Dub vs. Sub: Pokemon

It’s the eternal question in every Otaku’s mind, the source brawls and spam-wars all over the internet:  Dub or Sub?

Doing away with the hyperbole, dubs and subs are a contentious topic among anime and tend to put purists and more casual fans at odds with each other. For my newbies, “dub” is shorthand for anime that’s been re-dubbed, I.E given a new language, usually from Japanese to English. “Sub” is the fan nickname for anime in original Japanese, so given because most will watch it with the subtitles on.

Most hard-core otaku will insist that the sub is all any self-respecting anime fan should watch while others insist on the dub, crying that they shouldn’t have to “read” while watching their tv.


And the results aren’t pretty

As someone who watches both for most shows, I’ve found that the answer to this question usually boils down to three things: How’s the voice acting, What did they change, and which one stood the test of time?

Today, we’re gonna answer all three questions on Dub or Sub, a new series on this blog. Today we’re comparing the monolith to marketing, Pokemon, to its Japanese originator, Pokemon, I choose you. And, so we aren’t here all day, we’ll be doing the Indigo League and Orange Island arcs only.


Hold onto your odangos, we’re gonna get technical

1. How’d the Actors do?

One of the biggest things that split the crowd into dubs and subs is the voice acting. If the voice acting in the dub is horrendous, even the English-Only crowd will convert just to spare their bleeding eardrums. By contrast, if the dub is better, you’ll be shocked at how many Otaku will denounce the sub and enjoy some good, old-fashion localization.

However, I highly doubt they’ll be doing any of that for this dub.

I don’t know how I put up with Ash’s voice actor when I was a kid or any of the other bad choices made on this show. If it isn’t James speaking in a cartoony effeminate voice, or Gary Oak purposefully making his as annoying as possible, there’s always someone on this show that tests the strength of my nostalgia. I was shocked when I heard how crisp and professional the Japanese cast sounded, especially with Satoshi (that’s Ash.) Rica Matsumoto does an excellent job sounding pleasant and enthusiastic, and the rest of the cast easily follows suit.


Everything I knew is a lie!


2. What did they change?

A lot, actually, Some for the better, others for the strange.

One change that definitely seals the dub to success was the music. Jason Paige and Russell Velázquez did an excellent job with both the openings (“Pokemon Themeand Pokemon World”) and even the famous Pikachu’s Jukebox. By comparison, Rica’s J-Pop Numbers, Aim to be a Master and Rival, sound generic and run-of-the-mill, doing little to separate them from other shows airing around the same time.

But where things fell apart was the animation.


What… just what?

While the look and feel of the anime were never messed with, 4kids entertainment has their fingerprints all over the various localization changes. You got your usual bout Japanese Food Phobia, what with changing rice balls into donuts, but we also have odd choices that don’t make the most sense: turning matches into birthday candles, turning a wine-glass to a highball, and so on and so forth. This doesn’t scream protect the children so much as “we’re afraid the kids won’t get it.”

3.  But Which One Lasted?

While all signs point to Japan having a better product, the dub is proof that The Great Yogurt was right: It’s all about the merchandising!


Mel Brooks knew where the real money was….

When 4kids aired Pokemon, warts and all, the toy-stores exploded. First, the games got ported over, for loving fans like myself, and action figures followed close behind. Stuffed animals , themed board games, card decks, and all kinds of clothing flooded the market, and the kids ate it up like Pokeball candy.

This, combined with the genius level music, pushed the dub into the pop-culture giant it is today. On the other side, Japan’s product is really only that famous in Japan and has become a rare oddity for otaku to collect.  It got famous enough to go overseas, but you’ll find the English opening translated to new languages far more often than the Japanese one.


You win this round you bastard.

4.So what’s the better show?

The answer is more complex than it seems. In terms of production and technical work, it’s clear that the sub has more going for it. But if you’re looking for wide mass appeal, a la a long lasting bang, then go watch the dub.

At the end of the day, there’s no way to conquer Poke Mountain. The dub is and always will be the quintessential Pokemon because all that’s coming will follow its footsteps. It was a fun, awfully beautiful piece of art that still has some potent staying power.

But I do recommend the Japanese show to long-time fans. It’s a product of its time, sure, but it’s like stepping into a new world. But hey, you still gotta catch ’em all.


If you like what you see, don forget to follow and like this post.  Feel free to leave a comment below, and see you next Saturday!

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