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On the necessity of English dubs in anime

Recently I’ve wanted to talk about English dubs in anime, but not because I still see people complaining about their validity, but for another reason. I’m tired… a lot… like all the time. That’s only intensified since having a kid which, I suppose, is to be expected. It’s worse this time of year, when it’s dark out and the computer screens inside seem brighter by comparison. I’m a full-time journalist, which means I spend my working week staring at screens. Many of my other hobbies and side-hustles are also screen-based which means I’ve got dry tired eyes and headaches a lot of the time. And if I’m over-tired, my eyes aching and feeling queasy from staring at a screen all day, the last thing I want to do is come home and read subtitles. Thank goodness for English dubs.  

I grew up on dubbed anime, so I’ve never really been a ‘purist’ about sticking to the subs. I’ll argue that Japanese voice actors treat it more like a craft, put more of their heart and soul into their work and, consequently, the results are better, but there are some brilliant dubs out there. And then there’s those I prefer because of circumstance, nostalgia or just personal preference. Naruto is my go-to example. I just prefer the English voice cast for almost all of the characters, particularly for the erratic little ninja himself. For Tsuritama, one of my favourite anime, I think both dubs are about equal. Then there’s Dragon Ball, a series that, in all honesty, just sounds wrong to me in the original Japanese and that’s just because it’s what I grew up watching.

When reviewing anime releases, I’ll hop between dubs where available and, if I’m feeling particularly fatigued, I’ll stick predominately to the English. That said, most of the anime I watch is still subbed, thanks to simulcasts and the fact that the majority of anime I enjoy don’t tend to get dubbed. Once the reviews are out the way, I feel so burnt out and tired that I’d rather watch old episodes of Star Trek. But those series that have dubs mean that I’m able to enjoy anime without giving myself a migraine.

I’d say that was three, maybe four days of the week. The rest? Give me subbed anime all day long! I’m just grateful that there’s the option there, and I know I’m not alone. People seem to forget that everyone has different reading speeds, and some struggle reading at all. I remember one early follower of ours who only watched dubbed anime because they were dyslexic and struggled to read subtitles. Anyway, I’m not turning this into a lecture. I know that our readers are all wonderful people, I just wanted to present my own case on the necessity of English dubs. For me, it’s less a preference and more self-care. But what about you? Let me know in the comments below.

About Dominic (124 Articles)
Journalist, blogger and father. Usually found in a Star Wars or anime tee-shirt. Obsessions include epic fantasy and model spaceships.

7 Comments on On the necessity of English dubs in anime

  1. I’m not a huge fan of dubbed anime though there’s few series that I saw dubbed originally and so just came to associate the characters with those voices and so enjoy them well enough. I tend to only watch dubbed when watching with someone who isn’t really into anime and doesn’t much like subs. Offering them a dubbed viewing usually helps get them into it.
    But as you said, it is nice that we have the choice with so many shows these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to be a dubs only type of guy. For the shows that I first watched dubbed, it feels weird to go back and watch them subbed. I find this especially with shows with a good dub, like Cowboy Beebop.

    But on the other hand, I’ve found there are shows that I just can’t watched dubbed because I first watched them subbed. In particular, Seirei No Moribito and Tiger and Bunny. When I watch those subbed, it’s just too disconcerting.

    I think the rarer exception are the shows that are passable either way. Ruroni Kenshin is like that for me. I first watched it subbed, then I saw it dubbed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I generally prefer dubs over subs. I don’t really mind watching an anime subbed, and if that’s all that’s available then that’s what I’ll watch, but if I’m given the choice I’ll always choose to watch a show dubbed.

    There are, of course, some older dubs out there that are absolutely awful, but in most cases I think the dubs that are being put out now are good and, since I’m not a very fast reader, I find them to be easier and more enjoyable to watch. What’s more, I find that when watching a show subtitled I don’t really pay attention of the voice acting because I’m too busy trying to read the subtitles, so even if the quality of the performance were better it would be lost on me anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a subs kind of person, but if given the chance to check out the dub a bit, I will check it out. For instance, recently I watched Hellsing (which apparently has a really good dub) and there was some slang in the subs, so I got curious as to how it would be rendered in English…sampling snippets of characters’ voices in both dubs to compare how well I think both VAs did…stuff like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Juan Martinez // October 16, 2019 at 06:46 // Reply

    Heavens know I have a very slow reading speed and it’s sad to just read and hear what you are watching and not able to see the artwork of anime. I hope they consider doing a Jap and Eng dub version of each anime.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kim Thompson // October 30, 2019 at 06:19 // Reply

    I originally watched dubs (Cowboy Bebop, Bleach, etc.), but now am almost exclusively watching subs. As someone mentioned above, the Japanese VAs really get into their roles, not so much the more recent English VAs (it always seems like the same talent is used again and again, which makes it disconcerting sometimes). That being my opinion, I would never criticize someone for preferring dubs to subs, it’s personal preference, the only thing that really counts is that people are watching.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting article! I appreciate your unique perspective on English dubs. While I love watching both the subs and dubs, there’s always something that draws me back to watching the dubs. I grew up watching dubs and I’m amazed by how the quality of dubs has improved over time. Granted not all dubs in the past were bad (Cowboy Bebop, Dragonball Z) but after watching the dubs for My Hero Academia and Gurren Lagann the improvement is palpable.

    Liked by 1 person

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