Hey Answerfans!

by Viewers Like You, Feb 22nd 2008



"Hey, Answerman!" is on hiatus until Friday, March 7th.

In its place, "Hey, Answerfans!" will fill in. I'll be printing more and more of your responses to my asinine questions than ever before! I'll even include a photo of an adorable animal to keep those of you that only read this column for the kitten pictures happy. Which I suspect is around 90 percent of my audience.

We're gonna start with last week's question, which harvested mountains of delicious, organic, cage-free responses.




First, from "Rednal":

Excellent; I was hoping this question would eventually come up. Most American fans have probably noticed the decline of anime lately; some companies are holding things back, and others are cutting out altogether (Geneon, mainly, which irritated me since the last volume of Fate/stay night was SUPPOSED to come out just after their deadline...). The fact is, some of the companies really aren't making that much money off of anime, and it's a lot of trouble for the market. Enter the fansubbers. These are generally some fairly amazing people; often working just over the internet, they take something from another country, translate it, and put in subtitles accurately reflecting the character's talking. Not only do they do this with no intent of being paid, but they often manage it in only a few days from the moment the show finishes airing in Japan.

Whether you feel fansubbing is acceptable or not, it's hard to deny that the people who do it are most often talented and dedicated. As a whole, they don't do it because they want money, and almost universally they even request that their work cease distribution once a series is licensed. In short, they're fans who just want to share what they love with others. The American Industry could benefit incredibly well from this if they're careful about how they do it. Prime-time shows like Naruto and One Piece generally need Voice Actors, and this requires payment. However, for other shows, many fans I know do not mind reading subtitles, and fansubbers do not perform their work with the expectation of being paid. If fansubbers were to offer their services to companies, not necessarily as a single group but on an individual basis, it's not improbable that anime sold in America could be offered for quite a bit less. At the same time, this would reduce the number of fansubs available online, instead possibly creating the opportunity for anime fans to get more series at a lower cost.

I'm sure there would be problems. There are ALWAYS problems, no matter how you look at it. My recommendation is a trial period from one of the major companies; select a series that is well-known among fans and is likely to sell moderately well, and acquire the license to sell it in America after getting agreement from the Fansub group that's worked on it to use what they've done. Edit out the "If you paid money for this then you were ripped off" lines and such, or just redo the subtitling based on the fansubbed version. Package it up, and sell it for about as low as you can while still making a reasonable profit. And, of course, edit this recommendation as necessary to comply with all applicable laws and regulations. Oh, and market it heavily online. Make sure people know what's going on.

A company that does this trial will, in fact, probably take a loss in monetary profits. However, the goal of the trial is not to make money, but simply to see if subtitled anime at a lower price would sell better. You'll never know unless you try. Whether this is something that should be done or not remains to be seen, but if successful, it might just save the American Anime Industry.


From Alex Price:

No, just no. The industry working with fansubbers would be like the UN negotiating with terrorists. Now, I'll admit I watch a considerable amount of fansubs, but right now I'm a starving college student and always find myself wishing I had the money to just buy the dvds. Fansubbers (while a neccessary evil for some of us) are really just destroying the industry. As far as I can tell, it seems like half the price of dvds (which, admitadly, is rather high) is just built in to make up for the profits lost to fansubs. Now, I do occasionally see fansubs that have particularly good translations, and I think the fansubers should at least try to get a legitamate job in the industry, but more often than not fansubs seem to be all about how fast the fansubbers can release an episode rather than whether the translation is high quality (again, while this doesn't apply to all groups, there are some that seriously seem like a bunch of people messing around with a japanese-english dictionary and hoping for the best).

Furthermore, some fansub groups seem to be all about flaunting their questionable legal status, and I'd honestly be worried about increased piracy further hurting the industry - there are already plenty of "fansub groups" that just rip the R1 dvds and copy the official subtitles into their version.

That said, I do think there need to be more free (or very cheap) means of watching anime like Anime Network's online player or iTunes (although iTunes in particular has a very limited variety). I hope that as these get more prominant that fansubs will become less of an issue, but there are always going to be people that want to get stuff for free forever rather than paying the $2 per episode (seriously, Ican find that much change in my couch) to get them legitamately.

From Roberto Marin:

So, should the anime industry work with fansubbers?  My answer is a resounding "maybe", and here is why.

