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2001 - A Year in Review: Fansubs

2001 - A Year in Review: Fansubs

By Zac Bertschy

The fansub industry in 2001 was definitely something to watch. Digital fansubs became the new standard, finally pushing VHS off the radar almost completely. Unfortunately, the ugly side of fansubbing seemed to come full tilt. Piracy and selling of fansubs hit an all-time high as wave after wave of VCD copies hit E-Bay. The encoding, trading and distribution of commercial DVD rips also became much more of a problem, with ADV Films sending "task forces" out onto the web to take down servers that provided illegal copies of ADV titles.

The fall anime season hit, and nearly everything new was subtitled mere days after it aired on Japanese television. This was a true revolution and a test of how efficient the new digital fansubbing system is. Gonzo's highly anticipated Vandread: The Second Stage was available subtitled in English less than two days after it aired. While this was a great boon for fans in the know, the studios are starting to sweat. Some new information indicates that the US industry is substantially less open to the concept of fansubs at present. Nearly everything new in Japan is licensed for release in the US immediately after airing.

While in the past, they fansubbers were overlooked, now they have become a bit of a problem for US anime distributors. They don't need fansubs to spread the word about upcoming releases anymore, nor do they rely on fansubs to determine what shows to license. Fansubs have effectively just become a form of piracy. Many fans feel that the nobility that permeated the fansub underground in the mid to late 1990s has completely faded, being replaced by cynicism and compromised values. Some fans are sticking to the age-old excuse that if one doesn't have money, they are still entitled to watch anything they please without paying for it. In fact, some fan movements have begun following a dogma of self-righteousness when stealing anime.

These developments should continue through 2002, and this coming year may determine the fate of the fansubbing industry as a whole.

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