The degradation of dubbed anime.


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    I've been thinking a lot about this lately, but I've noticed that a lot of the dubbing companies are not putting the same effort into dubbing licensed anime they way they used to. Whole some of the anime still get what I would consider a decent dubbing, sadly most in my opinion do not. I was pleased that "Shield Hero" did get a good dubbing, but considering it's following if it didn't it could have been catastrophic for the series.

    I don't know. It just seems like the VAs don't put the same effort into every series. They used to do a good job of mirroring the enthusiasm the Japanese VAs put into voicing a series, but here now, it just seems like most series just get the "hurry and get it over with" treatment.

    What do you guys think? Is this lack luster dubbing effort hurting the dubbing market? Or does it not really matter at all?


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    @lighthawk96

    I guess my opinion is a wholly unsatisfying yes and no. Even a pretty mediocre dubbing today is much better than dubs from the '80s, and most from the '90s. A lot of that has to do with technical reasons. The sound quality is better, there is more concern about having mouth movements line up, the actual translations are better, and I'd say even on average voice actors today are more expressive, even if not completely matching what the Japanese VA have done.

    Where I think it might be worse today is that with most dubbing just coming from a few small studies cranking them out week to week, a lot of different series have the same voice actors, and that gives the dubs a pretty samey feeling. I think maybe that is what you are experiencing as just being more bland.

    The payoff, though, is that today series that would never have been given a dub 20 -30 years today are getting a chance because there are more available distribution channels and the ability to churn them out quickly/cheaply means the studios can make them without needing to make sure it was going to be a hit first.


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    I imagine that more series doing simuldub makes a difference too.


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    The quality of a dub is (usually) directly proportional to the goal of the dubber.

    A title like High School DxD has quite a different vibe between the Japanese and English audio, and (to me) it makes the main character have a different personality. Funimation made Issei quite a bit more ecchi than the original. I really cannot see why any of the female characters would want to be around the dubbed MC, even when the subtitles mostly match the dubbing.

    I've seen it in other Funimation works. And it makes me leery of what will come out when Funimation is licensed to do the dub.


  • Premium Member

    Hmmm...🤔

    I agree with a lot that's being said so far. But I just wish that the same amount of effort goes into each dubbing. Some dubs come across as if the VAs just don't care or either don't want to do it. I never really saw that much in the 90's and early 2000's. But now it seems that the same efforts are not being applied due to either lack of will or being overwhelmed trying to churn out as much as possible. Some are so different from what the subbed version is they can't even be considered the same anime in my opinion.


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    Dubs have always been pretty terrible with the few standouts being so mainly because they're passable rather than good.

    It's gotten worse recently because rather than standard localisation for understanding they've begun outright rewriting lines to change the personality and interaction between characters.

    Licensed subs are also dropping in quality, Either with excessive localisation making it impossible to use them for learning the language or translations so poor google translate could probably do better, Oregairu S3 being an example.


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    @lighthawk96 The English (American?) VA industry is a far cry from the Japanese VA industry. I liken it to asking Volkswagen to build a Porche or BMW. The end result it's going to be inferior. Add in the impact of the COVID pandemic (Going strong for six months now.) and you have a complete mess.

    That's why I only watch subs.


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    @Paul-Nebeling A bit of a weird analogy, considering VW and Porsche are the same company, and some models are the same with different badges.

    But, then again, maybe not - the pool of VAs in the US is small. The entire industry here probably has about the same number of VAs as a medium studio in Japan. That's not to say they aren't talented; some definitely are.

    But it also means a lot of comes down to the even smaller pool of ADRs choosing and directing that talent. Again, some are really good, others combine to make the balance skew towards bad.


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    @SomeOldGuy said in The degradation of dubbed anime.:

    @Paul-Nebeling A bit of a weird analogy, considering VW and Porsche are the same company, and some models are the same with different badges.

    I did not know that. I could have said Fiat and Ferrari, also owned by the same company, and now that I think about it, I think that analogy is probably better.


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    @kurosov said in The degradation of dubbed anime.:

    Dubs have always been pretty terrible with the few standouts being so mainly because they're passable rather than good.

    It's gotten worse recently because rather than standard localisation for understanding they've begun outright rewriting lines to change the personality and interaction between characters.

    Licensed subs are also dropping in quality, Either with excessive localisation making it impossible to use them for learning the language or translations so poor google translate could probably do better, Oregairu S3 being an example.

    I don't ever go with dubs since the instant I even listen to them, I start cringing over how inferior dubs sound to the original Japanese VA (I'm not an English native speaker anyway), so I can't really comment much on the topic, but I have read about cases of localization changing the character's personality. Wasn't Dragon Maid's Quetzalcoatl a victim of it? If that happens often, then I'd say at least localization has degraded for sure.


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    @Paul-Nebeling
    Yes. I was talking about the English (American) VAs. Sometimes you can tell that they are really into the story, but sadly most of the times it just feels to me like they are going through the motions.


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    While I don't hate dubs sometimes I cringe at some of the changes made, like when To-Love-Ru was dubbed they changed "old fashioned" to "that's misogynistic".


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    @Paul-Nebeling said in The degradation of dubbed anime.:

    @lighthawk96 The English (American?) VA industry is a far cry from the Japanese VA industry. I liken it to asking Volkswagen to build a Porche or BMW. The end result it's going to be inferior. Add in the impact of the COVID pandemic (Going strong for six months now.) and you have a complete mess.

    Leaving aside the VW/Porsche analogy, completely agreed about the difference in VA between the US and Japan - and that includes all animation, not just anime dubs. You'll get some really good voice acting from time to time on the general run of US animated series - Mark Hamill doing the Joker is a classic - but by and large the acting I've seen on most US series has been mediocre. The main exception I can think of is the full-length animated features from the big names like Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, or Illumination.

