Did Anime Producers Go From Embracing Fansubbers To Blaming Them?

from the not-so-good dept

Petréa Mitchell writes in to point us to an “open letter” to the anime industry, that is apparently struggling economically, with anime producers starting to blame its biggest fans outside of Japan for creating “fansubs”: copies of Japanese anime with the fans adding their own subtitles. The editorial is a good one, highlighting many of the economic points we raise here concerning the dangers of sticking to obsolete business models and blaming your biggest fans for your unwillingness to change your business model. While I disagree with the description that anime has become “worthless,” it is accurate to say that pricing pressure is driving down the price (that doesn’t mean it’s worthless, as “value” and “price” are two separate things):

“Anime that has been fansubbed is effectively worthless. It’s being given away for free. In terms of supply and demand, there is an infinite supply, and therefore the product is worthless regardless of how many people want it — it’s like trying to sell buckets of sea water to people on a beach. The only people who would pay for it are either older fans who are attached to the old ways of consuming media, or worse, are doing so out of charity. That is the state of this industry. And the companies who depend on anime for their livelihood let this happen.”

The editorial goes on to note that the industry has simply sat back and watched this happen for over a decade. Rather than recognizing that the reason fansubbers did what they want was because they felt they weren’t being served by the industry, they just let it happen or complained about it. What’s most interesting here, however, is that just three years ago, we had a story about fansubbers where the key to the story was the exact opposite: claiming that fansubbers had made anime a viable business proposition in the US, whereas before it had been almost entirely non-existent. On top of that, almost exactly two years ago, we had a post talking about how the industry had embraced fansubbers and learned to use them to the industry’s advantage.

So what happened? Has the industry shifted so much in just two years? It would be great if those who followed the industry more closely could chime in, because it’s odd to see such a divergent set of stories. However, from the various articles, it looks like fansubbers helped create a market in the US… but the industry misunderstood what that market represented, and by missing the actual market has now turned around and blamed fansubbers. That is, the growth of fansubbing created demand for anime in the US, but it wasn’t demand for buying expensive DVDs for collecting well after the content had been released. It was demand for more content and other, ancillary products. Unfortunately, the anime industry assumed that the US market would simply mimic the Japanese market — and even that it could hold off selling DVDs into that market until well after they were released in the US. This was a huge strategic error. It was holding back the one product that the market could get by itself, rather than focusing on providing new and different things that the market couldn’t get and that the market actually wanted. However, without those fansubbers, much of the demand wouldn’t even exist at all — and to now blame them for not buying the late-to-market, seriously overpriced DVDs misses the point by a wide margin.

Filed Under: ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Did Anime Producers Go From Embracing Fansubbers To Blaming Them?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Petréa Mitchell says:

Recent industry comment

It didn’t occur to me to check your archive and see if you’d written about this before. I hate it when people forget that forums have a history going back before they showed up, and there I go and do it.

Here’s an article from the same site as the editorial, giving examples of industry opposition to fansubs going back to 1999.

I don’t think the editorial means the price of all anime has dropped to zero, just fansubbed anime. The fan translations are often not as good as professional ones.

ryusen says:

Re: Recent industry comment

I would disagree that the pro versions are often better then the fan translated versions. The fan jobs may not have the production quality, but they far far more accurate to the original story and dialog.

For example. I regularly download and Watch Bleach.. when the Pro DVD came out, i bought it. Not to watch myself, but to give to a friend of mine. It was more out of charity to the show than any real desire for the pro version.

What they need to do with television series are what they do with US series.. AIR THEM ON TV. Get the show translated quickly and air it on TV. Assuming the TV run is a success, THEN release a DVD boxed set (for a reasonable price).

Kira says:

In addition to L’s point the fansubbing community could be used a very useful tool to gauge which titles should be brought over next. There is less risk involved if a company gets an idea of what the fansubbers are bringing from Japan. The heavier the fansubb support the more likely the series would do well.

This is another example of an alternate form is distribution not being used effectively.

