subCulture - Fansubs

by Zac Bertschy, Nov 3rd 2000
Consider yourselves to be in historic times, friends. A scant 2 years ago, anime was still in the underground. The hottest things around were fansubs of Escaflowne, and nobody had even heard of a little thing called Pokémon yet. Since then, anime has exploded in the US and fansubs have become little more than a thorn in the side of many a US distribution company. At least, that's what most people would have you believe. For those of us in the know, fansubs are still the best way to see older titles that have little to no chance of being picked up. Older series like Marmalade Boy, Hime-chan no Ribbon, and even the perennial favorite Kodomo no Omocha stand a very small chance of being picked up for distribution in the United States; so, we can all thank the tireless efforts of the fansub community.

Things are changing, however. I'm very proud to say that in it's current state, the fansubbing community has turned it's attention far from the dismal shores of VHS. Things are progressing rapidly towards a bright and shining age of digital fansubbing. Finally, a way to watch fansubs that requires no money to change hands; a format that can easily be deleted once the commercial version comes out. Granted, yes, many of the titles being fansubbed digitally are series that will inevitably be picked up for release; one could argue that it's pointless to subtitle a show that will be released here in a matter of months. The greedy, free-anime-grubbing community has it's own problems that we won't go into detail here. The major payoff of digital fansubbing is the ability to electronically distribute digital versions of older series like Marmalade Boy that have, thus far, only been available on clunky, 3rd generation VHS tapes. Thus is the current state of fansubbing in America; VHS tapes are slowly going the way of the three-toed Moroccan armadillo and digital fansubbing via DivX AVI files is taking over the scene.

As for new fansub releases, not much has happened in the past few months. The new Sunrise TV series Inuyasha saw a lightning-quick turnaround time; perhaps the fastest I've ever seen. The first episode aired last week, and a fansub of it is available now in a digital format. The same can be said of the other new shows on TV in Japan this season; Vandread, Kazemakaze Tsukigake Ran, and even this summer's smash hit TV series Love Hina can all be found in subtitled form around the net. Traditional releases have been few and far between. Naresome Studio has cancelled their Angel Sanctuary OAV project, in response to Central Park Media's licensing of that title. The subtitling work on Kodoma no Omocha continues at a snail's pace, and when the next volume will be out is anyone's guess. Sachi's Distribution has finished the 1999 Sunrise series Tenshi ni Narumon! and is now working on finishing up the popular shoujo drama series Hana Yori Dango. Kodocha Anime recently got their hands on a few of the little-seen retro anime titles subtitled by the odious Studio Kakyouin a few years back; I was under the impression that those tapes, such as the old Mazinger-Z movies, never escaped Kakyouin's clutches. All in all, it's been a fairly slow fansub season. Things are starting to pick up again with the advent of the fall TV season in Japan. Where things go from here is anybody's guess.

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