Benjamin Juang (ibneko) wrote,
Benjamin Juang

An interesting read...

Ethics of Fansubbing - by Red_HamsterX, summer of 2004. [mirror & mirror - can be taken down if requested, if you are Red HamsterX.]

-Notable Comments-
When a fansubber resigns, it’s usually for something urgent - less time because of school, an unexpected personal incident, financial issues, etc. The last time I read in depth about a fansubber quiting was when OnA Digital disappeared (which released high quality episodes 1-6 of Love Hina back in the day), and I think his reason was financial. This man is resigning on principle, which may seem voluntary for some but mandatory for him. For this, Red, you have my deepest respect.

I won’t deny it. I get that twinge whenever I hear that another series has been licensed. Having downloaded anime for around 5 years, here’s my thoughts on why we’ve developed that mentality today:

1. Image quality. Raws really looked raw back then in terms of what it looked like. The source was either from a tv (without spiffy video capturing hardware) or from a video that might have been played one too many times. The formats back then (rm, viv, asf) didn’t do much to help the situation, but that was the only viable option because:
a. broadband wasn’t quite there yet (anyone remember i-drive?)
b. lack of archiving material (CD-Rs)
c. small hard drives to keep this stuff in

Now? 175 mb, 640x480 resolution avi files in divx seem to be the current standard. Even now, that might be changing, with xvid and matroska gaining popularity. A long way from the 40-60 mb realmedia files I used to get. I remember seeing my first avi file - coincidentally, it was a Love Hina episode from OnA Digital. And I thought, “Goddamn, I’m never going back.”
In the past, if a series was licensed, people were happy because they could finally go to the video store and buy a tape in mint condition that they could enjoy. Now there’s almost no difference between a fansub and the DVD. Yes, there’s that Piano DVD comparison picture on the main page of this site, but clearer trees in the background won’t exactly make the average anime watcher jump for joy. And the argument “You can watch your anime on the big screen” isn’t good enough to make someone run out and buy the DVD. It won’t work for me because I have no big screen to begin with.

2. Subtitling/Translating quality. Older series didn’t rely as much on cultural and historical background, so big licensing corporations could get away on that issue. Sometimes a fansubber will take the time to explain some subleties, like in the old Hime-chan’s Ribbon tapes. Before an episode (or group of episodes), there will be some screens of info from the fansubber. If a series back then relied too much on cultural/historical info, no company will touch it because:
a. too much effort in research
b. will the viewer care?
Case in point? Kodomo no Omocha, or Child’s Toy.

As for subtitles, both fansubbers and companies used the generic yellow font. In intros and endings, companies typically alternate between the English translation and the Japanese pronunciation for the songs.

Now? Fansubbers go all out to help the reader understand what’s going on. When I was downloading Noir, I went with BakaMX because they go the extra mile in translating foreign words or providing background on historical references before each episode. For the Read or Die OAV, I kept two or three different versions of each episode because of visual and translational differences. For Haibane Renmei, I have different fansub groups for each episode because I went for translational clarity. Even now, I’m leaning towards the Triad’s version of Sensei no Ojikan because Seiichi often tells you to go to their forums for additional info instead of explaining within the episode itself. Companies don’t provide you with nearly as much info, so it feels like you’re missing out on something when you buy the DVD.

In the case of subtitles, companies are sticking to the old yellow font, minimalist style. Some people may prefer that. Me, I like having the kanji, the English translation, and the Japanese pronunciation in kareoke style for my intros and endings. Some color-coding according to speaker is also nice, if there’s a lot of people to begin with. The best example? Animehaven’s version of the later episodes in Galaxy Angel S3. Compared to this, companies seem to be doing a half-assed job.

3. Licensing time to release time. This section has a bit more speculation on my part than the other two. It seems to me that companies go on a big licensing frenzy to get all the popular releases, and as a result it takes forever for anything to come out because they’ve bitten off more that they can chew. In the meantime, people can’t get a chance to try out these new series because the rights have already been acquired. If companies waited until they were ready to get a series out quickly (without compromising quality, of course) before licensing it, that would also give newcomers a chance to see what the series is like, increasing the market potential.

The main issue here seems to be quality. While companies are resting on their laurels, fansubbers keep pushing the limits of quality, raising expectations to the point where companies can’t deliver anymore. Consequently, rather than “keeping up with the Joneses", they slap a license on anything with potential so they can lock in their market.

Red, I never really knew much about Lunar until recently. I think our UT anime club showed your version of Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien… or maybe not. However, I did check out Pugyuru, so I must thank you for the work you’ve done on that. Without you on Pugyuru, will we ever see any more episodes on that loveable, battery-powered maid-san?

Because I’m still learning Dvorak, it is now 2:20 am here. So I am off to bed. And if the layout is all screwed up, it’s because I pasted this from notepad. After losing one too many messages to IE/site errors, I’ve learned to take precautions.

Comment by DFuzzy1 — 7/26/2004 @ 2:29 am
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