Now this isn’t about bad translations, incompetent fansubbing, or anything technical. It isn’t about fansubbers making their file formats difficult to convert to something that can be burned on a DVD, although there are plenty of those out there. In fact, it isn’t even about fansubbers who drop projects half-way through or vanish into the ether, although that is certainly a problem. This is about fansubbers who are not only inconsistent, they apparently don’t care about their fans enough to even let them know what’s going on.
Okay, I know fansubbing is difficult and largely thankless work, people don’t get paid for it and they catch a lot of flack, either legally or from people who watch their work and complain endlessly. I want to be clear up front that I very much appreciate and enjoy the work that these individuals and groups put in. It has allowed me to enjoy my favorite anime, J-drama and tokusatsu shows in English without having to stumble along in my long-out-of-practice understanding of Japanese. To those who donate their time and effort and money to keep the fan community running, my hat is off to you.
But please, can you at least recognize that people are waiting for your next offering and keep them up to date? Yes, real life often gets in the way and always comes first. Yes, people working on these shows can get tired and just vanish. Yes, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. I get that. The point is that unless you express that to your audience, they don’t get that. They get frustrated. Frustration is no fun.
My real point here are the number of fansub groups who just stop putting anything out for months and sometimes years on end without even informing the audience that they’re taking a break. Worse, at least from where I’m sitting, are the groups who continually post “We’re not dead!” messages and then never do anything else until their next “We’re not dead!” message. Sorry, unless you are actually producing something, you are dead for all intents and purposes. Being dead isn’t a bad thing, it isn’t a failure, the fact that you produce anything at all is amazing considering all the difficulties and downsides, but please, just let people know if you’re going to drop a show or take a break or whatever.
The reasons for this are two-fold. First, if you’re going to stop, at least it gives people a chance to find another fansub group that they can move over to. Often these shows simply do not last as torrents or direct downloads, you have to get them while they are available and if you don’t, they may be gone. Secondly, a lot of other fansub groups might pick up the show and complete it, whereas if you’re pretending it’s still a work in progress, other groups might not bother and go do something else. Often, the raws for these shows are only available for a short time, groups doing these shows have to get the raws now or wait until there’s a Bluray release down the road. It isn’t like these things are always there, all the time.
I bring this up because there are a lot of fansub groups that I follow that have been pulling this lately. They either post nothing for months on end, until people finally give up, or they keep posting “we’ll be releasing X” and then never do. Just be honest. Just keep the lines of communication open. If you run into problems, as invariably every group does from time to time, just say so. It shouldn’t be a big dark secret that your translator vanished, how are you going to get another one if you never let anyone know of your problems? There are also groups who have huge plans, but apparently no clue how to make those plans happen, they make big promises that fall apart almost immediately and they refuse to acknowledge that their plans failed. I can think of at least 5 groups, all of them doing tokusatsu, that are in perpetual “we’re not dead” hell. On hasn’t actually released anything since last August, they’ve just spent a lot of time telling everyone their big plans and promising something will come out soon. Define “soon” for us please.
These groups get a ton of appreciation and support for the hard work they do, every single post is met with tons of thanks and offers to help. I just wish that some of these groups would pretend that their word means something and that when they promise to do something, they have a moral obligation to actually follow through, or at the very least, be honest about what’s going on without having to be badgered into it. Just tell the truth and don’t make promises you either cannot, or have no intention of keeping.