That fact would be obvious to anyone who reads my blog with any sort of regularity. However, whilst I would passionately argue in the defense of dubbing, I also understand the fact that that debate is old, tired and essentially a relic of the VHS era.
However, there is more to argue about dubbing then just it's merits as compared to subtitles.
Oftentimes, I hear people tell me that they're happy to listen to dubs so long as the dub is good. This raises a rather pertinent question; what the hell actually makes a good dub?
Obviously good acting is a prerequisite that I'm sure everyone can agree on, but beyond that, the waters are insidiously murky.
Between what I've read around cyberspace, and the discussions I've had with fellow fans, I think it is safe for me to say that there are two general schools of thought regarding what makes a quality dub.
The first school somewhat resembles the subbing fan community, in that they prefer that the English dub matches the original Japanese dub work as closely as possible, given the constraints of language.
This school believes that the English and Japanese voices should match closely, and that all references to Japanese culture, even the exceptionally obscure, should remain in order to best preserve the creative vision of the original director.
In contrast, the second school of thought takes a more creative bent on dubbing, arguing that whilst the original spirit of the anime should be honoured, room most certainly exists for creative reinterpretation in order to adapt, or even improve the original work.
This creativity manifests itself in different ways, be it reinterpretations of characters (be it in voices, traits or even personalities), replacing Japanese cultural references with Western ones (though the extent varies, from 4Kids butchering, to only changing incredibly obscure references) and so forth.
Proponents of the first, more purist school of thought, often cite anime such as FLCL as a shining example of a dub done right.
This hardly comes as a surprise, as director Kazuya Tsurumaki famously oversaw the entire English dubbing process. As a result, with the exception of a few references to Western pop culture, the dub was almost hauntingly faithful to the original Japanese dub. The characters themselves sounded so similar to their Japanese voices, it may as well have been the original actors speaking English.
On the other hand of the spectrum, the more creative school of thought (and I rank myself among them) cite other dubs, such as Martian Successor Nadesico and Black Lagoon as being the pinnicle of dub work.
Nadesico for instance added greater layers of complexity to characters by adding traits not originally found in the Japanese work. For instance, resident fangirl Hikaru's otakuness was made all the more pronounced by her propensity to write self insert slash fanfiction, a hobby that was nonexistent in the Japanese version.
Black Lagoon on the other hand overloads the English dub with Western references that never existed in the original. Far from distracting the viewer, this makes the world they live in far more believable and real then the Japanese dub ever managed.
However, whilst I believe that creative reinterpretation often improves upon original works, there is always the risk of tarnishing or even omitting traits in the original Japanese that appealed to the audience in the first place.
Kamina in the Gurren Lagann dub for instance, sounded far more brotherly to Simon then his Japanese counterpart did. However, this more human sounding interpretation came at the cost of his over the top manliness, which was what drew most fans to him in the first place, thereby lessening his character in the eyes of many fans.
As the dubbing industry grows, I believe this will be the crossroad that we will ultimately reach. The two schools of thought are, I believe, antithetical to each other, and thus a conscious choice must be made as to what exactly constitutes a good dub.
As I have already stated, I believe that we should not be constrained by vision of the original director; they are not perfect by virtue of their Japaneseness, and thus room most definitely exists for dubbing companies to retain the essence of the director's vision, whilst improving on his or her work.
This philosophy also comes with the obvious risk of potentially ruining characters or even stories, but it is a risk I am willing to take. Ultimately, I have faith in the Western dubbing industry, and their ability to improve on an original work.
However, this is not a decision for me alone. It is for the greater fan community to decide on which direction these companies should take. And with that in mind, I ask you; what is the place of creativity in dubbing?
1 day ago