Unpublished ANN interview with a fansubber (me), Funimation and Aniplex

About two months ago I was contacted by a certain party who wanted a fansubber who was doing FMA Brotherhood to answer a few questions for an ANN interview. I agreed and contacted the ANN editor in chief, who two weeks later came back to me with a few questions, which I answered. I was then asked to comment on some other questions ANN had asked Funimation and Aniplex. This was fairly urgent; I got the mail on a tueday or wednesday IIRC and was asked to reply before Friday. I did so. I sent off my reply on May 8th, early in the morning European time. Then ANN proceeded to ignore me for almost a month. A week ago I sent them another email asking what had happened and if they actually planned on publishing anything or were just dropping the entire thing. I have received no reply at all, so I decided to not let my hard work talking to other fansubbers and writing a lot of :words: go to waste and publish it myself, in the best citizen journalism style.

Without further ado; here is an interview with a fansubber, and with Funimation and Aniplex.

I’d like to start with stating that I speak mostly for myself and that my opinions are my own. I did run this by most of the group members of the groups I’m in and while the ones that did comment didn’t have any particular concerns and generally agreed with what I said, I obviously cannot claim to speak for every single individual.

1: Can you tell me about your motivation to fansub FMA: Brotherhood? Why did you decide to fansub a show that was licensed and would be streamed in North America and around the world 4 days after the Japanese release? Was there any debate as to whether or not the show should be fansubed, or was everyone involved in agreement?

Fansubbing has changed. These days, with raws and streaming Japanese TV so easily available, you have to release within 1-2 days from airing or people will start complaining about slow subs. No one cares about your release if you’re a week late, unless you happen to be the only group doing the show (and that is most assuredly not the case with this show). And of course extremely low-resolution (let’s face it, 640×368 is like a postage stamp these days), terribly encoded streaming VP6 video that takes two hours to buffer for a 25 minute episode and cannot be watched outside the US cannot really compete with a 720p HD release that takes half an hour to download and can be watched anywhere, even offline (I never thought I’d say this but they should take some streaming lessons from Crunchyroll, which, while terrible, are still several orders of magnitude better). Not even Funimation could be delusional enough to think it could. They (Funimation) should also be concerned by the fact that fansub translations are often perceived as better than official translations these days. I’m not saying that they _are_ better (with some notable exceptions, they usually aren’t), but they are _perceived_ as better, and that is what matters.

As for the motivation to do it, I don’t think it goes any deeper than “we wanted to do it”. There was no debate to speak of in any of the three groups I’m associated with. Here, as well, fansubbing has changed. There isn’t really anyone I know of (except some oldschool types who were around for the VHS era) who cares about licensing anymore. The illusion of “ethics” and working in symbiosis with the American licensing companies has finally given way to the pragmatic realization that what we are doing is just warez; nothing more, nothing less. In my own humble opinion, it was about time, too. The only reason to drop a show these days would be a real threat of getting sued; C&D’s don’t really do anything anymore because everyone has realized that there are never any further consequences. It’s just a fancy letter with a lot of threatening hot air.

2: Will you stop fansubing it if/when you receive a request from Funimation, Aniplex, or any other party involved with the series? Would you stop if a non-North American, non-Japanese company made the request (ie: Madman)?

No, none of the groups I’m in would. If a threat was deemed to be “real” enough it would most likely only result in the subbing “going underground” under another name and using an open tracker such as The Pirate Bay or similar.

3: How would/will you feel if/when you receive the request to “cease & desist?”

Funny that you ask this, now that Shinsen-Subs has received one. The letter they published on their website claimed that they weren’t being singled out and that all groups would be receiving similar letters. So far though only one of the three groups I’m in have received one, though. (They will actually be dropping the show, but it wasn’t because of the C&D. It had already been decided before Shinsen got the first letter, and the reason was that it was collectively decided that the show sucked. It may have looked good when viewed through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia but it was soon discovered that it really wasn’t all that spectacular, and that we were a _lot_ younger when we watched the original.)

That said, I seriously doubt anyone in the groups I’m in would be surprised or angry at such a request. We know what we’re doing, after all, and we knew that it was licensed. At worst it would be seen as a mild annoyance.

(edit 2009-05-31: another group has since dropped the show; sudo dropped it (and everything else) due to disappearing group members.)

4: Under what circumstances would you feel that it wouldn’t be beneficial to fansub a show like FMA:Brotherhood (ie: under what circumstances would you have decided not to fansub FMA:Brotherhood)?

