Why Are Anime Dubs So Bad?

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If you’re an anime fan, the chance is you’re exclusive. In what way, you wonder? Well, in all our experience, we’ve rarely encountered anime fans who are not exclusive when the language of the anime is concerned. People either exclusively watch the original versions with subtitles, or either exclusively prefer dubs.

Anime dubs are usually bad because they are simply not that well adapted. The Japanese language is specific. Dubs tend to adapt the original, instead of just translating it, which ends up being inferior to the original in most cases (especially when English dubs are concerned). Also, there is the issue of inadequate voice actors.

In this article, we are going to explore and explain the answer you’ve seen above. By most standards, anime dubs are inferior to the originals and, via several sections, we are going to explain why that is. This might help you understand the issue better and make a decision on how you will watch your anime series.

Why Are Anime Dubs So bad?

Now, we have to state that not all anime dubs are bad but in our experience, most of them are, well, if not bad, then significantly inferior to the original with subtitles.

It’s not a matter of quality – every market has a solid number of great voice actors that do a great job when Western animation is concerned but somehow when the world of anime is concerned, something seems to be amiss. Why is what? Why are all anime dubs so bad?

There is, of course, no official explanation for this, nor has anyone given a definitive answer to this question (probably because the dub producers would never admit that their work is bad). Still, from what experience we have, we managed to find some reasons behind this phenomenon that might account for the inferior quality of the dubs.

The first one is the language. The Japanese language is very specific and it has its rules. For Westerners, it is somewhat difficult to translate because it requires a lot of knowledge to precisely derive the meaning behind each phrase and translate it correctly.

This is especially valid for those phrases which don’t have a literal translation, and Japanese has a lot of them. This is the reason why not all subs are equally good as well.

The original versions were made for Japanese audiences and, of course, they are ideally suited for the Japanese market. When you want to dub the show, you first need to translate the phrases correctly and then adapt them for the Western marker.

This is by no means an easy task and that is why a lot of these dubs sound so unnatural. Subtitles are easier to follow because you still hear the original, while the translation is just written down.

Another problem that arises here is the censorship regulations in the West, which are different and usually stricter than the ones in Japan. This is why a lot of the original material has to be changed or completely removed, which, of course, decreases the quality of the dub.

Finally, another reason – although this one might be a bit subjective when compared to the others – is the fact that some of the voices just don’t fit the characters.

This is especially true if child characters are concerned; namely, male children are, in the United States at least, voiced by adult males so hearing a 12-year old child with the voice of a 40-year old man seems ghastly to us, but we do admit that this might not bother everyone.

And these are the basic reasons why we assume that dubs are so bad. They are all correct, they are quite plausible and they might, in fact, account for the inferiority of the dubs.

Are All Anime Dubs Bad?

Now, we’ve had the experience of actually watching other dubs, aside from the American ones and that certainly raises the question of whether all dubs are that bad, or is it just the American ones? Unfortunately for all English-speaking readers, this seems to be an issue of the American dubs only.

Namely, we’ve had the pleasure of watching German and Italian dubs of certain anime and we have to state that none of the above-written issues apply to them.

These dubs are usually 100% faithful to the originals, despite, generally, getting their rights from the American market. These dubs don’t cut out anything and the translations are as accurate as they can be.

Also, the voice actors are perfectly adequate as European dubs don’t actually hesitate using female voice actresses for younger male characters, as the Japanese do.

Are Anime Dubs Censored?

Censorship is a thing when dubs are concerned, more often in the English-speaking markets than other ones, but they’re still a thing. American censors have stricter rules, which means that a lot of phrases, innuendos, and words need to be cut. This, as we have already deduced, decreases the quality of the dub and is one of the main reasons why the dubs are so bad in comparison to the original versions of the show.

Should You Watch Subbed or Dubbed Anime?

You should watch the original versions with subtitles. Now, if you cannot get used to the Japanese language and the often-high frequencies of the voice acting, a dubbed version might be a better option for you, but you have to remember that you’ll probably be missing out on a lot. Subbed versions aren’t always perfect, but they do keep more of the original spirit and they are not subject to such strict censorship as dubbed versions which, in our opinion, makes them better.

  • Arthur S. Poe has been fascinated by fiction ever since he saw Digimon and read Harry Potter as a child. Since then, he has seen several thousand movies and anime, read several hundred books and comics, and played several hundred games of all genres.