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Fansubs and You, a letter to the anime industry.

12/07/07 @ 05:31:26 pm, Categories: Baka-chan vs. The Anime Community, 1107 words, 1184 views  

This open letter to the anime industry was prompted by this ANN article which was linked to from this Mistakes of Youth strip.

I figured it was time for TheGoddamnBakachan to weigh in.

This has been coming for a long time now. I won’t lie to you, the end time is here. The anime industry, and the anime community at large, as they exist now…HAVE NO CHANCE TO SURVIVE! (…make your time.)

I have been exposed to anime for most of the 26 (Almost 27) years I have been alive, I really got into anime back in the mid 90s, the days of VHS fansubbing. I got exposed to series I had never heard of, things like the original Tenchi Muyo! OVA, for instance. I didn’t much care how the stuff got MADE back then, so the following is ‘afaik’.

Originally, to fansub, you needed the following:
 1. A way of getting the show from Japan, typically on LaserDisc.
 2. A high-end LD player.
 3. An Amiga computer with a genlock and the appropriate subbing software.
 4. A decent VHS or SVHS deck to record the fansubs.
 5. A working understanding of what the hell you’re doing.
 6. A Japanese translator. (As stealing another group’s subs would require, well…B&E.)

This doesn’t take into account a method of distribution, and a way for people to even know you EXIST. And all that gear? Yeah, cost a metric fuckton.

The primary reason fansubs existed back then is that anime was simply INACCESSIBLE in the US. (And most places not-Japan, but for the sake of clarity, I’m concentrating on the ‘local’ scene.)

As anime slowly began showing up here in the US, that became less of an issue. At some point, and I’m not really sure when, it started becoming available both subbed, and dubbed. (Albeit as separate products) I’ll admit, I didn’t actually BUY any anime until DVDs came on the scene…but at the same time, all the fansub tapes I watched didn’t belong to me either.

When modern fansubbing started, it was kind of…shitty… Low resolution videos with crappy encoding and tiny subs… But I was there. I was exposed to shows like Trigun and Cowboy Bebop… I experienced FLCL and other totally great shows and OVAs… Later it was higher quality video and better subtitles… Shows like Mahoromatic and Azumanga Daioh… Modern fansubs had arrived.

The problem with modern fansubbing is that there’s no real prerequisite. Everyone and their retarded cousin Jed can fansub now.

Here’s what the modern fansubber needs:
 1. A pulse.
 2. A computer.
 3. An internet connection.
 4. A working understanding of what the hell you’re doing.
 5. A Japanese translator.

Now, you don’t have to be a rocket surgeon or brain scientist to see that the standards have been lowered…like…a lot. What’s more, is that the vast majority of stuff being fansubbed has JUST aired on TV, when old school subbers typically had to wait for it to hit retail. That means more, sooner.

Nowadays, I don’t even watch fansubs all that much, unless I’m watching a series with friends or sharing it with family, I just download the raws. Is that any better? No. But it’s how I find shows I like. I have to WATCH THEM. But more than that, the latest anime from Japan has become my Television. No cable, just a projector. If I like a show and want to watch it over and over again, I’ll buy it. If not, well… It was on TV, so to speak, and that’s that.

Licensing anime became a viable business because anime was becoming so popular here in the US. For the most part, anime was becoming more popular here because fansubs were exposing more and more people to anime.

Oh hey, bonus question!

Q. Does this sound familiar?

A. Hmm, let me think. Hey, you know…it does. Metallica got their big break off the popularity from people circulating bootlegs of their performances. Then, years later, after they were fat, rich, and old, they decided to jump on the anti-piracy bandwagon and blame pirates for the woes of the music industry.

The woes of the music industry have nothing to do with piracy. It has to do with most of the product out there being SHIT. And you can’t sell SHIT for twenty bucks a pop no matter HOW nice the liner art is. (At least not to most people.) If recent history is any indication, the woes of the music industry are entirely their own doing.

Another thing to consider is the universal constant that a majority of people who download anything for free, wouldn’t have paid for it in the first place. Some guy living in a rat-infested shithole downloads a copy of Photoshop to use on his 300mhz Packard Bell that’s held together with duct tape. Did Adobe just lose a sale? No. This fucking guy would NEVER, IN HIS LIFE, be able to afford a copy anyway.

No one is going to buy a 50, 26, or even 13 episode series if they don’t have any idea if they’ll like it or not. Know what’s wrong with anime on TV? Not everyone gets it, and it’s all dubbed. What’s wrong with dubs? They tend towards the HORRID end of the spectrum. Do you really think that’s going to sell product?

Then there’s other considerations… A lot of the fansubs out there are utter shit, but the ones that aren’t are usually BETTER than the retail DVD subs.

Just like the music industry, the US anime industry is dying a slow painful death because the product is SHIT. And I’m not even talking about the shows; The subtitles are shit. The dubs are shit, and honestly shouldn’t exist anyway as you’re just wasting disc space and lobotomizing the next generation of anime fans. Disc space that would perhaps be better spent giving us video quality on par with the Japanese DVDs which have TWICE THE VIDEO BITRATE.


I should be your target audience; the gaijin otaku. I expect any product I spend money on to be WORTH IT. I expect, when I buy a DVD, to not feel ashamed to be an American!

Yes, you heard me.

Your DVDs make me blame the misfortune of my birth.

Think about that for a moment.

Right now, most R1 anime DVDs are simply not worth their asking price. There are precious few anime DVDs I have purchased at full price… The rest were obtained from sales at RightStuf, for around $5 a DVD. That is literally the most I was willing to spend.


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A peek inside the mad, mad, mind of Baka-chan. Animator, artist, hater of stupid people, and evil genius. Look upon the undoing of all order in the universe, and tremble.
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