Thank You, ADVby Christopher Macdonald,
I've been saying for years that the best way for anime companies to deal with the fansub issue is a “simultaneous release.” ADV isn't really the first company to release a title stateside before or simultaneously with Japan, but Grrl Power is the first anime OAV geared for the anime market not to be released in Japan first.
The question about the legitimacy of many fansubs has long plagued the anime community. On one side there are those that claim that most shows today shouldn't be fansubbed because they will be released in North America within a short period of time. On the other side there are those who believe fansubs provide a service to the anime community and industry and that all titles should be fansubbed. Some say no licensed anime should be fansubbed, while others argue that “pre-licensed” anime (titles known to be licensed before their Japanese release) still deserves to be fansubbed. The reasons behind the beliefs are as varied as the beliefs themselves. You can find three people that believe pre-licensed titles should be licensed, and from them you'll get three different reasons (“I don't want to wait,” “I live somewhere it isn't licensed,” “I want to try before I buy”).
But pretty much everyone agrees that distribution of fansubs should stop once the title is licensed (or announced for release in some cases) and that any distribution of the fansubs after the release is nothing more than plain and simple piracy.
As far as the North American market is concerned, there is no legitimate reason for any one to fansub Grrl Power. What's more, there isn't much reason internationally since anyone that might be able to read English fansubs would also be able to read the subtitles on an imported R1 DVD (Sure, it's expensive to import, but while lots of people download fansubs to save money, it's never been an accepted reason for fansubs).
This should satisfy everyone. Although currently limited in scope to only one title, the simultaneous release of Grrl Power achieves the ultimate goal of the fansub community: an anime title that is available to North American fans as soon as it is available in Japan. Of course, I suspect that some people won't be happy. In recent years an uglier side of the fansub community has appeared, a competitive side very similar to the software piracy, or warez, community. Some fansubers aren't interested in helping out the North American market; their goal is to be the first to release a fansub—0-Day Subz if you will.
Unfortunately we can't look to this one release as entirely indicative of things to come in the very near future. One of the biggest reasons we don't see more simultaneous releases is the fear of reverse importation. Anime on DVD is much more expensive in Japan. It's actually cheaper for a Japanese person to buy an R1 DVD player and pay for imports of Anime from the US. They can turn off the dub & sub, and they have the equivalent of a perfect Japanese DVD. We've seen Japanese studios force the US distributors to wait or not include the Japanese track on their DVDs in order to avoid reverse importation. But while the obstacles persist, I do hope that this is the start of what will become a regular trend.
The fansub community has done great things for the North American anime community over the years, and fansubs are not yet a thing of the past, but this release may mark the beginning of the end. Its not a sad end mind you, but rather a victory. Fansubers have fought long and hard to bring anime to English speaking fans earlier, and this is the first sign of their ultimate success. To the fansubers that agree with this statement, I salute you on a job well done. To ADV films, whose roots go back to fansubbing, I salute you for this momentous moment. And to the fansubers who are disappointed by this, who think they've had the opportunity to fansub Grrl Power stolen from them by ADV films, I have a particular salute for you as well. And to anyone who puts out English subbed video captures of Makasete Iruka!, I thank ADV for making it clear that you are not fansubers, but you are pirates and bootleggers.