On the Dubbing/Subbing Argument, A Consumer Perspective
I originally started to write this as a comment on Someguy's great essay on dubs. Once I reached my third paragraph I realized it had veered in a different direction and figured I should just write my own post. While there are many people who hate dubs or subs, my personal experience is that the current issues with the industry have nothing to do with that, it is in fact a purely market-driven issue.
I have no problem with the principle of dubbing. Great, get it out to more people who don't care enough to experience something in it's native language. My problem with it is a financial one and a market-driven one. The majority of distributors insist that people want the dubs, and that they can't sell them without (Bandai has proved them wrong on that). But yet when was the last time that a foreign movie came over to the US with a dub track? Pan's Labyrinth (Faun's Labyrinth), Amelie, Run Lola Run, House of Flying Daggers, Hero, etc.. all come in their native languages ONLY, with optional subtitles. There are a few, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon as an example that has a English dub. But no one is insisting that Americans will only watch foreign movies if they have a dub track. Only Anime has that distinction.
So the argument is that kids won't watch it? Or that they won't watch it on TV? Ok, the TV one might be valid, but that's not what I'm addressing, I'm talking about DVD releases. Let's start there. What is the most impressionable time in a person's life? Childhood. If you want your kids to grow up to be people that respect other cultures then teach them that experiencing things in other languages are a good thing. I think the same thing about TV, but I don't have any good arguments on that one.. :-)
So my problem with dubs? I don't have a choice. I have to buy DVDs that have dubs on them (except Bandai's). And that means that I have to wait longer and pay more, because they have to charge prices that can pay for the ADR work in addition to the licensing. If I'm going to pay money for a physical object (which I do less and less. I pay for information, not physical objects.. not enough room), then I'm going to pay only for what I actually want, not some package deal that I'm told I should want. I don't buy that BS when I'm buying a car, a stereo, a gadget, why should I buy it when dealing with Anime?
So no one is serving my need. And as has always happened throughout history, when a need is not being addressed by the legitimate market, the black market (bootlegs, fansubs, etc..) does. Attacking consumers because they aren't buying what you feel they should want is not only counterproductive (it's never worked, see RIAA/MPAA/Anime Distributors/history in general), it also engenders a negative attitude towards the legitimate producers, making that consumer less likely to ever deal with that producer on a legal level.
Legal attacks aside, there's the shame attack. I'm referring to the "if you're a real fan, support the industry". This is the argument that makes me the most incensed. Consumers don't "support" industries, they consume. If an industry is serving a need people buy that industry's products. People support things all the time, it's called philanthropy. But guess what? The Anime industry is not a f***ing charity. It is a commercial industry that should be addressing a need in the market. If they can't provide what the consumers desire then they either need to change their focus or choose a different market. This is the crux, consumers will always get their needs met, that's the basis of a market-driven economy. Consumers are in control, not the producers. If you want to capitalize on the consumers, then provide what they actually want, not what you are convinced they "should" want.
My final thoughts. If there is a need for dubs, great. Address that need. But address my needs as well. I want (ideally) just the information, in a format that doesn't tie it to a specific device or piece of software, and has what I want: the video, the original audio and a subtitle track. I will pay for that. I will not pay for what I don't want. And calling me a bad "fan" is just stupid. I'm a consumer. I like something, therefore I will purchase it providing I can find what I want at a price I'm willing to pay (and I'm not unreasonable). If you won't sell it to me, I will find someone else who will. This is our world, love it or hate it, it's not going anywhere.