Anime (Japanese animation) is a cultural phenomenon that has swept the globe since the 90’s. More and more non-Japanese speakers are becoming interested in the world of Japanese animation. Instead of learning Japanese from scratch, viewers deliberate between the controversial choices of watching dubbed (with English voiceovers replacing Japanese audio) or subbed (retaining the Japanese audio and adding subtitles) versions of anime.
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The most straightforward, effortless way to understand a foreign show is to listen to it in your own language.
Certain elements of Japanese culture will inevitably be lost in translation because there is simply no English phrasing that can deliver the exact same meaning. This is resolved through cultural translation, which is a type of translation that deals with translating a text while regarding and respecting the cultural differences between the two languages.
Western and Japanese cultures are extremely different. Eastern cultures like the Japanese, Chinese and Korean have many legends that have been passed down for generations. These traditional folktales are widely known by all who grew up in such cultural backgrounds; a good example would be the tale of Momotaro, a story about a boy emerging from a giant peach floating down the river. Such references are difficult to understand, but through cultural translation, Western cultural elements that carry a similar meaning can replace them.
Translating anime through subtitles is easier in the respect that translators can often get away with literal translations and not worry if the Japanese cultural reference is not understood. However, that is not the case for dubbed anime since it could throw off the balance of the show if Japanese elements were mixed into the English screenplay. More care and attention is needed to translate everything into English dialogue successfully.
While making the content more understandable, replacing untranslatable elements could ultimately change the original intended meaning or emotion greatly, or lose it completely. Cultural translations affect the viewing experience and the loss of Japanese elements could be unnerving to some audiences.
[P1] Cultural translations improve the viewing experience for international audiences.
[P2] Dubbed anime successfully translates cultural differences between English and Japanese.
Rejecting the premises
[Rejecting P1] Viewing experience is subjective and thus cannot be assumed for every individual.
[Rejecting P2] It cannot be guaranteed that all dubbed anime successfully translate all cultural differences, if at all.