To sub or dub… Whichever you prefer. But dubbed anime has brought benefits to all fans whether we like it or not.
Before we get started I’m going to make it clear that this is not another debate about whether subbed or dubbed anime is superior. I looked at the pointlessness of the argument around dubbed anime a few years ago and I’ve already made it clear that I primarily watch subbed anime. That said I also have a top 5 list celebrating my favourite English dubbed anime and the reasons why those particular dubs caught my attention.
My answer hasn’t changed on this one: watch what you like.
However, as a long time anime viewer and having gone through the dark ages (pre-streaming services) I actually have to appreciate what an increase in both quantity and quality of dubbed anime has done for the anime fandom in general. There’s an undeniable benefit of dubs that even those who only watch subs have actually benefitted from.
This might seem obvious but anime is an incredibly niche hobby. While it is more widely accepted as a hobby than when I was a teenager I still encounter people who don’t even know what anime is when I tell them that I enjoy it. I can’t imagine someone who watches football having the issue of having to explain to a non-fan what football actually is (even if the non-fan doesn’t know the nuances of the game or the rules they know it exists).
Streaming services, conventions, and social media have all played a role in broadening the exposure of anime to the general public outside of Japan (for better or worse) but even for the curious there are plenty of people who would never have dabbled their toes in the anime pool while there was a language barrier and reading subs didn’t appeal.
Why is a wider audience a benefit to all in the fandom?
Without demand you don’t get new services or expanded services. By making anime more appealing to more people in your home country (usually through providing anime in the language people in that country speak) demand is increased and you see more shops with anime DVD sections, more streaming services that licence in your region and a general access increase – which in turn leads to yet more potential fans and so on.
Even breaking down the language barrier, anime is probably going to remain relatively niche market, particularly for the non-action titles out there. But it does open up the market to more people which ultimately provides benefits to all.
Recently, AnimeLab released the first episode of the final season of Fruits Basket early – definitely just to build up excitement for the upcoming final season and to send fans crazy waiting for episode 2 to finally drop – however it was dubbed rather than subbed. In fact, all of the new Fruits Basket (so not the 2001 series) are only available dubbed on AnimeLab. Crunchroll is releasing it subbed.
Why is this relevant?
Affiliate Link – PlayAsia
Largely, because even though I don’t watch a lot of dubbed anime, when given the choice between waiting for that first episode and watching it dubbed, I jumped on watching it dubbed. The Fruits Basket English dub is actually pretty amazing and most of the characters actually come across really well. Admittedly, it was slightly jarring when I watched episode 2 on Crunchyroll with subs but if I’d waited just an hour or two the episode would have been released on AnimeLab and I could have watched it dubbed.
But again, the English dub was amazing. The voice actors put their heart and souls into portraying these characters and providing a viable alternative viewing experience for an English speaking audience.
This is something that even ten years ago wouldn’t have even been a possibility. Those who watched subbed anime were starting to get simulcasts but simuldubbing didn’t really start until around 2015 (probably could find the exact date if I searched a bit longer) and even then there was a delay of at least a week. That kind of meant that subbed anime fans and dubbed anime fans were pretty much perpetually out of sync in their conversation around current anime.
Those who watch seasonal anime know that if you are behind on a show you are unlikely to read content about that show until you catch up for the simple reason that you don’t want to know every single detail of what you are about to watch. While the bigger spoilers are almost unavoidable, unless you decide to detach from the internet, you can avoid seeing an endless parade of screen-caps and commentary prior to viewing an episode.
That kind of cut off conversation between those watching subbed or dubbed anime.
While not every anime gets a dub and not every anime gets a simuldub, there’s certainly a lot more available which means there are more people able to join in the conversation around the latest shows and they are bringing their own perspectives and voices into the community. Some of these are people who used to watch subs because it was all they could access but now they are watching dubs, but some are people who never even considered anime before.
As much as anime fans love their subbed or dubbed anime debate, I need to acknowledge that dubbed anime has given the opportunity for more people to fall in love with anime and I can only see that as a good thing.
Of course, we could look at the negative of people discovering anime and then wanting to change it but let’s save that topic for a different blog post.
Images in this article from:
- Mars Red. Dir. S Sadamitsu. Signal.MD. 2021
- Fruits Basket: The Final. Dir. Y Ibata. TMS Entertainment. 2021.
- How Not To Summon a Demon Lord. Dir. Y Murano. Ajia-Do. 2018
- I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level. Dir. N Kimura. Revoroot. 2021.
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