As a child, I thrilled to the adventures of the mighty G-Force: Mark, Jason, Princess, Tiny and Keyop!  Always five, acting as one!

Except those weren’t their names at all, as I learned in college, and their adventures were considerably cooler and more adult in the original form, having been heavily bowdlerized during their adaptation for American audiences.  That led to some exploration of the movies and cartoons of other countries, including the well-done dub of Akira, the joke dub of Dynaman and loads of stuff with subtitles delivered in the original Japanese, Italian, Spanish and more.  One of the recurring arguments when turning in those circles was in the merits of “dubs” (works redubbed with English language tracks) comparative to “subs” (subtitled works that preserve the original emotion of the actors, requiring you to read), leading us to today’s Center Neptune query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is really torn on this one, because I love to hear the original actor’s voice work, but it can take a lot of attention to watch a show while reading, asking: When it comes to pop-culture in other languages, to you prefer them subbed or dubbed?

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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

9 Comments

  1. Subs for me – Reading can certainly be distracting, but often even with cartoons the delivery is half of what makes the show good. Not saying that a dub can’t be great quality – I have lots of friends who do localization for a living – but I prefer the ‘purer’ experience. Subs can also be used as a learning tool, though this is a double-edged sword since (particularly modern) localization usually ends up subtitling based on the “spirit” of the words spoken, as opposed to transliterating which takes a lot out of the delivery.

    That said, when you speak enough of a language to both understand what’s being said and also see the text, it becomes painfully jarring since there’s cognitive dissonance between what you know is being said and what you’re reading being so close, yet so far. I have to cover the lower part of Japanese videos subtitled in English when I watch them for this reason, if I’m in a situation where I can’t or shouldn’t turn them off.

  2. You can call it lazy but for me I will go with dub. I am a slow reader so fast action packed scenes, I will tend to miss a lot of stuff going on. Plus when I watch anything I’m in there fully committed, focused on what I am watching.(Just Ask the Wife). Having to read the dialogue pulls me out of it and I do not like that.

    I think maybe one day it could be cool to get multilingual voice actors to do 2 or 3 of the dubs so maybe the feel of what they are saying is not lost when I watch it dubbed.

  3. Subs all the way. I know I’m in minority globally, but we dont dub anything here. I would go as far as say its also one of the biggest reason why people in Nordic countries have pretty good skills in foreign languages, especially in English. I know I did learn most from TV, movies video games and comics. School helped a bit, too.

  4. Dub for me. I like to make sure I don’t miss anything when I am watching something so with sub I am essentially watching every scene twice. Once to see the action then again to read what they are saying

  5. I don’t really prefer one over the other, but I’ve been extremely hard of hearing since childhood and use captions or subtitles no matter what I’m watching. A long time ago I would have voted subs simply because they were the only way I could follow a lot of TV or movies before captions became as widely available as they are now, but in this day and age where captions are the norm, I have much more freedom to choose what I want to watch and still be able to follow what is going on. Sometimes I might like the sub or dub version of a series or movie better due to the story being different from the other version, but it has nothing to do with it being specifically sub or dub.

  6. The only foreign media I’ve watched much of is anime, but for that I greatly prefer Dubbed. Because I can’t speak Japanese and I’d rather hear what the character is saying as opposed to reading it. The dialog and the action sync up with each other significantly better that way. 90% of the time, the dub VAs match the characters just as well, if not better in some cases, as the Japanese ones do anyway. In most cases, the original Japanese creators have just as much say-so in casting the English VAs that they had in the original. I don’t mind subs, especially for shows that don’t have a dub, but I’ll pretty much never pick subbed over dubbed when there’s an option.

    As long as we’re talking about modern dubs, that is. Early dubs were pretty bad and usually didn’t show much, if any, respect for the originals. It’s the main reason dubs have such a bad reputation, which is no longer deserved. By the time the early 2000’s rolled around, pretty much all of the dubbing companies (with a couple of exceptions, i.e. 4Kids) were doing things the right way: going out of their way to make sure all of the content, intent, and emotion of the original performance was translated as accurately as possible.

  7. Definitely dubbed. I find that if there are subtitles, I will read them to the exclusion of watching what is going on, at which point, I might as well just read a book. This happens even if I am watching subtitles under English. I cannot focus on anything else.

  8. Sub all the way. Ever since i saw my first glimpse of the original episodes for Dragon ball z (vegeta said some colorfull words while getting stomped into the ground) i started to love the subs. later i learned how horrible dubs could become if the actors or companies just wanted money, examples sailormoon dub and one piece from 4 kids. if you ever want to see the hallmark of this dub vs sub psuedo war i urge you find the 4kids dub of one piece and try watching it, you wont even have to compare them.

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