The Difficulties of Fansubbing: Of Politics and Collaborations

This is something which I never understood before becoming a fansubber and, even as I type this, I'm not sure if you guys will understand it either. That said, it has been an integral part of my experience in this, and I want to write about it.

I think I may have already touched on my personal experiences of it in my previous two-part series on fansubbing, so I'll try not to repeat myself.

Inter-group Politics

I'm going to ignore internal politics as, for the most part, it isn't something I have come across. And what I could tell you of it I already did in the previous entry in this series. But politics between different groups seems to be more rife than one might initially believe.

It's something which is very common in anime fansubbing and manga scanlation. Groups will effectively fight over the more popular series. A show like Naruto or Bleach may have 3 or 4 groups all working to produce subtitles (although both those shows have been licensed, so there's no need for English fansubbers there, but that's another story for another time). Now, naturally you want people to download your work. There's no point in doing it if everyone ignores your release and goes to watch someone else's, right? Well, this creates an arms race of sorts, with groups usually splitting into two separate camps to ensure that they get the viewers they feel they deserve.

In the first camp you have your speedsubs. The goal here is simple. Be the first group to release, and everyone will download yours. And so these groups will do their best to ensure that their subs are out within the first 24 hours of airing. It's a legitimate, and mostly successful strategy.

But in the second camp you have quality subs. Not content to rush things and risk releasing poor quality translations, these groups opt instead to take their time and ensure that everything is of the quality you'd expect them to be when you sit down to watch your favourite show. These groups instead rely on the fact that a lot of people will be very conscious about the quality of their subs and will opt instead for the slower release. Also a legitimate and successful strategy.

And so the arms race created by this competition drives and motivates all parties to be the best at what they do, and ultimately cancel each other out. Both groups get stuck in this deadlock, and neither can win. Just like in the movie Wargames, the only way to win is not to play. And that's us, the audience. 

So, that's anime fansubbers... but what about Hello!Project?

Well, just like anime fansubbers, we like people to watch our subs. We still feel it was pointless if it reaches no-one because they all went off and grabbed someone else's. The biggest difference is that in anime there's an element of expectation in there. Competition is a fairly normal thing, because there are hundreds of groups out there, and so it makes sense if multiple groups end up doing the same thing. In Hello!Project, this isn't the case.

We generally only have a handful of major groups, and a few individuals working mostly on performances, at any given time. And so when the volume of potential new material to work on every week is much greater than the number of groups who can actually do them, there's an element of complacency in there, where you kind of assume that you're the only one working on it. And when this belief proves to be unfounded, it's all the more shocking.

Most H!P groups are more diplomatic than that. There's usually several lines of communication in place, where groups will inform others about the projects they plan to work on. This generally prevents any surprises further down the road. Of course, it still happens. I can think of three ICU projects that H!F did, despite the fact that ICU were publicly declaring their intention to work on them. 

It also happened fairly recently here at KIDS, though this time for lack of communication. TPF and KIDS both released subs of Airi's movie, Keitai Kanojo. We had started work on it immediately after release, and TPF approached us later saying that they were intending to release, and had already finished translating. They were just letting us know, and until that point, neither of us knew that the other was working on it. We hadn't bothered contacting TPF because, at that point, they were a new group (having only done 3 releases - with the releases they had done before those being at a rate of 2/year) and we simply had no idea who they were. And they were new to it all and so didn't think to let anyone know of their intentions early on. Basic mistakes for both of us. 

It made us very angry at the time though. They offered to collaborate with us on it, but, after a bit of discussion, we decided just to each release our own versions.


That brings me to my next topic, however. That of collabs, or joint-projects. It's something you see from time to time among the major groups these days. But, until a couple years ago, it was territory that was very much unknown. 

Some difference of opinion in how one Momoko DVD should be handled (ICU saying that, while we didn't want to commit to it, the commentary should be translated, and Hyakupa saying that they'd do it, but wouldn't do the commentary), both groups agreed to a compromise and it was decided that we would split the work between the two groups in the first ever joint-project by H!P fansub groups.

H!F and N!N (I think?) later did their own joint-project, which got released before ours (a recurring theme - the slowness of ICU releases, that is). But it was something we very much had to make up as we went along.

And, of course, both groups had very different ways of doing things. And so we found quickly that communication would be vital, and compromise would be essential.

That experience has meant that, although joint-projects are nothing unusual any more, KIDS refuse to do them. We still do collaborative efforts with other fansubbers, such as the work we did with H!F's snoboat on Sanokuen Shojo or with Kai_Guy01 on Keitai Kanojo. We insisted that it not be a joint project however, and instead that fansubber would come work for us as a special guest.

It may appear to just be semantics, but it allowed us to skirt around the politics and the difficulties of working a compromise between the two groups' styles and way of working by just using our own.

H!F have offered to do joint-projects with us several times, and this is the main reason why we have always declined.

So what are these complications in the way we do things?

Well, taking the ICU/Hyaku release as the example, it could be just about everything. From small things like fonts or ensuring consistent translation style, to the more political things. ICU were well-known for extreme use of editor's notes, and for their "translate everything" attitude, which Hyakupa were never too keen on. Hyakupa were well known for releasing their projects as upscales at 720p, which ICU was very much against - while ICU liked to do an XVID and H.264 encode and Hyaku only ever did the H.264. Hyakupa had a fairly over-the-top style of presenting their credits list, but insisted on including the whole staff, rather than just those who worked on a project whilst ICU's style was more understated and traditional.

The list goes on, but I'm sure you can now understand what makes joint-projects so much of a headache. All these issues had to be resolved, and it took a long time for all the agreements to be reached.

And so, I'll end this entry here. But be sure to check again next time for third part in this series. Building a brand.


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Powered by Blogger