I own a kimono.
If you don’t know what a kimono is you’ve probably been living under a small to medium-sized rock because it’s not like it’s something exclusively anime fans would know about. Kimonos are a type of Japanese dress and in the range of somewhat, to way outdated in Japan. They still wear them, but as industrialism sets in a little more and their culture begins to fade a little bit, they reserve the kimono for certain occasions and certain positions.
This doesn’t stop people (aka me) from ignorantly going and buying this style of clothing while knowing not one iota of the culture or reason for its being. Which is not, particularly, wrong but definitely is problematic. I mean, that’s the very way culture begins to fade: when people come across its by-products but don’t stick around for or take an interest in the process.
In a way that’s what the early English anime dubs would do. They would alter or bluntly ignore the context and culture of what they were translating, completely assimilating it into their own with no regard to how the message would change if characters were geographically moved around or scenes were censored.
By the simple idea that, culturally, the same medium is appropriate for different age groups; where Japan views animation as being aimed at all ages and restrictions specific to the actual show that airs and America views animation as being for kids and only kids. This resulted in a ‘dumbing down’ of information and Americanization that leaves the viewer having learned nothing from the experience and blind to a gateway into another culture.
This, my Japan-loving friends, is the sub versus dub war.
But which way is really more culturally accessible?
If we’re going to be consuming foreign media we want it to be accurate. The closest we can get to that is to go with subtitles which, then, slowly raise a new problem: handling the two dimensions that surface when watching a subtitled anime. You see, dialogue is a great way to carry an anime’s message or just humorous wit and one has no trouble catching both it and the artwork when said art is visual and dialogue is auditory.
The sub changes that. It’s too much information for some eyes to handle and you have not even attempted to follow the story-line of an anime if you haven’t paused it at least once because too many people were talking at the same time or there were too many signposts on-screen.
The dub changes this. With a dub, we receive the right information through the right orifices but, there’s immense distrust here; engineered through the opening years of a fan’s introduction to anime being clouded by incorrect information (to the point of completely changing the plot) and annoyance, to fans outside of both Japan and America, who just can’t stand the accents!
Then again, how much cultural exchange do we really even get out of anime?
Well, if nothing else, it’s a gateway drug.