    By no coincidence, the only dubs I've actually liked have been the Studio Ghibli dubs by Disney - they know how to do voice acting right, and it shows. I've listened to no end of dubs claimed to be 'the best ever', or even 'better than the original' - going all the way back to Ranma, El Hazard OAV, Cowboy Bebop - and I couldn't stand any of them. I understand it's hard to match lip flaps, but most dubs have trouble even matching the flow of the animation.

    (Take the first episode of Bebop. Jet is explaining to Spike why they don't have money for meat in their dinner, and lays down three ways Spike screwed up, like a hand of cards. In the original Japanese, they're paced evenly, each one ramping up to Jet's final exclamation; and you see Spike react in perfect sync with the first declaration and Jet's chopsticks move in rhythm with the words. That rhythm and flow is lost in the dub, which doesn't flow as well and doesn't build to Jet's final exclamation.)

    That's why I only watch subs.


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    I usually watch subs. Partly because of what is available when and where (Crunchyroll, Hulu etc. have much more recent subbed content vs dubbed) and since I got used to it, I find that I just enjoy subbed more. There are notable exceptions: Infinite Stratos (in my opinion) is better dubbed. (the hammy accents make the jokes 'land' better) That aside, the problem I have with dubs in general , are the same that I think many folks have; too much 'sameness'. I know that 'high school romcom "A"' might not be that different that 'high school romcom "B"' but when the same VA's do the dubs, with the same characterizations, the characters blend to the point that I can't always be sure what I'm watching. That, and everything being in English, and sprinkled in Japanese names, I find jarring. It's just better in Japanese with subtitles


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    @Travis-Butler
    I completely agree with your Mark Hamill analogy. He made the animated Joker. Much like Jack Nicholson made the Joker in Batman. Heath Ledger just couldn't complare in my opinion, and I really liked him as an actor. Unfortunately, the dubbing here really needs a good KITA! Crunchybrile seems to be trying to do a good job to stake a claim on the dubbing scene, but we'll have to see how far that goes.

    The main problem I feel is that most of the VAs don't even watch the source material so they don't even know how the original was even done. Whi.e I understand some differences will happen due to language and cultural differences, there are points where the differences are so great that the ani e loses everything once it's dubbed.


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    Something to keep in mind before everyone keeps going off on the voice actors is that the quality of the dub usually has more to do with the director than the VAs. And in the current market, the dubs most people see are the "simuldubs" that are a bit of a rush job. The VAs usually have a limited amount of time to review the lines, and if they're in a rush (guaranteed with a simuldub), the director is going to be more concerned with the schedule than with getting it right, so is less likely to ask for retakes.

    In the example cited with Funimation, they seem to have made a market for themselves selling ecchi, so I'm not a bit surprised if they try to put a more-ecchi spin on things :-( sucks, but that's the way it is.


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    @lighthawk96 A bit off topic with this, but comparing either Mark Hamill or Jack Nicholson to the typical American VA is not an even comparison. And as someone else pointed out, Disney/Pixar don't have issues with VA, largely because they use established and accomplished actors for their key (and a lot of the supporting) roles. I won't disagree that the director bears a lot of the responsibility for the quality of the VA's performance. Studio pressure to meet a deadline also figures having into that calculus. In summary, it's not just the level of American VA's, but the American VA industry as a whole.


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    @Paul-Nebeling
    Wasn't really comparing Hamill with Nicholson. You can't really compair animation to RL in this instance. I was comparing Nicholson to Ledger in an analogy in that most times you just can't beat the original.


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    Since we're talking about VA quality, I'd be interested to discuss whether the characteristics of the Japanese language and Japanese cultural mannerisms affect the perceived quality of the English dubs.

    I broadly agree that the Japanese VA work is just of higher quality than the English dubs, however...

    As an American with considerable experience interacting with Japanese people both formally and informally, I've always been struck by how comparatively expressive their mannerisms can be, particularly in informal settings (e.g. the Japanese "tsukkomi" style of humor). Similarly, certain cultural habits (e.g. commenting on the weather after stepping outside - "Atsuuuuu....") don't have any real analog in the English speaking world to my knowledge. I've long suspected that trying to match English phrases with Japanese mannerisms forces English VAs to seemingly overact and/or to blurt out seemingly pointless exposition. This would tend to exacerbate the perceived disparity in the quality of the voice acting.

    Note too, that more serious movies like Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime) have much better English VA work. I think it is partially because Disney used top-tier talent for key roles, but also because the overall work was just more serious and less prone to the kind of mannerisms that I'm talking about above.

    Thoughts? Am I way off?


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    I don't believe bringing up Ghibli/Disney as a comparison to Funimation is fair. Relative to weekly animes, Disney has infinite resources in terms of time, money, casting, etc. so I don't want to 'go there'.

    I think that something is lost when an anime is dubbed. As has been mentioned, there are cultural differences, localization choices, cadence differences, a whole plethora of things that are different between Japanese culture/language and my own. One of the things that I enjoy about anime is that difference. A dub removes a layer of the very thing that drew me to the genre. It's would be like polishing the patina off of an antique. That being said, the subtitles and translation choices might be frustrating to some as well- but the source material is right there. For example, I don't mind so much what choices were made with honorifics in the subtitles...when I can hear them, and choose to ignore or apply in my head on the fly.

    one of my frustrations/delights is when an anime puts notes on the screen, explaining a cultural reference. My curiosity always gets the best of me, and I feel compelled to freeze-frame to read the notes (which either enhances the experience, or screws up my immersion in the story)


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