When picking up a new anime like My Hero Academia, a problem of sorts often emerges. "What format do I watch this in? Do I go subbed like everyone else, or should I watch this dubbed and skip subtitles?" Typically, the default recommendation is to go with the subbed version over the dub, but it's often a lot more nuanced than that.
Let's dive into the topic.
What's a sub and what's a dub?
Setting aside that all animated features are technically "dubbed", when it comes to movies and tv shows, these terms mean something quite specific. As anime is recorded in Japanese for a Japanese speaking audience, subbed and dubbed are terms that refer to the method of translation. A subbed anime is one that is subtitled. It would retain the original audio of the Japanese broadcast, albeit with subtitles at the bottom. Dubbed anime completely replaces the Japanese voiceover with a new language, in this case, English.
Wait — so how is this a problem?
When it comes to subs and dubs, there are many issues that force people into one camp or the other. A potential one that comes up often is scheduling. Dubs may be behind their subbed counterparts by months to years, forcing fans to choose the subbed version by necessity if they want to participate in contemporary discussions. To give an example, the popular anime, One Piece is so far behind in the dub as compared to the sub that there is a gap of 400 episodes between them.
Barring that, precious dubbed anime sometimes took liberties with the source material, changing names, cutting out storylines, and creating something generally unrecognizable.
Creators and critics don't neatly fall into one camp or the other on the topic. "When you watch the subtitled version you are probably missing just as many things. There is a layer and a nuance you're not going to get. Film crosses so many borders these days. Of course it is going to be distorted," said Hayao Miyazaki.
He's not wrong. Just like a joke about idiot presidents is updated to remain relevant to the listening audience, sometimes it's important to get the message of the line being spoken across rather than the exact line. How far this goes is up to the judgment of the individual translator. On the other hand, some critics have stronger opinions on the topic than Miyazaki.
"When it comes to animation, I accept at least some degree of conversation on the subject. After all, in that case you're replacing the work of one group of craftsmen with another comparable group. But if it's live action and you have a choice between subtitled or dubbed and you take dubbed, you deserve to be stripped naked, smeared in Nutella and left tied to a stake at the base of a hill of fire ants," The Hollywood Reporter's Daniel Fienberg told IndieWire .
How does this work out for My Hero Academia?
Well, it's 2020 and most relevant complaints with regards to dubbing have been resolved. Mainstream anime like My Hero Academia are no longer subject to having their plot distorted by overzealous translators. For both subbed and dubbed users, you'll be getting the same plot, story, and general mood no matter which format you pick. My Hero Academia's dub is generally well done and regarded as one of the best among seasonal anime.
Scheduling issues are also resolved with what is called a simuldub. This means that you'll get the dubbed version at the same time as the subbed release, reducing the previously onerous delay between subbed versions and dubbed versions.
What this ultimately means is that when it comes to picking between My Hero Academia's dub or subbed version, it's a matter of preference. With the series now legally freely available in both formats, it's now possible to watch one or both without feeling like you're missing out.
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