Why simulcasts are killing fansubbing

(If you’re a CR rep, it’s nothing personal)hibiki

What is a fansub? Is it a literal translation of the original Japanese, made in order to bring you as close to the original experience as possible? Is it a chance to show off how fancy you can make karaoke effects? Show off your English writing skills (read: thesaurus)? Maybe even try to expand your e-peen and get net popularity? Just what is it?


Back in the day (even before my time), fansubbing was the only way for English speaking fans of anime to 1) Understand anything, and 2) Even get anime in the first place. There was no editing, no typesetting, just pure, plain and simple translation. I’ve even experienced this myself with a VHS of Angel’s Egg and a transcript of the translation on a piece of paper in my hands.  In this long reaching era, many of what we call “generitranslations” were born. People were forced to learn strange words and a stranger culture in order to fully understand their shows. The few anime that were brought over and dubbed often underwent localization, which completely turned the original writers and actors intentions on their head and spit out a completely different product (most infamously, Cardcaptors and Pokemon). At the time, I was only getting the dubbing end product, but fortunately I was young and foolish enough to enjoy those bastardizations enough to get more into this hobby.

Time went on, and it became easier to supply and get anime. Programs like limewire and bittorrent were used, and adding that to direct downloads and irc, anime became far more widespread [on the Internet]. At some point, streaming was still a good option considering the lack of harddisk space most people suffered from and the fact that everything was still standard quality. Back then, certain streaming sites (you know who I’m talking about) were actually a really good resource for fans.

But then standards started to change. Editing became more than just fixing typos and grammatical mistakes—it became a process to make a more natural, enjoyable script. Certain liberties were taken in order to keep tone and meaning over having a one-to-one translation. Although the debate over keeping honorifics in and what to do with certain “untranslatable” words still rages on, most subs have resolved to aim for a more natural flow and strive to improve the anime viewing experience.  With the birth of Aegisub (June 2005), I can only assume that subbing in general got far easier for everyone involved.  Timing and typesetting improved across the board, and kfx probably got easier to implement.  Behold the “golden age” of fansubs.

A few years later in 2009, Crunchyroll got officially endorsed to start streaming anime legally, and decided to remove all of its uploaded fansubs.  Currently, their in-house translators get a script in advance to work on for their simulcasts, but that appears not to have been the case at the beginning.  I still remember trying to watch a HorribleSubs rip of Mitsudomoe (late 2010) with several lines having mistranslations, or simply “?” in place of a line. For those of you confused, HS rips from all of the simulcast sites and uploads episodes for download.  Since I only have access to those releases, I can’t be absolutely certain, but I think that either only occasionally or very recently they began to do any amount of typesetting, with CR still lagging behind in that department.  Also, due to legal issues CR isn’t allowed to translate any songs unless they get special permission.  I believe I mentioned in a previous post my opinions on the importance of songs, so I’ll leave it at that.

At the beginning, this wasn’t a huge issue.  It was still understood that speed subs and simulcasts would generally have awful quality, and you’d have to wait a few days to get good subs.  Groups have vastly improved in quality in the last few years alongside the rising subbing standards, and although CR has lagged a bit, their translation quality appears to finally be up to par.

So why don’t you just use those simulcast rips if the translation is fine?  After all, that’s the most important part… right?

No, it’s not.  The efforts of a subbing team you can talk to, the coordination of people across the globe, the creativity and quality that go into making a single song, hours of typesetting work to perfectly blend in a sign that lasts for no more than a second, editing that brings out the flavor of each and every character, and of course the pains that go into making a high quality-low filesize encode are the most important part.  In other words, it’s the love that goes into it.  I’m not every single fansubber out there, but I don’t think you can continue this hobby if you don’t love what you do.  It’s the blood, sweat, and tears that go into every release that makes an episode enjoyable.  A good fansub will make an anime much better than it originally was, and that’s something you can’t find in official subs.

