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The Campaign Against Bad Anime Dubbing
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For many years anime and video game fans have had to tolerate substandard voice work in dubs. This campaign is dedicated to making the companies responsible aware of the low quality of voice acting and audio in animation, computer games, and video games. Low quality voice acting has undeniably driven many potential fans away from anime, and it has made fans of the original Japanese versions cringe. There are those who will settle for less without speaking out, and there are those who will disagree with us, but this community is devoted to voicing our objections to bad dubbing.

Good dubs aren't impossible, but currently they sure seem hard to come by!

Doesn't it seem a little pathetic that the United States of America, a wealthy nation best known for its films and television shows, can't seem to make good anime dubs?

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If you're ready to object to the perception that most anime dubs are bad, you may have already had arguments in online forums or even in person about this. Here's a selection of the typical viewpoints of the opposition, with counter-arguments.

"You think subtitled versions are better than dubs, huh?"

Nope. Anyone with even a basic understanding of Japanese can tell that most of the subtitled versions of imported anime have poorly translated or at least poorly written subtitles. Subtitled versions of anime aren't anything to do with the real issue of poor quality in anime dubbing. The reason it became in issue in anime fandom was because the fans who hated the sound of dub actors' voices, but still enjoyed anime, have tended to resort to watching the subtitled versions, rather than learning Japanese or giving up on anime altogether (although many anime fans I knew back in the '80s did choose one of those two options).

"DVDs have both dubbed and subtitled versions on them. Why don't you just watch the subtitled version and quit complaining?"

Why should we have to read subtitles instead of watching the animation? After all, if you're a fan of anime, you appreciate the artwork on the screen, right? We'd like to be able to watch the animation and hear appropriate dialog and sound effects. Is that so much to ask for? Dubbing should be the ideal way to bring animation from one language to another, and is only marred by the persistence of talentless people in the industry. If they did their jobs well, this wouldn't be an issue.

"Well, apparently some people must like dubs since anime DVDs are selling really well."

I'm not sure what the current sales figures look like, but anime DVDs feature both dubs and subtitled Japanese versions, so the people who can't stand to hear the dubs can watch the subs instead. It's entirely possible that a large segment of the people buying those DVDs aren't watching the dubs at all.

"Now I suppose you're going to whine about the price of DVDs, huh?"

Nope. What does that have to do with poor quality dubs? If anything, we almost inherently invite higher prices for DVDs if that's what it takes to get professional quality in anime dubs instead of amateurish yammering and squawking.

"These dubs you hate so much introduce new fans to anime."

That's true, but they also have made a very bad name for anime with many people. There are so many people I know who flat out tell me they hate anime, but if you talk to them about it for a little while, it turns out that they just can't stand to listen to the obnoxious dub voices. I can't really blame them for that, and if that's all they're exposed to, they'll never find any anime they can stomach. Bad dubs are divisive for fans, and they drive off mainstream audiences. In the long run they further broaden the gulf between "normal" people and the fanboys and fangirls. It doesn't have to be that way.

"What's the first anime you saw? Was it in Japanese or English?"

That really has no bearing on the argument against bad dubbing. If it offends my ears, that's not going to change based on whether my first exposure to it was a bad dub or Japanese.

"You just want to whine about how dubs are the end of anime fandom."

No one in this community has ever said that. Anime fandom, little niche market that it is, has done fairly well, especially after DVDs became the dominant format, and after Cartoon Network and other cable channels like Showtime and TechTV started showing anime. Anime fandom as an entity probably isn't going anywhere, and isn't the issue. The issue is dub quality, which is something that keeps anime from reaching a mainstream audience, i. e. outside of anime fandom.

"Complaining about the low quality of dubs isn't going to change anything."

It's funny that you think that, because I've already seen a great deal of improvement since I first started trying to influence the anime dub companies to make better dubs, which really got rolling in 1998. Talking to people with these companies, at least making them aware of what bothers people who are sensitive to this issue, does actually sometimes have a positive effect. It's probably going to be slow going, but it has already helped. Compare the old Streamline dub of Akira with the more recent version. It's much closer to an actual translation of the script, they pronounce the names more accurately, and the voices are considerably less obnoxious than in the Streamline version. Why? Because fans complained about it.

"Some dubs aren't worse than the original Japanese version. Some of the voices are better than the original voices."

That's subjective, but it's also not the issue. If the Japanese version has bad voice acting in it, that's their problem. I've heard bad voices in Japanese anime, including English language actors that the Japanese studio hired (like in Project A-ko) or nihonjin seiyuu speaking Engrish (a certain episode of Sakigake! Otoko-Juku comes to mind) and sure, there are some obviously cheesy, bad actors speaking Japanese in the original Japanese versions of anime shows, but that's not our problem. Our problem is that we have to listen to bad dub voices in our own language(s). Comparison between the Japanese and English versions is only useful in that it provides an alternate version that may inspire improvement.

"I don't hear anything wrong with dubs. I'm really not sure why you have a problem with them."

Obviously there are people who have no problem with dub audio in anime. I have several friends who feel that way about it. I have no idea how to make them appreciate the difference between good and bad acting or audio in anime. There are people who thought Jar-Jar Binks was a great character in Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, and they don't cringe when they hear that voice either. I can't account for the anomalies in human aural perception, but you can't deny that it's a familiar and widespread issue. A lot of people have problems with anime dub voices, just like a lot of people had problems with the alien voices in the Star Wars prequels.

"What do you hate so much about these voices?"

Inappropriate match-ups between character and voice is a big issue. For example, a character on screen with a deadpan expression shouldn't have an intermittently rising and falling, overly emotive piece of dialog over it. Bad acting, as in actors who just sing-song their lines, is also an issue. Incredibly fake-sounding voices, speaking in an obviously affected tone in a way no one would ever speak in real life being attached to a serious, non-comical character or show is also annoying. Voices for big, older men who sound like teenage boys faking it are annoying. Voices of older women doing a lame job of pretending to be teenagers are annoying. People doing junior high school play quality voices are annoying. Bad stereotype, high-pitched old man voices are annoying. Deep voices for little girls are annoying. This is a list that could go on forever. There are so many things wrong with the majority of dubs.

"You're a bunch of whiners. You're stupid. You're a doody head." etc.

This community is not a place for insults and it's not a place for childish people to post nasty comments. Expect a ban for that kind of behavior, kids.