Ed (profile) says:

Death Note

If you go to adultswim.com and look at how many views Death Note gets every week.. well ‘a lot’ of American fans were watching fansubs a year ago of the show. Does that mean I don’t watch it when it airs on Adult Swim on saturday? No. Does it mean that I’ve had a year to talk about Death Note and get people interested? Yes. So not only am I watching it while ads are being shown on Adult Swim, but also many other people; both real life friends and internet friends also are into the show. But lets just blame the fansub group that exposed Death Note to so many people and let the hype build up for year (it is hard to get people to watch a subtitled anime if they aren’t big anime fans to being with).

James says:

Anime and Fansubs

I can offer an example from my own experience with anime and fansubs. A while back I downloaded a fansub of an anime called “Read or Die”. The fansubbers did an excellent job, and I enjoyed the anime, so when the DVD was released in the US, I figured I’d pick it up. The DVD had terrible subs that ended up being incomplete (neglecting to translate notes that were somewhat relevant to the story). These background notes were translated by the fansubbers. I got the impression that the people subbing the DVD just sort of phoned the job in, while the fansubbers did it as a labor of love, and because of this did a far better job.

The next time I watched the anime, I went back to the fansub, even though I owned the DVD.

Killercool says:


I know from experience (being an avid fansub-watcher) that no matter how well done (and there are pitifully few of those) a fansub is, even a mediocre dub blows it all to hell. My reason to keep on watching has a teensy bit to do with some of my favorite shows being a full year (or more) behind the actual schedule! I keep on hearing stuff about the dub studios wanting a “buffer,” but why? If the real show takes a break, or releases an hour special, why shouldn’t they?

s12 says:

I’m a huge fan and I watch fansubs. I’d happily fork over my money for anime released (subbed… not dubbed) on the same day (or close to it) as the TV showing in Japan on some channel or some website. I believe I am correct in that the US anime distribution channels only offer dubbed on their websites. For a subbed version I have to wait an extremely long time and for over priced dvds.

It really isn’t rocket science to make a better model.

Squee says:

Mike: I think what happened is simply that the anime companies did not provide what anime fans want, at least not at a reasonable price. Most DVDs for American TV shows cost between $30-45 (the price depending largely on the total running time; 26 episodes at 46 minutes each will cost more than 13 episodes at 24 minutes each). Anime DVDs tend to have 3-5 episodes per disc, and generally run about $25 EACH. A box set with 6-8 discs will usually only give a discount of about $10 on what the individual discs would cost. That means that a season of Samurai Champloo or Neon Genesis Evangelion costs upward of $120. That is unbelievable. They’ve finally started offering slimpaks for under $100, but they’ve still got a ways to go to get a good pricing model, AND any extras that were previously offered on the full price DVDs tend to be stripped off (just because the case is slim doesn’t mean the content on the DVD should be).

From the perspective of a long time anime geek and an active member of the fansubbing community, I’d have to say that they’re just not making it a reasonable expenditure. Another great example is one of the standouts of the last decade, FLCL. Just six episodes long, it’s by far one of the most popular animes to come out in the last decade. In the US, it was released on THREE DVDs. Two episodes a piece. $25 a disc. That’s what the industry thinks of the people they expect to buy their products. The fanbase is there, but if they want the fanbase to become CONSUMERS, they need to think twice about charging $75 for 6 episodes of anime.

Petréa Mitchell says:

Re: Re:

“Anime DVDs tend to have 3-5 episodes per disc, and generally run about $25 EACH. A box set with 6-8 discs will usually only give a discount of about $10 on what the individual discs would cost.”

Let’s also point out, for the non-anime fans reading this, what the release schedule is like.

1. 1-2 years of waiting after the series airs in Japan
2. US distributor starts releasing DVDs, with a minimum gap of a month between them
3. After the whole series is released, another wait before the box set comes out (if one comes out at all)
4. After another wait, a small chance of a thinpak set coming out

And somewhere around step 3 or 4 is where the UK, Australia, and NZ finally get *their* first look at the series.

attackslug (user link) says:

Re: Re:

FLCL was kind of a strange circumstance. In japan it was released as an OVA on 6 dvd’s that ran about $60 bucks a pop. Even now, you can get the box set in japan of all 6 episodes for around $175

With the licensing costs, the company who brought it over (Synch-Point) has said that if it had not aired on Cartoon Network, they would have been in serious financial trouble.