In my opinion, the major fansubs groups (which would be the ones the industry approaches) have grown to a point where you see dedicated staff doing quality work that some professional companies would envy.  Piracy debates aside, what makes a fansub desirable is the fact that it gets to the end user fast and free (if not legally).  Quality fansubs come from the fact that each group picks series they like.  From a fansubber's perspective, formal approach from the industry means going corporate and doing as you're told whether you like a given series or not, so in essence, you would no longer be a fansubber if this happens.  You would be a corporate employee.  Some will see profit on this and embrace it, some will call it an outrage.

The industry on the other hand, has invested resources in making anime because they expect to recover their investments, and -ideally- profit from it.  Loss –or even simply no profit- means no anime can be produced, plain and simple, so giving it away for free is not an option, and even the most stubborn of the fansub defenders should realize this.  If fans want anime, someone has to pay for them to get it.  If they (the industry) are to join forces with fansubbers, it has to be on a fashion that will render money one way or another, and for the industry as a whole, this would involve the additional cost of re-thinking their entire distribution model and experimenting, which in turn involves risk.  If you consider the fact that the industry is not really united as a whole, and that such daring initiatives would need to come from individual studios, we are talking major risk here.

I think the issue is not really if they should work with each other, but whether or not this will result in that happy middle point where the industry profits from this and the fans get to watch what they want when they want it.  Piracy will always lurk around in one form or another as long as the product is desirable AND has a price tag (even if it is a low one), so in my opinion, getting the industry and the fansubbers together would, in the very best and utopic of cases, minimize the real problem behind the debate, but not kill it (I can even imagine a future scenario where underground pirates claim to be the last true fansubbers and still distribute your favorite shows all over the net).  So unless you have a business model that would make piracy pointless, prepare for more of the same no matter who joins with who.

If you consider currently existing models such as Joost (google it and find out cuz this letter would be too long if I start explaining), then you will see there are ways for people to watch free shows through the internet, LEGALLY, faster than downloading them, in surprisingly good quality, in exchange for watching a commercial or two.  Since the creators of the shows profit from the sponsors, perhaps seeing both parties work together to bring anime to our shores is not as far-fetched.  Whether or not something will actually happen remains to be seen.

From "L.P." :

I think the anime industry would not benefit one bit from working with fansubbers.

Fansubbers add only one thing to anime distribution: the speed of their releases. Without that, fansubs are not really all that important. Fansubs are usually not done by professionals, or even bilingual people. As such they do miss out on nuances that only professionals could pick up on. When translating from Japanese to English, two VERY different languages, it's much more important to get nuance, subtext, and general ideas translated than it is to get exact vocabulary translated. Fansubs are sometimes quite good, I'm not knocking all the fansub groups. But a translation job that takes less than a week is NOT going to cover it. So no, fansubs aren't usually amazingly accurate work. They're just fast, and they're decent enough to get the point across. I download fansubs of anime series not because the subtitling is more skillfully done, nor because I think fans are more faithful and thus more likely to retain things like honorifics and Japanese cultural references. No. I download fansubs because they're the quickest way to know what's happening in my favorite series. My options are to either download an okay fansub a week after release, or wait months or years for a professional, ironed-out, error-free R1 release. Usually, just so I can talk to my friends about what's going on in a series, I'll go with the fansub. Sure, I'll buy a series on R1 DVD if I like it (I've bought the entire series of Cowboy Bebop twice, even). But it's often not worth the wait just for a more professional subtitling job, and a dub that may or may not even be any good.

If, by some miracle, an R1 company were to release subtitle-only DVDs of currently-running anime series every 6 weeks, with the 6 most recent episodes on each disc, and they sold them for $15-$20 each, I could totally go for that (as could many of us who watch fansubs for their speed rather than because they're free or "more loyal" to the original work). But that'll never happen, what with the need to go through licensing procedures and error-check all the translations, not to mention the likely addition of new cover art with each DVD. But honestly, that speed of release is the only fansubber practice that the R1 industry would ever benefit from. Getting their help to translate would do no good whatsoever.


From Brendan Ware:

It seems to me that anime companies working with fansubbers would be a lost cause.  A large part of the fansubbing community, as well as those who partake in them, see fansubbers as the pureset form of fandom.  No matter how accurate their translations may be, or amaturish their presentation may seem, they are always seen in a much more positive light than those done professionally.  The thought that seems to previal is that these people sub various anime series as fans... and only fans.  While professionals are only out to turn a profit off of something so sacred as anime.  By and by the anime community holds anime in much higher regard than any other media and as such, treats those who may use it for financial gain as intellectual terrorists.
 
