War of the words: Subbed anime is better

Image from 'Sailor Moon'
Image from ‘Sailor Moon’

Anime subs are the superior choice

By Jessica Berget, Staff Writer

I am an anime purist. In other words, I believe that watching anime subtitled in English and spoken in Japanese (subbed) is the best—nay—the only way to truly enjoy anime.

Subbed anime is the purest form of anime. It is the way the creators of the show intended it to be watched. There are better voice actors and dialogue, you get a better understanding of the characters, the tone, and the plot. Even the jokes make more sense. To put it simply, subbed anime is better than dubbed in literally every way.

Anime is an art, and it deserves to be appreciated in its original form. In fact, it can only be truly appreciated in its original form. Since Japanese does not translate well into English, dubbing an anime can compromise the original dialogue, so that the plot becomes contrived and the meaning of the show is changed completely.

Sailor Moon is a prime example of this. The original series was much more dark and violent than the English dub, but it was deemed too violent for kids in America. As a result, vital plot lines and episodes were cut out entirely. There is one scene in the show that illustrates the vast difference between the English dub and the original series. In the original series, Usagi (Sailor Moon) is crying because she is worried about her friend Ami (Sailor Mercury), but in the dub they changed it to her crying over a cookie. That’s right: a cookie. Usagi is changed from worrying about the safety of her friend to worrying about eating a cookie, completely compromising Usagi’s character from someone who is a loyal, caring friend to someone who only cares about food.

It’s not just characters and dialogue that are altered, as even characters’ relationships are modified to fit into English-speaking ideologies. Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune were lovers in the original series, but were changed to cousins in the dub. The difference in characterization and context in the dub is so vast it’s hardly the same show, which is almost always the case when comparing an anime sub to the dub.

There are certain jokes and cultural references in anime that only make sense when you’re watching the sub. When they are translated in English, these references are cut out or modified for an English-speaking audience, which culturally washes the show. For example, in both the dubbed Pokémon anime and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, the characters call Japanese rice balls “jelly donuts.”

Dubbing the original Japanese voices into English also whitewashes the characters, and it often comes out sounding goofy and unnatural. When I recommended the anime Monster to my boyfriend, he complained that the show came out forced and corny in some parts, a completely opposite reaction to what I had when watching the show. When I realized he was watching the dubbed version, it became clear to me why he did not enjoy the show as much as I did, and it ruined his experience of a great anime. I later showed him an episode of the sub, and he agreed it was significantly better.

Anime dubs are just watered down versions of the original anime. The erasure of cultural references, the distortion of characters, and the corny English voices are what make dubbed anime so distasteful. The voice actors might be better in some dubs than others, but this is a rare instance. The only way to really understand an anime is to watch it in its true, subbed form.