Why Do People Fansub? – Part 2

The Internet, a magical place where anything can happen. When it comes to anime, we now got the luxury of having basically any anime we want in our hands in the blink of an eye. But despite there being legal ways to watch anime, people still fansub.

In my first post I, very simplified, brought up some possible reasons as for why people still fansub. Whether they hold true or not is not up to me to decide, because I have no insight into fansubbing. But anyhow, let us play with the idea that we are going to fansub an anime, whichever we would like. It could be Haruhi, Bakemonogatari or something completely else, it does not matter. Now, the question is: what would you focus on when fansubbing?

I would say quality.

All posts
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

What I mean by “quality” is quite simple, even if it may sound a bit vague to some of you. To explain, it is the result of putting a lot of effort into creating something truly amazing, something to be proud of. Well, this is slightly exaggerated, but you understand what I mean. My point here is that if I am going to fansub something that otherwise would never escape the Japanese borders, I would do my outmost. I would never release something half-heartedly.

I sometimes wonder if fansubbers also feel that way or if I am only a naïve fool.

Whenever I have the bad luck of encountering poor fansubs, or only am reading about them, I have this awkward feeling telling me: “just why do people fansub?”. As I said in part one, the (original) reason for fansubbing is spreading unlicensed anime. So if people want to spread anime, why should they not do a proper job?

Today, almost everything about fansubbing is about being as fast as possible, because the fans want the episodes now. If you are slow, another group will release the episode faster and you will be forgotten. As a result, we have a lot of simple errors such as spelling mistakes, odd sentences, lack of opening and ending song translations and more, simply because it needs to be released as soon as possible. Now, wait a minute, am I the only who that finds this… wrong?

Why would it be necessary to release episodes fast, but not in perfect shape, to ensure that people download your fansubs? Is fansubbing a popularity contest all of a sudden? A way to become famous on the Internet? Come again?

I cannot follow this kind of thinking. I thought the most important thing was to spread unlicensed anime? As in providing us with high quality? And if there are a couple of other groups fansubbing the same series, why not slow down and take a few days extra to guarantee a high quality release, especially if there is a legal alternative available? I just do not get it.

  • Come on, people are fansubbing for free, stop whining already.

Yes, I understand that and I love them for doing so. But exactly why should they fansub, if their goal is not to do a good job, but instead to gain Internet fame? Fame which they also would gain by creating great fansubs? I doubt, and to some degree do not hope, I am the only one who would focus on quality instead of speed. There are groups out there so bad, I cannot help but wonder why they continue to fansub. It is as if they do not care about fansubbing in the slightest. At least try to improve, guys!

  • Fansubbing is a great way to help me develop my language skills.

Cool, I totally agree! But that is not an excuse for horrible fansubs. You have to check your translation a couple of times and you have editors to point out the mistakes. If you are all learning Japanese, make it clear from the get-go so people do not get tricked.

In the end, I really want fansubbers to improve. I cannot come up with any reason for them not to.

How do you feel about this? Should we start questioning fansubbers or do you disagree with my line of thinking? Share your thoughts!

18 thoughts on “Why Do People Fansub? – Part 2

  1. Cholisose says:

    Ah, I feel that most of the time fansubbers do a great job. It really just needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis, I suppose. (And opinions will differ in every situation.)
    I remember one group included those wacky Morning Rescue commercials in Madoka Magica downloads. Probably not the best of ideas… (Or *was it*?!)
    And as your comic showed, some groups will throw in bad language even when it’s not necessary… I’m personally not a fan of this, especially when F-bombs are being dropped for rather small things (it’s like I’m reading Youtube comments!). But I guess that’s just how it goes. Fortunately this is generally the exception rather than the rule.

    I’m personally considering translating light novels that will never be released in English–but only once I’ve gotten a better grasp of the Japanese language (so don’t hold your breath). This is a bit different than fansubbing or scanslations, which generally just deals with dialogue–making the need for quality writing much more of an issue. Translations can’t just be straight word-for-word translations, and I commend fansubbers when they’re able to still retain “the voice” of each character in their dialogue. Lots of decisions have to be made all throughout each episode, since there’s rarely just one way to say something upon translation.

    • Marow says:

      Morning Rescue! I think that was ggsubs, but I might be wrong. I wonder if the reason it got so big was because of the commercial being kept? It’s like the best commercial spot you can get, haha.

      Translating light novels? Sounds like fun, but it sounds hard. There are more things to consider than just translating dialogue (I believe). The mood, the circumstances, the characters and so on. Yes, they are also present in subbing, but in written media they become so much more important. I hope it goes well!
      And to the subbers, I also commend them. I love it when they manage to translate Japanese jokes into English in a natural way. 🙂

  2. Ty-chama says:

    I think one should always take pride in what they’re doing and attempt to do the best they can, more so if there are people relying on them! I’d much rather download quality fansubs that come out slightly later than shitty ones that come out straight away!
    Although, sayin that, I frequently download gg/Commie fansubs which, as that hilarious comic illustrated, aren’t always *ahem* professional…

    Whilst I feel more comfortable exploring and writing about the patterns found inside of anime, I really enjoy reading your thoughts on the aspects of the anime industry itself! Keep up the hard work!

