the American dubbing companies actually start caring about dubbing anime’s, hiring talented voice actors that mirror the Jap acting, and not editting it, then I’ll watch dubs…but that’s about 10-20+ years in the future lolz

    Like seriously, the dubbing companies are the biggest bakas in the world….They take a successful anime in Japan, and then -censor- it! It’s successful for a reason and editting it has a risk of not even being successful in USA(dub-wise).

    I watch animes only in subtitles, uncensored Japanese versions.

  • Danna

    I prefer to watch the dubbed anime as I usually find that female Japanese voices tend to be very high pitched and it’s annoying

  • steveyk

    this argument has been around now for so long….
    I find it offensive that people who prefer subbed anime actually feel they have the right to say things like “anyone who watches dubs is not a true anime fan” like somebody did in this thread. I guess the 250+ anime dvd’s and video tapes I own means nothing after all. The way I feel about it is quite simple, If I wanted to read I will buy a book.

    However I have to agree about English dubbing companies really have to stop censoring things when they translate an anime. It makes me laugh when they quite happily place an 18 certificate on an anime due to its graphic nature but the dub has been censored in some way or the language and meaning has been bastardized in transulation . I realize it’s slowly getting less of a priority to censor dubs in anime due to some recent dub I have watched, but its a long way off from being perfect….

  • Carter

    That’s pretty harsh, Rya. Watching a dub doesn’t mean you aren’t a true anime fan. It’s just a matter of which voice you feel fits the characters better. Most dubs get an uncut version anyway. And Anime Fan, why should american actors have to try to mimic the originals? If I wanted to hear the original voices, I would watch the original. I love it when VAs put their own spins on the character. You can’t deliver a truly emotional performance if you are trying to sound like someone else. Vic Mignogna doesn’t sound too much like the original Ed, and his performance gets more praise than jesus!

  • name

    lol good morning is ohayo not ohio if it was written like that it would be pronounced o-hee-o
    and hiaku is also wrong….

    that is also the thing I hate about dubs, they pronounced it using english pronunciation, like when I watched keroro in the english dub pekopon is always pronounce pee-kaw-pwn which is clearly wrong… or in ranma 1/2 ranma should be pronounced run-muh but instead they pronounced it ran(as in ran away)muh

    I just think Japanese dub are one of the charms of anime and it shouldn’t be changed…. like when I watched Tsubasa Chronicle in original japanese dub, and then I watch the english dub, I seriously got really pissed off… the character Fye have this distinctive a bit high pitched, calm, a bit cute for a male’s voice, but somehow really cool and nice to listen, but when I heard the dubbed one, it was horrible, just horrible… the voice was the exact opposite… it just ruins the show….
    one other thing about dubs is that little girls voice in english dubs is annoying, in english dub little girls voice are always extremely high pitched which is okay I guess, but sometimes it doesn’t fit the character very well and it just kills the loliness…

    the main thing that makes people make dubs is that anime, in most country other than Japan is targeted to kids, and people who aren’t into anime think that it is for kids, even though when you watch the original animes you can clearly see that it is not so, even though there are animes that are targeted for children like chibi maruko chan, doraemon and other animes like that….
    and the other reason is that I guess people are just too lazy to read subs….

  • Naruto-san

    Lol this is so old and outdated cause subs and dubs are both good and dubs are uncut just like subs. Lol funny ready this old thing though. Use to be like that years ago.

  • Nami

    I personally prefer subs over dubs, mainly due to the fact that Japanese VAs tend to have more emotion put into their work. Sometimes, the dub version’s voice acting just sounds dull, as if the VAs were ranting to themselves. In addition, anime is obviously a lot more popular in Japan than in the US, so it makes sense that they have a lot of professional VAs to choose from. Quite a few bishonen characters in anime are voiced by female VAs in the original Japanese version, and finding a good VA for them in the dub is probably pretty hard.

    Regardless of how amazing some dubs are, I’d still rather read subs. Reading subs gets more information into my brain faster (Visual Learner FTW). Not to mention some of my favorite animes like Gintama or Katekyo Hitman Reborn! don’t have dubbed versions.

