Thursday, December 11, 2008

Are Anime DVDs Useless?

I'm really starting to think my anime DVD collection is practically useless, except as a way to support the industry in lieu of a better digital distribution method. I have over 200 anime DVDs on my bookshelf upstairs, but I haven't touched one in the weeks since my daughter was born, while I have watched a couple things either fansubbed or legitsubbed (by legitsub I mean pay-to-download like what Gonzo did distributing Tower of Druaga through Crunchyroll and BOST). For example, recently I was going to watch the last four episodes of Shakugan no Shana, which I own all the R1 DVDs for, but instead of going upstairs and grabbing the DVD, I found myself bringing up the fansubbed version instead.

Why watch an .avi when you own the DVD? Too many 5am feedings turning my otaku brain into mush? Maybe my situation's unique, but in my case there are a couple things that are steering me towards watching fansubs/legitsubs over DVDs:

#1: Fansubs/Legitsubs are more convenient

For me, the "double-click and two seconds later you're watching it" convenience of fansubs/legitsubs makes up for any quality gap with a DVD version right now. To watch a DVD of everyone's favorite flame-haired sword-wielding tsundere, I have to do the following:

- put my daughter down in the Pack-n-Play
- run upstairs and grab the DVD
- put DVD in laptop
- wait for DVD to spin up and launch WinDVD
- navigate to the menu
- pick subtitle and language options
- navigate to play the episode
- pick daughter back up

Compare this to what I have to do to watch the fansub:

- while holding daughter in right arm, use left hand to double-click a file (and to paraphrase Inigo Montoya, I'm not even left-handed)

It's just a lot easier to start/stop watching something with a fansub or legitsub.

#2: Video Quality's Not That Different Anymore

As Stripey mentioned in a recent post that got me thinking about this, with fansub/legitsub video quality going up, an HD fansub looks pretty darn good compared even to a DVD release. The blocky yellow subtitles that are a hallmark of DVDs also start to look pretty hideous after a while, even compared to simple subs like what Gonzo used on Tower of Druaga. Part of the reason the video quality isn't much of an issue for me since I watch all my anime on a 14-inch laptop screen with a 1024x768 resolution, not a home theater system or something where I might notice the DVD difference more.

Translation quality is the other reason DVDs are generally better, but in my case being Japanese-impaired what I don't know generally can't hurt me. I'm also not convinced DVDs always have better translations, given I've noticed plenty of typos or things a spell check should have caught on commercial DVDs (granted, mostly older ones), or really bad translations that even I can tell are off (I'm thinking of Moldiver here, again an older release, but I swear they went with dub-titles and just ignore what the characters are saying in Japanese some times)

I've long been hoping for a world where every anime series is distributed exactly like Tower of Druaga and Strike Witches, probably since back in 2000 when I was watching crappy Love Hina fansubs on my iMac back at the dawn of the decade. For Druaga, for just $2-3 an episode, you could download a DRM-free copy, subtitled, that's available practically the same time as the episode airs in Japan. That model just makes the most sense to me--you get the immediacy of fansubs, you cut out the physical media of DVDs and the annoyances that come with that, and you get to support the industry to boot. I have no innate desire for shiny discs, hell, earlier this decade I ripped the tracks off every CD I owned to my laptop, threw out the original CDs, and now I buy all my music through iTunes digitally.

Until that all-digital world arrives, though, I'm sure I'll still be buying the DVDs for anime that I really like and that has lots of re-watch potential, solely because that's the only way I can support the industry. I already feel guilty not doing as much as Adun did recently to support the hobby we all love, so I'd feel bad if I stopped buying DVDs completely. Still, for series where I have both the fansubs and the DVD, it's funny that I've been finding myself watching the fansubs instead. Has anyone else found themselves gravitating to a fansub for convenience's sake?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well, I play DVDs with mplayer, rather than some commercial player, so the only real difference is putting the disk in the drive, you don't have to faff around with menus.

thenullset said...

Fansubs better then DVDs - Inconceivable.

Actually, I agree. For example, I bought the Haruhi DVDs when they came out, even paid for the special edition because I enjoyed the fansubs so much. I have watched those DVDs only once - to check the English dub. When I get the urge to watch, I pull out the a.f.k. fansubs and watch those instead. I prefer the orginal cast and a.f.k.'s sub was superior to the DVDs. And it is more handy and convenient, even with the DVDs sitting on my computer desk.

Stripey said...

heh, I'm quite the opposite. After I bought my LCD TV, I just couldn't watch anime on my laptop anymore. DVDs are much easier to load (and on the eye) as I just have to pop the disc in rather than hook up my laptop to my TV. I suppose it all depends on which is more convenient for the individual homes :)

TheBigN said...

For me, it's about having something tangible, and having a DVD in hand feels better than relying on one machine (or one main machine, and a couple of smaller machines) to hold everything, when one crash could ruin all of that.

It also helps that I can play DVDs on other things than my computer standalone, I guess.

Brian said...

@Anon:
True, unfortunately mplayer is probably beyond my technical skill, though :)

@thenullset:
Ah, someone else who's seen Princess Bride :) And yeah, for me it's just too hard to beat the convenience too, I have the same a.f.k. fansubs of Haruhi sitting on my hard drive right now.

@Stripey:
We have an old 27-inch Sony CRT, so maybe that's why I don't see the quality difference as much :) But I'd feel bad depriving my wife of the real TV and DVR, so I watch on the laptop anyway.

@TheBigN:
I guess I'm not too worried about losing everything since I have everything burned to DVD-R in addition to being on my external USB drive (and in some cases also on my laptop hard drive). But if I did watch anime on something other than my laptop ever, I'm sure I'd see more utility in DVDs also.

Adun said...

I definitely prefer the fansubs over DVDs since I do most of my watching on the PC. I still buy DVDs and like yourself don't really touch them as they sit there on the shelf looking pretty. Though I wouldn't say that I'm under the mindset that I'm supporting the industry by buying the DVDs but more towards I buy them for collecting purposes.

Watching anime with your daughter, is she going to grow up like Konata?

Brian said...

We'll see, she's definitely not going to be allowed to play eroge the way Konata does :)