Naruto: Subbed or Dubbed?

Here’s why you should watch Naruto dubbed or subbed:

The best way to watch any show is the way that you enjoy it the most.

But, the most common arguments in favor of watching Naruto subbed are that the voice acting is better and that the show is less censored.

The arguments in favor of watching it dubbed are that it’s easier and doesn’t involve subtitles.

So if you want to learn all about the pros and cons of watching Naruto subbed or dubbed, then you’ve come to the right place.

Keep reading!

Naruto: Subbed vs. Dubbed? (Everything to Know)

How Should You Watch Anime?

This is the great debate among English-speaking anime fans.

Should you watch the show subbed or dubbed?

There actually is a correct answer, and it applies to all anime, not just Naruto.

If you’re fluent in Japanese, you should watch the original Japanese production.

Whether subbed or dubbed, translations always have to make sacrifices.

If you really want to understand what is being conveyed by the original artists and production team, then drop both the subs and dubs.

Of course, you’re here because you aren’t fluent in Japanese, so you have to choose the best from the realistic options.

Should you watch Naruto dubbed or subbed? 

Again, there’s a correct answer.

You should watch it the way that you enjoy it the most.

But, if that’s not good enough, then don’t worry.

I’m going to thoroughly break down both options to help you decide which one you want to try first.

A Personal Journey

This whole conversation is so subjective that I feel the need to air my own biases.

So, here’s my personal point of view.

After that’s covered, I’ll do my best to remove my biases and present both perspectives fairly.

You’ll know what grain of salt to include in all of that.

I originally started watching Naruto dubbed, back when it was the brand new show on Toonami (probably around 2005).

I enjoyed it immensely, and I watched about two seasons that way.

Then, I discovered ways to watch it subbed.

After watching a single episode subbed, I was hooked, and I never watched another dubbed anime again.

Specifically, it was Naruto that convinced me that subbed anime is more enjoyable than dubbed anime.

So, that’s where I’m coming from.

None of this means that you need to watch the show the same way I do, but if you want to navigate my biases, hopefully, this will help.

How Should You Watch Naruto?

Ok. There are a lot of arguments that go both ways when it comes to watching anime in English.

The question we need to ask is, “How does Naruto change the game?”

Are we just going through all of the same arguments again, or are there specific aspects of Naruto that need to be discussed?

The answer is a little bit of both.

For the most part, the primary arguments (which I’ll cover individually later) all still apply.

If you hate reading, you might prefer dubs to subs.

But, in terms of Naruto, there is a specific element, and that’s related to the voice acting.

One of the main arguments (which I’ll bring up again later) in favor of subs is that the voice acting is better in Japanese.

That’s not universally true, but certain elements of voice acting in the Naruto dub have been so panned that they became a meme.

The Meme

Let’s talk about it.

If you haven’t watched any amount of Naruto before, then you are probably unaware of this meme, but it was infamous in anime communities for some time.

The dubbed voice acting in Naruto is extremely well known, and the big meme has to do with the dub voice acting for the character Sakura.

She’s one of the biggest and most important characters in the show, and she regularly interacts with the title character, Naruto.

If you’re not familiar, the correct way to pronounce this name is nah-roo-toe.

In the dub, there are countless instances where the character is pronounced nuh-root-oh instead.

It’s a subtle difference, but if you watch the subs too, you’ll pick up on it right away.

When it comes to Sakura, the dub pronunciation is often naaaaaa-roo-toooooo.

The way she hangs on the syllables has been panned by many.

It might not bother you, but it’s worth pointing this out, namely because the show, Naruto, is one of the chief examples cited where the Japanese voice acting is clearly and dramatically superior to the English dub.

You’ll have to make up your own mind, but I thought this was worth pointing out.

Why Should You Watch It Subbed? (2 Advantages)

Ok. We got some stuff out of the way.

Let’s get into the pros and cons.

First, there are the cons for watching Naruto subbed, and they’re compelling pros.

In fact, I would say that unless you have an aversion to subtitles, when it comes to Naruto, specifically, then subbed is going to give you a better viewing experience.

That said, if you hate subtitles, then none of these pros are going to mean very much to you.

#1 Original Production

This is not unique to Naruto, but it still matters.

Anime shows are produced in Japan, and this was certainly true for Naruto.

When a show is subtitled, it is not necessary to change anything about the original production.

You’re just adding translated words at the bottom of the screen.

So, the entire production when you watch a sub is the original production.