Unfortunately, too many people focus on just a single part of anime.  If you get that first release, you’re missing out on all of the other parts of a good episode that can only be brought out by fansubbers.  Too many groups these days will decide on a new season’s anime to sub only to back out once they hear of a simulcast.  They know that most viewers will just go for the fastest release and not wait for the best quality.  Other groups will abandon their translator and go for a CR edit, which will hopefully be better than nothing considering the base quality these days, but if you believe what Dark_Sage has to say then most groups just want to get their names out there with minimal effort.  We at Mezashite have only been subbing for four seasons now, and already 2 out of our 5 shows have been simulcasted at the last minute, seemingly in order to scare off fansubbing groups.  And yet, we stick to our original translation, because there is flavor that you can only bring out with a clear mind, uninfluenced by another’s opinions.  It’s hard to put time and effort into something that will be making less influence than it should, and I commend Etoce for fighting through that every week.  We’re not the only group that does this, and I applaud the others such as UTW for doing the same.

Every season, more and more shows are getting simulcasted, with groups who want to do original translations fighting over the few that remain.  On the other hand, there remain series who don’t even get the honor of a CR edit (although looking at fansubdb it seems most of those have finally filled out).  So what am I trying to say here?  I just want you to consider waiting those extra six hours to grab a respectable release.  Sure, you might miss the first thread or two discussing the show, but those thoughts and opinions aren’t going anywhere, and neither are you.  For the same reason I hate spoilers, don’t lower yourself to the level of an unsatisfactory experience.  Respect yourself, and do yourself a favor by getting the best quality release you can.  You are an anime fan, after all.

As one final note, this post was drafted before the season even began.  Although even we were daunted by going up against a simulcasted show again, in the end we decided that Kiniro deserved it.  I, at least, love anime, and I want to see the shows that I watch get the best treatment they can.

EDIT: This post is for other subbers as much as it’s for fans.  I know it’s hard, but don’t get discouraged by simple download numbers. As you can see, there will always be those waiting for you until the very end. Do it not just for yourself, but for them as well.

43 thoughts on “Why simulcasts are killing fansubbing

  1. I recently joined a semi-known subbing group as an editor, so this was an extremely interesting read for me. This is my first time working on fansubs since beginning my mature anime watching almost 3 years ago. It really astounds me how much work subbing groups really put into each episode. We’re also using our own translator, and I think I enjoy it this way much more, considering you can actually talk to them and ask them about a translation.

    I’ve always avoided the early releases and waited it out for the more quality groups, because it definitely does add to the experience. I’m super glad you guys are working on Kiniro this season, and I eagerly await your releases every week.

    I definitely enjoy this new world I’ve dived in to, and I can’t wait to learn more about editing techniques, and finding that balance between literal and liberal.

  2. >killing
    It’s saving fansubs.
    Picture all of Commie’s CR edits as original TLs and not just CR edits. Nyaa would be 1 lump of cancer.

    • Commie is currently doing CR edits on 13 shows and original translations on 9, mostly split between Vale and futsuu. Putting aside their edits (which appear to have poor editing according to some, but solid TS and all that other stuff as usual, including song translations), almost all of their original translations are good. I’d love it if Commie did exactly as you said, but there are only so many translators out there and only so much time. It’s impossible to get an original TL on everything, and I’m not saying it’s necessary either (considering some CR TLs are apparently old fansubbers). I’m not sure exactly what CR’s process is, but literally translating every joke or pun that isn’t easy to find an equivalent for isn’t the right way to go.

      And why bring up Nyaa? Unless you’re talking about how some of the mods are from Commie, it’s just a torrent tracker.

  3. +1
    You are awesome.

    Unless you’re a god-tier douchegeek who wants to be the first to spoil the episode for everyone else, there is no real reason for you to watch a speedy but low quality release.
    Songs are an integral part of shows, especially the inserts, as they provide the proper atmosphere for a scene.
    Signs are one of the best reasons why you should choose a quality sub. Those written shenanigans on the screen will haunt if you have no idea what they’re saying, especially if they’re important.
    Those who watch simulcasts miss out on more than half of the show. Good things come for those who wait.

