An epic battle
Scamp and I disagree about just about everything anime-related. While we watch many of the same series, sometimes blog about similar topics and generally get along, this fact remains. These disagreements have brought out a lot of thinking on both sides, and now we harness these differing viewpoints to begin what we hope to be a semi-regular series of debates taking place alternatingly on THAT and The Cart Driver. These debates will put forth a motion where one blogger defends and the other opposes it, with a shorter second round of counterpoints and finally a poll at the end where the readers vote for which argument they found more convincing. As you might have noticed, this format is similar to the Oxford debating style in many ways, though changed slightly to help it fit the blog format.
The first motion up for debate is: Professional streaming sites like Crunchyroll are the future of online anime.
Scamp will be defending the motion, while I will argue that downloaded fansubbed anime will continue to be the dominant form of anime online. Join us, consider both arguments, and cast your vote!
Opening round: position statements
Defending the motion: Scamp, blogger and owner of TheCartDriver.
First let me make this clear: There is currently a whole load of problems with legal anime streams. Dodgy subs, poor media players and those accursed region restrictions that plague most legal streams. But these are all technical issues, things that can be cleared up given time, funding and plenty of people complaining about these problems. No, what I am here to defend is the inherent idea behind legal anime streaming.
Think back to the many nonsensical reasons people used to justify watching fansubs. One of the favourites the ANNfags used to love tearing into was the idea that the Japanese got anime free on their television so why shouldn’t we. The ANNfags would be quick to point out that television isn’t free and so on, but what we have now is effectively the same thing. We are getting the same anime that is airing in Japan on the same day. We are getting a television channel devoted to anime, with not only the anime that is airing right now but a huge backlog of previously aired anime. This is none of your Adult Swim rubbish; this is aimed directly at us fansub watchers. They are providing exactly what we have been craving for since day 1: Simultaneous airing of anime for the rest of the world.
Let me also settle a few things here. Why do we watch fansubs? Because they are free and there’s often no other way to watch these anime. I watch licensed anime on those shady streaming sites because I absolutely refuse to buy a series blind. If I like it, then I’ll buy the series. Well, nowadays companies are providing legal streams of their products as they release them, so the need to go on these shady streaming sites is gradually being eroded away.
But more importantly, let me look at why people download anime that’s on Crunchyroll. They don’t want to pay the membership fee (an absolute bargain price BTW, but that’s beside the point) and claim they will buy the series when it is licensed. Well, little wakeup call here, but that does count as being licensed. Each season the Western licensing companies get a look at each show coming up and decide whether they’re worth picking up themselves. Essentially, what doesn’t get picked up by Funimation and Bandai sinks down and ends up on Crunchyroll. There’s a few exceptions to this rule where CR really bend over backwards to try get the show, such as Fairy Tail and Durarara, but for the most part that is the only way you will be able to watch these anime legally beyond actually buying the Japanese DVD’s.
One hugely important factor that legal streams have over fansubbers is that they are under direct control of the anime companies themselves. They are getting the facts and figures about our viewing preferences. Read the gg interview with the Crunchyroll subber for a full view of how things are behind the scenes but the most interesting part of that interview is the fact that the money that goes companies get paid is based upon the how many people watch that show. To quote the guy from the interview:
“CR’s business model is a hybrid subscription/ad-based revenue share. Let’s take the subscriber part first. All that money goes into a pot. The total number of minutes spent watching each show by subscribers is calculated. So “Naruto 312 has a total of 123456 subscriber minutes in Q2″ or whatever and the pot of money is split up to the various different Japanese companies in proportion. Then CR takes its cut (which varies with each contract, obviously) and the Japanese get the rest. The ad-based model is more usual: Total ad revenue is reported to CR by the ad-serving company for each video… It’s added up and split up based on the ad-based revenue split (which is often different than the subscriber one). The good news with this is that people who subscribe and like, JUST watch Naruto can be happy knowing that all their money ends up going to the people that make Naruto”
Fansub popularity has had an indirect result on what gets licensed, nobody can deny that. But here we have an important change. What we watch in the rest of the world finally is having a direct economic impact on the actual anime companies. We all watch Durarara and Sora no Woto, those companies get money and make more of the same. Nobody watches Chu-bra and the companies get no money from us. Finally we will have a direct say in what anime we want to watch. Instead of companies aiming specifically at Japanese Otaku, they will now start to think of what the rest of the world want to watch on their legal streams.
Yes this is a bit of a fanciful dream and legal streams certainly aren’t at that level yet. But read the motion being put forward. This is the future for anime on the internet. Anime companies are finally realising what we want and we are spending our money on exactly what we want.
Scamp can see to the starry future of anime.
Opposing the motion: ExecutiveOtaku, blogger at T.H.A.T. Animeblog.
The variety, quality, and availability of fansubs, together with the nature of the community, will ensure that they will continue to be the dominant source of anime. Downloading fansubbed anime offers the above advantages of variety and quality due to the diverse nature of the people and groups who do the subbing. Different points of view and word choices for the translation allow viewers to choose their preferred format. They are easily available around the world and in many languages as well. And furthermore, members of the community take great pride in their work and often devote much of their time to serving their fellow fans, and in the process also get translation and editing practice. Finally, fansubs will always enjoy the advantage of being free of cost, as well as some inherent technological and convenience advantages.
