A personal anecdote with regard to fansubs

I have had been a fan of novels since my father influenced me a long time ago. I am still reading novels right now, but it is more often the cover art of the book or how the cover was designed than the synopsis found on its back or the acclaim of the novel itself. I have read four books this semestral break, and the common denominator among them was that I bought them because their covers or the design of their covers appealed to me. I have already written about the two Nancy Drew novels; the most recent book I read (because it was not a novel) was a writing guide on how to write effective e-mails. I did not read that book because I felt my knowledge on writing proper e-mails was lacking; I also did not purchase that book as some sort of whetting-stone to sharpen my skills.

I bought that book because I liked how its cover was designed. There was no other reason. I totally judged a book by its cover. I found it in the bargain bin in our local bookstore. It was still expensive for me because I felt that the subject matter itself was superfluous to a thinking man. One should write an e-mail as well as one should write a business letter: one should think a lot about what he plans to write and write it as well as possible, one should write to the convenience of the receiver, and one should write with primness and brevity.

For me, the book was still too expensive. I vowed to myself not to buy the book at its current price, and left the store. I am quite impulsive as a buyer, so I felt I had to purchase the book, but definitely not at its current price. I thought about it. Waiting for it would be too uncertain: there were people whose grasp of English were not as good as mine. I then cleared my mind, entered the store and surreptitiously superimposed a price tag I carefully removed from a cheaper novel (a vernacular romance paperback, which is an apotheosis of things that are a dime a dozen) to the instructive book I plan to obtain. (Sale books no longer used the bar-code scanning system.) I obtained it at a very low price, and yes, it was to my knowledge that what I did was illegal. Guilt, however, was not the feeling which pervaded me when I successfully went out of the store. On the contrary, it was rejoice. I was ecstatic that I pulled it off successfully as well as relieved as my risks acted to my success.

That was a long story, but I guess this is the same feeling I get when I finish downloading an anime series. It is to my knowledge that it isn’t right, but in the final analysis, at least to me, having obtained something that I believe should be free (at least for evaluation and without financial profit involved) and having pulled the downloading off fills me with relief and happiness. I vehemently do not think we should pay for watching an anime series. I do not profit from it, and I simply compare it with watching a movie recorded on VCR.

In the end, although fansubs are moot, at least I have spoken what I think about them. I do not think of anime merely as aesthetically pleasing, of course, but I do not believe we should pay a hefty price just for our personal enjoyment. There’s my two cents.

23 Responses to “A personal anecdote with regard to fansubs”

  1. meganeshounen Says:

    Hmm.. now who said that “don’t judge books by their cover” thingy…

    Fansubs tread that ever-so-thin line separating “fan created works” and “illegal”. And it’s been an unsaid rule that fansubs shouldn’t be paid for (since the subbers weren’t paid a single cent in making it, usually)…

    As they say.. “the best things in life are libre/free”.

  2. Kljigen Says:

    You broke the law. You fail. Now go to jail. >.>

  3. Michael Says:


    Why are you so angry?

  4. Kljigen Says:

    I’m felt unfair for the shopkeeper. I hope you are caught by the police. Ok im just bullshitting and joking. lol

  5. Michael Says:

    There were no shop-keepers. The bookstore was a big one. It had way too overpriced books. WTF?

  6. Lupus Says:

    I think the fansub issue has been debated to death, and regardless of what people in the community would like to think, it’s clearly illegal. The copyright owner owns a number of rights, and that includes the right to translations. Of course, that’s not what you’re getting at, so I’m not going to say anymore.

    Frankly I’m appalled that you’d defraud that book shop to get your hand on a book that you’re not even particularly keen on reading anyway. I mean, your wanting to read it wouldn’t make it any better, but if you’re willing to do something like this for something you don’t care much about, what lengths would you go to for something you DO care about?

    Just because you don’t think it’s worth the price tag doesn’t mean that others don’t think it’s worth it. And it doesn’t justify your illegal action in any way, shape or form. Entertainment is as valuable as knowledge and ideas, if for different reasons, and if you don’t think this entertainment is worth your hard earned money, you can obtain it illegal or forgo it altogether, and we all know which is the moral choice.

