Why Do People Fansub? – Part 1

Picture by 嘉志 – Source

This is it. For each little step I take, I go deeper into the dark, scary and unknown territory. All alone, only accompanied by hundreds of distant glances from lurking monsters that are waiting for me to do a mistake and trip over. I wish them no harm, not at all; I only want to ask some humble questions. Will you please listen to them?

All posts
Part 1

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

With the poorly dramatically written beginning of this post thankfully over, let me get to the point. This is what you could call a very delicate matter and I believe many might feel annoyed or maybe even offended (though I wonder about that), so please, you should know that I am merely curious. There will be different questions and I will speculate about them on my own. This is not hate or anything. Just simple questions.

Now, why do people even fansub?

Back in the good old days I never experienced, fansubbing was pretty much the only way you could watch anime without knowing Japanese. It was a time full of joy, happiness and VHS, or so people claim.

Now fast-forward to the present and look where we stand today. Goodbye to the VHS and enter the Internet. Now anime is everywhere, even legally! This has raised the question whether fansubs are needed, as their main reason used to be translating unlicensed series. Noticed that I said: “used to be”. Even though a series is legally available, sometimes even streamed for free, people still fansub. Now, why is that? This will be my first question (this is the time I wished I had a blogging partner).

Aria makes every post happy. Calm down and relax.

Why do people continue to fansub, even if a series is legally available?

First off, what I mean here is series that are actually available outside Japan in English and all that. Not Hyouge Mono which most likely will never see Western release and where fansubs are the only choice. Instead, I mean stuff like Natsume Yuujinchou or anything else available on legal sites such as Crunchyroll. Now we have anime legally and for free! What could possibly be the reason for fansubs?

Here comes the tricky part: I do not know, I can only speculate. Here are some thoughts:

  • Fansubs have better visuals.

You are restricted to SD-quality on Crunchyroll as a free viewer, that is true. If you want higher quality you have to pay 7 dollars/month. Though, as a fansubber, should you not be happy about it being licensed? Some say no, some say yes.

  • Fansubs are faster.

Correct me if I am wrong, but are there not a lot of simulcasts today? On Crunchyroll, however, you have to wait one week after the episode first aired unless you pay, which at least I feel is a bit lame. We live in an era in which we want it now. So, you fansub to release episodes to the fans faster?

  • Fansubs are free.

Most of the streams are free. But let us get to the next question.

  • Fansubs provide better translation.

I do not know Japanese, not in the slightest. I cannot tell which translation is better than the other. But what I do know is that I rarely have any problems with, for example, Crunchyroll-subs when it comes to understanding the message. I have as much problems with fansubs as I do with legal subs, to be honest.

  • Fansubs are available in the whole world.

Now we have, what I would call, a valid reason to fansub that is not nitpicking. You see, a lot of series are still not available worldwide due to dumb region locks (read a related post HERE). This means I, who live outside USA, have no choice but to watch Nisemogatari by other means than legally on Crunchyroll. If fansubs did not exist, I would not be able to watch it. This reason to fansub goes hand in hand with what fansubbing was originally about: spreading anime.

So when it comes down to it, are region locks the reason people still fansub? I find it to be a good reason, if it really is why. But who knows? I do not. And what about series that are available worldwide (are there even any?)? What are the reasons then?

I will try to ask some fansubbers after I have finished the second post on this matter. It will focus more on the fansubs themselves. In the meantime, how do you feel about fansubs? I am very curious!


30 thoughts on “Why Do People Fansub? – Part 1

  1. isn’t it the same as blogging?

    perhaps to get known by people.

    helping others has a nice feeling.

    • Marow says:

      Blogging doesn’t really “hurt” anyone, if you get what I mean. Though I understand what you mean by getting known by people? Why do we blog anyway?

