In My View: Why are the Anti-fansub people making my head hurt?

Once upon a time, I only thought the radical anti-industry segment was the only group to come up with really stupid arguments. And don’t get me wrong, but they’ve produced some doozies. My favorite is the, “Fansubs should be protected by the First Amendment” argument. But there have been a whole laundry list of them ranging from “the companies charge too much” to “but they get to see it free in Japan”. All of them were unconditionally and unilaterally missing some fundamental fact.

It used to be that I could have a good chuckle and move on, comfortable that only the anarchists and socialists were rearing their ugly head.

And then I read this in a recent “Hey Answerman!” column:

No, just no. The industry working with fansubbers would be like the UN negotiating with terrorists.

Um… exsqueeze me? Fansubbers are terrorists now? When did this happen. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I don’t even know where to start. First terrorists have become the new “Hitler”. Essentially it’s an overused, often misused, term that basically translates into X group are horrible people. And once you’ve made that comparison you’ve lost your point. Second fansubbers are not terrorists, because that assumes that they’re doing it to destroy the industry. Now from what I can tell, there may be some out there with those aforementioned really lousy arguments, but there are just as many that seem to want the notoriety that comes from releasing shows. So a more apt comparison would be fansubbers are thieves. And they are. And following the whole chain of logic, the government does negotiate with criminals, it’s called plea bargaining.

Now I’m not going to tear apart the rest of that argument. Basically because it’s so ridiculous and contradictory that it makes my brain hurt. (In the next line he admits to downloading fansubs, so I guess that means he’s aiding terrorism). But I’m starting to wonder if reason is dead, or if we’re starting to see the rise of a whole new group of crazy people: a pro-industry/anti-fansub faction.

In some ways I can understand where it’s coming from, with Geneon collapsed and ADV seemingly on indefinite hiatus, there’s a lot of people who are starting to get desperate for the industry to succeed. They’ve been fed the company line that “Real fans don’t download. Real fans buy.” Because it would be impossible for fans to both download AND buy. A while back both Death to Zippermouth (over at WTF!) and HardCheese at Zenime had wrote a couple of posts about the nature of fansubs and purchasing from legitimate sources. So I’m not going to repeat anything that was said there, mostly because they already said it. But I will say, if I had a legal alternative to fansubs, I’d take it in a heart-beat. At least if I had a legal alternative that didn’t take more than a year to come out over here (and at the rate the US distributors are going it’s not even likely to finish).

The thing is there are plenty of good reasons for the industry to not work with the fansubbers – quality level being the biggest one. Just like there are plenty of good reasons for the industry to work with fansubbers – established knowledge base, distro routes and brand recognition being some of those. But what we don’t need in this argument are empty invectives that in the end don’t mean anything.


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From King of the World to Kaneda

So I picked up this little gem off of the SciFi Wire (the news service for the SciFi channel) that Leonardo DiCaprio might be teaming up with Warner Brothers to produce a two-part Akira movie. Somehow the thought of DiCaprio being involved just invokes images of him yelling “Tetsuo!”

Not that it’s really going to happen that way, right?

In My View: Why Bandai Visual concerns me

(This is my slightly less informed opinion based on this post and these

Ahhh… Bandai Visual, you crazy, crazy company. To be fair, I haven’t really spent a whole lot of time thinking about Bandai Visual. True tears and Shigofumi haven’t really been on my radar much. Not because I hate the series, but simply because there’s a whole lot of stuff that I want to watch more. I know that their pricing scheme isn’t going to work in the States. Whether it’s reasonable or not, there isn’t a retailer in their right mind who’d put a $30 disk on their shelf that has a half hour of content. Especially considering that the majority of them are actually decreasing the amount of space they give to anime or at least not expanding it. Of course, they could always return the item to BVUSA and then nobody makes money. But how likely are they to race out and scoop up that next disk.

And as much as BVUSA’s distribution method reminds me of Print on Demand books, it also reminds me that once a product is out of sight, it is largely out of mind. But… none of that bothers me. Sure there are a few series of theirs that I’d like to see, but nothing I can’t live without watching.

No, what bugs me is something that shows up in Don’s first post on this subject:

“As a matter of policy, I don’t download series once they’re licensed. I don’t need to worry any more about Shigofumi or true tears. In fact, I probably will never see them at all, unless Bandai changes its insane pricing.”

Essentially, here’s a guy who’s exactly what the anime industry wants. Someone who doesn’t download once the series is licensed. Someone who follows the “rules”, and he’s saying that BVUSA’s pricing structure is driving him towards the fansubs. Is it me, or is there something wrong about all of this? The anime industry has been whining for at least the last six months about how fansubs will be the death of them (including executives from BEI) and here comes a company that is implicitly making a case for downloading.