    • But would you trade of a good CR script with a fansub(s) group that is known for their “edit” quarks and intentional mishaps? For those signs to be TL’d? I don’t know, it’s too much in my book to take.

  4. I don’t know about other people that HAS TO WATCH ASAP!!!! I’m totally opposed to them, I also avoid discussion threads, reviews etc. to avoid spoilers.

    I got tons of stuffs to do irl while watching 10-15 series /season. I’d rather wait for a good subs before watching it, because I rarely watch an episode twice (although I still keep it in my hard drive or burn it into DVDs for personal collection and/or lending purposes).

    Because anime is entertainment for me, I’d rather watch something closer to perfection. Plus, since I have quite some knowledge in Japanese language, I’d be annoyed if I watch a mistranslated subs.

    I never watched those simulcasts, I’d rather watch anime on my free time to relax. I also avoid HS/other CR translation subs, except for some cases where subs are not available (e.g. Genshiken Nidaime).

    Dear fansubbers, please keep faith because there are still people who want to watch quality subs and wait for hours, or even a couple of days (not encouraging delays though!) 🙂

  5. I don’t even understand subgroups thought processes on Simulcast, There’s still thousands of people that prefer downloading to streaming CR, Look at how many people still DL HorribleSubs. Blood Lad (720p) (yea, I know it’s not a CR Simulcast) has 45374 DLs, and only 1 other subgroup is doing it. Ya, HS would still have about 40k DLs but if the other subgroup wasn’t a week behind they would have at least 20k re-DLs. Look at SAO, Horrible Subs release was faster every week. On avg, HS had 120k DLs. On the 4th episode UTW started to average 80% of the DLs HS was doing. I imagine a lot of them were re-DLs but that just shows people do want quality releases for the animes they enjoy even if the DL the fastest one first.

    • I download fansub only for 10bit video most of the time. It has nothing to do with quality of subs. I wait for HS subs even if they late.
      Fansub now have AIDS (spread from gg via anal, since they all share staff) in form of “oversubing”, “trolling”, “look we have 15MB sub, 99,9% of it is karaoke for OP/ED!”, while in reality it’s just retarded way to cover shittranslation.
      Worst of them now is Commie and FFF. UTW and Underwater just slightly better. HS has best sub now (most of the time) simple because they didn’t get worse wile everyone around failed hard.

  6. Yeah I think so too *-*
    And I love the subs of Aikatsu =D
    You can really see the difference in subs if they are made with much care or just to watch the anime as fast as possible
    That’s why I really respect all fansub groups who are doing their best to sub the animes as beautiful as they can ♥♥♥
    Thank you all for that *__*!!!!

  7. hard to say i mean hadena take their own sweet time subbing their shows and their subs are like getting worser grammar fails everywhere and wrong choice of words gg subs on valvrave was terrible some words dun make sense while HS was more accurate sometimes speedsubs may not be so bad depends on translator english understanding of the show etc

    • I think if you want to comment on how good or bad subbers are, you should first work on your own English, or at least put more effort into how you write online. I think I’ve only seen a single Hadena release myself (Tamako Market ep1), and while overall it wasn’t too bad, all of the little mistakes they made added up to make it a subpar release.

      As for gg’s Valvrave, I think they did a great job. Their translation accuracy was extremely high, and Valverave was a show that lent itself to adding in a bit more personality. Every time Thunder or a grunt opened his mouth, subs full of personality came out. You can’t get that kind of quality or enjoyability from many other groups that just stick to the book. Even their YOLO thing wasn’t that awful; I could easily see someone in real life in that position saying the same thing, and TL-wise it was spot on.

      • im not trying to criticize the translators i mean they dun become translators for nothing right? its just that hadena and mazui doing tamako i prefer mazui their choice of words makes it easier to understand hadena i felt like i got lost sometimes meaning wise gg valvrave i feel like they are summarizing what they say rather than subbing in detail……its hard to explain but if that’s ur opinion so be it

  8. Keep up the good work guys. I recently picked up Aikatsu! from you guys and love your translation. 🙂 I prefer fansub to CR script. There is just something about CR script that I dont like from the few shows I was forced to watch because there were no fansubs for it besides CR edited scripts.