    I know saying all these makes me a hypocrite, since I download as much anime as anyone else without feeling any remorse, but at least I know what I’m doing is wrong and I don’t try to justify it.

  7. natsuneko Says:

    Hmm… That’s a very nice point you are raising, Mike. Indeed, sometimes I feel the same way you do: Why pay for something that isn’t worth that price?

    I used to judge books by their covers, but these past few years, I encountered so many books where the cover didn’t correspond even one single bit with the theme of the book that I cast away that prejudice, if you will.
    Which is why I often want to take a look at the content first. One might argue that it’s forbidden to read a whole book in the store, and that you must buy it if you do so – it is most likely the same argument as the companies who sell their anime.

    Most of the interested people (read: you and me) are not happy waiting for the (R2) DVDs to be available at horrendous prices, nor waiting for years for dubs on TV (if there ever would be for any given series). It’s not my fault if I can’t watch Japanese television for free (or for a small price) just because I live in Europe. Hence, fansubs are the best way to get the newest anime immediately, without paying a cent. Like you, I have no bad conscience at all about this. I imagine it like someone recording on vhs/hdd and spread it to their friends. I have yet to hear someone complain about me sharing a video with my friends. As seen on Youtube (huge Tokyo TV raids, etc.) sharing shouldn’t be done openly, but it all boils down to the free aspect of the thing.
    Fansubs only offer a translation to the Japanese dialogs and/or text, all the rest (like karaoke and stuff) is just eyecandy – I could as well just watch the raws. Both of those always remain free.

    Sure, the companies want to sell their stuff, they want kudos, money for their products they have worked so ‘hard’ for – but the prices very often don’t match at all. Paying horrendous prices for half-burnt discs? No thanks. Granted, there are always people who buy Ferraris; but in the end, it’s just a means to travel from A to B, and most vehicles at smaller prices do exactly the same job (heck, I could even use public transport, or walk the whole way).

    There is always a price to pay for any extra convenience and personal enjoyment, no doubt about that, and I would be paying for it… if only it was more affordable. Oh well, until then, I will just drive the Ferrari of one of my friends…

  8. Michael Says:


    I realized fully that fansubs are illegal, and what I did to the bookstore was, too. I also *think* I understand your point.

    I will not be one who cannot live within his means; I have done so for most of my life, and I still could shell out the money even without the superimposition. I will not say that it was merely an act of revolt against the big companies, and I am in no way justifying my act. It was illegal, pure and simple. I utilized a deviant means to get to an end I desired.

    I did it not because I was amoral, but simply to try and prove to myself if I had the guts to follow through an educated risk I formulated in my head. There are times when hard decisions must be made: I tested how much balls I had inside to pull it off. I am not justifying what I did though. It was illegal.

    I want to steer clear of being a hypocrite, though. I had been one and I have tried to avoid to become one once again.


    I was not like this. I started judging books purely with their content, so I spent time researching and tracking down books (classics) that I may like through Amazon. I did not have the prejudice in the first place.

    However, after drying my brain up from all the reading I have had done during the first semester of this year, it was too tiring for me to continually seek through research and observation the books I may have wanted to read. I simply decided to pick books off through their aesthetic appeal to me. This was primarily because I changed my attitude with regard to the books I read. No longer was I the seeker of both wisdom and entertainment; I became merely the profligate hedonist, who sought a waste of time and an entertainment (perverse or otherwise) in the books he read.

    With most things, I am pretty much a scrupulous person. However, with fansubs – a thing that is unavailable in both legal and affordable ways in this country, I believe that remorse is not a question, at least for me. I seek enjoyment; I seek escape. Anime allows me to do so, and so I download and watch anime.

    I believed I clearly wrote the book as somewhat an anecdotal reflection to my stance regarding fansubs. What I did in that store was to learn the ways of the world and to accept risk (for I really thought about what I needed to do before I tried the scheme), because I believe that in the end it is finesse that allows one to triumph over life, not intellect, not diligence, and not perseverance.

    I hope I have elaborated well enough.

