So this is an issue that has gotten me a lot of crap in the past before. I'll be blunt, I feel fansubs and scanlations are hurting the anime industry in North America.
Fansubs have not a whole lot of use anymore in North America. With the advent of streaming and simulcasts, you can watch just about anything legally for free, or a small subscription fee at like The Anime Network's site.
Years ago they were more useful. You had to wait two years for the show to come out on DVD, and this is when anime was still released in 2-4 episode singles for $30 a piece ($40 if you got a volume with an artbox). 12/13 episode series would cost you $90, 24/26 episode series, over $200.
There were no legal streams, so if you wanted to try a show, you pretty much were going to spend at least $90 on a show you had never seen, and if you didn't like the show, you were screwed. With fansubs, you could watch shows as they aired, and you could preview them so you knew what they were like, and would know whether or not it was worth the money to you. And of course, you could watch those shows that would never get licensed as it's very unreasonable to expect everything to get licensed in some way.
Now, most shows every season get simulcasts. If there's a show you want to watch, it's pretty much going to get a simulcast from Crunchyroll, VIZ Media, or FUNimation. Of course, there will be that one show usually that nobody picks up, but may or may not get picked up later. Now, how are fansubs hurting the industry?
A problem today is the anime industry in North America is crumbling. Sales have been falling every year since 2005 as I pointed out in one of my previous blog entries. Why? One reason is fansubs. People sticking with just fansubs, and not going back and buying shows.
Many will just watch fansubs for shows they can watch legally online for free (Or for a small subscription fee), through DVD's, BD's, Netflix, etc. and ignoring the legal options they're given. While this irks me, what really irks me is never going back and buying and supporting those favorite shows you watched through fansubs. Is Clannad your favorite anime? Did you watch it through fansubs? Then go out and buy Clannad.
Now I'm not saying you need to go out and buy every single show you watched through fansubs. It's completely unreasonable, especially when for some shows, you'd have to import them, and that puts you at around $600 for 12 episodes, and around $1000 for 24/26 episodes as Japanese anime DVD's and Blu-rays are expensive. Then there are also shows that are OOP, and going for like $200 on Amazon. Buying from sellers only supports sellers, not the show or company that released the show. And of course, why pay for a show you did not care about (Except for a few reasons I won't cover)? Hated Ikki Tousen with a passion? Watched it through fansubs? Then you don't need to go out and support it as why should you spend money on something you didn't like?
I find fansubs more okay on stuff that doesn't get picked up, so for something like Hyouka which as of this blog post hasn't been licensed in any way, shape or form, I find watching it through fansubs fine. However, if it comes out here and you really loved the show, I feel you should support it. Then there's stuff that only part of it came over here legally, like SD Gundam and MAR. Support the half that got put out, and then watch the other half through fansubs.
Now, as for people in other regions, I find it okay. The markets in places like the UK and Europe will get the short end of the stick at times, and have far fewer shows coming out. Does this mean they can't watch these shows? No, they can watch through fansubs. However if that one favorite show of yours comes out in your region, I'd go out and support it.
Next up, scanlations. We all know how in recent years companies have gotten more aggressive with them. One Manga removed everything, VIZ Media ordered Mangastream to stop doing a few Shonen Jump/Shueisha series, and Manga Fox removes a manga after it gets licensed in North America. While we've had stuff like JManga and Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha, there are still lots of series that just don't come over here, so scanlations have plenty of meaning still.
Scanlations I'm more lenient with as there are still so many series that you can't read legally here for free, or the series got cancelled/put on an indefinite hiatus (Zatch Bell!, Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, Strawberry 100%, and Gintama to name a few), so only part of it is here legally. I have a problem with reading scanlations and not going back and buying the series if it's available here (Same logic from the fansub argument applies here. This is where scanlations hurt the market.), but when it comes to those series that aren't licensed here, I'm fine with it.
You could in the end import the manga if it's not licensed here as while the shipping costs would be kinda painful, manga is relatively cheap in Japan, with the average manga volume costing around $5 (Half the usual price here in North America). It would be ideal, but it's not for everyone because of those shipping costs.
So in the end, if your favorite manga or anime is out here, and in-print, go out and support it if you watched through fansubs/read through scanlations. Also if you watched through Netflix, or legal streams, it would be encouraged to do it as well as legal streams and Netflix doesn't bring in nearly as much money as buying the Blu-rays and DVD's does.
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