  3. Ty-chama says:

    Sorry if that wasn’t very coherent, I’ve just finsihed a 9 hour shift at work, my brain self-destructed hours ago!

    • Marow says:

      Don’t worry, it was! 😀

      I write about the industry itself? Perhaps I do… I find it easier than writing about stuff inside of anime for some reason. But I haven’t really given it a try yet, so who knows what will happen later!

      (also, gg’s subs for Hidan no Aria will always be in my heart)

  4. I find the idea of demanding some amount of coherence and quality from fan sub groups to be both awesome and hilarious. It would be awesome if the quality of fan subs went up. It is hilarious because we don’t really have any way of influencing these fan sub groups to create better translations. Well besides the basic things like money and popularity. I think that some fan sub groups may not have as much pride in their work because they’re anonymous on the internet. Usually the fan subs or legal subs tend to be good enough for me. I’m actually not that picky.

    • Marow says:

      You are right about that, but it would still be fun to see a group come forward and really take pride in their work. Surely they have pride, but I want them to shine! Or maybe I’m just demanding too much >_<

    • Dark_Sage says:

      Really? Vote with your downloads. Groups measure their quality based on how many people watch their subs.

      See those comments sections on fansub groups’ sites? They read them. Heard of IRC? Every fansubber is on the damn thing, in their channel, reading what people say.

      Fansubbers are not nearly this untouchable race of Superior Translators that you think they are.

  5. Mushyrulez says:

    Sorry, I don’t think I commented on your first post, but… is the point of fansubbing to spread anime? That’s the point of pro-subbing. Fansubbing is a voluntary business (yes, an oxymoron). Why do people want to volunteer? That’s the main question.

    “Why else,” you probably wouldn’t say while looking at a computer with nobody around you, “Obviously, people volunteer because it’s fun to volunteer!”

    Ba-da-bing! People volunteer because it’s fun to volunteer. People fansub because it’s fun to fansub. Obviously, I have no experience fansubbing (otherwise, I’d probably have a more cynical look on this situation), and I actually have minimal experience volunteering. But if it’s fun to do something, and everybody will agree with me here, who cares how you do it as long as you have fun?!*

    *Of course, unless you’re hadena. Not that anybody actually /watches/ their subs, lol

    P.S. You probably shouldn’t add a link to your post within your own post; I thought this was the third post in the series, and clicked the link to ‘Part 2’. Perhaps you could make everything a link except for the post that we’re currently on, so that it’s obvious which post this is and which post the other posts are.

    P.P.S. Did you make that image?

    P.P.P.S. stands for post post post spost

    • Marow says:

      Interesting take on the matter!

      Personally, I would still have some kind of goal even if I had fun. And my reason to start fansubbing wouldn’t be that it’s fun, as I have never experienced, but some kind of goal. After having subbed for a while though, the fun is probably the reason you stay. It’s like that with everything. But no matter what, I would strive to make it near perfect.

      About the comic/picture, no, I didn’t make it. I found it not too long ago, but I don’t remember if it was simply a forum or a site.

  6. feal87 says:

    Omfg I laughed so hard at the first image comparing the three fansubber groups…:D

  7. Nopy says:

    About 7 years ago, the fansubbing community was all about quality. People usually went for the higher quality fansubs rather than the ones that came out first because they wanted to enjoy their anime and understand what was being said. There was even a saying amongst fans, “friends don’t let friends watch Anime-Junkies,” which was referring to a speed-subbing group with horrible translations.

  8. Kai says:

    I used to care about quality but now ever since I started playing Japanese visual novels, my mindset is changed completely. Now I think that having translators translating them in the first place is a miracle in itself, and we as the viewer of these projects, should just enjoy whatever we have at the moment.

  9. Dark_Sage says:

    For a lot of fansubbers, it’s all about the social aspect. Everyone wants to be valued. You can be valued for the quality of work you do or the speed at which you can push your subs out.

    The reason speed is still the dominant social currency is that it’s easy to measure. It’s objective. No one can argue that a group which releases in five hours is slower than a group which releases in six hours. The “five hour” group is seen as superior because they can provide a release very quickly. Those who only care about subs being “good enough” are very vocal in their praise. Groups take this to mean that they’re doing a good job. Their IRC channels fill up and their sites get comments and hits. They’re popular, and being popular means they’re better than the rest. gg, UTW, and Mazui are good examples of groups which are aligned with this goal.

    Now, quality is also important to factor in. You can be fast, but if you can’t hit a certain level of quality, you will be ridiculed (Chiki, Hadena, Ayako have all experienced this). Some groups compete on a “we can do this better than you” basis. They gain social currency from being measurably better than others. Their fanbase tends to be smaller, but their fans tend to be absurdly loyal. GotWoot, EveTaku, and Taka are good examples of groups which compete based on quality.

    So you have these two positions that groups take: Quality vs. Speed. It’s not a “one or the other” thing. Groups can focus on quality and still be fast and groups can focus on speed and still be good. These are two strategies that are aimed at increasing the social worth of the group and its members.

    I could honestly write an essay about this, but I’m going to stop myself here. This is just one small aspect (and I haven’t even delved that deeply into it) that helps explain the motivations of fansubbers in regards to quality vs. speed.

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