Personally I’d stop when I got bored with it, I guess. The same probably goes for most fansubbers I know; we aren’t really doing this because of idealism or anything, we’re doing it purely for fun (and these days the fun isn’t really in the anime anymore; several fansubbers I know (myself included) hardly watch anime, and the anime they do watch usually isn’t the one they sub).

That said, I’m not sure what you mean by “beneficial”, but if you’re asking under what circumstances it would most likely be seen as “not worth the effort” for most people to fansub FMA (or indeed any show), the answer is when we get a simulcast HD release that isn’t terribly encoded, can be downloaded to be watched anywhere (no DRM) and preferably is accessible in Europe as well. This is obviously impossible under the current conditions and business models, so if the American industry wants to put an end to fansubbing of their licensed shows I suggest they better start changing their business models (and get the Japanese studios in on it too), preferably yesterday.

If you want examples on what will happen if you start simulcasting something that is perceived as “not good enough” video quality-wise, or something that won’t be available in Europe, you just need to look at Crunchyroll, where the former fansubbers have switched to ripping the subtitles, possibly editing them a bit, and re-releasing with a better video source within hours. CR’s attempts at DRM-protecting their subtitles have so far been completely unsuccessful, which isn’t surprising in the slightest given the inherent security flaws in any form of DRM (i.e. you need to protect the decrypted text from the one who is simultaneously supposed to be reading it, which is obviously impossible unless you have complete control of the decoding environment).

The above are the original questions I was asked to reply to. Here follows the questions to Funimation and Aniplex (in that order), their answers, and my comments.

1) Can you tell us a bit about the motivation to release Fullmetal
Alchemist: Brotherhood online nearly simultaneously with Japan? (ie:
Why do it?)

In short, the market is changing. DVD/Blu-ray physical product is the
majority of our business, but there is a growing demand for digital and
streaming. Streaming has been available for a while, but we had to
tackle two issues: 1. Transition further into digital production and 2.
Japanese licensor education and approval of the concept of simulcast.
We know that any media company has to have a digital alternative.
We’ve had digital download to own on iTunes and Xbox for nearly two
We know from fansubs that some people can’t wait to view a series on
DVD. None of the files downloaded and streams watched generate any
revenue back to the Japanese licensor (Aniplex) or the companies who
license the show for a certain territory (FUNimation and others).
Anime production is not free. It costs money to create these series.
The revenue generated from domestic and international sales of an anime
series goes back to produce more anime.
We’re doing this to provide a legal version of the series so people can
watch for free while providing revenue as a means to support the show.

>2. Japanese licensor education and approval of the concept of simulcast.

Four days late doesn’t really qualify as “simultaneous” to me. Looks like you need to work on that education a bit more, but sure fine whatever.

2) What special preparations went into this project that aren’t
normally involved in other non-simulcast projects?
2b) How long was the simulcast in planning?

Lots of negotiations and late nights on the telephone :) People might
not be aware that every show has a committee of rights owners (TV
network, manga publisher, animation studio, production studio, others).
We have to provide education on the concept and get approval from all
parties. This is not a one meeting deal. This involves lots of
presentations, conversations, explanations, deliberations,
complications, and celebrations once the concept is approved.

3) Is there any special work/preparations/changes on the Japanese side
(at Aniplex and/or Bones) of the production of the series in order to
accommodate the simulcast?

File transfer security was a concern but it was highly researched and a
solution was found that met all parties’ needs. That was a key issue in
all discussions.

I see that your research resulted in being able to circumvent your own security so you managed to release Phantom episode 4 before it actually aired in Japan. How do you research secure file transfer anyway, it’s not like SFTP is hard to use.

Edit 2009-05-31: In recent news it turns out that this “security research” resulted in uploading an episode of One Piece with an extremely predictable filename to a public server at least one day before it aired on Japanese TV. The “security” was only security through obscurity, because the only thing that protected this episode from getting viewed by the general public (the server in question doesn’t even have the easily circumvented region block Funimation’s usual flash player does) was that it wasn’t linked from anywhere on Funimation’s site. When someone figured out the filename and discovered that the file had been uploaded early, Funimation accused “hackers” of circumventing their “strict security measures”. I lack a facepalm.jpg big enough to accurately portray my feelings about this. Toei, please sue Funimation for breach of contract by intentionally leaking the episode ahead of time, because there is no way anyone responsible for security protecting someone else’s intellectual property could be dumb enough to do something like this. Or, wait, damn, this is Funimation we’re talking about. HMMMMM.

