Saturday, September 29, 2007
Funimation versus Fansubs
A piece of news just came out that I'm sure will be blogged to death, but I might as well pile on too--apparently Funimation is sending Cease and Desist letters on behalf of Gonzo, specifically to demand Shinsen stop subbing Romeo x Juliet (which isn't licensed). It's very possible Gonzo will enlist Funi to send C&Ds and lawyers after other groups subbing their series as well. Since I'd rather watch "Bass Fishing with the Stars" than most Gonzo titles this doesn't really affect me personally--but the more alarming thought is that this could be the start of a trend where Japanese studios enlist the region 1 anime distributors to crack down on fansubs in general.
To put it politely, companies that think fansubs are the root of all their problems are run by idiots. ADV's not making as much money as they used to? Maybe that's because no market grows at 40-50% a year forever--if they hadn't slept through Econ 101, they'd have realized someday the market would mature and growth would level off. It's simple math, not piracy--if anime sales had kept growing at 50% a year then 20 years from now 99% of the Gross National Product of the United States would be spent on anime, and people wouldn't have any money left for food. Besides, no matter how much ADV might wish otherwise, Divergence Eve is not going to outsell Shrek 3--anime is a niche, and always will be. It's a niche even in Japan, for Haruhi's sake.
I have around two hundred region 1 DVDs, almost all of which I watched fansubbed before I bought them (the exceptions being old-school titles like Urusei Yatsura), so when I hear the corporate PR people bleating that fansubs = lost sales, it's hard not to projectile vomit in disgust. All fansubs really do from a sales standpoint is level the playing field between me and the average Japanese otaku, who can tape his anime right off TV Tokyo. If being able to get a copy of an episode for free means people won't buy the DVD, then why does anyone in Japan buy broadcast anime on DVD? How is me having a fansub any different than Joe Izusu in Tokyo taping Seto no Hanayome on his DVD recorder when it airs in the middle of the night?
But, you might ask, what about the kids who proudly say they r too smart 2 buy anime, because fansubs are free? I'm guessing most of those people are tweens/teens who have squat for income anyway--unless Mommy and Daddy win the lottery, does Gonzo really think they're going to line up to buy anime DVDs? Hell, no, they'll move on to something else, like crack or a Nice Boat.
I can say for sure in a world without fansubs, I would spend less money on anime, and I suspect I'm not alone. If instead of previewing anime on fansubs, I have to wait to rent my anime from Netflix a year after it airs, I wouldn't buy individual volumes like I do now--at that point it'd make more sense to wait for a cheap box set. I'm definitely not going to buy anime sight unseen because Funi's marketing department tells me it's the shiznit.
In the end, though, I find it hard to believe this latest salvo in the War on Fandom will really change anything--there were cries of doom and gloom for the fansub world after Media Factory unsheathed their C&Ds back in December 2004, and nothing really changed. Part of the point back then was to stop School Rumble from getting subbed--well, it ended up getting subbed to the end, the second season got subbed too, it got licensed in region 1, and volume 1 is looking at me from my bookshelf right now. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail, and Gonzo and others will realize stamping out free marketing won't make their sales triple overnight...