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Dubs and Subs, a Translator’s Perspective

Note: This is a repost of a series of an article I originally wrote for Crunchyroll. Check my writer profile to see my latest articles.


Take note: this article is not about “subs versus dubs.” It’s not a competition. I’m sure that everyone has their own preferences, but in the end it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Dubbing involves a different set of skills, resources, and priorities than subtitling does. Even the scriptwriting process for a dub is very different from writing a subtitle script. (I’ll write more about this in a future column, perhaps.)

It’s a pity that conversations around the subject tend to revolve around how the voices sound rather than the translation issues involved. From the perspective of a translator, what’s interesting about subs and dubs is that they strive in different ways to bring the viewer as close to the experience of watching a Japanese anime as possible. With a subtitled anime, the original audio is retained. On the surface, this seems like a preferable format for language purists. On the other hand, Japanese speakers don’t need to read subtitles to understand the audio, so a dub might actually come closer to capturing the experience of watching anime as a native Japanese speaker.

As we’ll see in today’s column, however, “the experience of watching anime as a native speaker” is an extremely difficult thing to quantify, let alone replicate. When you look at the matter in perspective, the “subs versus dubs” debate misses the point.

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January 2017 Update: What’s With All the Hate against Yuri on Ice?

yuri-triplets

WOW, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Even this monthly update post is almost a week late because I was away on a trip. I don’t even have any excuses for the radio silence, really, since it wasn’t like I’ve been particularly busy last January. I’m still in holiday mode, to be honest.

In any case, here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

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Reflections on 2016: Getting into Sakuga… Sort of

2016 was the year the sakuga cartel enacted their sinister plan of world domination. For years, they had been lying in wait, angrily debating the best Megumi Kouno cut behind closed doors. But now, they have moved out into the open. You can find these diabolical nerds in the streets, dancing around the statues of Naoko Yamada they have erected using Precure and Doremi storyboards and genga sheets. But worst of all, you can find them wherever you can find anime fans, crying over their favourite anime and arguing about pointless shit on twitter.

That’s right, any of us could be an agent for the sakuga cartel… even you or me.

mob-psycho-100-reigen

“Say what?!?!?!”

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