Last night when I was sucked into browsing TV Tropes, I came across one of the classic debates in the Internet: Subbing vs. Dubbing.

I particularly like this debate not only because it’s pretty easy to win at, it’s also a great opportunity to educate people about the so-called “anime subculture”.

My modus operandi was simple: I choose to defend dubbing in the face of hordes of rabid anime fans.

Don’t get me wrong, a good number of “rabid” anime fans are quite open-minded about this issue. I don’t recall any of my orgmates having an unreasonable hatred for dubbing. But the people I used to debate against in message boards and forums back in the day were a different bunch. Fortunately, that makes them an easy prey for trolling educating.

It’s easy to win (well, technically you can’t win in an intenet debate) against them because of their narrow viewpoints. They’re so caught up with their elitism that they fail to see the many drawbacks of subtitling as well as the many advantages of dubbing. The tropes page lists them down:

  • translated subtitles are also prone to error,
  • subtitles distract you away from the action (i.e. anime wasn’t made for you to spend a large percentage of your time with your eyes at the bottom of the screen) and this can get annoying when characters fight and talk at the same time,
  • dubbed series reaches out to a larger audience than subs, thus giving a better return on investment,
  • dubs can be good or bad; focusing just on the bad dubs is just unreasonable,
  • and so on…

My favorite part in the debate is when someone brings up the “with dubs, you hear the authentic emotions of the original Japanese voice actors“. Well, that’s true. However, spoken dialogue isn’t just about emotions, it’s also about context, and some of those contexts just don’t work well in direct translated English. I could go on how different Japanese dialogue can be between genders and social statuses, but I prefer to relate one encounter about half a decade ago.

Basic story: Level Up Games and ABS-CBN broadcasts (the admittedly crappy series) Ragnarok: the Animation. There was the usual whining about dubbing vs subbing, but what was interesting was how an unusually large number of people were asking “WHY THE HELL DID YOU MAKE [character name here] SPEAK IN A BATANGUEÑO ACCENT?!?!“.

I blinked in disbelief. Then I answered.

“Duh. It makes sense because the original character was speaking in Kansai-ben.”

(And yeah, according to LU, the voice actress was using her native Marinduque accent. It’s a cross between Batangueño and Bisaya.)

We’ve got all of these whining self-proclaimed experts at the Japanese language, and yet none of them knows that Japan, like the Philippines, has regional dialects — one of the things you can’t easily translate via subbing.

Educational Pwning. Good times.

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