I know it’s a good point to bring up regarding how ridiculous pricing has gotten, but the fact that this small company was willing to release it even if it meant taking a loss, I think thats a bit of a special case.

Anime pricing has always been on the high side compared to domestic entertainment. Unlike our tv shows, they have not been supported by ads airing on major networks. The licensor’s in japan are charging as much as they can get away with, and american companies are adding in useless trinkets as “extras” to justify having to hike the costs to be able to make a profit from paying so much to acquire a hot property (Haruhi being a good example here)

So the blame can’t be completely placed on the domestic side of things

Gunnar says:

There wouldn’t be an overseas anime industry without fansubs. And the current situation is mostly the American distribution networks’ fault. One Piece is my favorite anime in a long time, but I wouldn’t take the 4kids dvds if they paid me.

To say the licensed dvds have better translation is simply wrong. Fansubs happen overnight, so yeah, the quality isn’t the best, but it’s true translation of whatever the characters are saying. The people behind licensed dvds make editorial decisions based on their assumptions of what the American public will understand. Or worse, they dumb it down. Of course, the quality ranges greatly, both in fansubs and in licensed dvds, but at least the fansubbers aren’t evil.

I wouldn’t take a 4kids dvd of my favorite anime, One Piece, if they paid me.

10 years ago, nothing came over, save the already wildly popular DBZ and Gundam and the OVA/movies on sci-fi. That didn’t mean stuff wasn’t profitable in Japan. Anything that comes over here should just be icing on the cake.

The biggest problem is that the market is flooded. So many anime are slightly new spins on old standbys that it’s impossible to tell what’s worth watching in a Best Buy.

Which is the nice thing about fansubs. You’d find groups that had good, or at least your, taste in anime. And everything they’d sub was worth at least watching the first few episodes of.

Mack says:

Value = price

“value” and “price” are two separate things

Say huh? In the economic sense they certainly are. In a mature market, price defines value. The value of a good is what someone is willing to pay for it.

You can talk about ‘sentimental value’ etc but those are not economic terms.

The market has apparently determined that anime is worthless. As long as there are people willing to supply it on those terms, it will continue to be produced. Otherwise not.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Value = price

Say huh? In the economic sense they certainly are. In a mature market, price defines value. The value of a good is what someone is willing to pay for it.

No. Price does not define value. Price defines the meeting point of supply and demand. Value depends on the individual. If a person *values* something more than the price, then they will pay the price. If they value it less than the price, then they won’t.

As an extreme example, take air. I assume you value your access to oxygen quite a lot. Yet, you don’t pay for it. Don’t say that it is worthless. It’s *worth* quite a bit. However, since the supply is abundant, the demand curve hits the supply curve at a price of zero.

It has value, but the price is nothing.

Dirk Belligerent (profile) says:

Re: Re: Value = price

I was just thinking recently about how “price”, “value”, and “worth” are frequently used interchangeably when they are actually subtly, but crucially, different. It’s like Chris Rock’s bit about “rich” vs. “wealthy”: “Shaq is rich. The guy who writes Shaq’s paycheck is wealthy.”

Anime pricing is the most insane of all. MSRPs of typical TV series run from $30-$60 per season of ~22 episodes. “Star Trek” sets were priced over $100 each and HBO used to charge $80-$90 per 13-episode box. While the latter two examples are the high end of the spectrum, they’re bargains of price and convenience compared to having to pay over a period of six months nearly $200 for a season of whatever anime you seek.