Edit edit: read Koda’s summary of the events for more details.

4) Why the 4-day delay between the Japanese TV broadcast and the
FUNimation simulcast?

Due to security issues, some licensors do not allow for video transfer
prior to broadcast.
After the first draft of script translation, a proper names list for
each episode is submitted for Japanese licensor approval. Once
approved, final scripting starts and once completed, it’s sent through
production. Our production goes through a strict quality control
process. All of that takes time.

You could at least get the script ahead of time even if they for whatever paranoid reasons they might have (oh right, it’s Sony, never mind!) will not allow video transfer before broadcast. If Crunchyroll (with their history of not being exactly “clean”, and without an already profitable business to fall back on) can do it, so can you. Actually, if fansubbers can do it with closed captions, so can you. Or even better, you can obviously do it yourselves with Phantom (five hours _before_ Japanese broadcast even!) so why not with FMA, which obviously has a bigger fanbase?

Edit 2009-05-31: One Piece, lol.

5) Why have you chosen not to send out cease & desist orders to the
people fansubing FMA: Brotherhood.

We announced that we would be streaming Fullmetal Alchemist:
Brotherhood before the broadcast premiere. We didn’t know which if any
groups would fansub the series. In the past, we didn’t have to wait to
send any DMCA letters, fansub groups would find out and stop the
projects on their own and make a statement on their site or forum. None
of that happens anymore. We had to send DMCA letters because these
groups chose to fansub a known licensed property. All of our contracts
with the Japanese licensors have a copyright enforcement policy and we
are obligated to enforce our rights. Doing nothing to stop copyright
infringements would be a breach of contract.

As I said, fansubbing has changed. The question now is how far you’ll take it to avoid “breach of contract” (nice one, trying to blame the bad press on the Japanese companies). If you’re not going to go any further, what was the point of the C&D’s in the first place? They didn’t exactly stop anyone, and I don’t think you expected them to do so either. Does this mean you will be taking fansubbers to court for the first time, or was it just a token gesture? We’ll have to see, I guess.

1) Could you explain the motivation for broadcast/streaming FMA:
Internationally and nearly simultaneously? Did the idea originate from Aniplex, or was it suggested by
a licensee ?

Our main motivation was to deliver legitimate “FMA -Brotherhood” episodes to fans worldwide as
soon as possible.
This big project could happen as a result of passion and collaboration of FMA Production Committee
members that wanted to answer to fans’ request, Aniplex that is in charge of overseas sales and

You seem to have a very narrow definition of “worldwide”.
Oh wait, you must mean that you can download FUNimation’s stream from their official site as long as you know the URL, even if you can’t see the player webpage. Or that it’s trivial to circumvent their region locking by using a simple Firefox extension that adds a HTTP header. Still, that’s not very user-friendly, you know! Also, how’s that for breach of contract, FUNimation?

2) Will you be allowing near-simultaneous home-video (DVD or Blu-ray) releases, or will the Japanese
home-video release come first? Are reverse imports a concern?

Both DVD and Blu-ray will be released in Japan first (on August 26th).
Because the program will be dubbed in local languages, please wait for an update from a licensee in
each area.

No comment. Way to avoid the question about reverse importation, though.

3) Why aren’t any of the non-Japanese broadcasts same day&date as the Japanese release. Was this a
technical issue or a strategic decision?

This is more scheduling issue rather than technical issue.
Before broadcasting, all subtitles and dubs need to go through an approval process, and it takes some
However, “Same day & date” broadcasting will be our next challenge.

Huh, how about that. FUNimation said it was because you wouldn’t allow video transfer before broadcast. Which one is it? Are they hiding behind “oh you know how restrictive Japanese licensors are” to excuse the long delay? Or did you just not mention the part where it’s your restrictions that are delaying it because unlike FUNimation you actually mind if you look bad in the eyes of the fans?

4) What is your company’s official position on “fansubs” (Fan translations freely and illegally
distributed on the Internet)? How do you feel in regards to the FMA: Brotherhood fansubs specifically.

We are very much appreciative that lots of fans love and support FMA.
However, if one exhibits such video without rights holders’ permission and approval, his/her act is
considered as infringement of copyright which is owned by the original author and production
Because of such acts, it has become harder for Anime companies to create and invest for next new
Anime titles.

No comment.

5) Were any changes made to the production process (technical / workflow) in order to accommodate
the international simulcast?

Yes. We have to deliver final scripts to licensees as soon as possible, Overseas Licensing team attends
every voice-over session and stand by.

