Fansubs – What Do They Mean To You?

by eternal on November 13, 2008

No, this isn’t an essay on the importance of fansubs in today’s world, nor is it any form of crusade against low-quality subbers as a certain aniblogger seems to be infamous for. Quite simply, I propose to you a question; what do you look for in fansubs?

Truth be told, the idea for this post came about by chance as I was making a mental note of the fact that there’s disturbingly little discussion on ef – a tale of melodies across the internet. Of course the show isn’t as mainstream as Gundam or Clannad, but still, wasn’t the first season fairly well respected? And wasn’t the second season one of the most highly anticipated show this fall? All in all, it felt strange – and a little insulting – to me that I’ve been seeing far more Index and Abyss and Toradora than ef…but that was when it hit me.

There’s more to an anime than the anime itself.

Now, I’m not implying that ef has been receiving low-quality subs, nor am I saying that people aren’t talking about it as much as they ought to due to said subs; I’m simply using this as an explanation for how this whole thing came to mind in the first place. To my knowledge, the quickest and most reliable group subbing ef is Chihiro, which (correct me if I’m wrong) focuses mainly on speed and quantity over quality. It also appears as if Menclave, while a few episodes slower, is also working on translating the show, except to an allegedly higher standard. Personally, I think I would side with Chihiro’s approach; they’re the only group doing Kono Aozora ni Yakusoku wo, an obscure VN adaptation that aired back in 2007 but many people (myself included) were unable to watch due to the lack of subs. This isn’t to say that “quality” subbers like Menclave shouldn’t exist, but in my eyes, picking up obscure series and speedsubbing the shows that are currently airing is a respectable job, because really, who wants to wait weeks after the Japanese release to watch an episode?

However, this was where the thought crossed my mind; maybe everyone doesn’t think like this? Come to think of it, I recall seeing topics here and there on forums asking what the best fansub group for a particular series is. I never paid them any mind, because more often than not I had already downloaded the series anyhow, but perhaps this says something about the different viewing habits that people have? While I had no objections to picking up the NightSpeed Geass subs, maybe some others would have been willing to boycott the blogosphere and wait for a more reputable group to translate the episodes?

Ultimately, I think it all comes down to personal preference in the end. In my eyes, most any sub is a good sub; and when you think about it, you really don’t have any way of knowing just how accurate a translation is. As long as the grammar is good (which it always is), and as long as the entire internet isn’t flaming a particular sub group for doing a bad job (which hardly ever happens), then I think it’s safe to say that the subs are good enough to watch. Admittedly, maybe there are a few lines of dialogue here and there that were poorly translated without my realizing it, but in the long run, what does it matter? I’d much rather get my episode a few days early and put up with a slightly inaccurate translation than put up with the agonizing wait for so-called “professional” subbers to do their job.

However, maybe that’s just me after all. What do you like to do when it comes to subs? Do you grab the latest episodes the moment they’re out, or do you loyally follow one particular group over another? Do you like the karaoke and translation notes put up by fansubbers, or is your ideal the “official” translations done by the professional companies? I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned, fansubbers are good enough for our community to be self-sufficient – and if my alternative to speedsubs is waiting weeks for my favourite show of the season to be translated, then I’d support the speedsubbers without hesitation. After all, these people aren’t idiots; even anon speedsubbers know how to do a half-decent job, and anything is better than the agonizing wait for translations. Just look at what us non-moonspeakers go through in the visual novel community.

But ultimately, as I stated, it’s your choice. You’ve already heard my thoughts, and now I’d like to hear yours.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Blowfish November 13, 2008 at 7:28 pm

I really like Chihiro Subs…
They are my main source for subs this year.
To Love Ru,Penguin Musume Haato,Today in Class5,Ikki Tousen,SchoolRumble OVAs and whatnot

What i look for in subs is that they are easy on the eye and have “good” grammar.I dont care if the translation isnt top notch since Subs are for free.I want to understand whats going on thats it
Speed is of course also a matter.I dont demand the sub to be done in 1-2 days but after 4-5 days would be nice

As long as they fulfill those criteria im fine with them.
Renowned group or not

Blowfishs last blog post..The Dengeki Daioh Trip!


afatcow November 13, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Please see the site below for a list of subbers for ef.
Just thought I might add something.
If you’re too lazy to look, basically, theres more than one subbing group.


ETERNAL November 13, 2008 at 9:39 pm

@ Blowfish: That’s a good point you raise in saying that fansubs are free. I suppose it IS unfair to expect top-notch quality from people that aren’t getting paid.

@ afatcow: Thanks for the heads up; truth be told I foolishly forgot to check before hand. It WAS just an example, though, so my point still stands.


GNdynames November 13, 2008 at 10:33 pm

I don’t really care much about who does the subs. When I’m at home I just grab whatever is the fastest (and that’s usually some Chinese stuff). I don’t like to think too much about these stuff since the way I see it, as long as one gets what’s happening, it’s fine.

I don’t remember how many times I’ve said this (seeing as I do translations myself), translating Asian languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) isn’t as straightforward as translating between languages with Latin roots. Different people will interpret things differently and I’m assuming that’s where all the beef starts because some people “believes” they’re right because they translate things their way way.


Panther November 13, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Wait what, these people who like quality subs do exist, you are looking at one of them right here. Truth be told Chihiro is full of balls when it comes to translation most of the time, not to mention vid quality. But with the way the fansubbing “industry” has gone most fansubs nowadays that get recognition are speedsubbers that suck at quite a bit of translation.

