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Anime dub v. sub

000ike
Posts: 11,196
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8/2/2016 11:28:51 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
I don't understand how people who do not speak Japanese and know absolutely nothing about the conventions of the language think they're competent to judge the skill of the voice acting in an anime ... much less conclude that it's superior to the voice acting in the english dub. Yet, it seems to be a popular position among casual anime consumers and aficionados that subs are better.

When you listen to a language you know little about, there's no way for you to accurately interpret the cadences and intonation beyond the most obvious and universal principles of spoken language (e.g. loud is maybe angry/excited? soft is sad/reflective?). In your ignorance (literally not knowing what else to do with the sounds you're hearing) you subconsciously construct interpretations derived from the events of the scene and its visual qualities ... naturally, you come to believe that the Japanese voice-acting is a perfect embodiment of the emotions being conveyed by the scene, precisely because you used those emotions to interpret the voice-acting in the first place. When you switch to english -- a language you actually speak and understand -- your impressions of the voice-acting will almost certainly differ from your impressions of the sub, because now your interpretation is constrained by the conventions of english, and you inevitably find that voice acting fits the emotions of the scene imperfectly.

This is the same sort of problem encountered by those who read novels before watching their movie adaptations ... the former lets you engineer imagery and interpretations to your standards of perfection ... so the latter, which actually attempts to form a real visual scene, will always disappoint you.

Suffice it to say, your impressions say nothing about the talent of either set of voice actors, and no one who does not speak japanese and english fluently is competent to determine which acting is better.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Posts: 18,324
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8/3/2016 10:23:10 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 8/2/2016 11:28:51 PM, 000ike wrote:
I don't understand how people who do not speak Japanese and know absolutely nothing about the conventions of the language think they're competent to judge the skill of the voice acting in an anime ... much less conclude that it's superior to the voice acting in the english dub. Yet, it seems to be a popular position among casual anime consumers and aficionados that subs are better.

When you listen to a language you know little about, there's no way for you to accurately interpret the cadences and intonation beyond the most obvious and universal principles of spoken language (e.g. loud is maybe angry/excited? soft is sad/reflective?). In your ignorance (literally not knowing what else to do with the sounds you're hearing) you subconsciously construct interpretations derived from the events of the scene and its visual qualities ... naturally, you come to believe that the Japanese voice-acting is a perfect embodiment of the emotions being conveyed by the scene, precisely because you used those emotions to interpret the voice-acting in the first place. When you switch to english -- a language you actually speak and understand -- your impressions of the voice-acting will almost certainly differ from your impressions of the sub, because now your interpretation is constrained by the conventions of english, and you inevitably find that voice acting fits the emotions of the scene imperfectly.

This is the same sort of problem encountered by those who read novels before watching their movie adaptations ... the former lets you engineer imagery and interpretations to your standards of perfection ... so the latter, which actually attempts to form a real visual scene, will always disappoint you.

Suffice it to say, your impressions say nothing about the talent of either set of voice actors, and no one who does not speak japanese and english fluently is competent to determine which acting is better.

This is a very good post. I don't watch anime but I have been "disappointed" as a child when I read books and then watch movies, the Harry Potter series being a prime example. When I watch movies without reading the source material (LotR, Star Wars), I'm always impressed.
Vox_Veritas
Posts: 7,065
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8/3/2016 7:48:29 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 8/2/2016 11:28:51 PM, 000ike wrote:
I don't understand how people who do not speak Japanese and know absolutely nothing about the conventions of the language think they're competent to judge the skill of the voice acting in an anime ... much less conclude that it's superior to the voice acting in the english dub. Yet, it seems to be a popular position among casual anime consumers and aficionados that subs are better.

