100 Questions About Anime & Manga Overseas Special Issue: Fansubs and the Gloom of the Anime Industry - Part 2
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 writer) talks about the history of fansubs, and how the growth of internet affected the fandom in general. In Part 2, Romi talks about how some fansubbers defend their actions.
(Note: Romi's self introduction can be found in Part 1. If the readers read this article without knowing Romi's background, they might think the article is unfair and slanted against the fansub community. Romi represents the anime industry.)
Who is this "Romi" who answers these questions? Her self introduction:
Special Issue: Fansubs and the Gloom of the Anime Industry - Part 2
Last time, I talked about the history of fansubs. This time, I will take a look at the insistences of the fansubbers.
The Public Stance and the Reality of Fansubs
Why are the fansubbers making these "illegal" fansubs? How do they feel about it? Don't the fans who watch fansubs feel guilty? An approximate of their insistence is below.
Fansubs is Not the Kind of Bootlegs that Aims to Make a Profit
Many fansubbers are often insists that "We are not working for money, we are working for the fans, and we are contributing to promote the titles." And, "If these titles are licensed, we'll stop the fansubs as soon as possible."
If the titles are spread once, they can never be retrieved. They will remain somewhere on the web forever.
Fansubs Have Higher Quality
Some fansubbers blame the quality of the licensed version, but as I said before, I can't agree to it. The works of some groups are pretty bad in quality. They have many mistranslations, mistakes in grammar, over-stuffing of phrases, and bad timing. Their quality is so far from the quality of the licensed version. Some fans would say, "but some are good."; however, some fansubbers are making rough work, and it makes all fansubs an obstacle to the anime industry.
Also, the very enthusiastic fans tend to disapprove the modifications of any Japanese peculiarity in a story or situation, especially in comedies. For the scenes that fans do not understand because of cultural differences, there is no choice but to change them. Fansubbers include explanations in such scenes, and they think it makes it high in quality. The fans who watch it can't understand Japanese, so how can they confirm if the explanation is correct or not? The trust fans place on a fansubber's explanation has a lot of risk.
Japanese Fans are Watching Anime for Free, Why Can't We Do the Same?
Anime is not free in Japan. The sponsorship or the income from advertisement makes the terrestrial broadcasting TV programs free to watch. Fans need to pay to watch satellite broadcasting and cable TV. The costs of creating an anime are paid by proceeds of the DVD or related products, and there are many areas in Japan that the titles are not broadcasted. The fans that live in such areas have to buy or borrow the DVD, just like the fans in the U.S.
The Licensers Often Release Only Dubbed Version, Or They Edit and Change the Contents
Some titles' stories are changed, images are edited, and the subtitled version isn't released. It's because of the necessary adaptation to the market, and to appeal to a more general audience, not to mention except for kid's titles, such cases are decreasing now. The licensers know that the fans dislike modifications, and some of them are releasing uncut versions to the enthusiastic fans. Before, the well-intentioned companies had also provided the subtitled version, despite their unpredictability. But the dubbed versions have sold more copies than the subtitled one, because the general American consumers prefer the dubbed version. Nowadays, anime are sold on DVD, and fans can select switch between dub and subtitle, so this problem has been solved.
The Licensers Use Fansubs as a Research Tool of the Market
Some companies definitely deny this. If fansubs are spread, how can they expect good sales on even the popular titles? I heard there is an unwritten rule which says that fans should buy the licensed version of their favorite fansub titles, but nobody can say if this rule is working.
The Licensors Don't Publish the Titles Even after a Long Time Has Passed since They Get the License
What about the rule of "If the title is licensed, the fansubber has to stop delivering it"?
Nobody Has Ever Been Prosecuted, Fansubbers are Connived
This problem has not been brought to court before, but it doesn't mean that the fansubs is connived. Most licensers can't afford to take countermeasures against fansubs. The licensers prefer applying their budgets, time, and manpower to get one more license, localization, and promotions rather than lawsuits. Still, I have to say that fansubs damages the industry.
Arguments about this issue go around on the internet every day. The damages done to the anime industry is a problem that is hard to understand for fans, and arguments often became flame wars. In many cases, the fans are also supporters of fansubs. I can also understand their reasoning, so I feel sad when I see them quarrel on the forums. Why do they have to fight? Both blamers and supporters are digging their heels in. For many years, the endless arguments go on without any conclusion.
I was going to talk about the counter measures and attitudes of the industry. But this issue is already too long, so I'll talk about them in the next issue.
To be continued. See you again.
100 Questions About Anime & Manga Overseas Special Issue: Fansubs and the Gloom of the Anime Industry - Part 1
Translated by T. Ohara