Which Ones Better: Subbed or Dubbed?

May 12, 20201174212 min

If you’re an anime fan, you’ve heard this argument so many times that the horse is not only dead, but the species has become extinct. The debate I’m referring to the Dubbed verses Subbed discussion, which one is better? Now I’m personally indifferent in the general sense and think anyone who believes one version is superior overall anime is asinine. Throughout this post, we’ll go over some good points and some bad points of each, and even though I’m indifferent doesn’t mean that everyone else needs to be. So why do people believe one is superior over another?

Before we begin for any newcomers in anime, the difference between Subbed and Dubbed anime is straightforward to understand. A “sub” is an anime series with its original voice actors with subtitles along the bottom of the screen in another language. A “dub,” on the other hand, is an anime series that has been released with a new re-scripted voice actor and has been translated into a new language. While Dubbed anime may allow a broader audience to enjoy the series, some people believe anime should only be watched through its original version. No matter what the options the viewer has, the choice is always up to them.


  • It doesn’t translate as well into another language

While it is safe to assume that the Japanese language is more diverse than English, especially when the former has almost three times larger vocabulary, then English speakers do (500,000 vs. about 171,500 words). If anyone has learned or tried to learn a new language, its extremely difficult to relearn different meanings for the words, especially if the listener is decoding the language and outputting the other language. Writing is a tricky thing to translate and mean the same thing, especially in comedy.

The best example of how this is a challenge is by the emotions itself. While the Japanese language has specific ways to not only express thoughts, feelings, and even emotions. In western languages, it’s quite different. The most common way to express one’s emotions like anger, sorrow, and even shock is with words. While in Japanese, some rules are used to achieve one’s feelings.

  • Censoring

Growing up in the 1990s has been a blessing and a curse with some anime fans, mainly with censorship. Of course, over thirty years later, individual characters and topics are less “taboo.” The most famous example would be the Sailor Moon characters Neptune and Uranus being cousins instead of lovers. Sure watching the series in its original format to fans who grew up with them being cousins, albeit probably weird cousins. Perhaps even stranger is the censorship of individual names to reach a wider audience is often used with English dubbed anime.

Take, for example, Yo-kai Watch, a game-inspired anime that creatively explores emotions while also holding a G-rating in Japan. If you watched the show on Disney XD, then you know Nathan Adams and his Yo-kai friends, but the censorship doesn’t stop there, my friends. Throughout the original series, Disney decided to revise parts of specific episodes, the most common one would be anything that doesn’t fit their “family-friendly” viewers. While the House of Mouse is a global empire and the only mascot that can arguably be just as famous is Pikachu, it clearly has an agenda, and it’s not uncommon to have anime that’s censored in some form.

  • Purists

The strange thing that many Sub only viewers believe is that the Japanese voice acting is superior to English voice actors. Which would be fine if a majority of them would understand Japanese, and I mean actually know the language outside of anime. Unfortunately, this point of view not only hurts the anime community, but it also destroys it mainly due to supporters believing this doesn’t allow people to enjoy their favorite shows and films. I’ve encountered this personally, and if anyone else has, they’d know that belittling anyone within a community is not only wrong, it’s continuing to grow.


  • Nostalgia

It’s no surprise that many anime lovers grew up with dubbed anime. Classics like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Sailor Moon, Yu-Gi-Oh! Aired with English voice acting within North America. Which even if you grew up not knowing about anime, a majority of children of the 90s grew up with Pokémon, sure it had its censorship, but it was what we had. The viewers who grew up with those shows – me included – got accustomed to the dubbed version, which sometimes makes it harder to swap into the subbed anime.

  • Diverse Accents

Now, this may not be a unique advantage of Dubbed anime since I’m not as keen in Japanese anymore, but some – definitely not all – dubbed anime tend to have a more distinct accent (Infinite Stratos, Yuri!!! on Ice) though not always better. English voice actors are capable of adding – or attempting – certain accents based on the character, which is still a plus because it makes the story more enjoyable.

Though it is fair to say that not all English voice actors are as talented as others, so take that with a grain of salt. Outside of the “everyone sounding the same” dilemma, with some subbed and even some dubbed anime. Having a rich voice acting cast can potentially push the show just enough to make the viewer want to read the manga, which is always a plus no matter what the version they’re watching.

  • Multitasking becomes an option.

It’s no surprise that if a viewer is watching something in a foreign language, then they must pay attention to what’s on the screen.  Which is a drawback for people who work fulltime, have families, or just have busy lives in general. Being able to watch something in your own language, whether it English, Spanish, Italian, etc. is an obvious plus because you can have the series played in the background while you do whatever you need to do. Now, this isn’t a perfect solution because even though you’ll still be able to hear, it doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy the experience, but its better than just having a foreign language talking in the background that is just gibberish to non-speakers.

While I fully support learning new languages whenever possible, I understand that people have busy lives, and we’d all love to get paid by doing what we enjoy – who wouldn’t?. Unfortunately, we need to understand that although we – as a community – are lovers of anime, manga, light novels, and even video games, we must respect everyone. When we finally realize that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if a person prefers Subbed over Dubbed anime or vice versa, it only matters if they enjoyed the show and can freely talk about it. We must become a single unit of understanding and acceptance because as one of the most underrated humans to ever walk on this earth once said, “You know, you don’t have to look like everybody else to be acceptable and to feel acceptable.” We’re all different and have unique tastes lets make that stand out instead of dividing each other over which language their speaking.

Cody Senpai

Cody Senpai is the creator of BakaNow, an anime review website that specializes in spoiler-free reviews for everyone. He is an avid anime watcher who has traveled to Japan numerous times to not only experience the culture and history but also to build friendships with people through a common interest. He is an avid animation fanatic from birth and even went on to major in communication to help share the importance of the stories we love to watch and listen to. Cody lives in Denver, Colorado and loves to do anything adventurous.

One comment

  • Asuka Jr

    February 10, 2022 at 11:50 pm

    I for one, am a staunch sub over dub watcher. While my understanding of Japanese has greatly widened watching subs, I’ll in no way claim any fluency.

    That said, I perfer sub because the original director (often with direct suggestions and descriptions from the author) cast and directed the voice actors to portray the voice ‘presence’ of the characters to add to their overall impression within the program…and sadly it’s far too rare that the dub director tried anywhere NEAR as hard to match the dub voice to the character.

    This is not ALWAYS the case, so I do have a very short list of anime I WILL suggest be watched dubbed, and one in particular that was actually BETTER in English than Japanese (I’m looking at you, FLCL). So I’m not some elitist saying all dubs suck. I just really wish that the folks that are more comfortable with dubs could get higher quality in their dubs (like GITS: Stand Alone Complex with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Major Kusanagi, a dub so well done that if you switch back and forth between languages, it sounds almost like the same cast)…

    I just hate recommending an anime, and having the person come back later saying ‘meh’, having watched the dub, checking it out myself, and being appalled at how flat the performance is. Bad dub isn’t just ‘old kung-fu movie off-synch, it’s lack of actual ACTING, usually caused by a lack of DIRECTING…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts