Monthly Archives: September 2006

A Plea for Egosubber-ism: Fansub to Tease over Fansub to Please

After giving the issue a good workout in my mind I realized there really isn’t anything wrong with egosubbing. Well, purely speaking in terms of intellectual property rights, at least. They may have other problems, like one involving ego or need for attention, but that’s besides the point.

It’s a bit of a Lockean, human instinct. When you work hard, you value your labor. I’m not sure why that’s the case, but I think one application is through the “Golden Rule.” Generally you respect other people’s hard work because you respect yours and you would like others to do the same. Sort of like why it’s bad to download a paper online and hand it in for homework as your own.

Once we start to describe things from an industrial model of production–cars, planes, computers, TV shows, etc–we’re talking about complex and elaborate things, requiring massive manpower and a very diverse pool of talent to put together. These are things that are made possible only by a corporate entity, for the most part. But the corporate producer is a faceless, soulless money grabbing machine. At least in light of American corporate law, anyways.

Sure, when we boil down to it, people who fansub are breaking copyright law mainly for producing and distributing a derivative work without permission. It doesn’t matter if the copyright is owned by a person or a company. But somehow fansubbing is a bit less morally offensive, for several reasons: it’s free publicity, there’s no access to it, there’s a bit of implied consent, etc. Maybe also because anime is not a poor-man’s art form, and we can care less for corporate benefits.

Also, we recognize fansubbers are pretty dedicated people who would put in time and resources and effort to put fansubs together. Poor little fansubbers should get a break because they’re so passionate, as some would presume, about this hobby.

With all that in the background, let’s ask some questions, and maybe by answering them we’ll understand egosubbing in a better light.

Do we really care why people fansub? I think per se, people don’t really care. Certainly I don’t ask myself every time I download a file “why is [so and so] fansubbing this show?” I don’t think I never ask that, to be fair–some groups tend to fansub a certain type or types of shows, and you can tell they do it because they like it, first and foremost. Sometimes I would know the fansubber in a more personal way and I would know exactly why. But I can’t imagine the average person downloading a sub does ask, for the most part. I’d like to say, more generally, we don’t care. To flip the question in reverse, if someone fansubs because it makes his left buttcheek feel good, would you mind watching this said sub? Probably not. How about because fansubbing makes him feel better about himself (generally)? Would you care? I think it’s hard to answer this question any other way.

Human beings are a diversely motivated group of individuals. To put it in simple words, people do whatever they want because there’s a reason for everything someone does. It wouldn’t be fair to presume, at the very least.

What is the purpose of fansubbing? The normative way to ask the similar question is probably even closer to the point I want to make. But instead of the usual cliche, let’s explore this question in the practical sense.

Indeed, fansubbing is the act of producing a fansub, and making fansubs available, and people generally fansub so others can watch anime that is otherwise inaccessible. Being a group of diversely motivated individuals, people watch fansubbed anime that is otherwise inaccessible for a variety of reasons. I think for many of us, it’s just entertainment. In that sense, the primary purpose of fansubbing is to entertain. If we can concede that most anime out there are made as entertainment, then fansubbing is a content-delivery system to deliver entertainment.

Yes, there are plenty of secondary effects as the result of entertaining a bunch of people with anime that is otherwise inaccessible without fansubs. To use common TV-mass media term, it’s about selling eyeballs. The difference here is that the show itself is the commercial for its potential retail release. But one must wonder if the connection is distinct and strong enough to lay claims of causation between fansubbing and potential sales figure. Indeed, some in the fan circle challenges this notion in a very black and white way, claiming fansubbing is unnecessary today. We need not to go that far, thanks to something called fansubbing ethics.

More specifically, fansubbers generally adhere to a set of ethics. And this set of ethics is actually rather universal. People back in the days of early VHS subbing first faced the exactly same ethical squabble we do today. What’s really different is eBay as an outlet for bootlegs, and a generally lowering of costs. Bootleggers today no longer wholesale, duplicate and repackage, but extract scripts and remaster the stuff (sometimes) for DVD sale. But it’s nothing new.

The fact that an ethical dimension is brought in so quickly to the fansubbing enterprise, soon after its birth, has two main reasons. One, we hate bootleggers, and thus we want to draw the line somewhere, as far as how much liberty you have with the “source material” as classified under the title of fansubbing. Second, it draws a distinct line of conduct which facilitate the interaction between fansubbers and their commercial interests–both to protect fansubbers AND the anime companies, and to fashion a calculus that makes fansubbing a (somewhat) manageable, quantizable element in the overall legal and economic equation.

Why does ego matter? Because implicit in the ethical posture includes the necessary acknowledgement, that at least, fansubbing is illegal. Fans, at the mercy of their corporate providers, needs to respect and funnel their funds into furthering the industry. (I’ve always looked at that as a tenuous connection at best, but whatever works.) The reason why we have this ethical framework, may it be philosophical or practical, is not important. What is important is that this set of guiding ethics, compared to other form of distribution-promotion model treading on copyright infringement, is very well-defined, public (most fansubbers tell you who they are, websites and encoded graphics and all), and respectful. Because fansubbers, on the whole, obey rules. Ego is not a part of the prescription, and the essence of fansubbing’s controversy is the paradox of breaking the rule, albeit in a methodical manner.

So when the ego gets out of the legally-grey box of ethical fansubbing behavior, people gets pissed.

So what, I ask? No matter how they are motivated, they are fansubbing. And it makes little difference one way or another. The only real complaint would be that egosubbers do a worse job fansubbing than a fansubber who is driven mostly by her passion for making this show accessible to the masses because she likes it so much, but there’s no real evidence for it. I suppose if they’re telling you to piss off when you asked nicely, they’re just jerks. Egosubbers who take pride in their work could be nice and reasonable people, and not so dogmatic as to be stubborn and too close-minded to consider alternatives to their methods. Indeed, I think people care about egosubbers at all only because they react badly. I suppose no matter what, it’s just poor form to be all snide like that.

And it does arise from those contexts–why do fansubbers clutter OP/ED with crap? Why don’t they release scripts? Why this why that… are they all reasonable demands? Maybe not, but in the face of public pressure, positive or negative, we should all just remind ourselves that the bottom line matters the most, and there’s no need to get worked up over it.

One bit of a post note: there’s this academic article written by some JD-LLM guy down in Texas. It reads like a hick but it is definitely very comprehensive. A must read if you want to actually learn about law and fansub and how they clash.

Trying to Get Simoun Out of My System, Attempt #1

It’s over, it’s all subbed. But am I ready to move on?


There are so many things to say about Simoun, and I’m going to try get get to all the key things, lest I ceased to be motivated.

But let’s start with the very first, basic thing: spoilers. Simoun is a show that will not be worth your while if you saw it while spoiled. Try to steer yourself clear of that if you plan to enjoy this show at some point in the future.

That said, it’s hard to talk about Simoun without spoiling, so that’s probably going to happen if you continue reading :)

Another thing that’s easily addressed is the music. Ok, so we know Toshihiko Sahashi is the composer, and he’s famous for, say, grand stuff like Gunslinger Girl and Rayearth OAV; or the more staple stuff like Full Metal Panic and Gundam Seed. I don’t really think he’s superlative in his works in Simoun, but he really nailed it as far as the style of music that goes with this stuff–waltz, classical-appealing orchestrations, of things romantic. There’s the right degree of pompousness, and it characterizes the Sybillas well, as elite, and often rich, well-to-do daughters of other elite, rich people. And enough weird stuff for those more uptempo, mysterious scenes, too. Doubly sweet are those “image” songs, such as the music box song, the one waltz they keep dancing to, and Dominura’s surprising performance.

I think there’s less to be said of the OP/ED themes. They work as OP/ED themes, but standing alone they’re both not really strong. Of course now both pieces are completely covered with the sentiments from watching this show, and the words to “Utsukushi Kereba Sore de Ii” hammers the key points home.

And it really is about these salient points, or as I tend to call them as themes. And there are several prominent ones. The coming-of-age story, the find-one-self story, and the idealist/realist conflict. The confusing conclusion to the show all makes sense once you start to think along the themes, at least so I think.

The ending itself is a little loose, sad, and moody piece generally. It doesn’t tie up any of the loose ends plot-wise but the last two episodes give us the details of their lives after they had to make the choice. I think if you’ve seen it, some of the choices these girls end up with are self-evident (Lodore, Para). Some are fun (Floe, Morinas), others are a little ordinary (Alti, Kaimu). Anubituf and Grageif ended up fairly amusing. Will Vyuraf end up like them? One can only hope so.

But when it comes to Limone and Dominura; Yun; and of course Neviril and Aeru, it’s harder. If you recall Utena the Movie, we can write off Neviril and Aeru in that sense–the duo pursuit something more in abandon of what society has thrust upon them. The differences, mainly, is in the context. Utena was fable-ish within a backdrop of everyday society; where as Simoun had a specific context instilled within its elaborate universe. As a result the act of rebellion and the lesbian conquest had a very different meaning behind it.

Harder still is trying to fit Yun in all of this. She really is a victim of setting–we understand why she did it, but the how really bothers me. Perhaps it’s exactly in this way Simoun fails me as an end.

The same question of how stumbles me when I think about Limone and Dominura. We understand how and why of Limone and Dominura’s context in their travels (one of the several points in Simoun which a spinoff seems appropriate). But WTH? STD (Space-time Transmitted Disease)? I suppose Simoun has given us enough hints to piece together the framework, and I may just too dense to figure out as to why she’s flaking. She has Limone, after all?

The question of how is probably the greatest stumbling block to Simoun. Its unexpected road from climax to end is by no means the problem. Not having things explained, in itself, isn’t a problem either. The issue arises from its elaborate story and context and setting. It’s too good to be cast aside just because explaining it all will unravel this mighty-beauty suspension bridge of belief. Nonetheless, a few more road signs will go a long way.

But the setting, my, the setting. It is probably my favorite aspect of the show and it will stick with me for a long while. Gender bending, the tech, the faux steam-less-steampunk. The foreign languages. The Ri Maajons. The class system. Tempus Spatium. So remarkable. So wonderful twists. And all an integral part of this romance. It’s not just a gimmick.

Romance, I think, is the word I would use to describe the feel of the show. Some would describe it as WWII era drama pieces where a lot of the mood comes during scenes when the cast stare longingly down the runway and into the sky, pining at pilots at war. The similarity are there, and these kinds of elements, more than the interpersonal romance, played a bigger part in painting the show with the right texture, that gives traction to the rest of the drama.

I wouldn’t say the watch was easy, but it has a distinct taste and texture–creative and unique. For a jaded anime faux-intellectual like me, that’s just irresistable. Once you couple that with the roller coaster drama in the middle of the series, it was just too delightful. How the two big dramatic events mid-series affect the story is also pretty interesting, too, and rather unusual.

I won’t deny it, either, when you look back at the show and still only see a bunch of cute girls flying jet planes and blowing things up, while kissing each other…that is probably enjoyable too. But for those of us who would rather take it seriously, there’s a lot to take seriously of!

But when Dominura and Limone took their quantum leap, it was awe inspiring. Both in the acting and in the way they constructed the tension and released it. Now that I’ve had a lot of space and things to put in between now and then, it almost seem irrational and odd for Dominura to do what she did. Or rather, by finding the one (and possibly only) meaning behind her action can we sift through the real significance to it.

Indeed, if she knew what the Emerald Rimaajon did, why did she do it at that point? Are we merely fooled by Amuria’s destructive attempt? Is it unintended irony that Neviril’s moment of mercy caused a massacre? A rewatch (as I had several times since months ago) did show that the emerald Rimaajon is a peaceful transcendence, then and even again at episode 26. Was Dominura meaning to abandon? Probably not. Was Limone looking forward to the magical cure as a way out of their predicament? Maybe. It was what they meant to do as girls, as people living wholly for themselves. But it has other meanings too–Schrödinger’s CatAmuria, for example. (By the way, there is little doubt that she is dead, even if they left some space for the contrary).

On the other hand, it’s no coincidence that we were flashed back to Neviril’s performance in front of the inquisition regarding the Arctus Prima explosion several times during the show. While I personally would inject a particular perspective (like related to this), it’s probably safe to say that is a defining point in her path to what she turned out to be at the end of the series. Amuria is similar to Aeru in a lot of ways, sure, and Neviril loved both of them. The difference between the two relationships, logically, is where we can see how Neviril has grown and how she learned to come to terms with what she defines herself with. She made important realizations–about Tempus Spatium, about their organized beliefs, and about what a Sybilla is. It’s partly why she could anchor Chor Tempest in the later episodes of doubt and despair.

