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.

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2013/08/18

It’s ~11:30 AM where I am right now. Woke up at 5:30 to stand in line for train tickets, stood from 6:10 to 8:25 AM, the counters having opened at 8 AM. Some people were in line for the night. Wow. Even then, they couldn’t get tickets; all sold out within minutes. And I’m talking of train tickets here, not movie  tickets. Shows that we really love travelling and stuff, and the tickets are for 17th Oct, exactly 2 months from today. That’s the peak season, but it feels kind of weird to think the tickets for the trains get sold out in 10 minutes.

I came back home at 8:45 AM. And heard that Oreimo 14-16 were to be simulcasted soon. Even IRC seemed to be shivering in excitement. Some of my friends were all ready to watch. The simulcast started and ended. I’m sure that was 90 minutes of bliss for all Oreimo fans.

That got me thinking. Fans can get to watch anime minutes after they air in Japan these days. With most of the shows getting simulcasted, that thing which was unbelievable is a reality today. I didn’t know anything about anime in say, 2000. I first came in touch with anime in the form of Pokemon and Digimon back then. That too, dubs. When I got proper unlimited internet 5 years back,  the fact that I could actually watch anime with their original Japanese audio felt so out-of-this-world. But turns out it’s true, thanks to fansubs, I remember following Ryuu-rogue as they released Digimon Adventure episodes. I planned to watch all at once. When I came to know of them, they had subbed about 39 episodes, and I found them on Veoh.com. Then they played a kind of joke by saying it’s dropped. I was disappointed but still thought it’s fine, those are free after all. Then I was the happiest guy on earth when they released the rest in one go. I don’t think I have felt like that many times in my life.

But I’m yet to watch Digimon Adventure, strangely. I’ll get to it someday for sure. I stalled at ep 21 or so, don’t remember.

After that, I did some more research on how exactly this was possible: releasing the stuff in Japanese audio for free. Needless to say, the voice acting and everything in subbed anime was a million times better than Cardcaptors or Digimon I saw as a kid. Then I came to learn of fansubs, fansubbers, their ethics and stuff. And I wanted to contribute too. To share the joy of watching an awesome anime with everyone. So I looked for groups to join in 2011. And I found a very nice group: Doki. Hologfx is my mentor even today.

Fast forward to today. To be continued in Part 2, cos it might be seen as controversial.

A person’s thought on how fansubs’ scripts should be

Well, this and editing are quite related, so why not.

The two schools of thought regarding literal vs liberal subs have existed for a long time. To the extent people don’t debate about them much nowadays.

As for me, I think it doesn’t matter. Almost. What I feel fansub groups should strive for is to make sure that it is understandable to everyone in the world who knows English. The guidelines should be:

  • Use simple English. Flowery words are a no-no, even if the speaker speaks very formal language(Most people don’t know what “bombastic” or “precocious” mean).
  • Do not localize. There are above 190 countries in the world apart from the US, and English is spoken in many of those too. This means, assume that the audience is distributed worldwide, not only in America.
  • This does not mean write a plain and flat script that’s boring to read. If there are character quirks, show it in the subs to an extent.
  • Please please try not to lose any nuance than necessary. The purpose of the subtitles is to make viewers acquainted with another culture, not to spoonfeed them in terms of their own culture.
  • Avoid using any terms of phrases specific to a region. Why? Simple. No one other than the people of that culture would understand.

It might sound that I am contradicting myself. But the main thing is to make it both. It must not sound flat and plain, and should have some nice dialog which are simple to understand. A nice example would be from FFF’s Love Live! release. I found it very enjoyable due to the sheer simple yet witty language. For example,  lines were like “At last we have a member with a good head on her shoulders!”, “Keep your eyes to yourself.” They are simple to understand, yet witty.

And some personal thoughts on how quirks can be conveyed:

  • For maid and butler-speak, use a formal kind of language. But don’t use archaic English. “I beg to state that you have a flaw in your assumptions, Master.” is fine, but more than that is not.
  • Do not use contractions(I’m, You’re) for the formal characters (maids, butlers who speak like that etc). This might be perhaps the most notable way of showing the difference.
  • I am not quite unaware and unsure on how to show accent differences (Tokyo Japanese vs Kansai-ben) though. There are methods, I think.

