Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: What Price Fandom?

A question nagging my heart lately is one that every fan faces at one time or another with serious contemplation, a passing thought, or somewhere in between.  I’m talking about the question of whether or not it’s right to watch fansubs.  Arguments are strong on both sides, and to tell the truth, I haven’t sat down and worked through this issue myself.  I also don’t want to to be influenced much by others’ opinions, coming to my own conclusion without outside bias.  To me, it’s a heart matter – a matter of character and deciding to follow through what I believe in.

However, it can also involve other considerations.  I ran across an interesting post by Ed Sizemore, a reviewer at Comics Worth Reading.  On his personal blog, Sizemore discusses the idea in terms of fandom.  The posting also has spiritual inclinations, has he discusses the idea of love, partly in terms of the famed I Corinthians 13 definition (on a side note, this is my favorite chapter from the Bible and the one my pastor discussed at my wedding).

It’s an interesting article and one that I think will ruffle some feathers.  Please take a read:

An Eddy of Thought: What Price Fandom?

8 thoughts on “Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: What Price Fandom?

  1. I took the time to read that guy’s article. I think his premise is fundamentally flawed, in stating that one can only be a “fan” of something if one pays to support it. Tell that to the local high school football team. If you’re a “true fan” you’re obligated to buy their candy bars when they accost you at Walmart? I think not. And if your local team doesn’t do such things (since they’re well funded by their benefactors) then you’re given no opportunity to be a “fan”? I also think that the commenter who brought up used book sales (or games, etc), where the profit goes to the reseller rather than the artist/official distribution channel, is a salient one.

    In the context of manga scanslations and anime fansubs, I think a meaningful divide exists between licensed and unlicensed anime (this is what BakaBT uses). Unlicensed anime are not even offered in your language or country. You have no opportunity to pay for them, regardless of whether you have the means and inclination or not. Fansubbers allow enthusiasts to consume content that they otherwise would be unable to.

    Does this make them immoral? Do they love a show any less because it’s not offered in their country and language? Are they taking money out of anybody’s pockets? Many groups will pull their releases when the title in question is licensed by an American distributor.

    This line is flirted with by groups like OZC, where they amalgamate HD video encodes with English language dubs from existing DVDs. Is this fair use? When we talk about quoting existing works in articles, we talk about a percentage of the original work. Since the space audio takes is byte-wise minuscule compared to video, viewed from this perspective it’s possibly a protected action. There’s also the issue of whether the work is available or not (in print, etc).

    1. Thanks, as always, for the insightful comments.

      One thing I’ll admit is that I haven’t even researched the legality of watching anime or reading manga from a medium that isn’t authorized by the owning company. I just assume that it would be illegal. And so, that’s where I struggle. It’s not so much about fandom, as discussed in the article – it’s about whether I should break the law, even if I disagree with it.

      1. Legality is, of course, a gray area. Groups like RIAA have long since used strong-arm tactics to abridge the protected freedoms of Americans. With every new technological iteration of content distribution and storage, they have said “We want our cut!” and “You can’t do that!”.

        If you let special interest groups like them be the arbiter of what you believe is legal or not, then you will come to the most restrictive conclusion possible. If you use your own noggin, you may arrive at a different conclusion.

        An interesting tangential point is the jihad waged against torrents. While groups like RIAA may have a gripe when people share licensed content in a direct peer to peer manner with strangers, torrents are a whole different story. You don’t get the file from anyone. You can’t point to any one person and say “He gave it to me” or “I gave it to him”. Even the original seed doesn’t have this against him except in the most extreme case: 1 seed and one peer for the entire leech session.

        Torrents are like shredded paper, or jigsaw puzzles. Imagine a book being ripped up into 10,000 pieces. If I give you a piece from the first page and the 300th page, did I give you the book? What if what you see on the page by itself is nonsense: black and white static with no words or pictures at all? What did I give you, really? A bunch of 1s and 0s with no meaning unless given the appropriate context. In torrent land, this context is provided by two things: other people and the torrent application itself.

        The other people provide more pieces of the puzzle / scraps of paper. Your torrent application puts the puzzle together, asks for specific pieces from other peers, and fits it all into a whole.

        It’s not like you can say “You shared the file with Joe Blow”. At the end of the day, it’s more like a scavenger hunt than anything.

      2. Law’s a sticky thing.

        If we’re going to discuss the law, then we’re going to have to start reading the Berne Convention. To simply put it, yes, under the Berne Convention, it’s illegal to fansub, download raws of anime that is not being released in your country AND to distribute said raws.

        Personally I have issues with the Berne Convention, as the whole thing needs to be relooked at for the digital age.

        There’s also the relevant issues of royalty payments as well. For the longest of times, the RIAA et al have gotten away with paying a mere pittance to content creators for making creative content. Most of that dollar spent on media doesn’t even go to the creators, but to the corporations and the RIAA. (I am simply assuming that Japan is a bit more generous regarding royalties.)

        And that’s not talking about the working conditions, pay and rights of everyone involved in the production of anime, not to mention that an anime production project is supported by a group of corporate entities, whose interests are mostly money-related.

        I’d love to see a Christian worm their way out of buying media if I threw them that. Especially since that if you DO buy, you are in fact indirectly supporting the inhuman conditions and treatment of animators in Japan, the exploitation of stars in America, and of people everywhere else.

        1. Yeah…following the law established your government and agreeing with it is often two different things. I find it hard-pressed to find anyone who’d agree with 100% of the laws of their given nation, state, municipality, etc.

          As for Christianity and law…Jesus tells us to follow a country’s law. However, the Bible is also clear that if our freedom of religion is outlawed, we still owe our allegiance to God first – God above country. Now, if a law goes against our beliefs to love our neighbor…things get stickier, and I don’t necessarily have an answer for that.

          Of course, most of us don’t think so deeply. For a Christian, the hypocrisy is often in that we spend money and do things without thinking – is that diamond we buy worth the exploitation and bloodshed it cost? Is the chocolate we buy worth the child labor that went into it? The answer is probably no, and Christians (myself included) to think more about what we do. The second hypocrisy comes afterward and is the more serious – once we’ve thought about how actions effect others…do we choose to do what we want, or do we do what’s right?

  2. Love is not legalistic. Ed just thinks it’s wrong to do [insert some things fans bicker about]. To me that is not love, that is legalism.

    I don’t really see how scanlation or fansubs is actually different than anything else fans bicker about. I mean to take an extreme example, fans get all up in arms about censorship, and if they boycott that they’re basically screwing the creator of works they love.

    It’s pretty clear that the mechanism that translate copyrighted work into a mean to support livelihood of creators isn’t what fans are fanatic about. So why get so hung up on that? I leave that to fans of copyright reform (or their counterparts).

Leave a Reply