2002 - Fansubs in Review

by Zac Bertschy,
Nobody thought it possible, but in 2002, fansubs became even more of an issue than they'd ever been before. The concept of fansubs was, originally, to provide anime that wasn't available in the US to fans who wanted to see it, subtitled. The subs were to be destroyed as soon as the show was licensed in the US. It worked for a while, but as anime picked up steam, there became less of a need for fansubs. In 2002, there's almost no need for fansubs whatsoever. Shows are licensed as soon as they're produced, and in many cases, they're produced by American anime distributors, like Pioneer or ADV Films. Nevertheless, fansub production in America continued to roll along. Every new show in Japan (and some older shows) were fansubbed and available, in some cases less than 24 hours after the original airdate. Fans were excited, but the industry reeled. A member of the production staff of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex actually came forth and asked American fans to wait, a first in anime history. Still, the fans threw it back in his face; Ghost in the Shell remains one of the most popular fansubbed titles. Some saw it was a warning to American companies. Fans want this stuff now, and aren't willing to wait.

Throughout 2002, fansubs continued to prevail, given that most anime fans had broadband connections at this point. Every series became available over either Usenet, IRC, or various peer to peer file sharing networks; the need for VHS fansub distribution became officially nonexistent with the closing of the only two major VHS distributors left in America, Kodocha Fansubs and Lupin Gang. The closing of Kodocha was marked as a significant milestone in US fandom history, but the function of the site was far past being obsolete. The spirit of Kodocha was missed, but its services were not. As fansubs moved to the internet, they became vastly more ubiquitous. Nearly every anime fan with an internet connection has downloaded fansubs at one point or another; fledgling fans who don't know about newer series simply pirated American DVDs of shows they wanted to see. While the anime industry continues to thrive in the US, fansubbing in 2002 became more of a liability than an opportunity for fans to see anime series they wouldn't otherwise be able to see. Major anime distributors in the US, like ADV and Pioneer, have already spoken out about fansubs and could possibly launch a major offensive in 2003 to protect their profit margins. Will 2003 signal the end of fansubbing as we know it? Only time will tell.

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