Translation and dubbing costs money and licensing can be quite expensive, but that only makes the black-market so much more viable. If anime was sold for $10-$15 a disc, they would have trouble keeping it on the shelves. It’s the same thing that killed the music biz: They wanted to charge $20 to people who wanted to pay a buck a tune. Instead of meeting this demand, they ignored the threat of Napster and after 8 years of lawsuits, the public downloads music out of spite as much as economics or plain old theft.

Fansubs whetted people’s appetites for new animes; people wanted them; but studios didn’t move fast and smart enough. They gave their customers the choices of:

1. Fansubbed, fast and free, or…

B. Legal and official, but late, altered and very expensive.

Hmmmmm….some choice.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t understand US anime houses. A few years ago US companies started directly investing in some of the higher profile seriers and studios. You would think this sort of partnership would give them advanced access to some series/movies/ovas. Which they could then flip for at least a DAY OF release for a sub on their website, given that they’d have months to work toward getting out the door. Or access to advanced screener copies to work from. Its really sad that they just don’t get it, with something like anime subs, its whoever gets there first with all but the most exulted of series(for the record, I own legit copies of NGE for instance several times over for each format it was published in).

Shalkar says:

My Opinion is:

When it comes down to it, there are just so many things that make the whole “just bring it over and translate it” thing go horribly wrong.

1. Greed. They, just like everybody now a days, wnat to get a TON of profit off of every little thing. They’re just not willing to settle for a little bit of profit constantly streaming in. In just moving more product.

2. Bureaucracy. Every little detail has to be ironed out and okayed before even the tinniest thing can be done. Everything would be SO much quicker if we didn’t have to deal with this.

3. The company that paid for the rights to distribute it in this country are utter retards. The people in this country that OWN the companies still think of cartoons being for little kids. They think if it’s drawn, it’s a for kids like when they were little. About the same time the T.V. was invented. They think of things like “Tom and Jerry” or that crazy coyote going after the Road Runner with ACME tools.

They don’t realize that there is stuff made for adults to watch that is drawn. A perfect example of this is 4 Kids Entertainment. Just look them up and what they do. What Gunnar said about “One Piece” is the perfect example. They change the one guy’s cigarette in to a lolly pop. Any and all cleavage is covered up by ANY means neccessary. The list goes on and on. They butcher it completely.

Even then if the company doesn’t butcher it, there is number four.

4. They’re also idiots because, for what ever reason, they don’t know how to either just make a box set for a season or to make a box set for the series. Only the anime gods know why. We need to get just ONE company to start making an example of how to do things. Get the bureaucracy out of the way A.S.A.P., churn the episodes out as fast as the originals are made while making sure it’s done 100% right, and then put out the DVDs at least as a one season sets that aren’t HORRIBLY priced. I can see a season of Farscape costing over $100 since they used the Jim Henson people to do the puppet stuff, but for anime? Hell no!

Wolferz (profile) says:

viz media

Recently I went to download and watch an anime that is still not available in the USA but which a friend told me I would like. I went to my usual site and where I had actually started to download the anime before only to find a notice saying Viz had demanded that it be taken down. I was shocked. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like it in anime and by knowing a friend in the fansubing community I knew of the truce between fansubers and anime media companies. I didn’t research further though. I just hoped on bittorent and got it that way.

Quite disheartening to say the least. Soon I’ll be forced to ether miss out on anime shows that are good or watch the vandalized American versions.

Mrrar says:

My personal and anecdotal experience with what’s keeping the American Anime industry back?

a) Price. The DVDs are priced at 25$+ each for 1 hour of programming. Unacceptable. It just isn’t going to compete with something like Lost. Before, people chose between Anime seasons or movies. Now they are choosing between entire seasons of hour long shows for 50$, or 2 hours of anime for the same amount. It’s just, gonna kill em.

b) Sub Quality can be terrible

c) Dub quality is awful beyond recognition.

If they lowered prices to something more reasonable, adopted the Entire-Season boxes formats of american TV-shows, and improved the quality of their DVDs to include accurate subbing, quality Dubbing, and special features… Their business would boom.

