The rule of thumb always seems to be that original works will always be better than its altered or remade counterpart. The same can be applied to an anime that gets licensed for the U.S. market. Usually there are studios who dub over the Japanese voices with English ones. Luckily, if you are not a fan of the dubbed voices DVDs and Blurays offer the option to keep the Japanese track and turn on the subtitles. You can enjoy the anime as it was meant to be enjoyed.
When I started watching animes like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, I really enjoyed the dubbed voices. These particular animes were Americanized for an American audience by giving them American sounding names with a few exceptions like Sakura from CCS, but she did have an American sounding last name (Kinomoto became Avalon). I thought the English voice actors selected for their roles in either anime suited the character. It kind of gave you this, “What if Serena/Usagi had an American teenage girl voice?”
I never had the chance to watch Sailor Moon in its original Japanese format with subtitles. I feel that if I started watching the anime with the original Japanese voice actors it wouldn’t feel right to me. I got so used to the dubbed, and in my mind the English voice actress for Serena was perfect. Or at least the English voice actress who took over as the voice of Serena, Terri Hawkes, was perfect for her. The voice actress for the first few episodes of Sailor Moon, Tracey Moore, was okay and Linda Ballantyne who took over voice acting Serena from Terri Hawkes in the last several episodes they ever translated of Sailor Moon wasn’t all that great in my opinion. Hawkes embodied the clumsy, hyper active, crybaby Serena to a T.
There are certain animes like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura that will make it difficult for me to watch them in its original form. Were the Americanized versions of these animes flawed? Yes. The studios skipped a lot of episodes for both animes which were considered controversial or too risque to air on syndicated television. They also Americanized these animes a lot and probably because the American studios thought kids wouldn’t understand the Japanese cultural references.
This is where I think they should have kept the Japanese cultural references at least. I suppose keeping the Japanese names of the characters would be too much of a stretch (maybe due to pronunciation issues for the kids), but the cultural references they should have tried to keep. Maybe the studios could have had a small segment at the end of each episode to explain some of the Japanese references to the kids watching. I think it would have been nice. I became fascinated with Japanese culture, the language, and the people after becoming acquainted with anime/manga.
These days I end up watching most animes with the Japanese track on and with subtitles. Sometimes I switch to the dub just to see how the English voice actors portray the characters. Almost 99% of the time, the Japanese voice actors are better than the English ones. Some English voice actors do a decent job on a character and other times they are absolutely horrible.
I watched both Fushigi Yugi and Ceres: Celestial Legend with the Japanese track and subtitles. The voices were great and I got into the animes easily. When I decided I wanted to try the dub on for size for both series, I could not watch one episode of either series for longer than five minutes. As soon as I heard the English dub voice actresses for Miaka of FY and Aya of Ceres open their mouths I cringed. They sounded irritating to listen to and the immersion into the story was broken for me because of their voices. These are two series where I will not under no circumstances watch the English dub. I rather listen to the original Japanese voice actors and read the subtitles over the English dub.
The subtitles vs. dub debate really depends on a fan’s preference. If you are too lazy to read subtitles and want to be able to sit back and enjoy the anime without rushing to read the subtitle before it moves on to the next translated dialogue then dubbed anime is for you. If you don’t mind reading the subtitles and are more of an anime purist, where the Japanese version is the way to go no matter what, then watch the original as intended. I already have a few anime series that will always have me attached to the dub and the rest I’m original all the way.
How about the rest of you? Which camp do you belong to? Dubbed? Subtitles? Both?