  2. Ty-chama says:

    Heh, when writing my posts up I find myself continually thinking: God, how will readers react to this? But, I’ve decided not to worry about it too much! Making mistakes is all part of the experience, use them to improve!
    As for the topic itself, I always go with fansubs, being both impatient and dirt poor! However, if I truly appreciate a show, I’ll always scrape together some money to buy it when it’s released on DVD!
    I’ve often heard people condemn some subs, (Horriblesubs, in particular) for ‘Americanising’ a show but, honestly, I rarely notice this…

    • Marow says:

      You’re making me want to create a rage-inducing post. 😀

      I wish I could buy on DVD, but the ones I want aren’t available in Europe!

      I don’t notice it either. Maybe one or two times, but it’s no biggie. Often people call it that “just because”. Kind of dumb.

  3. Logopolis says:

    Another point for that list: if your connection is not 100% reliable, streaming sucks. But bittorrent still works.

    • Marow says:

      Yes, I actually forgot that! Thanks for reminding me! That is another valid reason I think. Though more and more are getting better connection, so it won’t be a problem in the future for most of us. I had the same problem before: Crunchyroll had this awkward lag sometimes. So I understand where you come from, after having experienced it myself.

  4. Balloon Thief says:

    A very interesting post. Can’t wait for part two.

    It’s funny how much the American anime industry has changed over the past twenty years. Here’s another thing to consider. People who were introduced to the anime industry as a free product may not be as inclined to start paying. Yes many series are free on sites like Hulu and Crunchyroll. In those instances you are paying by watching an ad and you have a limitation of where you can watch the content. It can be quite difficult to get people to pay for what was formerly a free product.

    P.S. My pet ninja knows where you live.

    • Marow says:

      That is definitely true. Once you are used to something, it can be hard to change, especially if it’s considered a downgrade. Though sometimes I feel people are being too nitpicking or what you would call it. “I don’t want commercials!” – come on, it’s not that bad. When you take a step back and think about it, it’s not horrible. It’s like when you buy a Collectior’s Edition because you want it, only to wonder why you actually wanted it afterwards >_<''

  5. Hurvilo says:

    Well, for one thing, streaming sucks. At least for me who is still stuck with 512kbps. It is rather infuriating to watch something and get a BUFFERING message halfway through. Obviously doesn’t happen when you got the entire episode on the hard drive.

    I usually download new episodes over night so I don’t fuck over everyone else in the house (read: my dad) with slow browsing speed during daytime. And also I want to watch my anime on the telly, and the only way for me to do that until recently was to use PS3 media server. Even now that I actually have my computer hooked up to the TV, I still prefer PS3 media server due to the fact that I can browse files with the DualShock right from the couch. Of course, not all releases work with PS3 media server (mainly the new10 bit-ones) but what can you do?

    I want freedom, I want to watch my anime how I want, when I want in the best possible quality. And fansubs will most likely always be number one in this area. They provide the best viewing experience. Why would I want anything worse than that?

    • Marow says:

      Read my reply to Logopolis! About the TV-thingy, it comes off as pure laziness. Sorry, but I can’t side with you, though it could be improved.
      I know at least Crunchyroll is available on TV with certain boxes, but they are pretty useless outside US I believe.

      The only advantage fansubs have over an existing legal alternative, when it comes to freedom, is a file. Watch it wherever you want and without internet. If they fixed the latter problem, like Spotify offline, then I don’t see why fansubs are superior anymore. And there are people who don’t have problems with the Internet, but still watch fansubs. I think it’s because we are used to it.

      • Balloon Thief says:

        FYI Crunchyroll has a pretty neat app for the roku. It’s actually where I watch most of my anime because I’m super lazy. XD I’m pretty sure it’s also available on Google Tv boxes but those are harder to find and much more expensive than the roku for the time being.

  6. Kai says:

    As for me, it’s almost impossible to watch my anime without fansubs, meaning I’m pretty much “dead” without them. Reading this post reminds me of just how much fansubs mean to me. Kudos to them.

