Fansubs Killing the Anime Industry? Yeah, Right!

Posted by Neko Kyou in Rants, Thoughts on October 26th, 2007

Lelouch LamperougeA continuation from my previous post about the Japanese government submitting a request to the US government for the crackdown of illegal online anime downloads.

Several forums are already buzzing with people who are yet again debating on whether fansubs are hurting the anime industry. As usual, there are those who agree that fansubs actually promote anime outside Japan, and there are those that say that its killing the industry. I think I’ve made it quite clear that I belong to the former group.

There’s an interesting point that no one seem to have brought up ever. Perhaps it’s just my way of thinking, but as people, we are naturally protective of what we like. So it’s only natural that fans who download anime online would argue that it does have its benefits, despite the fact that we all know it’s still considered illegal.

What really amuses me sometimes is how some of “fans” can proudly claim that they would not pay a single cent for anime and that if they can’t download it for free, they won’t even bother watching it. Now, wouldn’t you agree that these group of people aren’t really fans after all? And if they aren’t fans in the first place, do their opinions really matter to the industry?

Hitachiin Brothers - Ouran Host Club

Are you ready? Then listen up!

Imagine this. (Should be easy since it happened and is still happening!).

A group of people knew absolutely nothing about anime were given a bunch for free and they watched some out of curiosity. Some of them totally disliked it, shoved the rest of it aside and never came back. The rest were intrigued and continued watching for free.

Let’s be conservative and say that a small number of the group became so interested in anime and they began actively seek out for more. Most are free, but some are paid – either in DVDs or other merchandises. This is, of course, one of the most common argument why fansubs helps the growth of anime.

But the majority decided that they would only go for the free ones and avoid having to pay for anything related to anime. They would rather abandon it than to fork out their cash. This is the most common argument that fansubs hurts the industry.

Gundam Seed

We’re going to a better place…

Hypothetically, if it weren’t for fansubs…

Anime as we know it might not have existed…

Cardcaptor SakuraSure, you’ve watched the occasional anime on the local TV channel that has been dubbed. But if fansubs didn’t exist, would you call it anime? I highly doubt it. We’ll call it is we see it – it’s a cartoon, plain and simple.

To the Japanese, anime simply means animation. To them, Mickey Mouse, Scooby-Doo and even the Flintstones are anime. We would be calling anime as cartoons if it weren’t for the influence of fansubs.

You may be asking, so what? Just because the term “anime” might not have existed doesn’t mean it would not grow into the phenomenon it is today, right? Actually, I believe the answer is no, that might have been the reason why anime caught on so fast. Why? Because it’s a type of branding.

When it comes down to it, Japanese animation is still cartoon. If someone said “cartoon”, the first thing you would probably think of is children’s animated show. Most people who watches cartoons are (I would estimate) 15 years old and below. On the flip side, many anime viewers are 15 and above. My point is, if anime were called cartoon, chances are you wouldn’t be watching it anymore (and I’m assuming many of you are 15 and above).

So if fansubs didn’t exist, the term anime might not have existed, therefore the number of fans would only be a fraction of what we have today.

Hypothetically, if it weren’t for fansubs…

Anime distributors like Viz and Odex would not exist.

Why do anime distributors exist? To serve the anime crowd. Why do anime crowd exist? Refer to previous hypothesis. Personally though, Odex shouldn’t exist 😛 It’s amusing how they are blaming fansubs for their bad business when it is fansubs which gave their business life in the first place. It’s pretty obvious why Odex isn’t doing well, but that’s not the topic here, at least not today.

Hypothetically, if it weren’t for fansubs…

Anime would not have been such a huge market.

Admittedly, fansubs might have caused drop in DVD sales. But majority of downloaders wouldn’t have given a hoot anyway even if they couldn’t download their weekly doses. There are also many fans who bought the DVD because they liked the fansubs. It’s not something that can easily be proven to be one or the other.

However, there is no denying that anime merchandise are doing well outside Japan because of the exposure from fansubs. Would you have bothered with that Haruhi poster or Mikuru figure in a maid uniform if you hadn’t caught The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi on fansubs? I doubt it.

Suzumiya Haruhi - Hare Hare Yukai

Would Haruhiism had spread if not for fansubs?

In fact, I would even go as far to say that you wouldn’t even go anywhere near the series if it weren’t for fansubs. Honestly, would you have paid good money to watch episode 2 if it weren’t free in the first place? (I would now of course, but not when I watched the first episode for the very first time). But the series became a huge phenomenon, thanks to fansubs.

Now then…

Back to the 2 groups who had continued to watch anime. The first group was willing to spend on their favourite anime, either in the form of official DVDs or merchandise. The second group refused to spend a single cent on anime, since they can get it for free anyway.

Strike Freedom

Give me all you’ve got, I dare ya!

Some would see that as losing money because thousands of people are watching anime outside Japan for free. They fail to see the other side of the coin. Think about it. Fansubs spread anime outside Japan (free promotion), anime gains better recognition (free branding) and many people started spending money on anime related products (extra profits). Then came along companies such as Viz to feed the hungry market that was created by fansubs (Yes, I know fansubs was not the first to spread anime outside Japan, but refer to hypothesis one again).

From where I stand, all these companies are actually leaving money on the table by chasing after copyright issues with online downloads. Fansubs works because its meant to serve the fans. Most anime distributors and license holders are trying to get the fans to serve them. I think that’s the wrong way to go about it, don’t you agree?

What should be done, then?

Josh had left this comment in my previous post:

I personally think the best solution would be to set up some website that streams episodes like the day after they air in Japan subbed in English and translated by professional translators, for some monthly fee.

