I prefer watching Anime in Japanese rather than watching an English dubbed anime. No, this isn’t a bash on anime dubs or people that prefer anime dubs. There are some really good English reinterpretations of anime out there. And it’s not like I don’t give some dubbed shows a chance.
Throughout my anime watching life, which is coming up to 10 or so years, I’ve either been in support of dubs, or whatever towards them. Obviously, some shows translate better than others. And depending on who is working on the series or film, a better dub is produced. I used to be a big fan of the Bandai dubs, when they were still around. The original Haruhi, Code Geass, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
But I don’t think like that anymore. If the past year or so has taught me anything about the dubbing process, dub these days, especially simuldubs, don’t reflect what the original Japanese director intended for their series.
The issue is, I have friends in the English dubbing industry. I love some dubs that were produced in conjunction with Japan or are at least authentically trying to be an English version not a revision of the Japanese version.
Before people say anything, cause I can see you typing away in the comments below. There have been times where Japanese directors have been involved in the dubbing process.
I’m not saying anime dubs are bad, just not what the director intended
Two recent simuldubs come to mind as examples as shows that were translated wrongly. One being, Prison School, which famously used the line “Are you one of those dumbass Gamergate freakshows?” Which, despite your stance on the matter, was a dumb and unnecessary insert into a show.
The other being Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon, which turned the titular character from ambiguous on her sexuality, to outright straight. This very much changed the context of the relationship of the two main leads. They could have just used the original Japanese line and everything would be fine.
Both of these examples are simuldubs, dubs produced quickly so they can throw them up on FunimationNow. We already know that Prison School had the line changed in the home video release. I’m sure Maid Dragon would be the same. Though it doesn’t help that both these examples had script reinterpreters just brushing off fan backlash.
And in the second case, with Maid Dragon, the script reinterpreters saying that her interpretation of the character is straight.
Anime dubs are changing the core material
The issue is, it’s not hers to interpret, it’s the director or scriptwriter of the series to decide that. Or, as is it for most cases in Japanese media, the original creator to decide that.
In Japan, they have the notion that the creator is “god”, and should approve everything to do with their creation. This can backfire, like in the case of Akame ga Kill where the anime original ending was approved by the mangaka. But usually, it keeps one cohesive environment where directors and script-writers don’t screw up the characters too much.
Maid Dragon is produced at Kyoto Animation by Yasuhiro Takemoto, who generally sticks close to the source material. The same can’t be said for other Kyoto Animation based directors. K-ON!, directed by Naoko Yamada, strayed heavily from the source material, yet still kept the characters in check and even improved on them. Chunnibyou, directed by Tatsuya Ishihara added new characters into the show from the light novel, to such great effect, the author also added them into the books.
This is just one outlying studio, who have the best track record in the business. Most studios, like Kyoto Animation, regularly communicates with original creators to make sure the best show is produced and it’s cohesive with both the old and new products. Most anime is made like this. Whether it’s with the creator or a representative on their behalf. One Piece is famous for having Eiichiro Oda supervise the animation production.
Add in the fact that you lose the original audio mixing in anime dubs. This means that sometimes the sound direction, not just the lines, are different between the English and Japanese. With the English, mostly from Funimation, having softer sound effects. It’s hard to suggest watching dubs in their current form.
Anime dubs should be produced with Anime directors
To me, watching anime dubs is like watching a film in the wrong aspect ratio. Or a different colour grade than what the director intended. You aren’t watching their vision, just a bastardised version of it.
I would love to see Japanese directors having more of a say in foreign dubs, but, of course, a language barrier effects this.
(EDIT: I’d previously called the script writers ADR Directors, this has been fixed.)