Jaylen Smith says:

There are several problems mention with anime and it’s place in America. Some of them have been mentioned here:
Time Release

Not to repeat other’s post, but another problem is distributers view on who the audience is. In America, anime is a cartoon and that equates to kid’s programing. Anime in Japan is aimed for kids also, but it deals with a lot different range of subjects and positions. When the studio’s buy them here, they are trying to tap into the kid market with American eyes. So even if they do pick it up, sometimes it is edited (visually and textually) to fit with
American ideal.

In addition to Fansubbers usually offering higher quality of subbing work then studio’s, they also offer culture notes that not only help viewers understand the context it also give a glimpse into another country’s culture and what they consider important.

I think since we have things like Bittorent, studio’s could take a lesser risk of supporting a failure when bringing new anime to our market. I am willing to pay for a subscription to a studio for quality subtitles along with cultural notes in each episode. I am sure those that prefer the dubbed version would have to wait, but a year to find voice actors is insane.

A lot of people who started watching anime in their teens don’t stop when they get older. They just now have more money to buy merch. I think studio’s are shooting themselves in the foot when they blame fansubbers because the the glut and sag in the market they created. Where else then the internet can you get hundred of thousands of people to do market research essentially for free?

Anonymous Coward says:

Pay Service

Until recently I have been paying for all my anime through narutofan.com … I canceled my registration recently because I have asked on more that on occasion to fix the links to a series I really want to watch… they have not done it so I canceled my registration… Other than that… it’s a good service… it costs $5 to download 5 gigs. I would be more than willing to pay someone again…

Ryuk says:

As a fan of several anime, I’d have to say there two main reasons to go for fansubs over official products. One, obviously, is that certain anime take months to be released on DVD, or are only shown in Japan. The other reason, however, is IMHO more powerful: the transition to the American market is occasionally butchered. Not only is content taken out or changed, but some of the translation is subpar as well. If the companies in charge would improve the quality of their own product, I think they would find the “problem” of fansubs begin to diminish.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Gawsh I Hope

.. that somebody high up in the anime learns of this thread. Now I wouldn’t doubt that there are countless others like this, but this one contains very comprehensive explanations about what is wrong with the industry.
Main issues:
2) Editing out stuff / dumbing down for children
3) Bad subs / dubs

Personally any anime I have bought, I always reset language to Japanese and turn on the subtitles anyways. Just how I prefer watching it.

Ryuk says:

Excellent point with number 2, Killer_Tofu. I’m tired of having the original work ripped apart and restructured with no respect for the plot and setting. Take the way One Piece has been done, for example. I’ve read the manga, and the American anime has taken more than a few “creative liberties” with it, to the point that the original plot is distorted. Also, even if I do want to purchase the legit copy, the price on some anime today is astronomical.

Michael C. Neel (user link) says:


I don’t know if it was mentioned in the comments above, i didn’t read them all, but anime that is sold in the US doesn’t generate money for the artists and creators of the anime. Basically a US distro house waits for an anime series to run it’s course and die out in Japan. Then it swoops in and get exclusive rights to US sales buy paying a one-time stack of pennies (since the anime isn’t going anywhere now in Japan). Get a cheap shop to sub it, then sell it at two episodes for $20, keeping all the revenue.

Now this Internet thing has gone and made a global economy and it’s a real pain to rip people off when they have alternatives to extortion.

The winner will be the Japanese studio that goes into digital distribution, subbing themselves to keep the quality high, and pulling a Radiohead on the US distributors while selling to a global market. I hear Europe watches anime too…

Killercool says:

Re: Scams

… What? ANY legitimate airing/showing/sale of anime or manga generates revenue for the original artist or studio. That’s why fansubs are seen as a threat. Yes, the American distributors make a ton of money from the bloated prices, but there are these things called “royalties” that have to be paid…

On a side note, I have to LOL anyone who pays money for what amounts to pirated shows. Especially since narutofan doesn’t even bother to remove the credits the fansubbers add in for their groups.

onikitsune says:

Re: Re: Scams

Killercool, I won’t say check your facts, bacause I’m not using any either, but I don’t think that the U.S. companies pay royalties. I’m pretty sure that they get the show at an inflated lump sum and don’t need to pay royalties.
As for your side note, I’d have to argue that while it’s strange to see people pay for pirated shows, it is also a clear statement that there is a market for the exchange of anime for money. A vast amount of people don’t want to use BitTorrent, or IRC, or Usenet, or Gmail Cache, etc. and are willing to pay for the value of ease of delivery.

meth says:

the filter issue

Another issue, there is no guarantee a title will even make it to the states or the release will be completed.