  9. thank you for this post a lot i dream of becoming a fansubber one day but i want to translate to lithuanian sadly there are not much lithuanians who are fans of mahou shoujo animes like sailor moon pretty cure or aikatsu everyone are crazy for stupid shonen animes like naruto or dbz…
    i always try choosing the best subs that are but sadly mostly animes i watch (pretty cure first seasons etc) have only one fansubber group and we have to either watch that or watch raws (i have nothing against arienai or pcssubs they are great subs but others are… well not my taste… esp doremi… they take so long subbing gogo while they release doki doki next day after the airing… also the king jikochuu [original true translating] vs king selfish[fantranslation] is killing me… and their anti-japanese policy [including honorics because Aida<<<=/=<<< Aida-san] is killing me… i appreciate their fast work but still…)

  10. I don’t know about others, but I for one wait for releases from fansub groups (except shows that only released by HS). Sure, I maybe lagging behind others but I don’t care about that. To me the quality of the release is more important. I appreciate the effort fansubers put into their releases!
    On a side note, thank you for picking (and keep subbing) Kiniro Mosaic, I really enjoyed this show!

  11. Yo! We the fansub comunity like filling those gaps left by the “mainstream”. We do this because we love anime and wish to share our efforts with the world. Thank you Mezashite for Aikatsu! Maho-shoujo, shoujo, kodomo and quirky are the shows i like to watch when not working on my own shows. Keep up the good work. XD

  12. This is my 2 cent opinion on this (it might offend some people who think who I am):

    Access & Quality: Easy for download as there are fansubs doing good 720p version. HS (Fairy Tail, Hunter X Hunter and NS), Taka (NS), CCSpeed, Kousei and Yibis (One Piece ep and movies).
    Translation: Quite good translation but once a while I do see some missing translation or translation denoted with special characters. Sometimes, translation and audio does not match up.
    Fee: I don’t mind paying when they need donation since what they provided to public is something better than rest.

    Access & Quality: Frankly I tried watching streaming version. It is like watching youtube with quite a lot of videos jerking. It is not stable and sometimes the video I watch isn’t done properly especially the video quality itself.
    Translation: Cannot comment much because the videos jerking does not make it stable enough. Sometimes, the translation text also suffered the same with Fansubs – translation and audio does not match up.
    Fee: Problematic as their payment sites insist to have something that I don’t use at all.

    • I won’t comment on your lack of breadth in anime viewing, as that’s none of my business and frankly all up to you, but you should be aware that Horrible Subs are not fansubbers—they rip straight from Crunchy and should be taken into account. Just to list a few other simulcasts off the top of my head: FUNimation, Daisuki, and Viz are names you should look out for.

  13. I guess I have a weird way of watching my anime shows.

    Since HorribleSubs and/or Commie picks up just about everything under the sun at the beginning of each season, I tend to go for them when watching shows that are currently airing. I know the quality of the translations aren’t all that great with speedsubs, but most of the time you can get the general idea of what is being said. The speedsubs are mostly just there for the “we got it out there first” e-peen.

    Speaking of e-peen, Commie had to be funny when they released episode 01 of Attack on Titan. The script had almost nothing to do with the episode. It was more of a make fun of everything under around while trying to keep in sync with what’s happening on the screen. I couldn’t find the torrent on Nyaa or TokyoTosho, but a simple Google search for “commie C1A7B58D” led my to a site with the right file. I downloaded it and tested to make sure it was the right one too. For the lulz, here’s a link to the torrent: http://www.fapis.com/entry.html?id=45014

    If a show is good enough to pass most my tests I put them through, I then look at groups that do BDs. Most of the time they read through the various group’s translations and pick the best one…or go by AniDB ratings. There’s even the select few who will ignore all that and make their own translations because they are not satisfied with what’s out there. Some good. Some not so good. Anyways, DVD/BD releases are the only ones I really care about archiving for possible future re-watching. Usually lots of work goes into the BD releases. When you think BD, you think high quality everything. My go tos for most BD releases are FFF/DmonHiro/Coalgirls/Doki/Nubles/Final8.

