Subbed vs. Dubbed and the Debate of Translation

In my review of The Seven Deadly Sins, I brought up the Three Rules of Anime. Rule #2 is, “Subbed is better than dubbed.”

But why is that?

I could give a plethora of reasons, ranging from voice actors to minor dialogue changes. But my main reason is that subbed retains the story the best.

How do I figure? I blame 4Kids for changing a lot in their dubs. I do admit, there are some groups like Funimation and Studio Ghibli that are responsible about their translations, but I still trust the original Japanese because it is what the original writers intended.

But why is this important to me? Because I believe that the best translation is the most accurate one. Usually when translation comes up in conversation, two things come to mind: anime and the Bible.

My preferred translation is the NIV, mainly because it is the one with which I am the most familiar. However, as I’ve visited various churches, I’ve noticed that role of universal standard has shifted to the ESV. So, what is the difference between the two?

ESV, from my understanding, is a word-for-word translation. Every word in Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek is translated directly to English. NIV, on the other hand, is a blend of word-for-word and thought-for-thought. If a Scriptural translation is completely thought-for-thought, it ceases to be a translation and becomes a paraphrase, like the Message.

That said, how does this correlate to anime and the argument of “dubbed vs. subbed?” Well, the ESV is like a subbed anime. The quality of the translation is better because space is not an issue. If someone speaks the original language as well as the translated language, then inconsistencies in the translation become glaring. The Message (and other thought-for-thought) is more like a dubbed anime. Anything that an American audience won’t understand can and will be changed.

That said, ESV is more trustworthy. Yet I still use the NIV. It still maintains its credibility as a translation, but it also acquiesces to my intellect as a 21st Century American, and not a 1st Century Israelite. The NIV, were it an anime, would be a very well-done dub.

I will close with a “joke” about Bible translation: “If the Word of the Lord is the Sword of the Spirit, then the KJV is a broadsword, the NIV is a chainsaw, the ESV is a katana, and the Message is a stick.”


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