Ask Barbara

Oct 25th 1998
Barbara Chambers of TechnoGirls is one of the most controversial and opinionated people in fandom today. Unbelievably active in fansubbing, shojo anime, enka music, and many other subgenres, Barbara has truly made a mark for herself. Here is your chance to ask her where she stands on the issues.


"So here's my question. How do subbers find new anime? How do they know if its good or not before they start the whole sponsoring and whatnot process? Do other fans recommend it or do they draw out of a hat? I have no idea how they find these animes." (C.L.)

Basically, the answer is that you have to look at every anime title that you haven't heard of until you find something good that is not only noncommercial in English, but not fansubbed by anyone. This requires patience. However, many new fansubbers aren't very patient, and they jump on every current release, until you get situations like this: a half dozen different fansubbers are ALL doing "Mahou-Tsukai-Tai"! Doesn't that seem like a waste of effort? So this is one reason why it's more fruitful to look at older animation. Doing so requires talking to people who have been in anime a long time, and looking thru books in English and Japanese, and talking to Japanese fans.

I go to old Japanese video stores and look through their shelves and bargain bins -- and I drive hundreds of miles from home to do so. I check every single TV anime which is being copied by domestic Japanese video stores. I look for samples of every TV anime listed in the major anime magazines published in Japan. To do this you'll need to know how to read or at least decipher Japanese titles. You have to have both patience and luck. There are tons of worthy titles out there needing fansubbing. Much of the source material is scarce or even lost, but a lot of it is still in existence. You may have to get it directly from Japan. You may need to cultivate friendships with people who can search in Japan for you. It isn't easy! Unless you are patient and persistent, you will either give up, or end up being the 14th fansubber to announce they are going to fansub "Card Captor Sakura" (a fairly accurate, and scary, example) -- a show everyone knows about because it is popular and "high profile", and which may end up being done not by the slowest fansubber but by the fastest fansubber, or several fansubbers at once. What good is that? There are so many fansubbers now that the current shows are being subbed within a couple weeks of the LD being marketed. It sounds like it's an exciting race for some, but I don't like to feel like I'm in a race. Not only that, some fansubbers see themselves in a race with commercial release as well, which is an even WORSE waste of time.

Not only that, sometimes it is the slower fansubbers who do the most careful work, and of course since recent popular shows are part of a "race to make the fansub first" these slower fansubbers are not the ones likely to do the most popular shows. Since the most popular shows are likely to be the best shows, you end up with a situation which encourages the best shows to be done by the fastest (but perhaps NOT the most careful) fansubbers, and the slower but MORE careful fansubbers working on second-rate shows which weren't popular -- but doing a fine job on them! Isn't this ironic? This results in the odd situation we sometimes see these days -- shows which were fansubbed within weeks of appearing on TV being redone from scratch much later by a different fansubber who works at a fifth the speed of the original fansubber.

I like to see a show be ignored by everyone for a whole year before I consider fansubbing it. There's an amazing amount of fine quality animation to fansub! Most of it was made between 1975 and 1995, I would say. Avoid the scramble to be first to fansub this year's 2nd-rate anime, and take a look at the 1st-rate anime being ignored from 10 years ago!

I know, now you're going to say "What anime is that, what?" but if I tell you what I like, it does no good unless you love it enough yourself to work on it for a year or two. Find it yourself! You can do it! But OK, I'll give you a recent recommendation and an old recommendation. "Mama is a 4th Grader" and "Katri the Milkmaid." Check them out! And there are dozens of others to work on too. There are whole GENRES of anime which have never been fansubbed! Look at "Manga Nippon Mukashi-banashi" for example. You cannot say "There's nothing left to work on." If you even think such a thought, it's because you haven't looked at enough anime yet.

Good luck!

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