How to Watch Anime Without Subtitles

    Earlier this week, Netflix released The Sound Of Magic, a live-action adaptation of the popular WebToon Annara Sumanara. I was obviously excited about it, seeing as it was one of the first WebToons I ever read. And so, I put it on, only to be greeted by an English dub. I panicked and quickly switched to anime with subtitles but then I had a thought: Could you ever watch anime or dramas without subtitles?

    I know, I know. This is a weird issue to have. Likely, most of you reading this do just fine with anime subtitles. Ever since the dawn of anime in the modern age, the debate of dubs vs subs has raged on. And subs have won almost unanimously every time. It’s not hard to see why – subs are as close as we get to experience the source material accurately. Dubs often take away from that aspect, leaving little to be desired.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean subs always work out in the story’s favor. There are often things that subs misinterpret, and phrases that come out as clunky and wrong. Still, they are the closest you get to accuracy in translated anime, without having to compromise and change the tone of a character or plot altogether.

    But in any case, what if you’re part of the minority that can’t stomach the subs? Well, we can absolutely look into some alternatives to make sure your anime viewing experience is enjoyable to the max!

    The History Between Subs And Dubs

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    There are plenty of anime enthusiasts that can’t enjoy anime episodes with subtitles either due to issues like a reading disability or otherwise. In that kind of situation, what can you do besides depend upon dubs? Dubbed anime is a whole other can of worms. I mean, people joke about dubs being bad but if you grew up in the 90s, you know damn well what a ‘bad dub’ actually is. Hell, terrible 2000s dubbed anime are a genre unto themselves. Remember Ghost Stories?

    Though, both subs and dubs have gotten significantly better as the years have gone by. Thanks to the combined efforts of some great voice actors, translators that hold a true appreciation for the source material, and dedicated writers. There are still some issues to work out, but overall, the community has grown enough that it is accessible to a majority.

    The Obvious Alternatives

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    Look, this is a very controversial opinion, but I think dubs have absolutely gotten better in recent years. Like, I watch an anime with subs and then rewatch it in dub, just to compare and I’ve realized they aren’t complete trainwrecks anymore. Of course, the two end up being different, but not necessarily in a bad way.

    I recently watched Sasaki To Miyano, an anime that was released at the start of this year. It’s probably my favorite ‘feel-good’ anime of the season, and I love it dearly. The characters are free of any cliches and stereotypes, they are mature yet very soft-spoken. And then, just out of curiosity, I watched a compilation of its dub.

    I kid you not, I could not stop laughing. In a good way! The dub really highlighted the goofy teens-in-love aspect of the story, making it more light-hearted and less serious. And it seemed like the voice actors were having fun instead of just reading off of a script they could care less about. It was like watching the show for the first time again!

    And in some very rare cases, the unthinkable can happen. The anime dub ends up being better than the sub. Hold your pitchforks, I promise I have a point!

    My Dress-Up Darling was another breakout hit of this year, with an interesting premise of a glamorous gyaru befriending a gentle doll enthusiast over cosplay. And watching it in dub, was an absolute banger. The exaggerated English slang suited Marin’s valley girl aesthetic almost too well. And the way they explained things came out as more authentic and coherent, which is not something I expected but was pleasantly surprised by.

    So yes, dubs can work. Would I personally still prefer subs because I think it stays true to the story? Yes. But then, what other options do we have?

    Learn The Language!

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    …..oh, you think I was joking? Like, who has the time to learn an entirely new language, just to watch a show, right? It’s not as uncommon as you’d think. I know plenty of people who exclusively learned Japanese and Korean because they wanted to consume their favorite content in its most authentic form. That’s dedication for you!

    And there is a solid reason for this, according to fans. Some specific puns and wordplays only work if you know the native language and can discern dialects. And then some things get glossed over when translating but end up becoming integral parts of the fandom later on. 

    I cannot believe I’m going with this specific example but here it goes. In the Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children movie, there is an interaction between Reno and Tifa Lockheart that caused them to become a popular pairing in Japan. This is thanks to a single phone call that is much flirtier and friendlier in tone without the subs and is completely absent in the dub version altogether.

    Without it, the two have never even shown an interest but see, this is how things get warped when translating. Even in subs, things get lost in translation

    How To Get Started With Raw Episodes

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    There are likely plenty of places around your residence where you can start learning basic, conversational Japanese. Aside from classes at your local language centers, it is easier than ever to access tutors online.

    Apps like DuoLingo are a great, casual way of learning a new language on your own terms, with simple lessons and constant reminders. And once you get through with gaining some proficiency, you can test your newfound skills with ‘raw’ anime episodes online. Hell, you can even try your hand on the ‘raw’ scans of your favorite manga, so you can keep up to date with the plot as soon as it launches!

    There are so many ways to enjoy the media you love while respecting its source material. Whether it’s through anime with subtitles, dubbed voice acting, or by knowing the native language, it doesn’t matter.

    Because in the end, what’s important is that you enjoy what you’re consuming without any judgment!

    With that said, are you looking forward to the latest episodes of Chainsawman? Has the story so far been to your liking? Let us know in the comments below!

    Anza Qureshi
    Anza Qureshi
    Anza Qureshi is a writer, licensed dentist and certified Uchiha fangirl. When she isn't doing root canals or listing down anime waifus, you can find her screeching about her favorite JRPGs across social media.

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