Sure, there are going to be those who view fansubs and are also the same who will purchase their favorites, but for the most part fansub viewers tend to be the least likely to buy anything in the end.  It isn't about the support you show creators, animators, licensors etc but instead how many series you can add to your "I'm the most devoted anime fan ever" list.  Hell even after the fall of Geneon, I saw a comment of "I'm glad they went out of business, now all the shows they had I can watch for free online!"  Anime fans, for the most part, are the most spoiled form of fan in... well anything.  As if anime is owed to them, a concept that still evades me to this day.
 
So back to the point at hand.  The anime industry has nothing to gain by "working with" fansubbers.  They honestly have to battle with them.  There aren't a whole lot of fans on the fence about their own personal morality.  There are those who buy, there are those who try not buy anything, and more still that will do anything they can not to support "the man", which may often put them onto buying fansubs burned on disc on Ebay.  Because American or Japanese anime distributors work with fansubbers won't change that.  And besides if subbing group A comes to some agreement with anime company B, then group A will just be labeled a sellout and not "true anime fans."  And whats to stop group A from just becoming group C tomorrow? 
 
Besides, the anime industry has much more important things to worry about.  The American anime industry needs to rethink strategies and figure out how to make anime successful.  Hell after having 3 series I was collecting abruptly killed by Geneon's collapse (as well as one unreleased one *cough* Nanoha *cough*) and seeing the shakiness behind ADV right now, I'm finding myself depending on more fansubs worrying about the chances of license as well as not buying individual discs until the entire series is on the shelf.  I think a lot of fans who actually purchase American released anime is like that now in that we feel abused when we only get 3 discs out of 6... making it a useless collection of $75 plastic.  On the flipside, the Japanese industry needs to take a course in American economy.  So they want to directly release things here and cut down the lag time between airing in Japan and release in the US.  Great idea!  Not so great an idea to release 1 or 2 episodes for $40.  When you try to sell at that price, the only ones you are going to get to buy it are those who absolutely must have the show and have enough disposable income to buy it in the first place.
 
Clearly the anime industry lies at an impasse.  It wants to make good with the anime community as a whole by attempting to make friends with fansubbers and it's viewers... all the while dying in front of the eyes of the ones who have been there from the start. 


From "Shadowblack":

Should the anime industry work together with the fansubbers or not is a difficult question. First of all it depends on whether you are referring only to the Japanese companies and TV stations, or if we should count companies and TV channels in the rest of the world as well (because they have licensed and aired or released anime on DVD). Second, it depends on which “fansubbers” you're referring to. There are some that prioritize speed over quality (and are the main reason why speedsubs have a bad name). Others prioritize quality over speed, even if the release is slowed down by several days or weeks (or even months) – Menclave seems like a good example. And then there are some that are fast but seem to have high quality as well (Eclipse comes to mind). The last kind of fansubbers is quite rare and most groups belong to either the first or the second.

Working with speedsubbers seems like a bad idea to me (especially since some speedsubs are so bad it's better to watch a RAW). There was a time when I thought that we fans should not complain about the quality or the delays of releases since we're getting them for free, but not any more, and it's thanks to crappy speedsubs that I changed my mind (as did many other people). But that's a whole different topic.

Working with quality subbers may be a good idea, but that alone will change nothing. The whiners… uh, leechers… uh, whining leechers… want the new eps as soon as possible, and most don't seem to care about quality. Such people probably wouldn't care even if the official release is better than the fansubs – because it's not free and because it doesn't come out fast enough (read: as soon as the ep airs in Japan). As for the fans (the real ones, not the brain-dead idiots):
Do they believe that the official release of an anime title they really like is worth the money they will be paying for it? And if not, will working together with the fansubbers help in changing their minds?

If the answers to both questons are ‘no’, then working together with the fansubbers won't make much of a difference. If the answer to the second question is ‘yes’, however, and if working together helps in improving the quality of the official versions, then yes, anime industry and fansubbers should work together.

Last, but not least, is the official version better than the best fansubs available? Because not many people will pay for something if they can get something better for free (and this is true for everything, not just anime).

In short, if it will make any real (positive) difference, then yes, the anime industry and the fansubbers should try working together. However, I don't think fansubs are the real issue here, and so working together won't make much of a difference.

I could write a lot more, especially about horrible dubs and the damage they have caused (Even seen (or rather heard) the Bulgarian dub of Digimon: The Movie (the American version consisting of three movies)? No? Lucky you! I envy you!), which in turn helped in increasing the popularity of fansubs, but I think I made my opinion clear.

