Japan is lookin’ to crack down!

So, Japan has decided it wants the U.S.’s help is putting down fan-subs. I am actually a little surprised. Japan hasn’t really taken an interest in it even though it has been going on for years and years. I guess I never really thought about the effects of fan-subs on the Japanese industry. I don’t know if anything can really be done about it though. Besides if the U.S. anime industry isn’t making the plea is doesn’t seem like it’ll hold water.

Maybe that is why Japan is making the plea. If the U.S. industry won’t make a fuss then the Japanese are going to make sure that someone is going to protect their intellectual property. A good number of anime are now made with the idea that some of the projected profits will come from international distribution. So they seem to think they have two choices. Make less anime without the support of the U.S. anime industry or get someone in the U.S. to crack down on fan-subs. The real question is even if they get someone to crack down hard on fan-subs will it really do anything positive for the U.S. or the Japanese anime industry.

I feel that fan-subs have their uses and positive impact on the anime industry but they also doing harm to the anime industry. The problem is as long as there is some possibility of ruining it for everyone some jerk is going to go out there and make sure that he ruins it for everyone (And often times they are quite proud of it.) There are going to be people who watch fan-subs and the minute a title they watched get licensed they go and buy it in stores. Then there are people who will watch everything they can get their hands on and not bay a slim dime on anything in the U.S. or Japan and act like they are the heroes on the modern age. Most people fall somewhere in the middle but it’s hard to see which end of the spectrum most people all under. Do most fans buy the shows they really like that they watch on fan-subs or do they only buy a fraction of what they watch fan-subbed? A thread on Anime Jump makes me think people are not buying anywhere as much as they say they are.

And there is now this reverse backlash of people in Japan downloading fan-subs because of the sky-high DVD prices in Japan. Although, they have the opportunity to watch it on television that we don’t. So that’s where the ruining it for us kind of comes in. I mean fan-subbing has been going on for a quite a while with some complaint from the industry but very little action.

The problem is that up until recently most of the time fan-subs were inferior to legitimate releases. In the old days the video quality was almost always better on a legitimate release. Now if most fan-subs might be of lesser quality but only hard core video freaks can tell the difference. The only real draw that legitimate releases have are extras like DVD bonus features and exclusive items included with DVDs. I mean the Japanese CD market keeps itself alive despite outrageously high prices by including exclusive tacks on their CDs to prevent people running to reverse imports or downloading American CDs. I guess that DVD extras are less valuable then the actual content of extra tracks on a CD.

The thing is fan-subs are not going away any time soon. They were an integral part of the formation of an American anime fan-base so it’s hard to separate them from fandom. They actually have their positive benefits even today, despite what some company reps might tell you. Whether the benefits outweigh the costs are another story. I think as much as some people would argue against it we would not have anywhere the current U.S. fanbase without fan-subs.

There are those few examples where it seemed like everyone watched in on fan-sub and then decided not to buy it. So that really damaged the persona I think. There was Love Hina and then more recently it was seen with Rozen Maiden (that’s really weird that I dislike both of these shows, but I digress). But fan-subs are the only way some niche shows are even a thought in the heads of company reps. They have an insight in to what people are actually watching. They have a leg up on other media! Fan-subbers are working for free and the industry gets to look in on what fans think is good.

But I think that fan-subs can also give a very wrong impression of the market. Geneon assumed that since so many people were downloading and talking about niche shows like Rozen Maiden that it was worth the high price to license Rozen Maiden and they would make their money back. But it seems places like 4chan and the rest of the Internet was willing to watch Rozen Maiden for free but they were not willing to buy it on DVD and anyone who did not see it fan-subed was in no rush to buy such a show on DVD either.

Well, I wish fan-subbers were less worried about their e-penises and worked a little more on obscure and older shows. Do you really need 10 groups working on one show? (the answer BTW is no). I understand that subbing is in some ways almost an art form so you can have more than one translation that are both correct but have different subtleties. The thing is, after 2 groups are working on something, it is almost assured that most of the extra subbers are either adding nothing new or are sub-par to other groups doing the subs. A lot of times they are just a bunch a speed subbers trying to out do each other and just giving in to a fast translation with a horrible grammar and spelling.

I sort of agree. In fact, when there is more than one group I usually stick with the one I think has the best sub…not the fastest sub. For example with D.Gray Man, I always wait for the Black Order sub, even though they are a couple episodes behind. I think people should lose the pride thing and do more shows! More is better, the more we see the richer the anime community is. But can I really complain when people actually do this out of the goodness of their fanboy/fangirl hearts? Not really. Besides there are so many shows available there is no way I could watch all of them.

I have to admit I’m on the fence with this issue. Selling is not cool but when it is completely free it is harder to say. Especially since the shows aren’t licensed in the U.S. I can understand Japan’s problem and quite frankly they don’t owe us anything. I mean if I could never watch another fan-sub again I would be upset. But I would still be buying anime. My disappointment would come from all the shows that will never make it to the U.S. But I have to say if the prices of DVDs were not so high in Japan, I wonder if they would be seeing such problems?

