It’s your favorite anime. You’ve been watching for dozens (hundreds?) of episodes. You’ve been following the story and characters intently. Every single moment is important and vital to your enjoyment. The anime makes you think, it keeps you guessing, it surprises and delights you. Now, all of a sudden, you only understand 20% of an episode.
How much fun is that?
This is the struggle you face when you have been watching a continuing anime series and you want to remove the English subtitles. It’s a real pain, and you hesitate.
I’ve been there. The major anime that I made the move to remove subtitles was Naruto. I had been following it for a few years in mid-2000. First with English dubs, before I started studying Japanese. Then with English subtitles, after I had started Japanese, but didn’t realize how little value this was providing me. Then finally with no subtitles and nothing but Japanese.
My first reaction
I can’t afford to miss any part of the story!
If I don’t understand something, it’s going to snowball, mess everything up, and would ruin one of my favorite anime at the time. It’s not worth it. So, I’ll keep watching this anime with English subtitles and remove subtitles from other series I start. However, this repeated with other anime. In the very beginning I could deal with Japanese only, but as I got involved in the story, I was tempted, and often gave in.
With English subtitles, you are experiencing the anime in English. You are practicing your English. That’s a problem.
Luckily, there are 3 good methods to have it both ways and watch the anime in Japanese without subtitles, but not miss a single plot detail.
3. Watch in one language, then the other
Watch the show in Japanese first. Then watch it in English. Finally, put the Japanese show in your continuous immersion.
You can do the reverse (watch English first and then Japanese), but I find this to be less valuable. You are less likely to do it. Just finished episode 29, and are super excited about episode 30? First you have to watch it again in Japanese. Also it’s good to see what you can understand in Japanese before you rely on English. You may find that you actually don’t need the English for certain episodes (maybe it was filler, or easy to understand, or not important to the plot).
2. Read the English summaries online
Almost all anime have English summaries of every episode online. It takes you a minute or so to read a summary, and you get all the important plot points. Then you can spend 20+ minutes watching the episode. The minimal time expense in pure English is worth it.
With this method, the order you read it (before or after watching the episode) isn’t that important. You aren’t going to skip the Japanese episode just because you read the summary.
1. Watch multiple times
This is the simplest approach. Watching something multiple times will increase your understanding. Watch it actively multiple times. Then listen to it passively multiple times. You usually end up picking more on every viewing. If this episode is on a loop in your immersion listening, then days, weeks, or months later your understanding will increase.
The goal is to get to 100% Japanese without any handicaps. But until you are ready, it’s okay to use workarounds like this. If it keeps you excited and enjoying your favorite anime, and that motivates you, then it’s worth it. Just make sure that you do step out of your comfort zone, and eventually get rid of even these methods.
Have you used any of the methods above? How do you deal with not wanting to miss a moment of your favorite ongoing anime?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.