From Nathan Gregory Sanzone-McDowell:

Yes. Why? Because many modern fansubbers have achieved an incredible level of success, in terms of the number of viewers that they reach,  by subbing popular shows that are currently airing in Japan, and  bringing them to non-Japanese audiences in a wide variety of  languages, years ahead of what the commercial industry has proven  capable of (as a norm). That the industry is unable to perform this  feat themselves is due to a business model that has not kept pace  with the changes in consumer expectations and behavior.

At this point, I diverge from directly addressing the question, but  please bear with me...

So, I watch fansubs. These days, I download them, sometimes within 24  hours of their airing in Japan, but it wasn't always this way. I  first started watching anime on VHS, from the local video rental  store, but I quickly became frustrated with the difficulty of  watching any multi-tape series, and with the limited selection. At  the time, I refused to purchase anime on VHS, because what I really  wanted was to watch subs (very scarce in those days), and I knew that  the imminent arrival of DVDs on the market would make subtitled anime  more readily available. Of course, I was also shocked by the  exorbitant prices...

So, I didn't really watch much anime for the next couple of years,  'cause I had a busy life (in fact, I didn't watch ANY television at  all for a couple of years), but when while living with a roommate who  was a cable television subscriber, I caught an episode of Inuyasha on  Cartoon Network's Adult Swim during one insomniac night, and I was  hooked. Now, at the time ('02, I think?), VIZ had only dubbed about  36 episodes, I think. I wanted more. Oh, I was quite innocent back  then, so when I purchased a boxset containing 150 episodes, I had no  idea that they were bootlegged. The subtitles were atrocious, but I  didn't mind. In fact, I was thrilled to hear the original Japanese  dialogue, which (contrary to your stated opinion) conveys the mood  and emotions of the characters ever so much better then even VIZ's  high quality English dub did. And I actually learned more about the  Japanese language from those atrocious subtitles then I have leaned  from anything else...

Well, when I learned that I had purchased bootlegs, I was appalled.  Close to $500 I had payed (which I felt was ridiculously exorbitant),  in the end, for the entire series and the movies, and they were  bootlegs! Well, when I learned that the genuine article would have  cost me upwards of $1,500.00, I understood WHY bootlegs existed to  begin with. The commercial pricing is, in short, ridiculous,  particularly for a product that was originally intended to be aimed  at children. Seriously, let's look at the price points, and compare  them to a domestic product, for reference. Viz Media's DVD volumes of  Inuyasha (with dub and sub) run for 75 minutes, and cost $24.99 on  their website. Their Naruto DVD volumes (dubbed ONLY) run for 100  minutes, and cost $19.99 on their website. NICKELODEON's Avatar: The  Last Airbender DVD volumes (English only) have a runtime of 125  minutes, and go for $14.44 on their website. So, for Inuyasha, I'm  paying $8.33 an episode for an English dub, for Naruto, it's $5.00 a  show, and for Avatar, a mere $2.89 a pop. Now, I don't claim to know  the financial ins and outs of the Japanese and US animation and  broadcasting industries, let alone the licensing and localization  industry, but these number just seem out of order.

But let's look at the REAL issue, here. I don't WANT to watch  Japanese anime in ENGLISH. Some of them are not so bad (Inuyasha,  Cowboy Beebop), but other's are flat-out CRINGE-worthy (NarutoSailor Moon). So, why should I have to pay a premium for content  because it contains the added cost of a localized dub, when I don't  want that feature. Sell me your DVDs, I say, with your (arguably)  inferior subtitles, but leave out the English dub, and DON'T CHARGE  ME FOR IT. Furthermore, subtitle and release the Japanese dub with  English subs as SOON as you obtain the rights to them, and don't make  me wait five years (still 3 volumes away from finishing out the  Inuyasha series, that's about how long it will end up taking VIZ to  release what I've already watched). Make it cheaper, and don't  compete with your subsequent DVD sales of English dubbed releases by  using digital distribution for your subbed-only releases. Learn from  the fansubbers, or HIRE them; some of them are able to create high- quality english subs in under 24 hours, to be directly distributed to  1/3 of a million viewers in a matter of days (and twice as many more  over subsequent weeks), which are then viewed by at least twice as  many more on streaming sites...

Hmm, did this turn into a rant? Yeah, I guess it did. Anyway...

