A Post on Fansubbing

The title is meh, I know. But I cannot come up with any better one right now. I’ll see if I can find something better later.

So, in 2 months, on 1st July, Oyatsu Fansubs will be turning 3 years old. And I have been fansubbing for 3.5 yrs now. I hope that counts as experience enough to write something about the fansubbing scene right now.

Oyatsu is doing a show called Seikoku no Dragonar this season. It’s a fantasy story about a boy and his dragon who takes the shape of a  young girl. While the show we expected to be good, it’s been average at best so far.

These facts aren’t actually confirmed to be true or not, but if it is, here are some statistics:

  • There are ~135 releases of ongoing anime this season thus far.
  • There are ~78 releases that are not Horriblesubs or any videos released by the simulcasters.
  • And there seem to be only ~33 releases that appear to be original translations.

I think this is wrong, really. But it does kind of tally with what I have been seeing in recent times: several groups use the Crunchyroll or any simulcast script as base. After that, they can take two routes:

  1. Slap them onto their own encode with minimal changes and release it.
  2. Go through it in detail, fix any errors and polish it and then release it.

Now, I have nothing against any of the above two categories, though I’d prefer people went down route #2. Even #1 is fine as long as the base script is top-notch, and adding karaoke, good typesetting etc adds to the visual value.

It’s just, they’re often several times less effort than manually translating from scratch, which we’ve been doing since we started. All of our scripts of TV anime we’ve done are our own translation. Now, in the present day and age, translating from scratch has its disadvantages:

  • If the translator’s English (and Japanese) are not very good, the translations may be inaccurate or be Engrish.
  • Now, the translator’s script forms the base for these releases, and if they’re Engrishy, the whole script has a higher chance of being inferior to than, say #2 or even #1 of above.
  • It also  takes more time and effort, and if the translator is busy for some reason, it incurs delays as well.

Now for the advantages:

  • It’s the group’s own script, and since it’s raw diamond, the editor can cut and polish it for an excellent end-product.
  • That feeling of making something with your own hands than building on someone else’s work is one of the great feelings in the world. Trust me on that.

I’m sorry to say that my translations belong to the Engrishy category to quite an extent, since hearing and understanding something and expressing them in English for others to understand are like Hell and Heaven: the latter is much, much harder, from what I’ve seen thus far. I believe this opinion will change in future as I hopefully get more proficient, but right now that’s the truth for me.

Fortunately, we have been blessed with excellent and dedicated translators like ZeroYuki, redtitan, and who I really like working with.

Anyway, I have been deviating from what I was trying to write about. Let’s talk about schedules and release timings. This information is thanks to to ZeroYuki and Kuzu, and all my Senseis and Senpais. Back in 2006-2007:

  • The norm was to release in 48+ hours after airing.
  • Anything released in 24 hours was deemed a “speedsub”, and were usually looked down upon, often correctly, as crap quality.
  • The fansubbing was oriented around anime, not fansubbers or whatever they are playing or stuff like that only.
  • The fans used to be nice and patient. Honestly, just looking at some of the posts back from 2007 gives me this warm feeling, which I am unable to find much in today’s scene.

I am sure there are fans like that even today, too, but I believe their numbers have declined.

Now, after 2008 or 2009, the scene began to change:

  • Eclipse and gg had been around, and they, mainly Eclipse, started a new era of fansubbing: speedsubbing with quality. I respect them even today.
  • This resulted in groups that took their time doing things gradually stop subbing. An example would be Lunar.
  • Sometime later, Crunchyroll came into the scene, and despite its history, started legally simulcasting some anime. This, I firmly believe, was the thing all fansubbers wanted.
  • This again resulted in changes of policies in many groups, Saizen included, not to touch anything that was simulcasted.