I think if DVD prices were lower in Japan we would still have the same problems we have in the U.S. The only changes would be that Japanese consumers might buy more DVDs and American might import more Region 2 DVDs. The only people who can change the situation in America is Americans. Either U.S. fans have to suck it up and support the industry or the U.S. industry has to break some heads and hearts and crack down on the bad boys of fan-subbing. I’m not saying they should try to take down everybody who downloaded Monster but maybe you can take down some of the mega download sites that have half the licensed shows out in the U.S. Something is going to change and I hope it does not hurt either industry too much on either side of the Pacific. But I also don’t want to hurt the U.S. fan base either. It’s sort of nice that you can run into several anime fans at work or school and not be outrageously shocked.

Narutaki Currently!
Watching Shonen Onmyouji
Reading Rockin’ Heaven
Listening to Abingdon Boys School

Hisu (Brainwasher Detective) Currently:
Watching The Story of Saiunkoku
Reading 20th Century Boys
Listening to Daybreak’s Bell by L’Arc-en-Ciel

3 thoughts on “Japan is lookin’ to crack down!

  1. ldrn says:

    Hmmm… Interesting dialogue. I was surprised to read that Narutaki’s take on what would happen if he never was able to watch another fansub again. I know I wouldn’t feel the same way… if there was a crackdown or enforced ban on fansubbing, that would be it for me, period. I’d probably finish whatever manga I’m reading now, and that would be the last of my money heading to Japan.

    It’s true that they don’t owe us anything, but really… the opposite is also true. I’d like to think strangling the American anime industry would be like killing a golden goose, but I have to wonder if that’s just me.

  2. reverse thieves says:

    Hum, well why is that? I can understand if you want to preview things before you buy them, but watching a fan-sub isn’t the same as say watching something on TV in Japan. When watching on TV at least the company is earning money from selling advertising. However, I do enjoy watching things that are currently airing in Japan.

    Maybe it is because I was watching anime quite a few years before online fan-subbing really hit it big, but I am used to buying shows or learning about them without watching it on fan-sub first. It is a nice bonus that is all for me. And for me, I couldn’t stop watching anime or reading manga even if I wanted to.

    If they could ever stop fan-subs, which I don’t really think they could, it would certainly change the industry. But I have to wonder one thing. Would DVD sales actually increase due to it or would all the kids who don’t buy now just stop watching? Either way, I think the industry would have a more clear idea of how many people out there are paying customers.


  3. Lothos says:

    Personally I don’t think any measures they put in place could stop fan subbing altogether. They could definitely make it more difficult to acquire fan subs, but it would be virtually impossible to make it something which could not be done.

    Look at the mp3 world. Even if they made it a law that all mp3 players were illegal and all software capable of playing mp3s was illegal, it would still proliferate. I remember downloading mp2 music off of IRC (as well as the early digital fansubs) and that’s just what it would go back to being if such measures were taken. Things like IRC, DC++, and even torrents…they’re all either very difficult to track or decentralized so shutting down one provider would pretty much amount to nothing. Such means of distribution are also quickly and easily restored when a hub/tracker/server is shut down.

    Look at the software pirating market. That IS illegal and there are all sorts of measures in place to try to prevent it, but you can still find the latest Windows operating system or whatever software title you’re looking for within a couple minutes online.

    But, on the other hand, I can totally sympathize with the Japanese creators, studios, and others who make their living on the media. While fan subs DO lead to people going out and buying a series they might otherwise not buy, I think they also lead to a far greater number of people not buying a series they might have bought without fan subs. I know I personally fall into the latter group. Right now I know I wouldn’t be purchasing much anime either way, but I know a few years ago I definitely would have purchased more VHS/DVD anime titles if I hadn’t been able to quickly and easily watch those titles as they aired in Japan due to the fan subbers out there.

    As far as the whole thing with like 8 groups all subbing one show, yeah I totally agree, it’s pretty much a pissing contest most of the time. If there’s a show I’m watching that I REALLY like, I’ll tend to test out the other subbers and see who I think has the best (or let Narutaki do that work for me hehe). Then I’ll either wait for their version to come out or I might still download the speed release just to get my fix, then later download the better version and watch it to really enjoy the episode.

    It’s kinda the same way that the Chinese anime bootleg market was and probably still is (no idea, haven’t bought anything from them in years). Some companies released great quality titles with very good translations, excellent packaging, and perfect transfer of audio/video. Such as my Flame of Recca box set. Others…were absolutely terrible. Such as my Big-O DVDs which had almost nonsensical translations or just plain wrong/missing subtltles. Or my Spriggan DVD which had really grainy video, shoddy audio, and English subtitles on top of Korean subtitles, on top of Cantonese subtitles.

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