Dub or Sub: Death Note

Before I begin, I’d like to take the time to apologize for the lack of material last week. An unexpected tragedy struck me over the weekend and I wasn’t capable of producing quality material at the time. But now, things are back to normal, and we will continue as normal. I appologize for the very late post and thank you for your patience and support. Next post will be saturday as normal.

I believe, in full sincerity, that Death Note was a stroke of genius. The cat and mouse game of a criminal and a detective guarantees views like mad. Add onto that some gorgeous Japanese lore dipped in dark, dreamy gothic colors, and you have a gem on your hands. Following the “villain” as opposed to the detective is just the cherry on top.

Needless to say, it’s easy to recommend the show, even to people who don’t watch anime very much. But, as every Otaku can testify to, I never know which version to recommend. Do I go the typical route and give them the show in it’s intended form, or hedge my bets and give them the English?



Especially given how badly some people react to Japanese in their TV

Thus today, we put both versions under our microscope. Is Death Note best watched with the native tongue, or are we just as delighted by English?

  • Voice acting

I’m excited to announce that, for this section, we get to put on our big-girl skirts and examine real film critic things, like acting technique and character portrayal. Unfortunately, this is where the versions are evenly matched.

When it comes to our main character, Light Yagami, Mamoru MIyano and Brad Swaile do an excellent job. Swaile did an excellent job in the dub, giving Light a prudent and passionate sound that carries over nicely into his bat-crap-crazy Kira voice. But Mamoru nails the cold, calculating side of Light. And when Mamoru has to make the transition to Kira, his final laugh is one of the most bone-chilling things you’ve ever heard in your life. It gives the sub ample edge since Miyano does most of the talking.

Needless to say, the lack of subtitles shouldn’t hurt this video too much.

But then the dub gives us Alessandro Juliani, whose portrayal of L is one of the sweetest pieces of ear candy you will ever have. The smooth, deadpan delievery is great match for the terse, oddly sweet L Lawlet, and you can tell he’s having fun with the role. Kappei Yamaguchi went with a more quiet, eccentric L, which also works, but I  find myself craving Juliani’s snarky delivery.

Because both versions have a trump card in the lead, I must give the point to both.

  • What did they Change?

I am proud to say that, in translation between east and west, nothing has been changed. Alas, that makes my job all that harder.

Funimation takes great pride in preserving the source material as close to its original form as possible, only making changes to cross some language barriers (I.E Changing Japanese word puns to English word puns). Viz media and Funimation are not in the business to westernize, so Death Note still retains its unique feeling of a Japanese Urban/Supernatural thriller. The setting hasn’t changed; the customs haven’t changed; and Otaku everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief on release day.


The face of ultimate immersion


So if the voice acting is good on either end, and nothing was changed overall, how do you pick between the dub or the sub? I believe, when you get down to brass tacks, it all depends on what kind of experience you want.

  • How’s the Viewing Experience?

As general as this question is, it is vital at the end of the day. Death Note is an odd anime with a tense atmosphere despite the lack of heavy action and the insane amounts of dialogue. At the end of the day, the question is this: how does the language track change this experience?

Quite a bit. This is a very talky, very long-winded anime, where everyone gabs to each other in long speeches, big soliloquies and all the plotting you could want from a man with a God-Complex. That changes a tiny bit later on, as L and Light get closer to each other, but early watches will test you.Thus, fans have to ask, did newbies want something that puts the novel in graphic novel?


I will dialogue you into submission!

Maybe, but they might also want a decently paced show, which the dub doesn’t always provide. Because this is a very talky anime, the dub track has lines that occasionally feel rushed, where actors are talking fast to fill what little time they had. Furthermore, this means a lot of static scenes where the camera slowly pans across an innocuous object. So, it becomes a question of whether your audience wants to read their story or listen to a story.

  • Final Pick: Depends on the audience

Your average anime fan won’t mind subs. Thus, I’d recommend that they watch  the sub version to give them the story in its purer form. As there’s not much visually going on in the beginning, minus the stunning artwork, they can enjoy the anime in the way it was intended. But, if we’re dealing with someone who’s new to anime, isn’t sure about the genre, or just doesn’t watch a lot of tv, they need to start on the dub track. They’ll find a product that’s more familiar to them, despite the Japanese setting, and can judge much easier if this is a show for them.

But don’t distress, my deeply-obsessed friends. Either way, they’re getting one hell of a great story.


I can’t say the same for the live action movies

If you agree, disagree, or just wanna gab, feel free to comment below. Don’t forget to like and follow for more content. And, once again, thanks to everyone for their patience. Next Post will be Saturday, as normal.

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