Now, I first got acquainted with the fansubbing scenario in late 2010when I joined Doki as a QC, having zero experience in IRC and everything. Even today, it’s my alma mater. Let’s see how things were in 2010, 2011 or so:

  • Crunchyroll and Funimation used to simulcast some shows that were available often as soon as airing ended in Japan. There is this famous group who ripped their releases if I remember right.
  • But the simulcasts were not very well-received, particularly due to bad quality back then.
  • As a result, the trend of using CR or other simulcast scripts as base were not in yet, and people used to wait for and appreciate original translated scripts. The scene was changing though.

Now I’m not sure when exactly this began, but let’s say sometime in late 2012:

  • Almost every show started getting simulcasted, and the scripts’ quality improved a lot.
  • The famous group has continued ripping CR and other simulcasters’ releases, allowing fans convenient and easy access to subs that were released consistently hours after an anime aired in Japan.
  • This easy access to translated anime spoilt both the fans and the fansubbers, in my opinion.

Let’s try and analyze what happened to the fans:

  • Many anime fans started ditching fansubs, and new anime fans would very likely get the first release that was out, and that was of the simulcasters.
  • What’s more, the “group” was the same who apparently did almost all shows in a season.
  • They could get any ongoing anime they wanted, translated and everything, hours after they aired in Japan.
  • This became a huge spoiling factor for them, with many people forgetting to appreciate how much effort fansubs used to put.

I know you might be thinking I’m being too harsh on the fans, but a comment I read somewhere was: “Waiting for X and Y to release uncensored subs is suffering. Or at least mildly annoying.” Please note that X and Y are two groups that release within 24 hours and 48 hours. The second sentence especially irks me, since it is in total disregard of the effort we put in to our releases. Well, most fansubbers put effort in to their releases, be it 2000 or be it 2014.

Still, there are some very few people out there who know the difference and appreciate what we do. Their numbers are seemingly on the decline, though.

And if we try and see what happened to the fansubbers:

  • Many subbers stopped doing original translations in order to survive by being fast.
  • All the wannabe subbers found it very easy to start up their own group, with softsubbed scripts and raws available freely. Some of them became good at what they did, and some didn’t survive.
  • Subbers started emphasizing more on speed and <24hours, and even 6-12hr releases, sometimes sacrificing quality.

Notice how this turns out into a downward spiral? Fans want faster releases, fansubbers try to give faster releases, often at the expense of quality.

However, I have nothing against my fellow fansubbers, and I hope none of this offends anyone. There are excellent groups out there even in May 2014 as I write this: groups who are very fast and are excellent. And there are quite a few groups out there who may not be as fast, but do a very good job on their scripts. These good groups are one of the few factors keeping fansubbing alive right now.

So, what does it mean to fansub right now, in 2014? From what I’ve seen:

  • You have to be fast.  Take more than 24 hours and you’re not a well-known big group with a huge fanbase, and no one’s gonna watch your subs.
  • Not many people care whether you do a CR edit or an own translation. The latter won’t give you any extra appreciation.
  • You have to be consistent. Unless you are a big group, delays are inexcusable. The reason’s simple. Everyone’s getting their fix of anime in a few hours after airing, and unless you’re consistent like everyone else is, you’re screwed.
  • Amount of appreciation you get will wildly vary. If you’re a big group with a good history, you’ll get lots of downloads and thank yous, though your release posts will be more cluttered with people asking when the next episode of another project you’re doing will be out, rather than saying thanks for the release and talking about the anime.

Isn’t this in stark contrast with a release post, say in 2007? To me, this current scene is harsh and competitive. I kind of don’t want to be in such a scene.

Also, if I say so myself, I see that fansubbing is dying. To me, anyway. Fansubbing is changing its definitions as the gears of time roll and eras change. But that won’t stop it from dying, in my opinion. That’s thanks to simulcasting and perhaps other reasons, such as a drastic decrease in the number of good shows a year etc too. My apologies for making such a huge statement, but I think I’m not wrong. Or maybe I’ll be proved wrong. We’ll see.

Anyway, if you’ve read till this far, thanks. Maybe I’ll rant about how the KoiKami VN is awesome next. 🙂 Please correct me if I’m wrong anywhere here in the facts or dates or stuff.