Going to start watching Utena. Sub or Dub?
I'm planning to start watching Utena soon and watch the GeekNights presents alongside it as far as that goes. From what I've heard there's quite a lot going on in the show. Does everything come across in the dub or will I need to watch it subbed to get the real deal?
Usually I would just go for subtitles but I'm probably going to watch it with my girlfriend. She suffers from migranes and will be unable to deal with subtitles if she has a migrane at the time. Additionaly watching several subtitled episodes in a row will likely cause a migrane.
Is the difference in quality large enough to justify watching much slower with subtitles?
It's clearest in the character of Anthy. Yuriko Fuchizaki's subtle, measured, and sometimes powerful performances in Japanese really add a lot of the meaning behind what makes Anthy tick, while the dub... I don't know what direction choices Sharon Becker was given, but she conveys the exact opposite of what's supposed to be conveyed with Anthy a lot of the time. And you'd think she'd get better as the series goes on and she gets more experience/knows more of what's really going on with her character, but NOPE. She actually gets WORSE. It makes me want to tear my hair out.
There are some decent actors -- Rachel Lillis is a fine Utena, Crispin Freeman's an okay Touga, and Lisa Ortiz is actually a pretty good Shiori. Everyone else though... Yeugh. Either extremely underwhelming or entirely inappropriate. Stay far, far away.
So yeah, that does really suck that you guys will have to watch it slower, but it really is necessary for this show I feel. And I do say that as someone who usually doesn't have many problems with dubs.
I notice this with computers a lot. People who are good at something tend to underestimate the abilities of the newb. Yes, newbs are newbs, but reading subtitles is no harder than reading. Did you consider that suggesting that someone won't be able to read subtitles might be insulting their intelligence? If they can understand a show like GitS to begin with, they have the ability to read subtitles.
Back in the year 2000 I went to see Crouching Tiger: Hidden Dragon in the US theater. It was subtitled. I was with my 70+ year old grandmother and my 14 year old brother. In a packed theater in Florida of all places, not one person seemed to have a problem reading subtitles. At that time it was not as if I had watched a ton of subtitled things. Maybe a small handful of old foreign movies.
Now, mind you, these are people who watched subtitled AND dubbed versions of english shows before they moved here from Iran. They CAN watch subbed, but it's annoying to them. And these are people who watched John Wayne speaking Farsi and Arabic.
Contrast that to me where I watch anime dubbed or subbed depending on the quality of the english voice acting.
So, like I said, the decision of a person to watch subs or dubs should be taken on a case by case basis based on the person and the media.
Now, whether original dub + subtitles is the best way of watching foreign media or not is a completely different discussion and one I am more than happy to have.
In live-action media, there is a significant sense in which the original voice is necessarily better---the audio is related to what the people on the screen are doing in a much more fundamental way. On the other hand, in the case of animation, this fundamental issue disappears; you're simply comparing two dubs to see which of them is better. Granted, it is almost always the case that English-language dubs of Japanese animation are not very good, but that comes down to bad voice acting and bad direction. Moreover, it's not like the original Japanese-language audio is incapable of suffering from those same issues w.r.t. voice acting and direction. Unlike with live-action media, there is no reason why the original audio is inherently better.
Of course, given that most English dubs of foreign animation are not very good, it's clearly a good rule of thumb to stick with subtitles over a dub. However, if you have evidence that the English dub is actually good, why not go with it?
That being said, all translations are remixes of the original work. The unachievable goal is to experience every work of art as a member of the intended audience. For example the perfect viewing experience for Seven Samurai would be if you were a Japanese person in a Japanese movie theater in 1954. Even though that is impossible for anyone to ever experience again, that doesn't mean you shouldn't get as close to that experience as possible.
Think of a medium where translation is not necessary, like painting. You go to a museum to see Van Gogh's Starry Night. Imagine if because you weren't from the Netherlands, where Van Gogh was from, you couldn't see the original Starry Night. You had to see Starry Night as remixed by Scott Rubin. No matter how good at painting Scott Rubin is, that's just unthinkable. You want to see the work of Van Gogh. If a work must be modified so that more people can understand it, that is a noble endeavor. But care should be taken to modify it as little as possible because the adapter is not the artist.
Dubs are still a good thing to exist because they grant access to works of art to people who otherwise could not access them. That being said, if you CAN read subtitles, you should read subtitles as that is as close as you can get to the original experience. If you can learn the foreign language, that's even better.
