100 Questions About Anime & Manga Overseas Special Issue: Fansubs and the Gloom of the Anime Industry - Part 1
AnimeAnime recently started a series called "100 Questions About Anime & Manga Overseas", where Japanese fans send in their questions about the foreign Anime and Manga scene. One of the questions asked was "How is the Quality of a Fansub's Translation, and the Translator's Skill?"
AnimeAnime has posted a special 2-part follow-up to that article, titled "Fansubs and the Gloom of the Anime Industry". In Part 1, Romi (the writter) talks about the history of fansubs, and how the growth of internet affected the fandom in general.
Special Issue: Fansubs and the Gloom of the Anime Industry - Part 1
This time, I'm going to talk more about the problems surrounding fansubs. The reader's questions will be answered, and I will inform you about ongoing situations as they develop.
The History of Fansubs
Before fansubs were created, when watching an anime fans had to follow the story by referring to the synopsis. Various synopsis books were delivered to the fans. The fans shared the books, and localized the anime in order to promote it in the U.S. Of course, the problem of copyrights existed from the very beginning. In those days, almost no titles were imported to the U.S. A few years after, some of the dubbed or subtitled versions are sold. If fortunate, heavily edited TV series could be aired. Nobody knew if their favorite titles will come to the U.S. Under such condition, fans wanted to watch their favorite series, to show it to other fans, and to better understand the anime.
When GAINAX was born, fans talked about how "fans became the professionals". They even imported a film by DAICON (DAICON: The staffs of GAINAX created a movie club called DAICON in college). GAINAX gave more influence and power to the fans by asking "Should we do something?" and "We will create something to contribute to the titles, and we'll share it". These actions increased fan's influence, and opened the way to fansubs. The fans were also helped by the rapid growth of the internet and the computers. Young fans loved anime as well as the new technologies.
Nowadays, the method of making a fansub has not changed; however, the way of delivering the fansub has changed. In the early days, the fansubbers played LD and put subtitles on, then recorded it on VHS or S-VHS video tapes. Recently, the fansubbers began recording the TV programs on DVD or a hard disk, then putting the subtitles on. The fansubbers then upload them on the web. This is dealing serious damage to the film makers, because the quality of the video images is reduced as it's dubbed over and over, limiting the number of copies one can make, also the video tapes actually needed to be sent. The digitalized data on the web can be downloaded immediately without the reduction in quality, which means the copies can spread without any limits.
The Advantage and Problems of the Internet
The internet had a big influence on fandom in the US. It was hard for fans to meet each other in real life due to travel issues, so they gathered on the internet, created their own communities, exchanged information, and planned conventions. A large part of the fandom today is here because of the internet.
At the same time, this grassroots movement also created the issue of piracy. Fans began to upload wallpapers and other copyright reserved images. Nowadays if you search for images of an anime title in English, you will get an enormous numbers of hits.
Fans must think that to exchange the images of their favorite titles is promoting it and contributing for fandom; however, piracy is piracy. Fansubs spawned from the ease of use provided by the internet, I believe the internet has many big advantages, but it also has some big problems.
In Part 2 I will be talking about how the anime industry can take advantage on the opportunities offered by the internet. I'll also talk about the insistence of the industry as well as the fans, which is the core of this problem.
100 Questions About Anime & Manga Overseas Special Issue: Fansubs and the Gloom of the Anime Industry - Part 2
Translated by T. Ohara