And if you’re already ticking off your core audience, I can’t imagine what you’re doing to your fringe audience.

Granted, I realize that we’re still talking about BVUSA. In the end, it’s a business model that deserves to fail. And it’s likely that most of the fans are smart enough to distinguish between BVUSA and ADV, BEI or Funimation. But I do think they’re sending the wrong message. And what’s worse is that they’re sending the wrong message while they are doing the right thing.

Because the whole reason why these series are already licensed is because they’re planning on having a simultaneous release in Japan and the States. So they’re doing what anime fans have wanted for a long time (albeit a couple years too late), but they’re doing it in a way that won’t work. What concerns me more than anything else, is the chilling effect this could have on an industry that is already trying to play catch up. I can already hear it now, when the next person asks, “Well why don’t you try to get it to the States faster?” and the industry official looks at him and says, “Well look at Bandai Visual, it didn’t work for them.”


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The Otakusphere: Downtiming on the Nightside in the Way Back Machine

Recently, I reached my 100th post, and I got to thinking that the nature of blogging seems to be to keep putting new stuff out there, but it’s pretty rare that we go back and look at the older stuff that people have done. Mostly because there’s usually a huge backlog and because usually we’ve been keeping up with our favorite bloggers. So in this edition of the Otakusphere I figured I’d step back into Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine and paw through some older blog posts from some of my favorite bloggers.

I’m not really sure how to categorize this one from far away no where, other than to say, “Oooo teenage girls are scary.” And spending an awful lot of time on YouTube, I’ve found that to be the case. If you think anime fans are prone to some rabid fanboyism then you should spend some time trawling through the comments on that site.

And one for the “stuck in the anime rut” pile, Michael at Anime| Otaku had at great post about feeling refreshed when he started watching School Days. I completely understand the sensation that the shows that I’ve been watching start to feel recycled. But on the other hand, I haven’t been there in a while. I don’t know if it’s just the fact that I watch a lot of stuff, or that I really have low expectations.

Speaking of my low expectations, I ran across bateszi’s listing of reviews for the end of the 2007 season. And I couldn’t help thinking, “Man, am I missing something here.” I really liked Claymore. I mean I didn’t think it was another Beserk. Honestly, I’d put it more in the category of Gantz. But even then, it got me clutching my sleeve and biting my knuckles. And I’m liking Code Geass. Is there just something wrong with me? Or am I just easily amused?

However, I can always trust CCY to say what I think, only better. Here’s an editorial post about how people tend to judge a series by its first episode. And that it might be more because of the serial nature of anime, rather than the fact that the first episode is really bad.

And because I couldn’t find Martin’s argument about whether anime is deep or not (a discussion I really wish I could have joined in on, but I kind of figure my opinion would have ruined it), I picked out this one on the “Hoo-hah” factor in anime. If you’ve watched “Scent of a Woman” then you probably know what that means. I’m not sure if I entirely agree that a show can be too manly. I think it depends on how it applies that extreme. This in essence is his argument here.

And last, but certainly not least, here’s a figure review from Happy Soda. I can’t ever get enough of these. I don’t know if it’s the photography or the figures themselves, but that plastic sure looks sexy. Man it makes me dirty to say that.

In My View: A Case for Koi Kaze

So a few years ago, I watched a Johnny Depp movie called “The Secret Window.” Really there wasn’t a whole lot special about the movie. It was just another, “Guy on the rocks, has something strange start going on with his life, has to figure it out” type of movie. Even the twist wasn’t really all that spectacular, I caught it early on, but mostly I kept watching the movie because a) I bought it at Blockbuster and b) to see if I was right.

Okay I’m going to spoil the movie. But throughout the show, the audience is fed that Johnny Depp’s character is largely the victim of everything that’s happening to him. He’s struggling back, struggling to write, struggling to get his wife back, etc, etc. For the most part we’re painted a sympathetic picture of his character. So when he kills his ex and her new beau, I found myself cheering.

And then I stopped, paused the movie and thought, “Shit, am I cheering for the psychopath to kill a couple of innocent people who just want to help?” The entire movie had lulled me up till that moment when someone did something that I should have been disgusted by, but it did it so well and subtly that I didn’t realize I was cheering him on until after the fact.

And that’s why I like Koi Kaze.

On the characters and expectations

What has always struck me about Koi Kaze is that both characters in isolation from each other are likable. Koshiro is a corporate drone, who loves his father, contributes to society and in general is a pretty nice guy. Nanoka is a bright, energetic girl, who has her own mind and is, much like most people her age, trying to figure out her place in the world. She loves her mother and is nice to her friends and in a lot of ways is a pretty admirable character.