  • Jozzie Chan

    I just got started into anime, and so far I can pretty much surely say that I like subs way better than dubs since, to me, it sounds more authentic. But still… im not close-minded and I still like to hear other peoople talking about which one is their fave.
    As for the honorifics that you have in there, they’re pretty accurate ^^. But, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that it’s spelled “kohai” . Also, “chan” is most regularly used for girls, but it can also be used between lovers to add a “cute” touch…. and i don’t know.. but I’d like to hear all of you peoples telling me exactly what you think. so, umm, I have a chatango account, my username is jozsygurl. ooor if you would like to talk irt u could catch me in revolution-anime.net ^^.

  • styg

    Either, preferably both.

    In general, I watch subs more often, but a decent quality dub doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve noticed that many anime fans of my acquaintance genuinely think that all Japanese voice artists are better than all Western voice artists, end of story… that’s just not true. I’ve seen more than one example of an original, Japanese voice actor just absolutely phoning it in with no nuance or emotion.

  • Billy V


    I preferred Coybow Bepop dubbed in English A LOT more than the original.

    At the same time, Samurai Champloo was way better in original than dubbed.

    It really depends. Plus, there are some really great voice actors in america now. What you’re saying was like that, about 5 years ago, now it’s changed.

    For me, sub or dub depends on the anime and the work, but more often than not I go sub.

    Btw, a lot of dubs aren’t edited, i.e. Bebop. Only ones aimed at kids are censored heavily in US, like DBZ for example.

  • TSG

    I prefer subs because english dubs tend to have no emotion swearin or anything at al-__- the only dub that i ever watched that i loved was yu yu hakusho that was as perfect as a dub can get

  • Me

    Hmm, I’d say for me it depends on teh series/genre of teh anime.
    For example, I prefer to watch Berserk english-dubbed, but I don’t want to see a dubbed version of, say, Death Note.
    Usually if the show is set in Japan I’ll watch it subbed; if not I watch it dubbed unless I know the dubs are fail.

  • animaniac

    I prefer subs. Once I start watching an anime with subs and I become accustomed to the Japanese vocal sounds and patterns, I can’t listen to the show with dubs. It’s too different sounding for me to enjoy the whole show, so I end up turning the show off completely. Prime example of this for me is FMA Brotherhood.

    Aside from that, I find the Japanese language fascinating and I enjoy picking up new words. I also feel like the experience is more authentic.

    I don’t feel like one is way better than the other, but hey, just choose whichever one your most comfortable with and allows you to fully enjoy the show, that’s what matters most.

  • Prashanth Rajendran

    I prefer dubs over subs. As long as they don’t edit. The subtitles go fast and you have to keep pausing. Also reading really takes away my enjoyment.

  • none99

    RE:Prashanth Rajendran Lot of dubs do edited out things. Also DUBS FUCKING SUCKS they runied lot of good anime i have no problem reading and watching at the same time. If your one of those people who are fucking lazy to read subtitles go read the manga.

  • Brent

    The iron fist rule of US dub:
    – rape the Japanese song and turn it to hip hop rap fusion of a Hollywood making.
    – disarm all people with guns and replace with showerheads, waterguns, invisible guns, sticks, etc.
    – remove everything rice and replace with cookies, sandwiches, biscuits, etc.
    – cut off fanservice.
    – remove cross shaped swords, etc.
    – change personality by making characters more adult.
    – remove all violent scenes.

  • DrThemoWorm

    I tend to watch english-dubbed (because all anime is “dubbed” technically, let’s make that distinction) anime for the most part.

    This is partly due to the fact that I may not necessarily feel like staring at the bottom two inches of my screen for the entirety of whatever show I’m watching, and also what if I’m chatting with someone online or playing my PS Vita/3DS at the time? I don’t wanna have to look up at my screen every other second to make sure I don’t miss anything.

    That’s not to say that some anime isn’t better off subbed, two examples off the top of my head being Azumanga Daioh (didn’t like the voice they used for Osaka) and Ah! My Goddess (the little sister just annoyed me too much).

    One thing I think people could do with understand is that when an anime company makes an English version of any given anime, they have to “match flaps,” which is already pretty hard sometimes, and they also have to phrase things in such a way as to stay as close to the original script as possible while still being at least somewhat relatable to western audiences.

    Sometimes that’s simply not possible, such as with Sgt Frog where a lot of its humor is found in Japanese wordplay/puns, which American audiences wouldn’t quite catch.

    Also, I refuse to watch DBZ subbed. I just can’t get past Goku sounding like a little girl.

    Anyway, does it really matter? If you liked subbed better, go for it, or if you like dubbed, great, it’s just entertainment and that’s all there is to it.

  • name

    If I wanted subtitles I’d read a fucking book.