[For all of you who don't regularly read Destructoid, I run a column over there called Weekend Reading. It's a longform discussion about a specific topic meant to kill some hours on the weekend -- basically, what you see over at AnimeAlmanac. Hopefully you'll be seeing this every week from me now. -- DMV]
Fansubs are serious business. You can tell by the current war that's going on in the blogocube. Lines have been drawn; sand has been kicked into peoples' eyes; my twitter page is constantly getting filled with fansub debates. I guess that means I can't avoid the discussion much more -- I was hoping a few minor comments would suffice, but I might as well throw my hat into the ring.
There's plenty to be said, and plenty to say on this. So, to get yourself ready, please be sure to read the posts by Scott, Hinano, and Omo, because those are the main three that will act as the background to what I'm saying.
Let's rock this.
Back when I first started college, and not long before starting Japanator, I was your typical fansub fan -- I had a college connection at arm's length, so I could freely bittorrent all the anime that I wanted to, and so through that, I gained a lot of exposure to stuff I had never heard of before. Beck, Ouran High School Host Club, Jigoku Shoujo, etc. Through that, I learned to expand my horizons and appreciate new series. Yet I still bought DVDs of series that I was interested in. When a series I was watching got licensed (like Blood+), I stopped watching them, and waited patiently for the DVD. I'd decide at that point -- was the show enjoyable enough to warrant me buying it?
As I've progressed from my freshman year to what is now my senior year, I've downloaded less and less anime. Not because I've had a great change of morals or anything, but there just isn't much that appeals to me. I've got a limited amount of time between reviews, posting, and schoolwork, and downloading several gigabytes worth of anime is just going to add to my pile of "things to do." Plus, there are plenty of series on DVD that I haven't watched either, and at least then I can watch the disc and pack it away for home.
So, why doesn't everyone just do this? We can sit and wait patiently, discovering the new series as they're licensed and announced, right? Well, that'd be if ADV, FUNimation, and Bandai Entertainment had a crystal ball that could show the true feelings of the American otaku base. It's fairly well-known that companies have looked at fansubs as an indicator of what shows to license. Devil May Cry is one of the series that didn't do all that well, partly because they hadn't given it a shot to see what the fansub watchers would say -- they announced the license two episodes in, mainly so they could take a shot at pushing the anime out with Devil May Cry 4. Would Lucky Star or The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi have been licensed and brought over if they didn't see the reaction to the fansubs? If they did, would they have gotten the same amount of attention?
Now, let's take a look at what the companies are doing. Gonzo is streaming and offering download-to-own series, FUNimation is bringing a large portion of their library digital, and making it a prime concern for all their future acquisitions. This is by and far the best way to handle things: give people that legal option, and they will take it. I guarantee it. Michael Pinto had mentioned on twitter that Napster had preceded iTunes, and look at how well the business does. If you offer a legal way, people will take it. I had been skeptical in the past, but with ADV and FUNimation making a greater push for VoD service and streaming video, the "try before you buy" method has been rather effective. I know I was just fine dropping a few dollars to try out Tower of Druaga to see if I'd be interested in buying it.
Whether you air the show online or if you put it on a VoD service, you'll still be able to test the market -- if the Japanese companies air the show, and little discussion is generated state-side, then you know not to license it; if a show doesn't do well when you air it sub-only, you know not to dub it.
While Greg is attempting to deliver the right message -- that piracy does hurt the industry, and that we should support the original Japanese artists -- but the "confess your sins" attitude is going to turn off a lot of people. Companies are well-aware of who they need to target: fansubbers, and more importantly, those uploading the raw files. Japan is starting to go after the ones who are uploading shows, and as Gen Fukunaga mentioned, they're starting to issue more C&Ds to those distributing shows that they've licensed.
If you're going to run a panel on fansubbing, you're best off pointing out the most legal methods of obtaining shows. The more you criticize people for what they've done, the less likely you are to convince people to join your cause. The pressure you put on people to discuss these things in a large, open forum isn't necessarily condusive to a hot-button issue. If your goal is to convert people, there is going to be a good chunk of the audience that is anti-fansub, or very receptive to your message -- so anyone who does like fansubs is going to feel antagonized.
Bringing this discussion to the Internet really is the best option. While there are going to be plenty of people who act as flaming ass-hats and just hate hate hate, others are going to get a chance to discuss things openly. Look at the blog postings that have gone on -- plenty of rash, thought-out discussion.
My move away from downloading anime, like I mentioned in the beginning, is because of my realization that the constant rush of shows coming out from Japan isn't worth it for me. I know it's different for others, and I don't think a fansub-free lifestyle is going to work for everyone. I think the companies are doing the right thing, though, by attempting to match the fansubbers' pace in releasing shows from Japan. Greg, and the rest of us, need to focus our energy on directing people to those instead of chastizing them.
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