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Where Are All The Dubs?

One thing that the fan-base in America has a great passion for is consistent and precise dubbing of anime shows. Sure there are the subtitle purists that would prefer their entire world to be spoken in Japanese with Arial style font popping up at the bottom; but for a huge majority of anime fans, we would like to see--well hear--a good dub for some of our favorite shows.

The cause for alarm is somewhat small lately, when we take into consideration some of the baby steps that anime distributors have made this past couple of years; however the mediocre trickling of solid sound-work titles has clearly seen better days.

Over the course of the past five years, anime has seen its share of major ups and downs, combined with controversy and the occasional idiot-fan making like a pervert at some convention. Sure the obsession factor has plateaued, and sure the industry is announcing title acquisition after title acquisition; but little is actually getting to our plates with the proper proportions, and side dishes.

It used to be that companies like the late great Geneon, and AD Vision would release the vast majority of their titles with an English dub audio track, most likely as an audio option to the Japanese track with subtitles, and companies like FUNimation would never release a title without one.

These days the companies pressing forward with consistent and solid sound-work is FUNimation Entertainment, and Bandai Ent., though Bandai has severely cut back on their outsourcing of titles to dubbing houses like Bang-Zoom; and have more often than not, played the shenanigans card by releasing a large cluster of subtitle only shows during the past two years; much to the dismay and aggravation of the fickle fan masses.

Not long after the demise of both Geneon and ADV, companies like FUNimation began doing what the industry lovingly called "license rescues" of their back catalog of titles, and the fans were too dumb to realize that as a fan-base move it was brilliant, but as a cost-effective marketing strategy it was damned near god-like.

Not only does a company like FUNimation not have to put out the cash of recording a dub for a show that already has a passable one, but they already have the layout and format for the DVDs themselves, which means the templates can be sent straight to the press, and lo and behold they are praised for saving the fan-base.

In addition to the closing of Geneon and ADV it didn't take long before new companies would rise to fill those gaps, and sure enough we now have at least three all angling for a slice of the fan-base's wallet.

Companies like Sentai Filmworks, and NISA along with Sentai's kid sister company MaidenJapan. Media Blasters, which isn't new by a long-run, but due to their merger with Right Stuf have also stepped back up and have begun to have more involvement again.

It seems that while we as fans are awash in this surge of companies all making announcements, and plastering release schedules up, the thing we are really missing the most of, is a list of shows that are really seeing the attention they actually deserve.

Lately, the release schedule for FUNimation's list of titles is a mixture of yet more so-called license rescues, a ton of re-releases and re-packages, and perhaps one or two actual new titles with an in-house dub.

For the moment companies like Sentai and the on-line streaming guru Crunchyroll have made good on more things than the last best vestige for dubbing in North America, and to date, Sentai Filmworks has released a total of two shows with a dub. Crunchyroll, which doesn't distribute will probably only ever air/stream their shows with subtitles.

So what's the problem if good shows are getting released, and the fans are happy?

Well the truth be told, the fans will never be happy, as it is more or less in their nature to bitch and moan about most anything they get, see or want. Though, in this case, I think their bleating needs some heeding.

Even though most of the casual fans are split down the middle on subtitle only releases, it's not in their nature to give much more than a passing damn, so they'll buy the show as is, and silently frustrate themselves while reading the on-screen text.

The other half that hate reading anything--makes me wonder how they passed grammar and English--will refuse flat out to ever watch a show that has no voice-over dub track, and they will frustrate themselves by constantly waiting on a dub that will never be.

The Ironic thing about the majority of the fans that I encounter, is that they are screaming for two things; more of their shows, and good accurate dubs.

More shows isn't a problem, well at least not to the people at FUNimation that seem to have enough shows licensed and waiting in the wings to provide the fans with new releases till the end of the decade; it's the fans wanting a good dub and wanting them quickly, that is beginning to be the problem.

We all remember the uproar that the fans made when several popular shows like Case Closed and Kodocha, and even select episodes of Galaxy Angles were either dropped or had their dub cut. Ah, yes such dark days indeed for the masses. 

In fact if you go on almost any site, read any message board, you will even hear how the fans want new dubs for old anime. Oh, yes you heard me; new dubs! As if such a thing actually exists in this world.

The issue now is the fan ignorance of just what it takes to get a dub of anything to their show, and out to their hands.

First of all, not every single anime in Japan is prime real estate for us greedy, fat, selfish, complainers. The Japanese do not simply sit down and create a show, and rub their hands together in excitement at the prospect of how fast we are going to snatch it up, and offer them the biggest lump sum of  money for a license.

