Stick with the hobby long enough, and this question is certain to come up: “Do you like Subs or Dubs?” This will probably be your first exposure to fan jargon, which will be explained in detail in a later installment.
The term Sub is short for “subtitled.” In particular, this refers to a show in its original Japanese with English subtitles. A Dub, on the other hand, is used to describe a show that’s been dubbed in English. Basically, instead of the Japanese language, western actors provide character dialogue.
Depending on your preferences, the availability of shows to you changes. Basically, every anime title is available, in one form or another, with a subtitled version. Be it on a site like Crunchyroll, or on DVD or Blu-Ray, a show will always have the subtitled option available. However, not every show receives a dubbed version.
This can be attributed to a few key points. The biggest elephant in the room is the price tag. Dubbing shows gets expensive, with a 26-episode TV series costing up to and over $300,000 to produce. Smaller outfits such as Section23 Films and NIS America, as a result, tend to shy away from the practice outside of large titles or, in the case of Section23, titles that sell well. On the flip side, the big fish in the pond, FUNimation, dubs everything it releases.
It may be prudent at this point to issue a warning that a dubbed adaptation is not necessarily accurate. There are numerous examples of shows whose dubs differ greatly from the source material, to appeal to western audiences. Shows like Shin-chan and Sgt. Frog are examples of such a phenomenon, as they are titles that were rewritten entirely, to accommodate new, westernized jokes, new dialogue, and even differences in story flow. The basic gist of the show usually remains the same in these cases, but the changes can be so drastic, so sweeping that the end result is almost an entirely different show from the original Japanese version.
Some fans use the availability of a dubbed version as a judge of whether to purchase a show. Unfortunately, those that do tend to miss out on a lot of excellent titles. So, even if you aren’t a huge fan of subs, don’t let them completely deter you from trying new things.