Dubbing and Subbing – Anime Translation Techniques

Published: 21st March 2011
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It wouldn’t be surprising if you find yourself hooked in the world of Japanese animation, which is also known as anime. A lot of westerners have developed a certain liking to these magnificent animated works to the point that they call themselves otaku, a Japanese term for people who have developed an obsession to certain things, in this case, anime.

However, if you’re not familiar with anime, you might be wondering how anime received a vast western audience. Although anime titles have great character designs, mind-blowing concepts, and interesting plot twists, anime is originally intended for Japanese viewers. Therefore, anime characters, narrations, and even music themes are Japanese.

There are two main options that can be taken to help western viewers understand and appreciate anime: dubbing and subbing. Some people get confused with these two terms, since they are both meant to translate anime into English. If you want to fully appreciate anime, you have to familiarize yourself with these two terms.

Dubbing refers to the production technique that involves providing a voiceover to an otherwise silent production. However, it has a more specific definition in anime terms. It refers to the process of removing the original Japanese voiceover from the anime video and replacing it with English or whatever local language is used in a country. American studios usually buy broadcasting rights of a certain anime from its Japanese creators, dub it in English, and then air it on local television.

Subbing is a technique that involves displaying the script as subtitles on the screen as the characters say their lines. In this technique, an anime video still uses its original Japanese soundtrack and voiceovers, but English subtitles are displayed. Subtitles are often used to translate the Japanese text displayed on the screen, something that can’t be done with dubbing. Anime titles can either be subtitled by legitimate American studios or unauthorized fans. Subtitles created by unauthorized fans are known as fansubs.

Both translation techniques have their own advantages and drawbacks. There are anime titles that derive its humor from Japanese puns. The humor might get lost in translation if the anime is dubbed, while subbing can help explain the joke on screen. Others believe that subbing allows you to watch anime video with a genuine soundtrack, but others find it troublesome to watch while keeping up with the subtitles at the same time.

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