2ch’s reaction to fansubbers who excuse their illegal acts by saying they are “supporting the anime industry” and blame the situation on the industry for not providing anime quickly enough is to denounce them for their brazen hypocrisy.
A Japanese journalist attending Anime Expo 2010, held in Los Angeles, had the misfortune to meet a group of fansubbers at the event and writes about the encounter for Nikkei:
I approached a pair of well known LA-based fansubbers at the event.
They explained some of their reasoning:
“We don’t like having to wait to get our anime, and the companies here won’t do it quickly enough. But we can do it.
By providing anime with no time lag, we’re supporting the American anime market. Even if it is illegal.
The current state of the American anime market is definitely not good for anime consumers. The companies won’t change it, so we do it for them.”
After speaking with the fansubbers, I spoke to a Japanese researcher with the Harvard Business School, who was accompanying me. What he murmured to me left an impression:
“Those kids were cheeky, weren’t they?”
He was smiling as he said it, but his eyes weren’t smiling…
As I explained previously, “fansubs” are the main way of viewing anime in America. From a purely legal perspective, fansubbing is nothing more than another way of saying piracy.
Many have said that fansubs are behind much of the sudden collapse of the American anime market. Naturally many copyright holders want a crackdown.
It’s often said that fansubbers just do it for love of anime or because they want to promote anime. Opinion tends to be divided as to whether that is the case, or whether they are simple hypocrites making excuses for themselves.
However, it is clear that they do not think adequate access to anime is being provided by the industry.
He goes on to describe some of the grey areas fansubbing encompasses, where anime producers historically provided only illegal, inferior or impractical access to their products overseas, with the result that consumers took matters into their own hands in what he regards as a very American display of initiative.
After being presented with the article, 2ch is less than convinced by their excuses:
“Just a bunch of pirates trying to justify their crimes.”
“Summary: ‘We’re not thieves. We just like anime. We won’t watch it if we have to pay.’”
“Sounds like something some idiots would say in order to rationalise what they’re doing. I hope these morons get arrested, especially in Japan.”
“Pirate logic is the same the world over.”
“They pretend to be gods by freely watching and redistributing the anime Japanese actually buy and support…”
“If Japan treated Disney cartoons and Hollywood movies like they treated our anime, the US government would go ballistic!”
“What are they on about? ‘The American anime market,’ ‘American anime consumers’ – when they just illegally pirate everything, is there a ‘market’? Are they ‘consumers’?”
“With YouTube and similar, Japanese anime sales overseas have dropped off and it’s barely commerically viable anymore.”
“They should really crack down on these people like Disney does. Why on earth don’t they?”
“It’s also true that without fansubs anime wouldn’t have spread overseas like it did. And there are a lot of people like this in Japan itself.”
“The translation abilities of fansubbers are so pitiful it’s a wonder anyone thinks they can form a valid opinion of an anime by watching them.”
“Even in Japan there are scumbags who sub western films and then upload them, and get treated like gods for doing it.”
“They refuse to learn Japanese – just look at all the Japanese who learn English to watch their films. What spoilt brats.”
“Some of these guys also claim to be doing it to advertise the anime in question.”
“Just cracking down may not increase their revenues in any case. Perhaps they should loosen their grip and let even more people see them.”
“So you’re an anime producer, are you?”
“What are you, deluded?”
“This is just what you’d expect of people who are satisfied with the video quality you get with fansubs.”
“Having these people watch our anime might encourage more censorship. It would be best if they didn’t watch them.”
“It’s the industry’s own fault. They should have a Disney-style copyright protection effort.”
“What really pisses me off is when weekly manga are scanned and translated even before you can buy it in the shops here.”
“Japanese regional anime otaku: ‘The regional stations are to blame for not broadcasting any anime! We have to use video sharing sites, it’s our last resort!’
Me: ‘What about ATX?’ [a premium anime channel available nation-wide]
“Take a leaf out of my book you hairy foreigners! I waited for the Japanese release of ‘Transformers’ without watching it illegally, I went to the US to buy goods despite not speaking a lick of English, I attended the events and bought stuff! Those people have no right to say they love anime.”
“Leaving aside the matter of overseas otaku, I just want to say to them to stop circulating anime online before you can even buy or watch it in Kanto…”
“What a bunch of asses. Download all the doujinshi you want, but leave stuff by pros alone.”
“I can’t say what these people are doing is justified, but I do think the producers who ignore the demand here have really wasted an opportunity.”
“Just buy the DVDs! Otherwise wait! Or else make something yourself, if you can…”
“They think they are entitled to watch it all for free now, so they won’t buy anything. Do they think this stuff is produced by some sort of natural process!?”
“Well, it’s sad but most of them just don’t want to watch the anime enough to actually pay for it to be made.”
“Even without having a fee system, they can still make something by advertising on the videos, can’t they? It’s not a huge effort for the producers to sub and provide official versions of their anime with minimal lag. It’s better than just having everyone watch them for nothing.”
“I think some companies already went bust trying that.”
“As things are now the Americans probably don’t want to buy much advertising.”
“Those Americans won’t buy anything. It doesn’t matter how many fans there are.
Look at the prices on the NA editions! It’s that cheap and they still won’t buy it!? It’d be a bargain sale price in Japan.”
“I get the feeling that it is just us who are paying a lot more.”
“2 episodes for $70 is Japan only, yes.”
“The director of Code Geass said in an interview that at US prices 70% of anime titles released in Japan would lose money.
Just because you sell at a very low price doesn’t mean your sales will necessarily increase a huge amount.
There simply are not many otaku to sell to in any case. Hollywood films just sell to millions of people so they can spread the cost over them all like that.
Even at ¥980, this season’s crop of moe anime would never sell 100,000 copies. US prices for anime are from half to a tenth of what we pay – but the market is still collapsing.”
“If you don’t broadcast and release DVDs simultaneously in all countries, your sales will continue to decrease. In a world connected by the Internet, popularity arises simultaneously, globally.
If you try to force people to wait a year for something to be localised, it will long since have fallen from popularity by then.”
“So far they have been saying this:
‘Japanese must distribute anime freely at the same time as it airs in Japan – if they don’t, fansubbing will continue forever.’
So some Japanese makers tried to accommodate them even with their meagre budgets.
They distributed the Tower of Druaga free on YouTube.
What happened? The fansubbers ripped off the subs and began distributing their own version in higher resolution.
Ore no Imouto was also being simulcast in the US.
What happened? The show was leaked online before it even aired, and then redistributed and they hastily cancelled the whole thing.
They try to make out as if they are benevolent volunteers. But really their morals are completely absent.”
“And they do make money from this in spite of it being a ‘volunteer effort.’ They are happy to accept donations – it doesn’t matter how hard the creators work on it, the praise and the money ends up with them in the end.
And let’s not forget a certain site which targeted Japanese anime, pirated them and distributed them online for free, then became a multimillion dollar enterprise – Crunchy Roll, started by a Chinese-American.”
“What the idyllic legend of fansubbers starting an overseas market for anime refers to is a bunch of students handing around translated VHS tapes and showing them at their universities.
But that has nothing to do with the situation now, where ‘anime = download for free’ and the market is collapsing.”
“In a little while this thread will be translated and made into an article on some foreign site, and they’ll leave out the inconvenient stuff above and just start a huge flamefest.”