Variety and diversity is to me the biggest advantage of downloading and watching fansubbed anime. Translating any language is never an exact science, and especially for a language like Japanese there is rarely a 100% perfect ‘this=that’ translation.The variety of fansubbing groups allows users to select translation that they prefer: literal or ‘adapted’ translations, translation notes or none, plain names or the use of suffixes. And the abundance of fansubbing groups also means that even obscure series get translated and released. The competition between all these groups to be the first to release or the group with the best subtitle style also promotes the quality of fansubs, a competition that is lacking in professional releases. On a more humorous note, would professionally run streaming sites include such classic jokes and references as [gg]’s ‘subtitle’ of “everything is FABULOUS” in the Code Geass R2 ep 15 opening? I think not. Needless to say, this creates a lot of fan loyalty and sense of community among both those who translate and those who watch.
Aside from variety, there are other major advantages to fansubs. The first is the one that generates plenty of internet drama/controversy, so I’ll get right to it: fansubs are free. Free is sometimes ambiguously legal as with series that aren’t licensed in one’s home country, sometimes they’re just plainly illegal licensed series. But let’s be honest, the vast majority of us don’t care. We are a generation that is used to being able to download all kinds of media freely and share, alter, archive, and watch it at our convenience. This is not to say that we fans do not send money into the anime industry; we are by and large pretty voracious consumers of ‘secondary’ products such as figures, model kits, cosplay items, creepy daimakura, etc. Not to mention buying DVDs that we have judged worth our money by watching fansubs. Secondly, there has never been, and I believe never will be, an effective deterrent to file sharing. I was there, at the dawn of time when Napster was brand new. Over the years I have seen media owners attempt to sue downloaders, only to have the sharing technology move on to more and more capable ways of keeping downloaders from getting caught.
One more advantage is that streaming, by its nature, requires an open internet connection. Certainly broadband is becoming more widespread, but one can not be online in all places at all times with a good and stable connection. Regional issues are another big problem at present with streaming sites, since they embrace legality and are thus bound by its territorial restrictions. This brings up a secondary point: downloading allows you to get what you want no matter where you are. Sometimes this allows one to get around nonsensical legal issues. But it could potentially have other ramifications. What if you’re in a country with rather non-progressive civil liberties laws? The Nazi enemies in Hellsing could in theory run afoul of Germany’s restrictive laws. And I imagine one may run into some difficulty trying to legally obtain Dance in the Vampire Bund in a country with elements of Sharia or other religious laws (or in Australia, which seems to be heading towards some sort of secular Sharia lately under the mantra of ‘protect the children.’ Please, won’t someone think of the lolicons!?.)
In conclusion, fansubs enjoy far too many advantages in fan loyalty, cost, storage/sharing, accessibility, variety, quality, and diversity to be supplanted by streaming sites. While streaming sites like CrunchyRoll will attract some fans to their services for a variety of reasons, this will not be the future trend in the community. If anything the growth of broadband worldwide and interest in studying the Japanese language and in watching anime has only increased the amount of fansubbers, fansub groups, and fansub distribution sites. As file sharing continues to evolve, collaboration on translations and the distribution of high quality fansubbed anime to fans will only become easier.
EO thinks fansubs are absolutely fabulous.
One thing many of the more experienced anime fans forget is that most of the newer generation of anime fans are already watching streams, just not legal ones. Therefore the change to legal streams is far more convenient than most people seem to realise. The advantages of downloaded fansubs are not something these fans are looking for. So this idea of a greater community is a myth. How many outside the insular community of fansub followers will get the FABULOUS joke? I would prefer the reliability of a legal company without in-jokes to a fansub group who might drop the show halfway through. Plus not caring is not a problem because legal streams is the way to watch any anime. No hunting through torrent sites for a legitimate sub or trawling through shady streaming sites for the latest episode on a video that hasn’t been taken down already. Legal streams with adverts do not cost money and it’s not like having adverts is a whole lot different to what we watch now when you consider gg have a habit of leaving in adverts anyway. Legal streams are and will be the easiest and most reliable way of getting the latest anime.
Region restrictions though, there is no counterargument for and I shall curse them until I die.
The aforementioned legal disputes over international streaming.
My counterpart’s argument seems to rest on three main points: that professional streaming sites are superior because they are always legal, that they will reach a level of technical quality so as to level that playing field, and that by using professional streaming sites the rest of the world will be able to influence what anime is produced based on what sells. On the first point, I believe my initial argument still stands: that most of us don’t care and that there is no effective deterrent to make us care. On the second, I do expect professional streaming sites to reach a level of quality on par with fansubs. However, this does not undo the other technical advantages of fansubs, namely the actual possession of the files and the variety of translation styles available due to the multitude of fansub groups. On his third point, despite the massive growth of anime worldwide I do not foresee it growing to a point where it supplants the domestic demands for certain kinds of shows. Hollywood movies make billions of dollars around the world, but have they changed to reflect global tastes? While the idea of having international demand shape some of what is produced is very appealing, due to the unwavering demand in Japan and the often insular or even xenophobic attitudes of Japanese companies (and some fans if 2chan is any indicator), I would not bet on international demand shaping series creation decisions in the future.
A word from EO on voting: please read both arguments and consider the motion being proposed. This is not a vote for your personal preference of how to watch anime, this is a debate and a vote on which form of online anime will be the dominant form in the future. As far as what ‘the future’ means, think in terms of the next 10 years or so. ‘Dominant’ meaning which will be how the large majority of anime fans choose to access their anime. Also, elaborating on which argument you found more convincing, as well as putting forth your own argument in the comments, is encouraged. Have fun!
Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.