subCulture - Flawless Fansubs? Not on either medium

by Zac Bertschy,
A few weeks ago someone emailed me criticizing me for talking about how great digital fansubbing is. He claimed that I never mentioned the downsides of digital fansubbing, such as, and I quote, "bad timing, hideous translations, and poor choice of text font". He also said that I didn't praise VHS fansubbing enough and that it wasn't as dead as I keep claiming it to be.

He's right.. sorta.

What he's overlooking is that digital fansubbing is in no way inferior to VHS fansubbing by any stretch of the imagination – we have just as much poorly done, second rate fansubs in digital form as we do in VHS form. It's not like all VHS fansubs are perfect examples of grammar, spelling and presentation; sure, digital fansubbing might be a little more prone to bad timing and scripting but Goddess knows that VHS fansubs aren't exactly shining examples of scripting themselves. I don't criticize digital fansubbing much because the errors present are what we should expect from a fan-made production; when I get something for free, I don't demand quality. There are good and bad examples on both sides. I'm sure you all remember Fushigi Anime and their ability to screw up every single line in every anime they ever subtitled. For example, I help acquire titles for my local anime club to screen every other weekend. Unfortunately, the only group doing Card Captor Sakura, a popular show that we wanted to screen, was Fushigi Anime. The audience didn't seem to mind the nauseatingly bad sentence structure, so we went ahead and screened it. Then, one Saturday, this little gem pops up on the screen:

Sakura, Yukito and Sakura's Father toasting glasses at the end of a testing season.

Japanese Dialogue: Congratulations, the testing season is over!

Fushigi Anime subtitle: Congratulations on finishing the testes!

Audience (About 90 people): *riotous laughter*

Or another fabulous Fushigi Anime subtitle, this one occurring in an episode of Slayers Try:

Zelgadiss comes up over a sand dune and looks, stoically, into the distance.

Japanese Dialogue: They call me Zelgadiss... and I am cursed. (Or something like that.)

Fushigi Anime Subtitle: My name is Zelgadiss. I am a cyborg.

Audience (About 150 people): *riotous laughter*

There were other gems, like Filia telling Lina Inverse (in the same series) that "this town no magics good for use to you!" Of course, we all remember Hecto, a group that was speaking natively Chinese, and translating Japanese into English. Their web site was barely readable; their subtitles were worse (That's not to say that Chinese people can't translate Japanese to English; it's to say that the people at Hecto doing that exact thing were really bad at it.). Kenshin to Sano on the first fansubtitled volume of Rurouni Kenshin: "Why for you have sign of "bad" on back of shirt?". White Cross/Studio Kakyouin was no better; if they ever did send you the tapes you paid for, they most certainly weren't the ones you actually requested, and whatever they did send you would be so badly translated that you may as well print the script to "Titanic" and overlay it under whatever they were subtitling; in some cases, you'd probably get a closer translation.

That's not to say there are no digital fansubbing groups out there that make these same mistakes; heck, even the very prolific and appreciated Elite Fansubs makes serious errors in their timing and grammar. The fact is, while you may see a lot of errors in digital fansubbing, at least you aren't PAYING for a crappy translation or poor timing. You aren't losing any money, so what is there to complain about? Besides, if you're wanting a commercial quality release...

Buy the commercial release when it comes out.

On to fansub news. Nothing much has been happening; Elite Fansubs recently released episode 4 of the new series Argento Soma, in which the main character looks like the father from that old Rankin Bass Christmas special with the singing mice (Does anyone but me remember this series and recognize the resemblance? Email me if you do..). Strange things are afoot at AnimeFactory; a visit to their page yields a mysterious picture of the watermark they stick on their digital fansubs. Is something big in store for A-F? Otaku no Anime Digital finally updated their site, and it looks like they'll be subbing the new Zone of Enders OVA series in March. It's a very high-profile series, and should be a high-profile subbing project in return. Sachi's Distribution looks like they're about to start production on a few things. Apparently a crew member was sick, so they've been offline for a little while. Sekaiden Houshin Engi got licensed by ADV Films, so that's been yanked across the board by nearly every site I knew of that was carrying it, as was the Utena movie.

And that's it for this week, folks.

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