A company, like ADV or Manga Video (contradiction in terms?) obtain the rights to a Japanese anime series. They have the anime translated (sometimes, I use that word loosely), retimed and rewritten for timing, take of the Japanese vocal and hire new actors to record a new vocal track, even change some of the foley and sound effects. If it is to be aired on American television, they also edit any animated violence, blood, sex, nudity, or 'crude' language. They put it on a VHS tape and charge $20.00.
Then, they take the original Japanese, slap subtitles of the more exact translation on, and put it on a VHS they will then charge $30.00 for.
AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE FUCKED UP LOGIC BEHIND THAT!?!?! This is why I'm so glad anime on DVD exists, even if I don't have a DVD player yet...
Subtitled movies are so much better for so many reasons. One, the translation is, 9 time out of 10, more precise than that of the dub, where they try to make the English dialogue fit the Japanese mouth movements. Second, and most importantly in my mind, the acting is far superior in Japanese. In Japan, being a seiyuu is a PROFESSION, not just something you do when you can't get another acting job cuz you SUCK!! Give me Koyasu Takehito over Sparky Thornton any day. Third, if you like me, want to learn Japanese, listening to actual spoken Japanese is incredibly beneficial. Granted, I don't learn all my Japanese from anime, but to hear how they say and pronounce things while picking up a few new vocab words isn't a bad deal at all. The program I use to help me learn Japanese encourages exposure to the language at all times in any way possible, and it really does help. Fourth, if it is to be aired on TV, most of the anime is butchered, dumbed down, and even more poorly dubbed to get it out into the market FAST. Escaflowne is not a series for children...yet FOX tried to make it one. That just makes me sad. Watching the dub of that series hurt...it was painful to watch. Escaflowne is possibly one of the greatest animated TV series ever, in plot, music, art, characterization, acting...the works. And they were trying to make it appropriate for 10 year old children. Would any company try to take, I dunno, ER, and make it understandable and appropriate for a child in grade school? When will people understand animated does NOT equate to being made for children?
Don't get me wrong, some dubs are worthy of being watched. Evangelion (with the exception of episode 24) is a great dub, as is Cowboy Bebop. However, the vast majority of dubs that suck in comparison to their original Japanese counter-parts is disheartening enough for me to swear off them unless proven otherwisse.
I have now OFFICALLY ranted on why I prefer Japanese subtitled movies to English dubbed. So don't make fun of me for wanting it quiet so I can read the subtitles ^_~ I promise to be patient about the matter, but doesn't mean I'll ever change my opinion.