    I really want to support the series by purchasing their DVDs but I’m afraid not much original DVDs are even sold here in the first place, so once again, I had to rely on my best friend, internet, and is also my “best weapon” when purchasing figures, even though I had to pay more due to tax and shipping fees. Currently, I’m also trying to support some of my favorite series by purchasing their blu-rays, since my PC is compatible playing blu-rays why not?

    • Marow says:

      Yes, without fansubs many of us wouldn’t even be able to watch! Kudos for that. 🙂

      Bluray on computer? The quality must be outstanding!

  7. feal87 says:

    probably free time is the best reason out there. anyway, I have to thank them because when I started I didn’t know Japanese and it was pretty much impossible to watch anything without subs…:P

    • Marow says:

      Well, duh, without free time they wouldn’t be able to do it 😀

    • Dark_Sage says:

      “Free time”? Tons of fansubbers are super busy. Full-time jobs and college and social lives. It’s not like we’re sitting around being all “Oh, I guess I could subtitle an anime instead of staring at a wall.” We budget time for fansubbing just like any other hobby we enjoy.

      • Jug says:

        Thanks to everyone that subtitle, everyone else gets to enjoy. But I’ve always wondered, what your enjoyment is? Care to explain?

  8. Leap250 says:

    Maybe it’s because people are more used to/or prefer fansubs over official subs and CR. It’s not that CR subs are in any way bad, it’s just the mindset that fansubs (translation and quality-wise) are generally better and/or know what viewers want to see and such.

    There’s that, and region locks I guess. But that’s more of a biased answer from me, lol ^^

  9. Nopy says:

    I’ve wondered this myself over the years. In the good old days, almost every single sub would come with a disclaimer along the lines of “cease distribution when this anime is licensed in your region” or “support this anime by buying the DVDs/VHSs when they are made available”. None of the fansubbers today have anything like that. I think it just comes down to old habits, even if someone wasn’t around in the 90’s, the collective anime community was, and fansubs are just the way you get anime. Always has been (and by the looks of it, always will be).

    • Marow says:

      It’s a bit sad when when I think about what you mentioned. If only there was a real alternative, a true effort to market an anime streaming site or service.

      I wonder if it sounds like I hate pirates? Haha ^^”

    • Dark_Sage says:

      Some fansubs still come with this disclaimer, though they are so few in number that they are irrelevant. Kiteseekers-Wasurenai does this and Ayako/Chihiro occasionally do it too.

  10. marthaurion says:

    As convenient as streaming is, when it comes down to it, you’re still relying on the internet to watch. When I go to China, most streaming sites are blocked, so watching fansubs becomes really my only option. And when it comes down to it, when I’m on a 16 hour flight, Crunchyroll just isn’t going to work. As for why I chose to start helping in the whole fansub thing, I just wanted to make a contribution to anime.

    • Marow says:

      There will be a time when we simply have to adapt to new technology. Just like we moved from VHS to DVD and Bluray, we will have to accept Internet and streaming soon enough. If we took everything into consideration, China and plane for example, we could never move forward. We have to accept and change.

  11. Yi says:

    All valid reasons people use fansubs. Personally, I just find fansubs to be the best quality available for free, which is kind of the most important thing. Heh.

    • Marow says:

      Personally, I don’t mind quality that much. I find the legal free alternatives working, even if I wish they could make it better.

  12. mikazuki says:

    I’m not sure but I think that crunchiroll is not avalaible outside the USA or at last not in the whole world. Another question is that Chrunchiroll is only in english ( there is a lot of people speaking other languages and of course living outside the “chrounchiroll area”. )
    By my point o view o f not english native speaker and living in place where a lot of anime dont’ and will never arrive( for example here animes are meant for people ranging 7-14 years so there is a huge limit in the choose of what anime import) fansubs are the only way to know almost the greater part of anime production

  13. […] out about well-established parts in the anime community, as you can read in my four-part series on why people fansub. I am not someone who will succumb to being the nice guy, as some tends to do, so be on the […]

  14. […] to summarize them as much as possible, or you can break down the whole post in a series of posts; Marrow and his series of fansub posts is a good […]

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