Sorry 'bout that, EX.

by Justin Sevakis,
Well, I don't say this very often, but we blew it. I suppose it happens at least once in the life of any publication, but we made a major faux-pas a while ago, and it's time to set the record straight.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's what happened: A little over a month ago, ANN started to get e-mails from people, asking for confirmation that Sony's attempts to license Ruroni Kenshin in the United States had fallen through. On fansub mailing lists, we started seeing people trading the series again. We found out that this "falling through" was announced by EX Online, one of the premiere and most respected internet anime publications.

However, we still wanted to confirm this before printing anything... so we e-mailed Ryuta Shiiki at Sony, who was kind enough to answer some questions on the matter earlier. Our message was deleted (and apparently, so was everyone else's) after Sony got all sorts of flames and bad press for the Samurai X dub that they were originally shopping around. Apparently, they've washed their hands of anime fandom in general. Considering the reception they got, I can't say I blame them.

The situation was already volatile, and hundreds of fans were about to start trading fansubs of a forbidden series again, which was the LAST thing fandom needed at that point, as Sony had already asked that all fansub circulation stop and had threatened to get lawyers involved. We had heard rumors about various companies being in talks with Sony about the series, and so we asked them about it at Project A-kon this year. They couldn't comment, which almost certainly meant talks were still on... and that EX's post was wrong.

Upon further examination of EX's article, no sources (or even real evidence) of the licensing effort's falling through had been sited, and the validity of the facts presented could not be substantiated. With this short little ill-researched blurb, EX had sent large portions of fandom down the path of getting on a Japanese company's bad side, and spread misinformation and rumor in the process -- the very thing reputable sites like ANN and EX try to put a stop to.

To say the least, we were quite put off by this, but the fact that we had considered EX a great publication added personal sting. In the heat of anger, a scathing editorial was written and posted, explaining the facts that we knew of so far, and spitting on EX for their crimes. Publishing this manifesto was a fatal error.

A few weeks went by, and I got an e-mail from someone on the EX team, explaining that they wanted to iron out any bad feelings between the two publications, since it seemed someone at ANN had a personal grudge against them. After a few e-mails, we agreed that a public apology for our outburst was in order.

Resorting to personal attacks was just plain wrong, period. It's bad journalism, it's bad business, and it's just plain nasty. As readers, you deserve better. As a publication, EX certainly didn't deserve that.

From the editorial, one would obviously surmise that we don't have any respect for EX left at all. Quite the contrary; EX is still one of the best informational sources on the internet. The fact that they screwed this one up doesn't undermine any of the other fine articles they offer. They are still one of the best sources for reviews of import materials.

But here's where we disagree: EX insists that by writing that the licensing efforts had "fallen through", they were only referring to a temporary set-back. While arguing the true meaning of the phrase would be getting into semantics, the truth of the matter is that fandom took it as the end of the licensing issue. Having dealt with fans for YEARS, EX should have known this would happen. To make matters worse, while they have since updated the story, they have not published a correction to the original posting -- it's still there!

Having seen the damage caused by the article, one would think that some action would have been in order. Instead, EX hid behind the excuse that they never have supported fansubs, and they held no responsibility if someone else wanted to break the law. This argument does not hold water. Fandom doesn't care whether they support the action or not, they just want to know if it's acceptable by their own ethical standards to pass along the fansubs. EX gave them information that lead them down the wrong path. Knowing that this was happening, they still did nothing.

We're still not happy with their handling of this situation, but with this big exception, we still respect them for their otherwise fine publication and their years of service toward the fan community. Now let's all be friends so we can flame the crap out of each other on rec.arts.anime.misc again! :D

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