If you’ve been around since the good ol’ Toonami days, back when they pretty much played anime and little else, you’ll get where this article is going pretty fast. For you flesh bloods out there, here’s the low down (and you might be noticing this based on what kinds of streams you watch, as well): Anime that targets the very young, be that All Ages or even some PG works, often get denied a subtitled version.
That’s right. They are denied a sub, the cheapest translation option available to a US company. After all, without the need to hire actors, the company need only focus on the actual translator(s). That’s a heck of a lot cheaper. In fact, more than a a few companies as of late have been offering subtitle only shows as a way to cut costs and get the product ready for sale faster. In light of this, why in heaven’s name would a company go out of their way to create a more pricey dubbed version and exclude any basic subtitled version? The answer links right back into the ol’ localization trap, which I’ve touched on before. Remember Brock’s “donuts?”
There are, of course, practical reasons. Most companies opt for the dub only for kids shows in the hopes that these shows will be aired on broadcast television, making a dub a requirement. These shows usually don’t count on being sold, only televised, making the subtitled version unnecessary. They also count on the fanbase remaining in the young ages the show is intended for, which often end up too young to read at the speed needed for shows with subtitles. That said, I can’t help but wonder if the United States would still have such low reading ability as a whole if we would only stop expecting kids to be idiots and actually challenged them once in awhile. Just as with localizing cultural elements and phrases, forcing a show into a different language it wasn’t intended for and not releasing the original is based on the assumption that the audience won’t be able to handle or enjoy the show in its original form.
And, yes, while there are some that prefer the dub for a variety of reasons (it’s less work, they wish to focus on the show rather than reading, they enjoy English actors/voices, they’re slow readers, etc), more than half of these same dub only shows also experience heavy editing and localization. Considering that most kids today struggle not only with reading their own native language, but also have no idea about other cultures or where Japan is on a globe, I personally think it would do some good to show kids that, hey, your nation isn’t the only one on the planet and, hey, there are languages other than English out there and they’re all beautiful in their own way. Forcing everything down into an English only mold isn’t just more costly for anime companies in the US, it also encourages a rather narrow minded view of the world we live in.