    The the people I like the most are the ones who go back to old anime shows to run improvement filters over bad VHS/LD dumps. Groups like KiteSeekers/Wasurenai/Licca/Retrofit and a few others are my go tos for that stuff. These are the same people that translate anime shows from back in the 1970s+ because there just wasn’t any translations made, or the English dubs were so bastardized/terrible that they were unbearable.

    I guess my point in all of my blabbing here is pick the group with the best quality for whatever show you are watching. These fansubbers put a ton of hard work into their releases to whet your appetite for anime. Show them your appreciation for their work instead of whining and complaining about how something in the translation was messed up. Maybe leave a comment on the release blog entry with a time location, line shown on screen and a proper (in your mind) translation of the text. Some groups will be happy to make a v2 patch to fix stuff like that.

    Fansubbers, please keep doing what you do. I really appreciate the work that you do to fill my entertainment void.

  14. I am sorry. I must interject. I do not see how fansubs can take the moral high horse here when you are literally stealing from the companies that make these shows and the companies that localized. I hear, constantly, about the whining of fans who are watching the anime Industry fall apart. Boohoo anime isn’t being brought here. Boohoo they cost too muchhh. Boo hoo funimation is thr only game around anymore. Well its because there is no profit in it anymore. amd don’t make the argument that anime belongs to the fans. it is a media.market that needs income to support it. I watch crunchyroll and funimation simulcasts because their not bad. and they are official and legal. There you have it.

    • Someone with sense in here, thank you.

      I love you, Mezashite, but this is crap. I facepalmed especially hard at “the love that goes into it.” How cheesy can you get?

      Crunchyroll is perfectly fine. Their quality is good, their subtitles are good, and they translate all the important stuff (that includes signs [yes, they translate important signs] but not songs; no, I do not consider most song lyrics important. Most songs are only there as an advertisement for the single). Fansubbers don’t get the moral high ground here.

      I have never and will never try to tell a fansub group what they should or shouldn’t do, so if you want to sub simulcasted shows, you go ahead, but don’t act like YOU’RE the better man here.

  15. Some times I’ll skip an anime purely based off the subs. Like the anime Bento took a few episodes before I finally found a fansub that used the word Bento instead of lunch box or some other name for it. I’m also still waiting after all these years for Rumbel-Subs to complete the first series of Gintama and I also wait for Taka fansub as well who are usually up to five episode behind. Another thing I kind of feel it help killing fansub is troll subs like GG fansubs and GotWoot fansubs. I know some other fansubs won’t sub an anime cause they don’t wish to compete with them even though they can’t be trusted as they can completely translate it off of what there truly saying in the anime. I look for fansubs besides Commie (they just seem terrible at subbing to me) before I go to Horrible subs.

  16. Then what is the point of posting this article in the first place since so many so-called Experts love to crush people opinion especially if the opinions are tend to favor fansub (in any form of understanding of what it is). If these experts are so livid about people opinion, they should not even post anything.

  17. Hi, i wanted to said you make a really good job translating Aikatsu!, I watched the first 15 episode from you and i switched to Deadfish reencoding from you because i need a 8bit release for watching Aikatsu!, from your quality sub, on the go. It only not cool all of those Deadfish old episode are seedless and without dll mirror… So that why i am downloading your episode or source episode when torrent are dead and wait to watch it on my PC when i don’t run Phantasy Star Online 2. Continue your good work. ^_^ I hope one day you make a dual release of a 10bit file and 8bit file for those like me who cannot run 10bit well on the go. I hope you will still doing the Aikatsu! after first season finish, cannot wait for season 2 and i am only at episode 23. XD I posted this because i don’t know your opinion on reencoding, i just wanted a general answer from anybody’s opinion. Thx guys. ^_^

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