Tenshi Ni Narumon – half finished and MIA
Clamp School Detectives – DVD? someday…
Hunter X Hunter…

Fans handle lots of stuff that for reasons don’t get realeased out side of japan. And as other have said, price is a factore. I love FLCL, but I’m still waiting for the price to come down after all these years. Fan or not, my money still has value to me 😛

Onikitsune says:

Quick thoughts on the industry.

Timing and delivery (brick and mortar, internet) are the two hang ups that have beat up our favorite pastime.
Everyone wants a “Full-Season on DVD”, but few are willing to wait until the season is finished to see it. By the time the box set comes out, many of those fans have watched it and see no value in having the DVDs. (If the entire industry could “net flix” Three episodes per disc, and sell figures, toys, and etc, their could be a brighter future.)
The problem, competing with free, is difficult to address here because in this case the American distributors have to pay the Japanese distributors up front. If a property doesn’t sell, They’ve lost that money.
That is where 4Kids fits into this mess. 4Kids ‘makes’ cartoons… for kids. They clean up the visuals for the child’s parents, not for the older fanbase. Their chopshop is designed to create a market for toys that parents will buy and they do that well.
Unfortunately, that won’t work with the rest of the industry, which has to compete by bringing a relatively older anime to a shelf in Best Buy near you, where they have no space for the toys, hats, shirts, and other things that help keep the industry afloat.

bayareaguy says:

www.onemanga.com lead me to a few hundred in purch

… of anime I didn’t know existed.

The way it works is this. As a parent of pre-teen age kids I feel obligated to manage their access to things that can lead to adult content. So I find out what they and their friends are reading and check it out myself online.

Often I’ll find similar things there that they haven’t yet discovered for themselves. If it turns out to be something I think is appropriate for them, I go to the local comic store and buy the books for them. Then they start telling their friends about the things they like and pretty soon everyone is into that. I think the money I spend keeping them supplied with good non-offensive non-adult printed content is worth it.

I’ve found that even when they have access to the internet, they still prefer reading and re-reading their favorite books to spending time online. Part of this has to do with the fact that they generally prefer to use the relatively limited free time they do get on the computer to play interactive games (which we pay for by subscriptions) instead of searching for stuff they don’t even know is out there.

As a consequence our family owns shelves full of Naruto, Full Metal Alchimist, Prince of Tennis, Monster, Death Note, Nodame Cantabile, Yakitate Japan!, … that I never would have purchased had I not read them myself online first and decided that the content was ok for them.

The obvious question here is that there are plenty of things I’ve read on that site that I decided I wouldn’t want my kids reading yet and therefore haven’t decided to buy. So how should those authors be compensated? Well, I have a pretty good memory. If the series is something I think would be appropriate for my kids later, or would make an appropriate present for another adult, then I’ll probably go out and buy it.

The most infuriating thing is that there are plenty of good titles there that have no english translations in print that I’ve been able to find.

Michael Evans (profile) says:

The problems with the obvious solution...

The obvious solution is to emulate the methods current fansubs use to achieve their success within an organized profit-making structure.

* Priced at a point which a customer feels Value.
* Timely out on a regular basis, likely not more then 1 week from air/release In Japan (further details later)
* Quality as good as current competition or better (the -good- Fansubs)
* Distributed digitally, your target audience is already technically competent enough to download episodes from the internet.
* The Catch, do it all Legally.
* Use Open standards that work for Every operating system.