I used to prefer really quality subs who get everything right and even have flavor to them (think Lunar) and actually still do, except that now that I can actually watch raws most of the time and understand about the same or more of a low-quailty speedsub I rather either watch the raw or wait for quality subs. Been waiting ever since I started watching anime anyway, for those.

Panthers last blog post..Globalization & Individuality – Societal Alienation


FuyuMaiden November 14, 2008 at 6:10 am

I prefer speedsubs, but I prefer good speedsubs. The groups that take care to do as best as they can as quickly as they can, but then a release a second version that fixes the problems are my favorite groups.

My only real requirements for a fansub is that the font is easily readable (a group failed to do this in Spring with a gothic font), proper grammar (I was shocked that some still even fail at this but at least one release [D-R]’s sub of CHAOS;HEAD did), and a translation that I can’t see any obvious flaws in (translating “world domination” as “universal uniform” is bad). I don’t mind spelling errors or much else as long as it doesn’t interfere with the flow and my enjoyment of the episode. Bad grammar definitely stops the enjoyment, and when there’s a bad translation that a person who often needs fansubs can recognize, you kind of start to wonder what else the group messed up on.

FuyuMaidens last blog post..Clannad ~After Story~ – Episode 06


Owen S November 14, 2008 at 11:16 am

“Personal preference” is what leads to the proliferation of crap like Nyoron’s subs (where 4,000 is the same as 4,000,000), so I wouldn’t say that all subs are created equal. It’s pretty much like saying all cars are created equal, and that the difference between a Ferrari and a piece of rusted junk from the scrapyard are negligible somehow.


M12 November 14, 2008 at 4:20 pm

I never really pay attention to which fansub group I’m following. Whoever releases the latest episode first, I’m in. It doesn’t bother me too much even if the subbing quality isn’t fantastic. The reason is, fansubbing is a bit of a grey area, and I don’t feel I have the right to complain. Just be grateful I can watch it at all, basically.

Also, the filesize concerns me, too. Some versions are like 300+mb. No thanks. I’d rather pick up the 170-ish version and save my bandwidth. The video quality isn’t as good. That’s fine – for the same reason as above.


M12s last blog post..Sunday Starts and Stops


ETERNAL November 16, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Now this is quite an interesting result I’ve gotten, and frankly, it’s pretty much the result I was looking for. I honestly think that ALL of you have a point with your statements, and while my opinion stays the same – I just can’t bear to fall several episodes behind on ef while waiting for Menclave – Panther and Owen also make their points loud and clear. I believe that one’s philosophy on fansubbing would change a lot with one’s knowledge of the language, and while I’m not sure of precisely how much ANY of us understand the Japanese language, I would wager that knowledge and experience play a big role in how much you care about your translations.

I suppose my final opinion is that we have different kinds of fansubs for different kinds of people, and just like we’ve seen from this small sample, the opinions diverge almost instantly. It certainly is unfortunate that the community allows lower quality translations to be acceptable, but at the same time, I don’t think I could ever bring myself to criticize groups that translate things that I would otherwise be unable to watch. However, I admit, that opinion is liable to change when I start to learn more of the language.

Finally, thanks to all of you for your comments: posts like this are meaningless without some form of response ;P


meronpan November 17, 2008 at 11:30 pm

raws baby! errr, *ahem* sorry. Though I do stick to raws when I can get ’em, for some older stuff fansubs were the only thing I could find. In those cases, I definitely appreciated the ones that took the time to actually translate the content rather than plaster the screen with long explanations of words or cultural things and what not. I totally understand that many people like that sort of stuff and it’s really great if you’re using the show to learn more about the culture or language, but in my case it gets in the way and distracts from the show. (slightly related, I pray that screenshot at the top of your post is a joke because that’s just plain terrible ^^;;)

Strangely, as far as actual quality, I rarely pay too much attention – I kind of use the sub as a complement to my listening ability or I’m in full on read mode and I’m not listening carefully enough to translate on the fly.

All that aside, I’m still just plain shocked on how fast these group can churn out subs. Poor quality or professional, I could see myself being very grateful to get my hands on anything in less than a month from broadcast ^^;

meronpans last blog post..姫 Hime!


Charxzy November 26, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Anyway, I do understand where you’re coming from with the subs. I, personally, if I’m not watching the series and I’m not following too crazily, I’ll just wait for the better quality one in the end – of course X_X. But, I don’t always go for speed subs. I generally go for one group (because they may have a flare that appeals to me), some go pretty far to explain certain traditions or special words while others just let it go unexplained. Considering we’re not all OCD with our subs, I’d just stick with one subber group, even if they’re a day or 2 behind if it means I’ll get some higher quality. But that’s me and my high stress load, so I’m guessing it only applies to certain situations!

-I like your blog by the way!!


Samanon November 6, 2009 at 2:20 am is the most important site that I’ve discovered, for choosing who to support/investigate, and for thinking about this whole topic.

The translations themselves are each wildly different, and even the smallest nuance can change your entire opinion of a character.

The subbers often alter the work itself, most regularly in the OP/ED, and if there are English sign translations overlaying/covering the original Japanese characters.

The subtitles typographical-style choices can be almost as influential as a soundtrack. Are characters given a single text-color each, or is it hard to determine who said what when 2 people talk at once? Are translated signs and writing in an obviously “fansubbed”/inappropriate font, or are they inserted in a (almost worryingly) professional manner? Are the lyrics karaokified or subtle? – Kimi ni Todoke and – Bakemonogatari are good examples of most of those. Spend a few minutes going through them all, row by row.

I love your writings elsewhere. You should do a post about this, once you’ve been convinced, and added your own thoughts :)


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