That said, dubs that are done extremely well are extremely rare. I prefer subtitles for this reason, but would much prefer that the dialog be audio because it's closer to a "native" experience.
Learning every foreign language that I enjoy media in would be the ideal solution obviously, but I think the dub is the second best IF the dub is excellent.
But that's moot because the dub usually sucks. In defense of companies that do dubs, even if you earnestly hire amazing voice actors and really go for excellent production values, you have to make a judgment call as to whether to "translate" cultural norms and idiosyncrasies, figures of speech, etc, into not only the target language but the target culture. Initiates into anime (I mean mostly we're talking about anime here, right?) will appreciate the "cultural" translation because they'll have a better understanding of the characters and scenes, but experienced viewers will resent it because it comes off as inauthentic or coddling or both. So even in the rare case that a dub isn't a cheap-as-possible attempt to tap an additional market, it usually sucks.
EDIT - well, crap. lackofcheese said ALMOST all of this already.
Edit - there was also the time where Dulwich gallery planted a 120 pound fake Fragonard they commissioned from a chinese replica gallery, hung it amongst real paintings, and challenged visitors to spot the fake. Only about 10% guessed when surveyed after. And this wasn't even a high-quality replica made to scam people.
Also, didn't we have an audiobook argument where Scott was arguing specifically that there is a major distinction between reading and listening, and that changing from one to the other also creates a different work and a distinctly different experience?
No, Scott, you are absolutely wrong.
When it comes to creating a movie, television show, or animation there are a tons of factors that go into crafting it. Composition, blocking, lighting, camera angles and moves, the framing of multiple shots within the same scene (and what shots to have)... and these are just SOME of the stuff in the production stage. If I added what goes on in post production (like color grading, etc) there would be even more. All of that is part of crafting the visual design of the work.
All motion pictures (no matter their specific form) are a VISUAL medium. The visual aspect is the primary component of the work. That's why one of the first projects all CTVA students are generally assigned is to create a silent film. If you can't understand the key points of the story from the actions alone then you need to rework your script or your direction.
Case in point:
I'm not saying dialogue isn't important. It absolutely is. Dialogue serves to deliver some of the details that the direction can't do on its own. The rest of the audio mix serves the same function.
But the audio is secondary to the visual.
Now imagine you're a director for a non-english film. You're on set every day working with the screenwriters, DP, camera operators, production designer, hair and makeup, wardrobe, and everyone in post. You've argued with the Line Manager every other day trying to keep this in budget without compromising your artistic vision of the work. You've gone through this multi-year process of making a film and you're lucky enough that it all came in under budget and it is the best version of this film that it could ever be. You get an international release and wow, the studio is going to fly you, the actors, the executive producer, and handful of other key crew members out to Hollywood for the North American debut. You walk the red carpet, stumble through some interviews and you just can't wait to see your baby on the screen of the legendary TCL Chinese Theater.
You settle into your seat, surrounded by your friends who are just as expectant as you and more hollywood A-listers than you thought you'd ever meet. The lights dim. The movie starts. Here comes the opening scene. The one you loved the most because the lighting during the shoot was perfect and the actors got it right in the very first take. It's a medium shot with the most subtle of movements conveying so much emotion. This sets up the emotional tone for the whole rest of the movie.
Your lead opens their mouth and
SUDDENLY THERE IS GIANT YELLOW TEXT ON THE BOTTOM OF THE FRAME.
The studio's parent company in the US added the subtitles in. They said it would be fine. It isn't fine. The text is covering the actor's hands. The audience can't see what he's subtly passing to the actor across the table. It was a small folded piece of paper. It was meant to be subtle; something for the audience to fridge moment later on in the film! But now it's practically invisible! We specifically held this static shot to add emphasis to the action but all it did was ensure that the subtitles blocked it. This will confuse so many people! And the whole movie is a modern take on Film Noir. Will the whole film have bright yellow subtitles contrasting with the dark and gritty mis en scene? IT DOES. You and the rest of the crew look at each other, horrified, all sharing the same thought: "They ruined our film."
See, if the translation of the script is accurate and the acting is on par with the acting of the original actors, then, in terms of how close it is to the experience of the original work, dubs are clearly superior to subs.
However, again, this should always be judged on a case-by-case basis.