First, to cut down on costs, and easy adherence to standards, open source protocols, and even software, should be used whenever possible. Hire an in house programmer/web admin or two, preferably cross trained, and have them make sure it functions well and has no security holes.

Next you have the sticky issue. While containers (EG AVI/OGM/MKV I prefer them in reverse order) are free, and audio has options that are free and still great (ogg/vorbis), video codecs, sadly, are not. Most of the efforts in producing codecs were researched early by huge groups of experts who patented their work (Excellent news in the future when the patents come off the stack.), and we’ve relied upon them sense. They simply got there first and won market share for it. Open source alternatives simply have not reached the level of maturity that VC1 or h.264 have. The sticky point here is something I’ve not carefully researched or asked.

V1.a) How much does a licence to produce/sell works made using said codecs cost? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_video_codecs#Codecs_list
V1.b) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.264#Patent_licensing seems clear on Shipping products which have encoders/decoders. However it is entirely UNCLEAR about shipping content, or the use but not distribution of the GPL encoder for such content. I imagine such use would require V1.a for legal reasons…
V2) As an alternative how much does a good VC1/h.264 encoder cost?

With video encoding out of the way, a container (MKV preferably), and commodity server hardware/internet access the business model can come together.

* Contact (or be) a studio in Japan and acquire worldwide licensed fansub enhanced distribution rights.
* Build a community among the fansub translators, video editors, etc, to turn existing amateurs in to staff compensated based on work completed. Compensation can come in many forms. The obvious one is money, but offers of download credits, internet access, a place to host a server, all sorts of other non-monetary or not necessarily directly money related forms of payment could work. This would depend on a project by project, and/or staff by staff basis. Obviously a free copy of whatever they’re creating should be a given. (They’ll have to really love it to not be sick to death of it, and maybe they’ll want to watch it again later during a marathon.)
* Provide your translators earlier access to the material they’ll need to translate. Stills of notes/signs, audio recordings, even the original script if possible.
* Have high quality (Not necessarily high bandwidth, simplified versions for mobile video players or less capable playback systems should also be produced) encodings, HD/DVD quality or better as the basis.
* Sell on line, as soon as the original audio and video streams are ready. (Actually given credit card fees… more likely ‘preorder by the series/season’)
* The fansubs (maybe even multiple versions (like a Fast and High Quality later or even Censored/Americanized)) and if later dubbed English audio tracks would be properly priced additions.
* Recognize you are competing with free, not just no cost, but no -restrictions-.

This is the hardest part of all, you MUST sell these at an actual value for them to have a good reception. Bleach for example has 150+ episodes. You will simply not be competitive at over a dollar per episode for this series, or really, any other series. I’ll look to Stargate DVDs I recently purchased, they had actual -value- for me. ~212usd for everything Stargate SG1. That’s 10 seasons, 214 episodes, or about a dollar per 45 min of actual show. It even had bonus features, audio tracks, and 5 whole DVDs of extras. Plus these where on actual DVD disks, in a format I could play in a 20 dollar DVD player if I wanted. I had absolutely no need for fancy (expensive) hardware, managing my own storage space (hard drives/burning DVDs), or even providing a nice stylish case to store them in.

Those above reasons are all arguments to sell for even Less then 1 dollar. Probably something on the order of 25-50 cents when in buying whole series (or at least ‘multiple seasons’). It’s not all high action stuff either, every anime series of any length has filler episodes. The exceptions are those which are meticulously planned, like Hellsing (only 13 episodes though… but I don’t recall -any- fillers).

My personal recommendation is to actually provide the end user a detailed breakdown, showing them the cost of each component when they’re shopping so they can see the value (and provide feedback on things that look overpriced.).

The proof of purchase would probably need to be mailed, but a digital version may suffice.

Another item that could be sent through the mail (or sold to places like Netflix) would be officially licensed on demand DVD runs (Probably burned, but with actual proof it is legitimate).