  9. Kljigen Says:

    Still, that was wrong. That is because I AM A POLICE. lol. Stupid things aside, I find that although fansubs are free, you should still pay for it. But no, not pay it to the subbers, but rather the company who produced it since it is they who brought us the anime that we enjoy so much.

  10. Michael Says:


    I should pay for it. I do not know where I can get the money, though.
    Ironic as it may sound, people like us procure fansubs BECAUSE we cannot pay for them. I wish I could shell out $30 for a DVD, but think about it … my daily living allowance … is only $2 right here.

  11. omo Says:

    You call someone a liar and a thief because the two are different things. Downloading fansubs doesn’t make you a liar, but misplacing the price sticker does.

    That said, you probably did that shop a favor. No sane person is going to buy a book teaching you how to write an email…unless that cover was very orgasmic. Or something.

    You owe us at least as much as scan the cover.

  12. Michael Says:


    Yes, the cover was VERY orgasmic. lol

    I don’t have a scanner, so no go.

  13. Ryan A Says:

    Michael, I see no shame in the swap-a-roo. Who knows if silent bartering is justifiable? I don’t.

    As for the fansub issue, I thought about this recently, here is a short version of my solution:

    If I were to become/start a production company, specifically in the anime industry, I’d fully support fansubs… possibly in a non-profitable way. Why not allow the fansubs? Operate a site where subbers can register for a production, and then they have a go at it (the subbing ). Viewers who watch the subs can then support the series and the subbers by donations. Donations=votes, and the subbers who get the most votes get a chance to do the actual release in whatever language. Basically, a production company that allows subbers to cooperate, where both sides can possibly get something from it. I have more detail in mind, but I’ll keep it short.

    Why the reasoning for this? Democratic method, turn-around time in translation, distribution, etc. I’m sure a company doing this wouldn’t profit bullocks, but it may stimulate something. It’s almost like an approved/legit method of my open-source subbing idea*, but then again I’m not a production company, but I am a dreamer.

    Anyway 🙂

    *open-source sub idea was to have a site where users could select translations, raws(with timing guidelines), styles, container formats, etc, and then compile and the server spits out a torrent (via RSS/email) a few hours after encoding or whatever (or instantly if the specific combination was already compiled). The idea here is that the translations and styles could be by various individuals/groups, but also editable by others (to some extent), like a wiki, with translation versioning, whatever… the options are nearly endless.

  14. Michael Says:

    This should be ironic, but Drm wrote regarding the state of fansubs and the people who are involved with it in an excellent manner. His post made me think, but frankly I am one for keeping my stance. I can import them; I can buy them, but frankly it would cost far too much than what I am doing right now.


    That is a highly utopic dream you have got there. Frankly, I would like to welcome it, but it is just impossible in the real world because of man’s tendency to be selfish. A lot of fansubbers want glory, and a lot of anime producers want merely the money. They would take it all, though, if that were possible.

    Frankly, I really also do not know if my actions were justifiable or not. I believe I have no need to do so. I just did it because it was something I could do; it was risky and I wanted merely to test how much guts I had in myself. I could do that ‘crime’ everyday, but in hindsight, it was not really about the book. It was merely me daring myself.

    I do not know how you can conclude this matter, but I would like to adapt that idea of yours if it ever comes to fruition. 🙂

  15. DrmChsr0 Says:

    Bad Mike, no kittehs for j00

    And no cookies. And milk. And hamsters.

    [insert something about the Berne Convention]

    Well the whole fansub issue has been debated to undeath, so what can I say?

    Use a friggen Fenix Down/Revive spell to to kill it. Or you could kill it (again) with fire.

    And yes the misspelling was intentional.

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  17. Totali Says:

    Some anime we can obtain through downloads are never brought to the states. Even when they are, they are released a very long time after the original airings. I’m personally not going to pay for a dub that I’m not going to listen to. Other than that, the US companies haven’t done any work. Besides, I watch raws. Watching downloaded raws is just like watching on TV in Japan, something that we can’t do easily here. If I like an anime religiously enough, I would import the original dvds from Japan.

    Also, lawl…that is an awesome way of achieving books for a cheaper price.

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