No, they make their own shows, they probably couldn't give a flying **** about our intentions, and are only focused on getting their own networks to provide them enough advert and merchandising time to pay their production costs off, and not have them breaking even.

The second thing, is that once an offer for an anime is extended, the Japanese license-holders are going to have to make sure that it's enough of an offer that they can gain from letting their creation into someone else's hands. Imagine you go to the trouble of making a form of art, and then you sell the licensing rights to some other company to use it how they see fit, and the next you know, they took your art and flipped it on its ear.

Third. It takes time to make a dub, generally speaking; the initial steps are planning and meetings to discuss both marketing and script creation; which of course any American Company knows, that product awareness is vital to a good profit. So marketing goes about doing their thing, and soaking up a lot of the start-up money for this project, the script is still being hammered out, and hasn't gone through its many revisions(lets hope the fans don't bitch too much about it), and then it's off to casting calls.

This is where the real money for the dub is spent. 

Oh, I'm sure that the technical aspect of the dub, the mixing, the video transfers all of that is expensive; but it's taking a bunch of actors and paying them their prices that the cost of a dub usually goes way out of control.

A lot of actors are union, which means that they get paid set rates regardless of what the studios want, and there is even a guideline for paying voice actors based on length, role, and or hours worked.

Most typical voice actors will get paid anywhere from $250 to $800 dollars for a project. Some will get paid way more, and some will be paid by the hour, which can be any where from $40 to $80 dollars an hour in some places. 

So let's take an anime like Fairy Tail, that is still running, and set down to put a dub to it. Oh, I'm sure the gnarly little crap-stains will cheer in frenzied ejaculatory excitement, but the chances of it seeing the dub through to the end will be slim.

Lots of dubbing companies back in the day didn't care, they would slap a dub on almost anything. But then, they were also charging more than $30 dollars for a single DVD of any given show, and so could afford to put all that profit back into the creation of more dubs.

Some shows were so highly popular, that it seemed as if they could single-handedly bankroll a company for the next decade; and while us fans got accustomed to seeing release after release with an English dub, the economy and the failure of some shows, combined with new packaging decisions paved the way for a terrible shortage of new anime getting dubbed.

As any fan, and they'll tell you that no release of an anime could possibly have enough episodes per disc. I mean, if technology could cram nine million episodes on a disc, the fan's would still want more, like greedy little puppies that will keep eating and gorging even after their stomachs have ruptured on all that they've already been given.

So it was no shock that not a single fan complained, when North American companies began producing half-season sets of our shows.

At the cost of all the bonus features, which didn't matter when it came to more episodes; there was more than just a sense of loss.

Now instead of having to spend 120 or 130 dollars per series, a fan could get them for around a cool 80 dollars, or even less if they went to a Right Stuf anime sale.

So here we are, with companies selling more of their product for less, constant re-packages of five and six year old anime shows, only one or two shows a month getting released with a dub, and the companies like Sentai that are wanting to produce dubs are hitting a brick wall with the fans, that scream and piss themselves in anger because Sentai won't go bankrupt giving some idiotic show a dub.

To further baffle me, Media Blasters is putting dubs on shows two to three years after their release, which is like a time-lag thing or something, since they've never made much sense to me, but it's as if they are wondering around in some sort of post-industrial apocalypse, waiting for Nozomi and Right Stuf to give them the hack-saw enema, and shut them down.

In plain terms, dubs are seemingly on the back burner of priority for a major portion of the industry. Many of the once big dubbing houses have declined, some replaced with sub-only companies that can't quite build up their momentum to establish consistent dubs, and of course our great last vestige of hope; FUNimation Entertainment, that can't keep up with their back-log of titles to afford a dub for each and every one of them.

The bottom line of the industry right now, is that money is the biggest factor for why there seems to be such a major absence of dubs. Money for the acquisitions, money for the technical work, and money for the voice actors.

It is very possible, that if things keep going the way they are, that even companies like FUNimation will have to begin making some adjustments to their philosophy of no-sub only releases, and use this as an opportunity to earn some revenue like every one else.

The sheer deliberate ignorance and stupidity of the fans really baffles me at times, when it comes to dubs. Not only do they not even bother to think about what it takes to give them what they want, they don't really seem to do much thinking at all, and in the end just form a conga line of complainers, and bellyachers. I really hope that this decade isn't the last of the dubbing industry, but if we went by the demands of the fans, we ourselves would drive this industry into the got-damn dirt!