Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Fansub Issue(s)

Steve Den Beste has lately been talking about all the problems with fansubs, the Japanese anime market, release times, and how it probably will kill a few of the anime companies here in the United States (it has already killed Geneon).

My opinion is very much an end-consumer one, so take it with a grain of salt. My issue is very much one that SDB notes-that it can take anywhere from about 2-3 years for a series to come from the United States. It has been bitched over, talked about, discussed, dismantled, dismembered, Wikipediaed and folded into a little hat by the time American fans can see it...

...unless they watch the fansubs. Only the fansubs give the non-Japanese speaking fans the illusion that they're "watching" the series with the fans in Japan or speak the language. And, let's face it, there are some series that are too old (Gundam, Legend of the Galactic Heroes), too weird (School Days), or just too niche (a judo anime who's title I can't recall off the top of my head) for an anime studio to make a decent profit off of.

Especially considering what Japanese studios think of fans...

Case in point, I am a die-hard Gunbuster/Diebuster fan. Big fan, I think that any anime fan that hasn't seen Gunbuster at least once needs their head examined. Or their Otaku rights revoked. But, when Bandai Visual brought out Diebuster out on DVD, they released it at $39.95 for two episodes on a DVD and weak/anemic extras.

Two episodes on a DVD. Of a six-episode series, I can...somewhat accept this. But, nearly $40+tax, you better stuff the rest of the DVD space with as much stuff as you can. Hell, throw in a second DVD of just "The Making Of" information.

Even worse? Freedom. Six episodes, one episode per DVD, next-to-no extras, $39.95 for a half-hour episode. That is easily more than a dollar a minute. Not even counting tax.

No wonder the Japanese studios are afraid of re-importation of anime DVDs from the United States. What most Japanese fans pay for one episode, they'd get about 2-4 episodes, maybe 5.

And, let's be fair...the dubbing setup in the United States isn't good yet. Most fans will freely admit that most dubs...could be done better. Unless the series has major popularity, the dubs are not of pretty high quality and they take a lot of time. Most series could be subtitled in a few weeks...it might take a few months to get a series properly dubbed. And, with the way that anime series are done (usually just-in-time or so...), it would be nearly impossible for a American distributor to get the scripts in enough time to do an English-language soundtrack.

What would really work would be a distribution agreement with Apple/iTunes. $2 for an episode of a series, $50 for a "season pass" that would automagically download each new episode, with official subtitles. Of course, this would require Japanese studios and TV execs (whom are not an imaginative bunch among AMERICAN execs, and the Japanese ones have to be worse) to work out that they have to get their product out to fans-both American and Japanese-faster and easier.

Of course...I think the only way they'll get realism is to be whacked over the head.

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