Guess that’s all for now. But then again, I’m not an editor. I don’t know how to phrase a line so that it sounds nice and keeps to the features I mentioned. However, this is from my experience from QCing a few hundred scripts. Obviously, constructive comments, corrections, and alternate perspectives are more than welcome.

Of “accountability” in fansubbing

The other day, I was reading a “review” of our release of Leviathan. While some of the points were valid, the tone certainly wasn’t. It sounded like a reporter felt like writing a hate-article about us on a famous newspaper, no offense meant.

Nevertheless, I was a bit pissed off at first. I thought of explaining why we used something for a particular line, and being the group leader, the responsibility rested with me. Then I thought, “Why bother?” So I laughed and let it go.

Then I started thinking of the so-called “accountability” in fansubbing, aka doing what I was about to do. And I realised this: The only people fansubbers are even a bit accountable to are the fans. Why? They often wait for a fansubber’s release just because they like watching it. And they often cheer us on too. Very few people are like that, but I feel if fansubbers are accountable to anyone at all for their releases and the scripts and encodes they produce, it’ll be those few fans. Or the fans who watch their release at most. No one else.

Part 2 of this post will deal about what I, as a person, think of editing etc.

Random quote on fansubbing

[10:01] <sm2345> but fagsubbing is like

[10:01] * sm2345 »» foobar2000 «» Remember11 サウンドコレクション (2004) – 03 – Chaining-B- «» 0:08/3:14 [//////////] «» 320 kbps mp3 «« MP3
[10:01] <sm2345> which often makes you
[10:01] * sm2345 »» foobar2000 «» Remember11 サウンドコレクション (2004) – 01 – Anxiety «» 0:01/2:47 [//////////] «» 320 kbps mp3 «« MP3
[10:01] <sm2345> and also important among staff members is:
[10:01] * sm2345 »» foobar2000 «» Remember11 サウンドコレクション (2004) – 15 – Communication «» 0:01/2:51 [//////////] «» 320 kbps mp3 «« MP3
[10:02] <sm2345> you need to ensure that while keeping your own:
[10:02] * sm2345 »» foobar2000 «» Remember11 サウンドコレクション (2004) – 14 – Self «» 0:02/3:08 [//////////] «» 320 kbps mp3 «« MP3
[10:02] <sm2345> some of them might be:
[10:02] * sm2345 »» foobar2000 «» Remember11 サウンドコレクション (2004) – 13 – Trickstar «» 0:01/2:52 [//////////] «» 320 kbps mp3 «« MP3
[10:02] <sm2345> but, you need to keep your:
[10:02] * sm2345 »» foobar2000 «» Remember11 サウンドコレクション (2004) – 14 – Will -Theme- «» 0:01/3:03 [//////////] «» 320 kbps mp3 «« MP3
[10:02] <sm2345> remembering that you are
[10:02] * sm2345 »» foobar2000 «» Remember11 サウンドコレクション (2004) – 13 – Nucleus «» 0:01/3:08 [//////////] «» 320 kbps mp3 «« MP3
[10:02] <sm2345> of the group
[10:03] <sm2345> don’t let
[10:03] * sm2345 »» foobar2000 «» Remember11 サウンドコレクション (2004) – 04 – Fear and lnsanity «» 0:02/3:02 [//////////] «» 320 kbps mp3 «« MP3
[10:03] <sm2345> or
[10:03] * sm2345 »» foobar2000 «» Remember11 サウンドコレクション (2004) – 06 – Delusive consciousness «» 0:01/2:28 [//////////] «» 320 kbps mp3 «« MP3
[10:03] <sm2345> get the better of you
[10:03] <sm2345> it may lead to
[10:03] * sm2345 »» foobar2000 «» Remember11 サウンドコレクション (2004) – 15 – Catharsis «» 0:01/2:42 [//////////] «» 320 kbps mp3 «« MP3
[10:03] <sm2345> just be your:
[10:03] * sm2345 »» foobar2000 «» Remember11 サウンドコレクション (2004) – 14 – Self «» 0:01/3:08 [//////////] «» 320 kbps mp3 «« MP3