It should come as no surprise to anyone when I say I’m very anti-piracy. As far as I’m concerned, piracy should be a last resort for when something is literally impossible to be obtained in any other official or reasonable way. So, while I feel that you really shouldn’t pirate any games available globally on any service, I’m not at all ashamed to admit to watching Nichijou illegally in the dead period where it was impossible to get your hands on a legal copy in the United States. With that said, it also shouldn’t come as to a surprise that I’m not too fond of the community surrounding fan translators who release their own subtitled anime through torrents. Initially this week I had decided in a spur of the moment decision to rant about fansubbers and my problem with them, but I decided I could take a lot more constructive of an approach.
One of the main complaints I always hear from fansubbers and the community surrounding them when it comes to official subtitles is that said subtitles are lacking for a myriad of different reasons. While I may just be too complacent to notice a large majority of the problems they point out, they occasionally are absolutely correct in their complaints (see Amazon’s subtitles) to the point where even my complacency can notice the issues. Through my general disliking of fansubbers and their community, I can’t necessarily say their hearts are in the wrong places in doing what they do.
Fansub groups undoubtedly work with teams fractions of the size of official subbing companies, take time worrying about small details like appropriate translations and typesetting, and (at least a majority of the time) what they do seems to come out of their love for the medium. Even as an outsider biased against them, I can see this and on at least some level I want to believe that their opposition to official subtitles comes from a want to improve the quality of legal streams. However, I don’t think they’ll listen. Not because western streaming companies don’t listen to anyone, as they clearly do looking back to the Crunchyroll bitrate controversy that happened in March of 2017 and the recent closing down of Amazon’s Anime Strike that happened just at the start of 2018, but because the opinions of fansubbers in particular are meaningless to them.
When you think of a large company, one that all things considered could continue with their current amount of revenue just fine and continue sustaining the level of quality for whatever they provide, be it a product or a service, but small enough to where all of their current customers are meaningful to them, who is the last kind of person they’d listen to? No matter what kind of company, be it anything from entertainment to auto-repair and welding, no company will listen to you if they have no reason to believe they’ll ever receive money from you — especially if you create illegal competition for them and their current customers are vocally happy about the service they’re receiving.
Regardless of the industry or how it works, this is exactly the mentality any company will have when looking at the concerns of others, and with that said, it’s also what companies like Crunchyroll, FUNimation, and Aniplex think of fansubbers complaining about their subtitles. All things considered, they have no reason to listen to fansubbers. They all currently have a reliable revenue stream, and they have no reason to believe that by listening to fansubbers they’ll get more customers. From their perspective fansubbers and the community surrounding them are a group of people they know are currently not giving them money, and people they have strong evidence to suggest will never give them money.
Meanwhile, when their customers make a fit over one of their decisions, they have every reason in the world to listen. Back when Crunchyroll dropped the bitrate of their videos and took four days to explain why from the first time it was noticed, the likely drop of subscriptions was a wake up call that they had to listen to what people were concerned about considering their service. They didn’t care when HorribleSubs brought up the issue or any of people who watched Crunchyroll through HorribleSubs complained; they had no reason to. These were all people they knew very well were already actively stealing the content they provided, and as such they had no reason to listen to their complaints. However, when registered premium members wanted answers on Crunchyroll’s own forums, the company was more inclined than it ever was from randoms on Twitter to start giving them.
Even looking at it from the perspective of a creator who actively benefits from creating entertainment, I would never listen to people who stole my novels. They could bring as many legitimate and real complaints to my doorstep, but so long as actual paying customers don’t care, I don’t either. This could seem greedy and to some I’m almost certain it does, but at the end of the day, pirates asking for corporations to make specific changes to the way they localise dialogue or typeset their streams is providing them with a demand that they gain nothing from by following.
This is why back when I wanted to push for Anime Strike to change, I made the lack of any piracy one of my main arguments. By pirating, you’re only saying “I was never a potential customer in to begin with” and in the eyes of a company, invalidating every single grievance you brought to the table before. The difference between “I’m pirating these shows instead” and “I can’t watch these shows because they’re made unavailable by you due to your current business model” is huge. By expressing interest in what the company is providing but adding that you can’t indulge in this interest at all because of their stake over it, you’re very easily making yourself seem like someone they should listen to.
So, while I can’t (and never will) say that fan translators for anime should just stop if they want their problems solved, as I don’t even agree with a statement like that, their complaints absolutely will never stop falling on deaf ears. Why I call this idea interesting, is because I can’t help but think that fansubbers and the community around them, at least to some extend, understand this. They’re clearly intelligent people, or at the very least hard working people, so every time I see a complaint about official subs that seem like a call for improvement, I wonder why they’re trying.
At the end of the day, these fan translators work harder than any of the official companies out there and just the idea of a certain site who shall not be named (through the principle of not giving them any publicity until they die) making money off of their hard work should be infuriating. If the webmasters of that site then complained about the quality of the subtitles or typesetting to fan translators, how little of them would care, if any, should be a telling sign. That site is to fansubbers what fansubbers are to official companies.
Of course, I could very well be wrong about all of this. I don’t have contacts inside Crunchyroll, FUNimation, or Aniplex, and even then it could be argued that different mindsets are held at different levels in the company. However, from both a logical perspective and from the point of view of someone who could be greatly hurt by piracy, it only makes sense that this is the reality of the situation. I don’t expect anything to change, instead I just wanted to share something this week that after enough contemplation I found very interesting rather than absolutely rage-inducing.
I am definitely not finishing this posy less than six hours before it goes live, and definitely didn’t stress about how to convey this topic for a good hour or two, nope. As always, thank you very much for reading this week’s post. If you have anything to add, feel free to leave them in the comments as I promise I read each one; if you’d like to see what I’m up to when I’m not writing for this blog you can follow me on Twitter. The Crunchyroll anime awards are coming up soon, and I am very curious as to how those will end up. See you all next week!
The featured image for this post was drawn by CLEA