When you listen to a language you know little about, there's no way for you to accurately interpret the cadences and intonation beyond the most obvious and universal principles of spoken language (e.g. loud is maybe angry/excited? soft is sad/reflective?). In your ignorance (literally not knowing what else to do with the sounds you're hearing) you subconsciously construct interpretations derived from the events of the scene and its visual qualities ... naturally, you come to believe that the Japanese voice-acting is a perfect embodiment of the emotions being conveyed by the scene, precisely because you used those emotions to interpret the voice-acting in the first place. When you switch to english -- a language you actually speak and understand -- your impressions of the voice-acting will almost certainly differ from your impressions of the sub, because now your interpretation is constrained by the conventions of english, and you inevitably find that voice acting fits the emotions of the scene imperfectly.

This is the same sort of problem encountered by those who read novels before watching their movie adaptations ... the former lets you engineer imagery and interpretations to your standards of perfection ... so the latter, which actually attempts to form a real visual scene, will always disappoint you.

Suffice it to say, your impressions say nothing about the talent of either set of voice actors, and no one who does not speak japanese and english fluently is competent to determine which acting is better.

I acknowledge that most anime watchers in the West don't understand the Japanese language. I don't either, though I have watched 600+ subbed episodes of a certain anime series. That being said, it takes about 10 seconds to realise the radical difference in tone between a subbed episode and the dubbed version of that same episode. The voices in most dubs sound like they were done by amateurs and it often comes off as really corny. Like, ridiculous corny.
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Vox_Veritas
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8/3/2016 7:54:40 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
Even with the language barrier, it's often really easy to understand the tone and emotional state of characters based on the look on their faces, the sound of their voices, and what the subtitles say.
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000ike
Posts: 11,196
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8/4/2016 12:33:25 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 8/3/2016 7:54:40 PM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
Even with the language barrier, it's often really easy to understand the tone and emotional state of characters based on the look on their faces, the sound of their voices, and what the subtitles say.

well, that's actually my point. You're using the emotions of the scene to interpret the meaning and tone of the japanese voice acting ... which makes the japanese voice acting a necessarily perfect or near perfect embodiment of the emotions of the scene (the process is entirely circular, but you don't realize it).

I would grant that we can tell the difference between an english dub that is poorer and less authentic than another english dub that is comparatively richer. What we cannot accurately compare is an english dub to a japanese sub of the same anime.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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8/4/2016 3:17:05 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
Vox, my argument would essentially apply to anybody who thinks naruto dub is inferior to the sub or anyone who thinks the same of the death note dub ... since both are very clearly well done when compared to other examples of english voice acting (in anime and outside of it). In these cases, they're probably guilty of the interpretative bias I mentioned.

My argument would not apply to anybody who thinks that, say, speed racer was an objectively bad dub -- because it was.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
Vox_Veritas
Posts: 7,065
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8/4/2016 4:39:37 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 8/4/2016 3:17:05 AM, 000ike wrote:
Vox, my argument would essentially apply to anybody who thinks naruto dub is inferior to the sub or anyone who thinks the same of the death note dub ... since both are very clearly well done when compared to other examples of english voice acting (in anime and outside of it). In these cases, they're probably guilty of the interpretative bias I mentioned.

I haven't really seen the Death Note sub, but I agree that it had a well-done dub compared to other series which I've seen. They actually picked decent voice actors for Light and L.

My argument would not apply to anybody who thinks that, say, speed racer was an objectively bad dub -- because it was.
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Vox_Veritas
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8/4/2016 4:47:07 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
Ultimately it's not so much that the original subbed versions are so much better as it is that the dubbed versions are usually awful. To make a show from scratch, anime studios put as much work into selecting good voice actors and developing a decent script as a TV producers normally would. The dub teams, however, usually do a substandard job in the one simple task which they have.
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9spaceking
Posts: 4,213
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8/10/2016 2:32:48 PM
Posted: 3 months ago
At 8/4/2016 4:47:07 AM, Vox_Veritas wrote:
Ultimately it's not so much that the original subbed versions are so much better as it is that the dubbed versions are usually awful. To make a show from scratch, anime studios put as much work into selecting good voice actors and developing a decent script as a TV producers normally would. The dub teams, however, usually do a substandard job in the one simple task which they have.
true. I mean, the best one's probably like Steins;Gate or something, but even that misses out what is arguably the best scene in the show (Mad scientist Engrish)
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