In fact, there’s a positively lovely domino effect where one girl helps another to pull through this trying time. Without Lodoremon, we won’t have the reformed Mamiina. Without Limone, Dominura would not have made the “right” decision later on. Without Paraietta, Kaimu and Alti would not have reconciled. Without many of theses we wouldn’t have a Neviril that we see at the end of the series. Of course, without Aeru and Neviril Paraietta would not have reformed and become the integral leader for the Chor Tempest girls. Even Aeru learned a few important things from Floe! Even the Plumbum priestesses had a couple big roles.

I think this is where Simoun remarkably differ from Utena or even Evangelion in dealing with these kind of themes. Utena’s characters were, as the show suggests explicitly, puppets pushing and pulling our protagonists along. The movie version does the best job, IMO, in showing that Anthy was the one true heroine at the end, and Utena is just her trusty partner during her trials in some ways. Evangelion, OTOH, dealt with the similar themes in a similar way, but there wasn’t real understanding between the characters, compared to Simoun.

This spiraling train wreck of a post will have to end here. Theories and conspiracies are great for this show because it beckons, yet I think it would still be imprudent to dive into it full force without reason as a safety rope. Meanwhile, enjoy some eyecatches. Simoun’s eyecatches are as amusing as eyecatches can get, and they do a good job highlighting each episode. A short stroll down Neg’s blog is in order here. When it comes to eyecatches I like it when they make the additional effort to make it a part of the entire experience, and they’ve done a great job. It’s like the first thing you see when people post it on 2ch, and it spreads like wildfire with raws and subs trailing behind. Plus, they’re just gorgeous usually.

Until next time.

A Musical: A Tribute to Floe

[Light spoilers up to episode 25, maybe 26. Below is written in a play script form.]

A Stage Production...

[Setting: The deck of Arcus Prima, under the canopy. The flying fortress lies in disrepair, abandoned.]

[The view changes to the aging music machine, winding down and playing a melody]

[Back on deck, Limone and Lodoremon sit side by side, on a park bench. Quietly the two survey what little natural beauty entangled with the signs of nature claiming the temple garden as her own.]

Limone: So is this it?

Lodoremon: It seems that is it! How is life with Dominura?

Limone: Oh, it’s… interesting. But enough about me! How are you?

Lodoremon: Oh, haha, you know how it is. I barely get by these days. So swamped with work, especially given what’s going on with Argetum and Plumbum. It’s rather nice, a change of pace, to sit here and chat and watch them go at it.

Limone: I think it’s embarrassing.

Floe [off the screen]: No it’s not!

[The view suddenly cuts to Paraietta, on a stage, spotlight and curtain and all. Paraietta struck a pose and sings:]

Paraietta: You are everything that is bright and clean / The antonym of me / You are divinity.

[Cut to flashback of prayer to the Plumbum priestesses; the rape; then the prayer scene between Paraietta and Neviril]

[Cut suddenly back to the same stage, spotlight on Lodoremon, likewise, singing]

Lodoremon: But a certain sign of grace is this / From the broken earth flowers come up / Pushing through the dirt!

[Cut to flashback of Mamiina, then cutting her hair, then lying in the flowery field]

[Cut to Yun on stage, spotlight, alone, doing the same]

Yun: You are everything that is bright and clean / And You’re covering me with Your majesty

[Cut to flashback of Onashia, then Yun making a nest, then Yun hugging Onashia]

[Cut to Morinas, on stage, spotlight, the same]

Morinas: And the truest sign of grace was this / From wounded hands redemption fell down / Liberating man!

[Cut to flashback; Waporif waving; Morinas’s boob moment in ep15; Wapourif’s final scene in ep26]

[Cut to stage; spotlights on Alti and Kaimu, hand in hand, singing]

Alti & Kaimu: But the harder I try the more clearly can I feel / The depth of our fall and the weight of it all

[Cut to flashback: rape; shower; A&K’s childhood scene]

[Cut to stage; spotlight on Neviril, singing]

Neviril: And so this might could be the most impossible thing / Your grandness in me making me clean!

[Cut to flashback: The exploded cockpit; the scene where Neviril consoles Aeru in ep21; the jail scene with Neviril]

[Cut to stage; hands joined, left to right, Paraietta, Kaimu, Alti, Morinas, Lodoremon, Yun, and Neviril. In chorus:]

Group: Glory, hallelujah / Glory, glory, hallelujah

[Suddenly, loud cracks breaks through the ceiling. The view pans up and revealing a mostly naked Aeru suspended on wire-fu string-works, descending onto the stage. She sings while floating down:]

Aeru: So here I am, all of me / Finally everything / I am wholly yours.

