Dubbed or Subbed: Oral or Written?

For any fan of anime, there is always the debate over dubbed or subbed. Dubbed, if you are not familiar with the terms, is when the English voice actors talk in the place of the Japanese voice actors. Subbed simply means that the language spoken is the original language but the subtitles along the bottom are in the language you can read in (in my case again English). Most fans first started in the world of dubbed because that was what was on television (I go back to watch Sailor Moon in English and I cringe at Serena/Usagi’s voice as an adult). As my niece is learning from watching anime with me, the world of subbed is quite different. Fans argue back and forth which is better. I would suggest that it is more of a preference not to just of the person but the anime as well. Some people can only watch a certain show in dubbed, others only in subbed, while others cannot stand dubbed period and do not even try it. Lindsey mentions much the same here:http://blogcritics.org/video/article/anime-101-sub-or-dub/. There are shows that I have watched half in dubbed and switched to subbed (when an anime is over 560 episodes, the dubbing of all episodes is a nearly impossible feat).

Another thing to point out with dubbed is that it can often be re-dubbed. For instance, the company 4kids has dubbed animes and often edited content to appeal to a younger audience and thus, the fans of that show are not usually satisfied with the changes and this leads to other companies such as Funimation to re-dub the content so the original artwork is in place and it is closer to the original translation. A problem with subtitles also appears; whether it is officially subtitled, fan-subtitled (and for this by what group) and in what language. As Japanese is a complex language of characters, it often makes it difficult to translate into the English language as one kanji can be a word or even a sentence.  Official translations on DVDs are often literal translations and the closest translation possible. Fan-subtitles happen as there are no official translations done and should come with a buyer beware type of notice. As I mentioned before, kanji can be a word or even a sentence thus the translation of it can make a sentence slightly different when translated. Thus, there are a variety of meanings so translations can be varied. An article related to character voices and anime subtitles is Peter Howell’s “Character Voice in Anime Subtitles”.

So how is this related to narrative and Derrida?

I believe the better question is: what do we give more importance to in our personal lives: the oral or the written? In today’s society, we often give more credence to the written word as we are breed as academics with reading everything in our own heads, it is a personal private experience and thus we appear to pay more attention to it then the oral.

Then how do you explain how fans begin to learn Japanese through watching subbed animes? As we are trained to listen to what is going on orally (sometimes). When we are talking to friends, listening to professors, or watching something, we are taught to listen because orally there is information we need. This is one time, we are listening to the language and reading the subtitles. Usually we pay attention to subtitles because they hold vital information in some shape or form. Yet when all you have is subtitles, you must pay attention to them but over time, as you continue to listen to a language that is not your native tongue or one you have learned at any point, you begin to notice phrases and words. To learn more on the increase of Japanese literacy, Natsuki  Fukunaga’s “Those Anime Students” can be found here http://www.jstor.org/stable/40013700. So what if you are watching anime in English and still have the subtitles or in this case closed caption on, what do we give more credence to? In my opinion, if it is something you do all the time, you take in both the written and the oral; we often notice if the words on the screen say something entirely different then what is being said.

Oral or written? Both are important. Both are needed for us to learn and understand. We cannot have one without the other.

Japanese Annotations

Kanji is the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana, and katakana.

Hiragana is a Japanese component of the writing system.  It has character sets and represents one sound in the language. It is used for native words for which there are no kanji for as well as obscure kanji, not known by the writer/readers or is too formal for the writing purposes.

Katakana is similar to hiragana but is used to break down more complex kanji. It is primarily used for transcription of foreign language words into Japanese. This often used for other people’s names that are not Japanese. For instance, my name broken down and translated is Ji yo di  in romaji.


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