Of course, there will be people who will never pay for it ever, but if you got it faster, and at a higher quality, or a monthly subscription cost, I think you could get a lot of people to sign up for that.

I couldn’t agree more with Josh. That, I believe, is one of the best ways to prevent more illegal anime downloads. It’s even possible to create a win-win-win situation here. Anime distributors, fansub groups and anime fans can all benefit from this.

It’s quite obvious how distributors and fans can benefit from this arrangement, but you might be wondering about the fansub groups part. This has actually been suggested in forums quite frequently as well, that is having distributors with anime license to outsource their translating and subbing to fansub groups.

The anime distributors can get more work done cheaper, fansub groups gets to continue doing what they’ve always been doing (only now they are getting paid) and fans can continue to enjoy anime with quality video and quality sub.

While it will not completely stomp out illegal downloads, it does bring benefits to all those involved (and the magic word of $profits$ to respective companies). Isn’t that so much better than trying to chase down downloaders and creating a PR disaster?

Times change. The Internet changes how business is done. You can either fight against it and lag behind, or go with the flow and continue moving forward. It’s no longer the issue of legality alone, but also making use of what you’ve got. And we definitely have something really good going on here.

Quote from GoddessCarlie, taken from this comment:

I do think that people need to move forward with the times. One example is music. For years they tried to stop people from downloading music. Now they are going with the flow. I believe people don’t illegally download music much anymore in america because of Itunes and the like offering really cheap music downloads, and now there a bands who are offering their albums up for download from their site asking for a donation.

(I hope you guys don’t mind me quoting your comments here 😀 )

Naruto and Yondaime Minato

Do you think we’ll ever see anything like that being implemented in the future and finally put the issue to rest, or will we be debating about this for years to come with no new development whatsoever? Personally, I’m hoping for the best. It doesn’t look like things will be changing for the better anytime soon, but who knows 😛

Update 29th November 2008 – It seems that the industry is finally taking a step forward that we, as fans, have been calling out for years. Starting with GONZO who began streaming their latest anime for free earlier this year and very soon TV Tokyo will also be streaming Naruto Shippuuden online, along with Viz Media.

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Japan wants N. America to stop anime downloads

Posted by Neko Kyou in Rants, Thoughts on October 24th, 2007

Stellar & Aule Neko Mimi

The anime cat food is mine!

If you’ve been to Anime News Network or some of anime forums, you might have heard about it already. If not, here it is – The Japanese government had requested the US government to help stop unauthorized sharing and downloads of anime on the Internet, including those on video-sharing sites (such as Crunchy Roll) and peer-to-peer downloads.

Of course this isn’t the only request that the Japanese government had made, but it’s the only one that has grabbed the interest of (and relevant to) online anime communities.

I’m not sure if the Japanese government had done this on behalf of the anime production companies, but if they are, you have to wonder… why now? And why through a government formal request?

Perhaps they are trying to follow in Odex’s footsteps but more indirectly so fans would not go banging down their doors and giving them death threats like what Odex experienced (and while a death threat is overboard, I daresay they deserved it). Let’s just hope this isn’t the case here.

Perhaps the Japanese government just wants to protect their intellectual rights, since “anime” is just part of the list.

Cloud Strife Advent Children

“Hello, mommy? I think they’re coming for me…”

Anyway, I just hope we won’t face yet another Odex fiasco from this. They have done enough damage to the online anime community, and while it’s still very debatable and legally “not right“, I believe that if you kill the online anime community, you kill the anime industry. At least, the anime industry outside Japan.

However, it’s been proven time and time again that nothing could prevent the use of the Internet to spread and share files, legal or otherwise. Instead of trying to track and punish those involved, the pursuers should instead try to go along and make use of what’s working against them to work for them.

Give the fans/downloaders what fansubs are giving them – fast release, quality video, accurate translation, cheap – and everyone benefits. This and many others has already been suggested to death already and only a very handful have been seen implemented.

Viz has done this to a certain degree and while I don’t have the numbers to prove it, I’m pretty sure they are doing well with it. Although their releases are still very limited and since they do not have any of the anime I want to watch, I’ve never tried their services. Kudos to Viz!

The original article on ANN can be found here.

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Fansub wars over Kenichi! (Updated 28/6)

Posted by Neko Kyou in Thoughts on June 27th, 2007

fansub war kuro-hana and umai-doremi

For the past few days, Kuro-Hana had been consistently releasing episodes of History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi daily, and at one point a couple of days ago Umai-Doremi finally caught up with Kuro-Hana when they released episode 28-30 in a single day.

fansub war kuro-hana and umai-doremi

Kuro-Hana continued to release episode 31 yesterday, which was quickly followed by Doremi as well. Apparently, within a hours after that Kuro-Hana released 32, which was also quickly followed by Doremi.

fansub war kuro-hana and umai-doremi

Just a few hours ago, Kuro-Hana released yet another episode, and guess how did Doremi responded :)

fansub war kuro-hana and umai-doremi

Now we’ll just have to wait and see who will reach the finish line first, although Kuro-Hana has been at the lead Doremi might just pull a fast one on K-H.

** Update 28th June **

Well, it looks like Umai-Doremi really did pull one over Kuro-Hana with an earlier release of episode 34.

fansub war kuro-hana and umai-doremi

Is this the end of the battle? Ladholyman of Doremi had previously posted that they would attempt to compete with Kuro-Hana up to episode 34 before he will be leaving for a trip that would last for a couple of weeks. Would we see more of this battle after the 2 weeks period or would Kuro-Hana catch up with the Japanese airing and end this? We’ll just have to wait and see 😀

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