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Saiunkoku Monogatari Is Not an Epic Venezian Conspiracy

The World Needs More Neviril

I think my Aria the NATURAL backlog is now fully attributed to the fact that Saiunkoku Monogatari has taken over its role as an inoffensive no-brainer. I watch it to appreciate the reverse-harem almost, but more because Shuurei is just so cute and I WUB KUWASHIMA HOUKO…?

Nonetheless I think this show is getting the right amount of attention. I really don’t think it’s so good that you should drop a show just so you can watch it, but unlike Aria, stuff happens. It keeps my wandering mind focused when I put an episode in the media player once a week, on a tiring weeknight, for the fear that if I was watching Aria instead, I’ll fall asleep.

But I went into SaiMono thinking it’ll actually have an interesting setting and story, which so far neither has been the case. We see Shuurei, the only child of the court librarian (Chief IT officer?) learning her ropes as a girl who grew up during hard times, “taming” the delinquent King. Then she goes on this women’s suffrage bit, which is empowering and interesting but kind of, well, boring. Thankfully they’ve layered up enough mystery behind every single thing in the show that nothing is what it seems and there’s probably enough unexplained back story to make an entire anime series on its own. To be fair, yes, most of the potentially “interesting” stuff has not been explained.

Now, I’ve only seen about 12 episodes, but at this point they’re just doing the usual parade of tropes–the court queer, the double agent, the double-double agent, the secret successor, various lineage tricks, the “I understand you but I must fight you” crap, gender bending, typical puppetry and manipulation in politics, etc.

Does it matter? Not anymore. It feels almost slice-of-life, yet stuff goes on! I guess the production value is overshadowing the flaws of the adaptation at this point. A good thing, probably, because out of its planned 39 episodes, it will have a lot of room to hit some climaxes. I’m just wishing those would come soon, if not already! I gave Simoun at least 14 episodes, and 16 was sweet enough to sell me out to it. I hope that is the case with SaiMono.

Fall, Spiraling Away into Seasonal Melancholy


Looking back at these past 9 months, a lot has changed. Suzumiya Haruhi’s lasting impact in the minds of the fan-sphere is a weird one. For people like me, we cling to it. But like many of Kyoto Animation‘s works, it lacks that consistency which reminds me of warm, home-made breakfasts; toasty winter holiday family fests; and that cup of hot chocolate on a chilly winter day. The fallout is evident but surprising despite the cynical blog-sphere and fan scene. Its strong fan response in Japan is trapped within the cultural context and language barrier, unable to affect the outside world in any significant way.

The more I dwell on Kyoto Animation’s Kanon, as a result, the more it boggles the mind. I suppose one could say that by the end of Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid, one would have a good grasp as to the style they are after. Fumoffu won us over with its crisp juxtaposing humor, but when it comes to writing a teenage mercenary’s real life, they have a ways to go.

Yet with the delivery of Suzumiya Haruhi (as an adaptation) and its tender treatment on the tragic subject matter within AIR, we’re left with hope. This tender feeling, for someone as cynical as I am, is, well, tender. It’s like a lonely candle flicker on a chilly autumn night, its end only the next breeze away. Yet my hopes are up only because Kyoani’s track record. Only because Kanon’s potential as an anime hasn’t been depleted by Toei. Is this on solid ground I stand?

Inherently the process from start to finish, animation is complex to create. I think for every one think Kyoani gets right, there is probably one thing they could get right, but it’s out of their reach. For one thing Kyoani gets right, there’s also probably 3 things that could go wrong just by luck. Considering how bare-bones the typical Japanese animation production team can get, it’s not an unfathomable fear. Or is it? I’m just putting numbers down just to scare myself. Why? It’s obvious…

I want to enjoy Kanon 2. I want to be able to embrace the fan splooge. I want to see a good mood anime piece with Nayuki. I’m fed up with TEROGE adaptations. I want to be able to come home and melt into the emo embrace of an exemplary Sad-Girl-in-Snow story.

But I think somewhere I also want to see Kyoani struggle with failure. They’re due one. Maybe it won’t be this time, but who knows?