That’s why I want them to be happy.

Just not with each other.

The thing about this entire story is that there are places that it just made my skin crawl. I honestly had to skip over at least one scene because I couldn’t watch it. And it wasn’t that it glorified the relationship between these two characters. Far from it. The infamous bra sniffing scene comes to mind here. The lighting is kind of dingy and Koshiro pauses and even admits disgust with himself after it. All of this added to my own cognitive dissonance. I mean the characters are set up so that I want to like them, but I don’t like what they’re doing, but I want them to be happy, but they’re only going to be happy if they’re with each other. And I keep asking myself, why is this bothering me so much?

And then I figured it out. It’s because this is supposed to be a romance. Everything about the show screams romance from the pastel artwork, to the laconic pacing, to the two lonely people finding each other, to the monologue Koshiro gives at the beginning of the show. In fact, this couldn’t scream romance any more if it had Fabio half naked on the cover. And if there’s one rule to a romance show, it’s love conquers all.

Amor vincit omnia

The expectation of any audience when they sit down to watch a romance is that the hero and the heroine will get together at the end. And that if they really love each other, then nothing (including anterograde amnesia or death) will keep them apart. Really this idea has crept into our popular conscience like a plague. It’s got songs written about it (I got you babe), it’s got books written about it and arguably every American romantic comedy has this concept at its core. That no matter how hard life might be, no matter how much society might step in, that love will save you.

What Koi Kaze does is challenge whether we really believe that concept. Much like “Secret Window” we have an expectation for these characters. We want to cheer them on. But I can’t.

And much like “Secret Window” leaves me asking, “Is there something wrong with me that I’m cheering on the crazy guy?” Koi Kaze leaves me asking, “Is there some fault in me that I can’t let these two people be happy?” And even more than that it leaves me wondering, “Does love really conquer all?” And do I really think two people who love each other really should be together.

And that’s why I like this show. Not because it excited me, but because it disgusted me. And by disgusting me, it forced me to question my own morals and beliefs. And sometimes that can be a good thing.

Just a thought on Code Geass

So is it me or is this show a play on Arthurian myth? With Lelouch as Mordred, CC as Morgan Le Fay against Arthur (Euphie) and Lancelot (Suzaku)?

Impressions: On a bunch more stuff

Claymore: So I finished up this series the other day and after a lackluster first four episodes, all I have to say is: AWESOME. Seriously, this isn’t a show that does anything really all that novel. It’s got a pretty classic shounen fighting show format. The characters meet badass monster. Badass monster powers up. Characters power up and beat badass monster. But the combination of powering up and “beware when you hunt monsters, lest you become one,” made a lot of the fight scenes more tense, especially towards the end. I don’t even mind the loose ends it left laying around. Although they do scream sequel. All in all, I’m glad Funimation decided to pick this one up.

Le Chevalier D’Eon: I finished this one too, and… I’m not sure about it. It isn’t bad, but the ending kind of left me scratching my head. It almost felt like there were about six or so episodes missing somewhere between the time the characters were in England and when the came back to France. Also there were quite a few deaths that just seemed awkward, like the creators needed to plop a Deus Ex Machina into the show so that they didn’t need to explain stuff later. Although overall, I do think it’s an interesting show and worth watching again.

Legend of Black Heaven: I watched the first disk of this one so far, and I have to say it’s pretty good. But the dub is horrible. Honestly half the laughs it got from me were those squirmy “oh my god it sounds like they aren’t even watching the screen when they recorded this”. And that’s saying a lot. But on the other hand, I haven’t really seen the likable loser archetype in anime too often, so it’s nice to see it here. And it has some interesting conflict between trying to re-live your glory days and being happy with where you are right now.

Code Geass: Okay, I broke my rule here and downloaded it. Mostly because I wanted to see what the fuss was all about. And I have to say, the first three episodes are good. I do kind of hope they work “a year and a day” somewhere into the anime, although I doubt they’ll go that far into the mythology that they’re borrowing from. But Lancelot is an appropriate name for the mech. And Lelouche is interesting. I’m not sure how much I like him yet. It does feel like we get thrown into the middle of his story.

Saiunkoku: So I’m about four or five episodes into this one, and all I want to know is why does it get compared to Twelve Kingdoms? Why? I mean on the one hand we have a series that spans countries and details the rise of a queen as she learns to rule by walking among her people (among other things). On the other hand we have tea ceremonies, pretty boys and a fairly standard love story. It’s not a bad series, don’t get me wrong. But comparing the two seems like comparing Lord of the Rings to Dragonheart.

Anyways, that’s everything I’ve been watching recently. Well except for Twelve Kingdoms, again. But it’s pretty obvious how I feel about that show.