Charging straight what is probably the longest running and most frequently fought debates the world of anime has ever and will ever see. This wouldn’t be an anime blog if I didn’t at least once tackle the subject. So time to toss aside the many other famous anime arguments I frequently engage in over the course of this blog, such as “was anime really better back then?“, “Is moe really the cancer that will kill the industry?” and “Is Lelouch the Cart Driver?“, and tackle this unholy beast: Sub vs Dub.
So why cover Dominion Tank Police? Vintage 1988, dubbed a few years later (actually it was dubbed a fair few times, both in America and England. For the purpose of this post, I’m talking about the one dubbed in England). It’s based off a manga by Masamune Shirow, the guy who wrote Ghost in the Shell. It’s about the mad Tank Police gang, who are quite literally police who chase criminals in tanks, and their constant failures to capture a criminal and his pair of ex-stripper catgirl sidekicks. It’s very much a campy, comedy anime, albeit the last episode changes tone to something a lot more serious and deep. It’s a pretty awesome OVA, one of the best I’ve seen in my recent trawl through plenty of other terrible ones. But I’m here to talk about the voice acting.
The dub is very hammy altogether. Plenty of characters totally overact their pieces. The catgirls are given what appears to be 1930’s New York accents. The researcher given the most ridiculous faux-Einstein accent. They even change the music for the opening song. The thing is, the Japanese voices are exactly the same. They are just as hammy and ridiculously overacted as their English counterparts. The catgirls slur their words together, although I can’t place the accent. The various members of the tank police are acted with various forms of the shouty excited voice. Both sides are strangely hollow during the more serious parts (although it makes a bit more sense for the character to sound hollow in context). While the hammyness of the acting adds to the overall camp feel of the anime, in both cases I think it’s partly down to plain poor acting than it being actually intentional.
It’s no secret I’m totally indifferent to seiyuu names and who voices who in my anime. This isn’t because I think voice acting is irrelevant though. That’s more down to each seiyuu having no say in the eventual quality of the anime. But it’s also down to simply not paying as much attention to how the voices are done. Honestly, the sub group a greater factor to your entertainment than who voiced the anime. When it comes to dubs though, you’re listening solely to the voices and therefore notice every nuance in the actors voice. When it comes to Japanese voices, you accept what you hear because you don’t know what the language should sound like. Hence you’re normalised to hearing the bad acting and accepting that as how it should be voiced.
That said, this can still be used as a reason for watching sub over dub. You are, in a sense, innocent to what voice acting should sound like so accept what you hear in the subbed version. That very innocence can actually improve your perceived quality of the acting and any flaws get accepted as how it should sound. Terrible acting in a language you actually speak is way more distracting than one you don’t. I’m not making the claim that English-speaking voice actors are better than Japanese ones (despite thinking that Crispin Freeman is better than any Japanese seiyuu), but that the Japanese voices are far from the infallible and perfectly voiced things weeaboo seem to believe they are.
Besides, not all the changes the dub make are bad. Compare the engrishy Hot Dance in Cherry Moon to the English version Tank Police. Both are awesome camp pop, but I marginally prefer the English version.