In order to dub a show, you have to change things.

Most notably, you get English voice actors to re-act the entire show.

That’s a major change, and there are other production changes that typically come with it.

Sometimes, the animation itself is changed to better reflect some of the translated elements of the dub.

And, that’s to say nothing of censorship that is often introduced so that dubs can air on specific networks.

One of the biggest reasons that Naruto is better subbed is because you get the original production.

The writers, voice actors, directors, and animators are all working together on a unified vision.

When the anime is dubbed, additional teams are added into the mix, and they have virtually no communication with the original production team.

The result is a mishmash of creative ideas, and in the case of Naruto, that lack of cohesion is clear.

The dubbed story seems less clear and a lot choppier specifically because of this problem.

#2 Better Acting

Even if there weren’t general production problems with the Naruto dub, the voice acting is much better in Japanese.

This is not intended to pick on or disrespect the dub crew.

They worked long and hard for a lot of years to make the Naruto dubs, but there’s a quick comparison that might make this clear.

As an English speaker, you might not be terribly familiar with famous Japanese actors, but some of the leads in the original Naruto production were Junko Takeuchi, Noriaki Sugiyama, and Chie Nakamura, to name a few.

These are some of the biggest names in Japan.

Their work is prolific, and they have voiced many beloved characters in some of the most popular productions in the country’s history.

Meanwhile, the English dub counterpart actors are Maile Flanagan, Yuri Lowenthal, and Kate Higgins.

Now, you might not have heard of the Japanese actors because you’re a native English speaker.

But, as a native English speaker, have you ever heard of any of these voice actors for the Naruto dub?

They’re not exactly the most beloved names in English film production.

Another comparison might help sell this point.

Some dubs get major English actors in the production.

Howl’s Moving Castle is probably the best example.

Some of the English voice actors in that dub included Billy Crystal and Christian Bale.

These are probably names you recognize.

In Japan, the original voice crew was comparable to Billy Crystal and Christain Bale, rather than some obscure voice actors working on some foreign cartoon show.

Why Should You Watch It Dubbed? (4 Plus Points)

You’ll notice that the pros list was actually pretty short.

The production value is better.

The voice acting is better, and there’s less censorship if you watch the subs.

The pros to watching the show dubbed actually form a longer list.

But, you’ll find that most of them aren’t specific to Naruto.

So, let’s explore that.

#1 No Reading

This is going to be the largest factor.

If you don’t like reading, or if you specifically don’t like reading subtitles, then that pretty much decides everything for you.

One of these viewing experiences involves a lot of reading, and the other one doesn’t.

The whole point of making the dubs is to get rid of subtitles, and if that’s what matters to you most, then you don’t need to read the rest of this.

Enjoy the dubbed version.

It’s still one of the most beloved anime of all time.

#2 Distractions

There’s a secondary issue when watching a sub.

Presumably, you have subtitles because you aren’t fluent in Japanese.

So, when you listen to the original Japanese voice acting, it might be distracting.

When your brain can’t recognize the sounds as words and attribute meaning, the voice acting can instead turn into white noise.

This doesn’t happen for everyone, but if it’s a problem you experience, then the subtitle viewing experience is probably worse for you.

Switch over to dubs and have a good time.

#3 Native Language

As with everything else, this comes down to a personal preference.

For some people, any anime is more enjoyable when they get to listen to it in their own language.

If watching the show in your native language is what matters most to you and gives you the best experience, then this is again an easy choice.

#4 Vocal Tics

Here’s the Naruto-specific argument.

The title character has extremely well-established vocal tics.

Actually, it’s probably better to say that he has a single tic.

In the Japanese version of the show, he ends many of his sentences with the phrase “dattebayo!”

Anyone who watches the sub version of the show will be completely familiar with this phrase because you hear it so much.

In the dub, this is translated as “Believe it!”

More accurately, there isn’t a perfect translation for this phrase. It really is a tic that Naruto uses to emphasize his statements, so “Believe it!” is as reasonable a translation as anything else.

Why does all of this matter?

Well, he says these phrases a lot.

Like, a lot, a lot.

If you find one version of the phrase more annoying than the other, then it’s probably going to determine for you whether you prefer subs or dubs.

Since you’re an English speaker, it’s not unreasonable to think that the English phrase will actually bother you less.

At least, when going through discussions of Naruto, the Japanese tic seems to get more hate than the English version.

It’s worth considering.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.