Old Fart Who Loves Japanese Pop Culture 日本の大衆文化を愛する中年

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Fansub Debate on ANN

ANN An Open Letter to the Industry
Please read the entire letter written by Justin Sevakis at the above link.

These are good times to be an anime fan. DVD's have never been cheaper. If you're not into buying DVD's or don't have the money, you can download DVD-quality copies over the internet for free and never have to worry about anything bad ever happening to you, ever.

Consequently, these are downright terrible times for anybody in the anime industry. DVD sales are way down, profits are even lower, and a good number of companies are losing money hand-over-fist. Even in Japan, many productions aren't breaking even. People in both the US and Japan are feeling like it's the apocalypse.

I watch mostly Japanese Live action dramas especially those based on anime or manga. If it weren’t for the fansubbers I’d never have known that these shows existed, for example shows like this summers hit drama Hanazakari no Kimitachi e or last spring’s Sexy Voice and Robo and Hana Yori Dango or otaku dramas like Akihabara@DEEP and Densha Otako. I hope through the growing popularity of the fansubs American companies will take notice and release DVD editions of these excellent shows with English subtitles. Personally I love the fan sub groups and the work they do to freely entertain us.

If fansubs are indeed ruining the anime industry, then the Amercian portion of the anime industry is wasting it's resources on dubbing. So why do they bother dubbing anime. I thought the reason foreign movies do so poorly in general in the US was because Americans wouldn't read subtitles. If subtitled anime undubbed anime isn't popular then fansubs can't be ruining the industry.

One solution would be for the American company to license newly aired anime immediately, download all versions of the fansub for that series, choose the best, add advertising, and sell the modified fansub on their American Companies website through bit torrent for 1-2 dollars per episode and without DRM. Why no DRM, because I want to watch it on my TV, my computer and my PSP or iphone. I want to pay once not four times. If it has DRM I’ll get the show elsewhere. It would be very little cost to the American company other then a video re-encode with proceeds from advertising and paid downloads that uses the customer’s bandwidth through bit torrent for delivery. Why do you say it has to be easier then bit torrent aren’t the majority of the distributed fansubs already going through bit torrent and if fansubs are already truly ruining the industry then bit torrent most be easy enough to use. Use the profits to help pay licensing fees and DVD production costs. I'll win because I'll be able to download a legal copy that helps the Japanese anime industry and if the series is decent later I'll pick up the higher video quality DVD. The fansub group chosen would have the ultimate bragging rights. If the fansub group drops the anime pick another groups release to complete the series. If all fansub groups object to working for free then YOUR desire to stop fansubs has been achieved and the American company wins by default but the fans of course lose yet again.

If your interested in the topic of copyright or DRM I’d highly recommend Cory Doctorow’s website Craphound.COM, by the way you can get some excellent science fiction stories from him at his site for free and without DRM. Cory also has a podcast and right now is podcasting Bruce Sterling’s book The Hacker Crackdown.

How does everybody else feel about this issue? Now I'm getting off my soapbox and going back to my fansub of "Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru" while I wait for the American company to produce the DVD.

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Blogger Patricia said...

I used to be one of those people who bought fansubbed VHS tapes XD and after so many years of supporting that, I became a fansubber myself. I definitely became mad when American companies bought the rights to Card Captor Sakura and Kodomo no Omocha since those were favorites of mine. They turned the entire CCS series around by changing the characters, storyline, and the music. I seriously cried when I saw it on tv. Kodomo no Omocha... they stopped fansubbing it when I hit about ep. 34 I believe... it took them over 5 years to even release that. Not only did they change the name to Kodocha (which is the nickname for it anyway) but they changed the music too! I watched a clip of the dubbed and I freakin screamed. I was ready to BUY the dvd set just for the subtitles but seeing how FUNimation changed all this stuff, I just downloaded the raws and softsubs online and re-encoded it myself. I have friends in the anime industry - ADV Films and FUNimation. I support their hard work for many many years. However it has gotten to the point where their quality is not good enough and their dubbing is horrific. I think when it really comes down to it, viewers are looking for speed and QUALITY. It is something the American anime industry just cannot provide. DVDs are limited to subtitle colors so you get all the nice stuff you see in fansubs. People tend to be a bit more true to translation in fansubs as well. This might not be anime but for example when I saw Letters From Iwo Jima, I was definitely not impressed with their translation or their styling (at least put a border around the words if you're gonna use gray -_-). Why buy something if the translations are not true (for subtitles) and why buy something if the voice acting is horrible?