Wait, what? If they do that why do they claim to take four days _after_ broadcast on Japanese TV to just translate it? HMMMMM.

6) How far is Aniplex willing to go to protect its copyright.

We would like to take an action to stop copyright infringement.
For example, for apparently illegal video, our legal team sends “Ceased and Deseased letter” to internet
service providers.
At the same time, we plan to increase opportunites for fans to watch more legitimate programs.
So we would really appreciate it if fans can support us.

I know I really shouldn’t be making fun of an obviously non-native English speaker, but that is really a hilarious typo. Other than that, are you saying that you won’t go any further than C&D’s? Nice to know.

7) Do you have a message for international consumers/fans who live in markets that aren’t being served
by the simulcast (i.e.: UK, non French speaking Europe).

Sorry for keeping you wait! We are currently working with our business partners in the areas hoping to
start a same-week-broadcasting there also within several months.
Thank you very much for your support!!

“same-week-broadcasting (…) within several months”? How would that work? Start at episode 20? In any case, it’s too little, too late. As usual.

If you had started this simulcast project four or five years ago, heck, maybe even three years ago, you would probably have been hailed as the saviours of fankind and made half of the fansubbers quit on the spot, regardless of how bad the quality of your streams were. Now, the transition to a full out warez scene is already complete, pretty much everyone who used to respect licenses has already quit and if you want to catch up you will have to offer the impossible (same-hour broadcasts, full HD, no DRM). Nice try, but better luck next time, I guess.

Or maybe that wasn’t what you were going for at all, currently it almost looks like you’re trolling us all by deliberately crippling the streaming service instead of using DRM. In that case, congratulations on a successful troll.

Comments (13)

  1. That’s some tuff stuff, ‘Fluff. Now back to gathering slave ftps for our new fansub warez scene ftp

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 04:07 #
  2. TheFluff wrote:

    yes master twilight

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 04:17 #
  3. astrange wrote:

    yo send me some tses

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 05:59 #
  4. Seph wrote:

    What add-on

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 13:30 #
  5. Seph wrote:

    What add-on can you use to circumvent the region locking?

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 13:30 #
  6. TheFluff wrote:

    1) Download and install this Firefox addon: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/967
    2) Tools -> Modify Headers.
    3) In the top left dropdown, hit add. In the first text field, type “X-Forwarded-For” (without quotes). In the second field, type in any American IP address (finding one shouldn’t be difficult, if you can’t find any other one just do a DNS lookup on http://www.funimation.com and use that). Leave the third field blank.
    4) Hit Add and close the window.
    5) Open a new tab or window, go to funimation.com, watch, realize that Funimation’s stream is so terribly encoded that you get 90’s era .rm flashbacks and go download a fansub instead.

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 17:47 #
  7. TheFluff wrote:

    astrange: sure I’ll hook you right up, what do you need

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 18:20 #
  8. anonymous bastard wrote:

    FUNNYmation sure screwed the pooch on this one

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 18:20 #
  9. astrange wrote:

    anything with CCs, there aren’t any in the mplayer samples archive

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 21:24 #
  10. Zwill wrote:

    These guys should learn to masturbate 24/7 rather then involving themselves with fansubbers, no… with real anime. They should just stream uncensored porn and I’m p sure that ppl would be flooding their site.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 13:05 #
  11. seven wrote:

    “…so terribly encoded that you get 90’s era .rm flashbacks”
    pump the breaks guy… i love rmvb.

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009 at 21:03 #
  12. I agree with the whole WAREZ thing. I stopped using the phrase “download anime” a long time ago. In its stead I say “pirate anime.” Why sugar coat it. I think it keeps everyone honest. With that said, I AM one those people that will watch legal versions of a show if available and in okay quality.

    First of all, you can’t even get an HD Quality stream on the web. Not even your cable provider can do that. You can get HD SIZED content. There just isn’t the bandwidth for BLU-RAY quality stream. Maybe when Fibre-Optics finally transition but now before then. But what’s available on cable at 720p and 1080i is nothing to sneeze at. It’s great! But you know, people really misuse the word HD a lot.

    Remember when Youtube switched to h264 and people were calling it HD? Holy shit! Have you seen those HD GLASSES they sell to old people?

    Monday, September 7, 2009 at 19:31 #
  13. Sub-zero wrote:

    Sorry for keeping you wait! We are currently working with our business partners in the areas hoping to start a same-week-broadcasting there also within several months.
    are they serious?

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 02:29 #

Trackbacks/Pingbacks (3)

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