But seriously. Dattebayo typically releases Naruto: Shippuuden in no  less then FOUR languages, typically within 24 hours of the original  broadcast. The market is HUGE. I see both children and adults  watching the episodes on YouTube at public libraries. Is it because  they're passionate advocates of subbed anime? For the majority, I'd  say no. What their passionate about is the show that they love to  watch, and if VIZ can't keep up, it's their loss, because the viewers  will turn to the source that can. I mean, they're up to episode 76,  in their DVD releases, which means, providing they keep at a 1- episode per week release schedule, they're about three and a half  years behind the Japanese releases. And legal or not, millions of  people are going to watch that gap of nearly 200 episodes online, for  free. Maybe we're all craven hedonists, unable to wait for our anime  pleasures, but that's human nature, and the anime industry needs to  CAPITALIZE on on this consumer behavior, perhaps by working with the  fansubbers, or at least by emulating them.

Finally, from Matthew Lanigan:

This week in your column you asked, jokingly, if I have ever watched anime in the bath. Well, I never said that I could take a joke. You ask the question in such a condescending manner, as if you hold those of us who have watched anime in the bath as some form of lesser being. Perhaps, as the deluded, crazy ninja boy's deluded, crazy hawk shapeshifter girlfriend Lite-Brite thought, you are indeed a racist. Racist against people who watch anime in the bath.

Perhaps, by writing this response, you will come to see the error in your ways, and finally begin to accept that watching anime in the bath is just as legitimate as watching anime in the shower, which you no doubt think is better. Hopefully you will see that this is a delusion brought upon by rapid social change, strange gender roles, and simple prejudice here in the United States.

In recent years, it seems that baths have become social stigma, only acceptable for women and children. A man, it seems, cannot take a bath. He must "shower" in order to be a man. Washing oneself is washing oneself. The method does not matter! What is the difference between water spraying at you and soaking you? Some people have posited that baths are "dirty", but I assure you, this is not the case.

In fact, I would argue that baths are, in fact, superior to showers much of the time. Indeed, showers do have the benefit of being quicker. You can get in, get clean, and get out in a span of less than ten minutes if you try hard enough (this claim has been made to me several times, but I have yet to see it proven; it may be a fabrication, so please consider that possibility). However, baths are soothing and relaxing, do not force you to stand, and perhaps may even result in a greater level of cleanliness, cleaning areas which a shower or an indiscriminate person may miss.

Whoever perpetrates these myths of the bath is doing a disservice to men everywhere. Taking a bath is not a womenly or childish thing to do!

And so we get to the core of the matter: watching anime in the bath. When you sit on your couch, and watch anime, it is relaxing, is it not? A couch is meant to relax. Chairs and beds (from which people, no doubt, also watch anime) are also meant to relax. A bath, however, is not only ultimately relaxing (I assure you, much more so than a couch or chair, perhaps even rivaling a bed), but it also soaks you and cleans you in the relaxing process!

Is this not the epitomy of the conditions under which we would, ideally, watch anime?! Is this not the core of what ever anime fan wishes for?!

Rise up, people of the nation!

Rise up against the prejudices that plague you!

Rise up against those who push you down!

Yes! Rise up, take baths! Indeed, watch anime in the bath!

And do not let them persecute you! Show them to the very core of your being that you are superior, alas, because of the bath!

But, I digress. I truly hope that these words have allowed you some time to think about your racism, your hatred, and your immoral prejudice against those of us who enjoy baths, and who enjoy watching anime while taking them. I truly hope that in your next column, you will redress these things fully, and repent for the sins which you have commited against us, tarnishing our reputation by so easily putting us down.

Joking, you should know, has gotten many people in trouble in the past. Perhaps it is best you rectify this mistake early, before we rise up en masse to take down those who oppress us.

Rise up!

Sincerely,
The Oppressed

Here's this week's question:


Just kidding. Seriously, here's this week's question:




Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.

For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.


Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.

That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I hve so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.

Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!

Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers
. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.

We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.

Things To Do:

* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.

Things Not To Do:

* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.
* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.
* Demand that if I print your response I have to refer to you as "***~~~~DaRkPrInCeSePhIROtH~~~***" rather than your clearly listed name Joshua Smith. Nobody cares who you are, stop asking me to cover your oh-so-secret identity with self-imposed lame-ass juvenile internet nicknames.

So check this space next week for your answers to my questions!

Also, here's a cat licking a kitten. It's pretty damn cute.



 


But probably not as cute as that baby rabbit I posted last week.



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