-Z- (z@gundam.com)
Sat, 10 Feb 2001 10:22:22 -0800

> As for the general issue of subs vs dubs, I have nothing to say. ^_^ Why?
> Because this is THE bone of contention among anime fans, and if I've learned
> one thing, is that you shouldn't start or participate in a subs vs dubs
> debate without some good reasons, points, or both. I have the latter
> aplenty, but I'm not going to get embroiled in another long
> discussion...I'll just say that both sides have their views, and both views
> are valid in their own ways. Me? I say subs all the way.

Perhaps I should clarify a few things here. My intent was not to perpetuate the
sub vs dub debate, but to share my revelation as to why I, personally, don't
like dubs.

It's not dubbing per se, but the cookie-cutter, one-voice-fits-all,
fit-the-words-to-the-mouth-movements, funny-voices-equals-characterization style
of dubbing that has been the bane not only of anime but "foreign" film in

Have you ever watched the three Bruce Lee movies Enter The Dragon (AKA The
Deadly Three), Return Of The Dragon (AKA Way Of The Dragon) and Fists Of Fury
AKA The Big Boss)? The first is an Warner Bros/Run Run Shaw coproduction with
the actors' natural voices and the second and third are Mandarin Circuit
productions dubbed in the typical fashion. In one, we get a taste of Bruce
Lee's unique character, in the other two we get the same king fu hero voice
heard in every other Hong Kong martial arts film.

Dubbing is a necessary evil -- we'll always have to have it, for reasons cited
in any number of posts, so it's necessary, but it will always alter to the
character of the production, so it's evil. As has been noted elsewhere, some of
the subtitling is just as bad as some of the dubbing and some of the dubbing is
quite good. I've heard on a number of occasions from people who've seen both
the English language version The Mysterious Cities Of Gold by DIC is actually
better than the original Japanese show on which it's based, Child Of The Sun
Esteban. I haven't seen or heard the latter, but I know I liked the former so
much that, to this day, I'm still trying to find the Polydor recording of the

But all of that is beside the point, which is that any production, in any
language, has a unique character that is altered by any adaptation and that
dubbing, even good dubbing, changes this character. So does subtitling -- a
sentence or phrase can lose an awful lot in the translation. Dubbing compounds
this, however, by changing the character of the translated words as well as
their meaning. With subtitling, you at least HEAR the original delivery, which
may convey more than the words themselves.

Some productions are translated and dubbed as faithfully to the original as
possible, although as noted above some alteration is inevitable by the act of
translation. Such fidelity is extremely rare. Most are "adapted" in some
way -- rewritten for the target audience or to accommodate cross-cultural
differences or the necessity of combining more than one source. Both Princess
Mononoke and Robotech fit in this category, although the adaptation of Southern
Cross into Robotech Masters is quite extreme, almost reversing the roles of the
Humans and the Zor. Some are completely redone, so that only moving images are
all that remain of the original production, and maybe even those get hashed.
Macron-1 was a forcible mating of Space Mission Srungle and Magical War God
GoShogun into something that had nothing to do with either source. But it had a
really catchy theme song that I still enjoy. See also Silverhawks.

I've seen two different English language versions of Galaxy Express 999. The
first was done by Roger Corman in 1985 and I saw it on Cinemax in 1986. I
remember that, after I saw and heard the Japanese original, I was appalled that
Corman had hired a John Wayne impersonator to do the voice of Harlock. Then,
just last week, I saw the Viz "Special Edition" English version of GE999 on the
Action Channel. As much as I love this movie I couldn't sit through it. If it
had been Close Captioned, I'd've turned the sound off and watched it that way,
although that would've meant missing the wonderful background music, which still
stands up well 20 years on. I found myself turning the sound off when the
characters were talking and turning it back on for the instrumental sequences.
I now have a much greater respect for Roger Corman than I ever had before.

Speaking strictly for myself, I can say that I desire to have access to the
original character -- the "true" character, if you will -- of any translated
production so that I can see and hear it for myself. I may find that I prefer
the Americanized version, but that's beside the point. The point is that the
Americanized version necessarily has a different character and that, to date,
subtitling is the only way to deliver an English translation (or interpretation)
while preserving the original character and allowing it to come through.

I bless the multilanguage DVD for allowing me to experience a program in the
original language, with English language subtitles or dubbed into an
Americanized version -- at my own discretion. And I will not buy First Gundam
without that capability.


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