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12 Days of Anime – Day 4: Rage

I don’t like piracy. I never have. That certainly applies more to games than anime, but even with anime, I never download to my hard drive. I feel if I limit my access to anime I haven’t paid for (and with my network, limit is very apt) then at least I won’t be too far off from the people viewing it across the ocean on TV. Since joining the blogosphere last year, though, I took this to the next step and actually started buying anime DVDs. The second one I bought was the complete set of what is probably my favorite anime of all time, Kino no Tabi. I was really excited to finally get DVD quality and own this work that had been so formative for me. That was when it happened. I saw unfolding before my eyes what may have been (and may still be) the worst licensing job known to anime.

Cold Rage

There was a total lack of episode listings in the case, with only a range of episodes pasted onto the front of the discs themselves to let you know which to select. You can also tell that it was probably designed for four discs, but they only used three, likely so they wouldn’t have to spend as much. But that was still okay. I could handle that. I put the disc in my player and was instantly greeted by one of the shabbiest menus I’d ever seen. Literally the only options were to choose an episode to watch and to choose your preferred audio. It was barebones to an extreme. But that was still okay. Kino no Tabi has never had much in the way of popularity or attention, so I was expecting (even if I wasn’t hoping) that there wouldn’t be a lot of frills. I could still handle it, so I started episode one, and the opening credits (lacking subtitles) started. Something felt off, but I forged on, my excitement still clinging to me. Then the credits ended, someone spoke and my screen was instantly assaulted by

GIANT YELLOW LETTERS TAKING UP A TENTH OF THE SCREEN

Yes, only the most obnoxious and odious of all subs, the giant yellow letters in some obscure serif font, were good enough for my favorite anime. I sighed, my excitement waning. I would still be able to enjoy it, of course; it was an excellent show. But the magic of actually buying and maybe having the possibility of supporting my favorite show was starting to fade. Aside from the visual quality (which was somehow not even that highly improved over the internet videos I had watched), this was actually a step down from the fansubs I had seen before. But that was okay. I would still be able to enjoy it. Until. . .I finally realized what had been off before, and I’d been having so much trouble finding the right volume. The DVD makers had somehow encoded the episodes so that the volume went up and down, just like a sin or cosine wave. That was it. You can give me no frills, a barebones case and menu screen, you can even give me terrible subtitles. But do not actively make the show worse and interfere with its quality just because it isn’t a smash hit and your interns needed something to do. What’s curious about this is that it holds true for both the English and Japanese audio tracks across all three DVDs, except for the menus. The only explanation I can come up with is that they had some kind of equipment problem when doing the episodes but never checked it (or didn’t care enough to fix it).

Screw you, ADV films. Just. . .screw you.

Fortunately, I didn’t stop buying anime and I haven’t had any problems like that with my other DVDs, but I have to admit this wasn’t a great experience. Here I was supporting the industry, and they showed a clear lack of care. I think I felt a little betrayed, even. And with that, I end this account of one of the more memorable anime experiences I had this year: Rage.

11 responses

  1. There were some TRULY BAD releases by ADV, even going back to the VHS days. Never seen the giant whole-screen subs before the volume issues don’t surprise me at all, I’ve heard them. I have the platinum so I’m not sure but IIRC the original Evangelion DVD set had an audible pop when it cut between some scenes.

    2012/12/17 at 05:27

  2. I was afraid it was a company thing and not just a one time fluke for a little known series. Shame, ADV, shame.

    Also wow that sounds really really bad. I wonder if they don’t check their work, or just don’t care?

    2012/12/17 at 16:38

  3. I hate that yellow sub font. It’s one of the main reasons why for anime that I own DVDs of, like Gurren Lagann, I still watch the fansubs when I want to listen to the original dub. Which isn’t all the time since some series like Baccano have a good dub and I go 50/50 English/Japanese for.

    2012/12/17 at 22:30

  4. Roast of vengeance.

    I used to never like downloading anything. I would never download any music, games or anime/movies illegally. Then a few years ago I started watching some anime online. It was lots of fun, but it was often a challenge to find the right episodes, and even then they would sometimes have horrible problems etc. About a year ago, I realized that watching online wasn’t really any worse than downloading to HDD, since your computer does in the process anyways, so I might as well just watch them in HD. It is also very easy to consistently find the episodes in high quality with no problems. Never looked back. I still don’t download music or games illegally, but I download all anime I watch.

    While I never buy DVDs, I do buy the BDs if I really like the show. I maybe own half a dozen shows so far, and I recently bought the Bakemonogatari BD for around $150, so I think I still do my part in showing support. The problem is that it is often anti-climactic. Even though I DL everything in 720p mostly for internet reasons, the BD will almost never look much better, and I find the subs are almost ALWAYS worse than the fansubs. It seems ridiculous that I can expect a higher quality from the people who do it for free than from the people who I give money to to have it done. Either they use words that are wrong, or they obviously had a better choice, or they will have consistency errors (or in the case of Ouran where half the episodes will have a section where suddenly there are no subs, which isn’t that big a problem for me with basic Japanese, but can completely throw other people off). It is pretty shameful. I’m definitely hoping I don’t have gripes with BMG, because that would be awful.

    Also sucks that they do often makes subs a bit too big for my tastes. It is nice with DLs that you can even change the size and font if you like. :)

    So I won’t stop buying BDs, but I usually read reviews to make sure the TL and subs don’t suck, or they didn’t mess with the quality or something.

    2012/12/18 at 02:31

  5. I like piracy!

    2012/12/18 at 10:43

  6. Ur ded to me

    2012/12/18 at 15:04

  7. I’ve always considered anime piracy a little less amoral, since it is broadcast publicly and for some, free (since many kids don’t pay for their TV). Also even with Crunchyroll and all that availability is still a pain.

    You know, I’ve always wondered why companies don’t hire some of these fansub groups. It’s clear they have a lot of experience and know how to work with the stuff. . .could even have multiple different subtitle tracks on the disc. They could probably pay less, too.

    Anyway, I think that’s a pretty good approach you have. No one has the money to pay for all the anime out there, but if you’re still buying DVDs and BDs (that stuff is expensive!) I think you’re doing a pretty good job for someone who the industry probably wouldn’t even make money off of anyway.

    2012/12/18 at 15:12

  8. I actually bought Baccano quite recently but haven’t had the time to check it out. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the dub, so I guess I’ll need to give it a try sometime.

    2012/12/18 at 15:13

  9. Boast of vengeance.

    Exactly. Who actually buys shows without watching at the very least a good deal of it first? I would never buy any anime if I couldn’t watch it first. And if I am watching it first, I might as well watch it in HD with good subs to make sure I give it a fair chance.

    Also another thing is just availability in general. There are several shows I would pounce on if they came over to America/Canada, but they probably never will at this rate. I was pleasantly surprised recently that Mawaru Penguindrum is getting an American release. Apparently Right Stuf has already sent it to me even though it is only supposed to come out on the 31st. :)
    Other way I show support is with manga. I don’t really like reading manga online, so I have bought quite a good deal considering I have only been into manga/anime for a few years now (all the wasted years!).

    2012/12/18 at 20:59

  10. sugoi!

    2012/12/18 at 22:54

  11. Maybe that’s because of the overjustification effect. Also, competition in the fansub community is higher and they’re more autism than their commercial counterparts; there’s hardly any competition for official subs because once you’ve licensed something, nobody else can sub them… even if they make shit subs, people will still buy their releases if they license good anime (like in your post). They have no alternative.

    …this would be an interesting post idea, lol

    2013/01/03 at 17:46