This is the second part of my three-part examination of the fansub debate. If you want to see part one it’s here.
Now, I’ll admit when I started this I made a pretty audacious claim. I said that I’d end the fruitless debates that circle through the fan community on the subject of fansubs. Hopefully, people will agree. If you don’t that’s fine too. But these are my thoughts anyway.
The reason why this subject is so divisive is because the arguments have become circular. If you assume X, Y and Z then A must be true. And then someone else comes along and says well X, Y and Z aren’t true, so A must not be true either. On top of that because anime is such an emotional topic and with the collapse of Geneon, the arguments themselves have become more emotional. To the point where people call each other names rather than form real insightful arguments.
The problem is that the arguments themselves don’t really mean anything.
Fruitless argument 1: If you’re a fan, then you’ll buy the show.
Man, if I had a dime for everytime I heard this one. The problem is that it’s complete bull. It makes the assumption that enjoyment of a show and spending money on said show are the same thing. Not only are they the same thing, but you’re a morally bad person if you don’t spend money on said show.
This is blatantly false. Case in point: I’ve had a lot of friends borrow my anime (which by the way is perfectly legal), and they’ve watched it and enjoyed it. Now they haven’t spent any money on said shows. They haven’t put any money into my anime buying fund. But nevertheless, they enjoyed the show.
Now the classic counterpoint to that is, “Well you should.” or “Well BitTorrent means that you can loan that same show to 10,000 + of your friends.” The problem is that these arguments are both unrealistic and dangerous. First they’re unrealistic because obviously people aren’t spending money on X shows. Second they are dangerous because they set up two camps of people. Those who hold the “moral high ground”, and who try to guilt trip the fan community into supporting the industry. And the rest of the people, who resent the first group.
The problem is that it doesn’t have an obvious solution. If people could be guilted into supporting the industry then they would have been. So all it does is create two groups of people scowling at each other like teenagers on the schoolyard.
Fruitless argument number two: “Fansubs hurt the industry.”
This is one of the crux arguments in this entire debate. The problem is that it doesn’t matter whether fansubs help the industry or hurt the industry. More to the point, we as fans don’t have access to the resources to prove this argument one way or the other.
Even Zac Bertschy, arguably one of the biggest pro-industry advocates out there, stated that he thought fansubs might have helped Fullmetal Alchemist, where they hurt Haruhi. So it’s never going to be a cut and dry issue.
What IS important is that the industry thinks that fansubs are hurting it. In fact, probably one of the most astute comments I’ve heard about it came from Anime Roundtable, when one of the commentators stated, “It makes a good excuse.” And it does.
But it doesn’t make for a good debate, because whether or not fansubs help or hurt the industry, the industry will continue to claim that fansubs are bad. And no matter how much people say otherwise, it won’t change their minds at this point.
Fruitless argument number three: “People download fansubs because of X”
In the end, it doesn’t matter why people download fansubs. What is more important is what fansubs represent – a first view of the series. As I’ve stated before entertainment has a limited shelf life. Several studies have shown that the more a person views a particular piece of entertainment the less they enjoy it. This is something I’ve expirienced personally. I have to have a cooling off time before I rewatch a show, even if I enjoy it more on the second viewing, there is a certain sense of tension that is lost now that I know how the show ends.
The reason why this argument is fruitless is that without a massive study we’ll never know why people download fansubs. And to top it off, even with a massive study, people are just as likely to lie.
So the way around this argument is to understand, that no matter why people are downloading they ARE downloading these shows.
The question remains why do we need to stop the fruitless debate? The answer is simple, because it polarizes the anime community. On top of that, they increase the resentment between the people who purchase anime, the people who purchase and download and the people who just download. In essence, the community can’t speak in one voice, to say what they want.
Which is obviously – Anime now, when it comes out.