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.


Agree or disagree? Leave a comment or e-mail



  1. Answerman is comparing the relationship between fansubbers and industry to that between UN and terrorists.Not fansubbers to terrorists or industry to UN. Which can be said to be accurate if one thinks UN getting annoyed of terrorist disrupting their operations at some place (fansubbers disrupting the sales of a licensed anime title).

  2. To be fair it was a Hey Answerfan’s column.

    Although I’m not sure I see that distinction. The whole reason he used the comparison was to compare the idea of “negiotiating with terrorists” with the idea of “working with fansubbers”

  3. When I read that on Answerman, I too was blown away by the level of ridiculousness of that comparison. I understand the sentiments behind it, but it was an incredibly poorly thought-out comparison and the guy who wrote it should be ashamed of himself.

    (For the record, I am neither for or against fansubs because I haven’t seen any real and hard numbers or research into whether or not fansubs are actually good or bad. I refuse to side with one side purely on speculation, “logical / illogical opinion,” anecdotal evidence, “common sense,” or whatever the hell else is being thrown around as “fact” these days to support either side.)

  4. @ nckl – Personally I don’t think whether fansubs really hurt or help the industry really matters. All that matters is that the industry thinks that they do, but in the end there isn’t much I can do about it except buy what I can. But I do try to be as ethical about it as I can. I don’t download things I could buy, but that’s just me.

  5. It is a rather unfortunate piece of hyperbole, isn’t it? Which reminds me, I was going to write an entry about why the otakusphere doesn’t like Answerman but never got round to doing it.

  6. The crushing irony is this: Zac BerIcantbebotheredtogethissurnameright was originally a fansubber.

    Also I think I may have wrote about this :V

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