It's true though, the fans in America are definitely younger. They also grew up in an age where everything is downloadable and you don't have to pay. It's not really their fault. I also think anime conventions have a lot of influence as well. If they see people dressing up in some cool costume they've never seen before, they might ask where that character is from. From a show you can only get online? hmm... I see that now a lot of anime conventions do not allow fansubs. As a fansubber myself, I think that's a good idea.

From a fansubber's view, I don't believe fansubbers are out to "attack" the anime industry like that article kinda makes it sound. Yes, we definitely are doing it for the community, for ourselves, and for our interests. But we're definitely not subbing so companies can lose money. The anime industry isn't very smart themselves. When you can't beat them, you should at least try to make a truce. I don't think they're getting the idea at all. By putting up their own streaming media isn't gonna help them. Fans know the fansubbers and some by name. They might try to talk to fansubbers and see if they can work something out... promotion maybe? Instead of telling fansubbers to stop or else I'll sue, they should maybe "collaborate" or something. They should know where they stand. You can't beat the speed of fansubbers. And subbers don't care about "making money." We don't mind that people are just taking it. Money DOES make the world go round sometimes. Why not ask subbers if they want to join an actual company maybe? or work out some deal where fansubbers might have a say on the quality and what is released. I think it's really the only way out right now.

11/26/2007 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

@Patricia Thanks for taking the time to comment as a long time fan and fansubber. I agree that the anime companies often put out inferior product and long after the fan sub groups. Someone who does something for love usually puts in more effort then someone who's mainly interested in their reward.

I also agree the solution must come from a dialog between the fan sub community and the anime companies. If the American anime companies pursue a path simular to the one taken by the RIAA they will alienate more fans and risk losing even more business.

11/26/2007 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous P-chan said...

Oh! My name actually came up as Patricia and not P-chan XD I didn't notice that =p *points to first post*

The big problem is that all these companies are doing is giving out letters to subbers telling to stop or else but it's really not helping anything. I'm not really saying that the anime companies should just start recruiting fansubbers and all that but at least try to make a truce somewhere. The anime industry doesn't want to lose money and fansubbers don't want to stop subbing for the community. Since there are two good causes, might as well team up somehow.

I'm kinda thankful that the jdrama community isn't in such a situation at the moment. I'm well aware that Japanese tv stations are aware that fansub groups are subbing their dramas and putting up on YouTube and such but all they're doing is asking YouTube to take it down. Thank goodness it hasn't gone farther than that.

11/27/2007 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

@p-chan I'm kinda thankful that the jdrama community isn't in such a situation at the moment.
I agree completely, there is no way to legally buy English subbed dramas, and if some US company did import dramas they'd probably want to dub it. So instead of my money going to the Japanese creators at least some would go towards dub production costs. I'd have to move to Hawaii to watch dramas, hmm doesn't actually sound that bad considering it's going to 22F tonight.

11/27/2007 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger Silly said...

As a fansubber myself... I refuse to watch dubbed products. It annoys me... I get distracted when i start watching ppls mouths more than listen to the dialogue. Plus when it's dubbed in english they screw with the scripts to make it more friendly to american culture. [pisses the hell out of me].

Considering how the Japanese Live Action DVD sets go for... picture how much the rights would be for anyone interested in releasing them in america.

11/29/2007 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

@silly I've never watched an anime dubbed, I can't understand why anyone who doesn't have a reading disability would but it appears that I'm in the distinct minority in the USA. I've always enjoyed foreign movies and was forced to watch dubs on American TV on Saturday afternoon Kung Fu movies back when I was a kid. The action was great but the mouths and sounds just made it all the merrier. But if a sub track exists I'd much rather hear the original language, where the original director directs the actors, that way we have the original vision.

11/30/2007 05:54:00 PM  

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