Still, the primary form of distribution I haven’t covered yet. Bit torrent is excellent for completely free things, and server based is fine, but realistically costs more (and should be seen as the middle ground between something peer to peer like bit torrent, and something direct like DVDs), and should be billed as more. While most of your users, the peek demand weekly ones, will instead want to use a peer to peer method.

The solution is to add security to it, making white lists for sharing to specific internet addresses based on account logins, only publishing peering data to them, and possibly even adding transport, but not content (that is tunnel unencumbered content via a secure pipe), encryption.

My highest recommendation design wise is to transfer the video, audio, and other component streams separately, so that they can be re-multiplexed in a normal container like MKV whenever an additional or updated track is available.

In this way, by planning ahead, providing a community and point of content synchronization, you can not only embrace and truly extend the fansub model, but legitimize it as well.

Most realistically this should work best when a studio themselves recognizes it as a new method of distribution. Every major studio would be best setting up their own, while independents and small studios would probably be better off with some shared service.

Most of the components that are really required already exist, and it’s obvious to anyone technical that a solution (several in fact) could be built from those or similar pieces. However I don’t think marketing executives, corporate directors, or anyone not technically inclined or in the fansub production/consumption community (or other extremely similar ones…) actually Gets that fact.

The Internet’s two biggest advantages are Speed and far more easily scaling production (No physical production, maybe something commodity like burned DVDs or printouts snail mailed on the side.) to exact demand, in either real or extremely close to real time. It’s high time every country’s content producers realized it’s a global market. There are no more information or distance barriers.

someone (user link) says:

how pathetic -_-'

ok…to me, I like anime, and I sub, it end of story, I don’t distro to other places other than on my site, bittorrent, and upload sites, I don care.

also the frickin dubs sound really bad, I realize that many people might LIKE them, but I’m a serious fan of anime, and…I disapprove of the dubs. (only one I say was good = FMA, iono of any other good ones.)

and, I think they should pay us fansubtitlers to sub them, cause…we do better effects than them (and other stuff -_- the Voice Actors dont have any real emotion whist the japanese senjyuu do.

heh AND the fact that fansubbers ARE THE FRICKIN PPL THAT GOT ANIME LIKED, otherwise none of the ppl outside of Japan would have frickin cared about anime (most likely). and most fansubbing groups say this:

“Buy the DVD’s if you like this” or something similar. AND most of us groups stop production on that series if it’s licensed, but would like for DB to like…do it since there is a very large gap between the english and japanese episodes (DB also said that they’re stopping until ppl stop uploading their episodes to youtube/veoh/etc)

Willy says:

Fansub Federation

My shelves are full of DVD, but I regret buying them. I was sick of waiting the DVD release until my friend introduced me to fansubs release. Fansubs are much much more better…..
After reading all the comments, I would like to conclude that fansub is better than DVD:

1. Faster Release. no need to wait 1 or 2 yrs after the series aired in Japan
2. Better quality. recent fansubs releases are mostly HD quality (1280 x 720).
3. Better subs. Fansubs provide more details/info to help understanding the story. DVD editing out stuff / dumbing down for children, while MOST anime fans are NOT children.
4. DVD Dubs are unbearable. The Voice Actors dont have any real emotion whist the japanese senjyuu do. Moreover, you can notice the background music is worsen after dubbing.
5. anime (DVD)that is sold in the US doesn’t generate money for the artists and creators of the anime. US distro house waits for an anime series to run it’s course and die out in Japan.( read reviews above)

Therefore I suggest….
1. Unite all fansubs to form International Anime and Fansub Association (IAFA), a non-profit organisation.
2. IAFA will pay for the copyright to support the creators and artists, Thus IAFA anime releases will be legal.
3. IAFA will then release High Quality anime promptly after aired in Japan.*
3. Anime fans will pay small fee (eg. $1 per episode) for access to IAFA anime release.
4. IAFA profit will be use to pay IAFA employee and to benefit anime production and Fans.
4. Fans, IAFA, and anime creators and artists, will have a big big smile XD. Trust me

*note: those who prefer dubs can still enjoy IAFA anime releases (not recommended). They comes also with 2 or more languages.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...