Subtitle Hues and Answer

This post was written by Dark_Sage. He is Dark_Sage.


Can’t say I was expecting to write this post until I was #slighted so rudely by one Justin Sevakis. So, here you go.

The Wha?

Rabu Raibu

This post is a response to the following:

For clarification, that post was a response to a giant-fucking Twitter conversation involving my boys jabashque, coffeeflux, and the anime scene’s resident old man: Justin Sevakis (founder of AnimeNewsNetwork & professional encoder).

…which was, in turn, was a response to this post:


Don’t worry; you don’t need to read up on any of that. My patented use of pretty anime pictures will be enough for you to get the gist.

tl;dr: internet arguments
tl;dr: internet arguments



That industry tho


Format’s pretty simple; I’ll just dissect Justin’s post because I can, and because I’m apparently banned from the ANN forum or something. (Well, I’m unbanned now, but I already wrote the post, so…)

[In response to a question coffee submitted to AnimeNewsNetwork at Justin’s request]

This question was a lot longer, and was pretty typical of a very specific sort of fan, the type that is extremely frustrated by what they deem as shoddy work in professional subs. There are definitely a handful of shows each season that are clearly being translated by each respective company’s “B-team.” Some of them have awkward wording or some general sloppiness.

Sort of, but that’s a misrepresentation. Poor quality usually doesn’t come from anime companies’ “teams”. Funimation, for example, only has one team, and last I checked (about a year ago, talking with a then-Funi dev I’d built up a decent relationship with) it was only about four translators.

Due to their desire to “remain” relevant, Funimation went balls-out and started throwing around as much money as they could, in order to grab simulcast licenses and get a piece of that Crunchy pie.

Tastes like money!
Tastes like money!

Because it’s dumb to just expand aggressively and keep the same amount of staff, Funi had to contract out more often than they usually did. That’s why you get subs like these, which would never see the light of day on one of their home video releases:

Cherry boy

So the problem here is not endemic like Justin suggests — it’s fucking easy to fix. Contract to better translators; there are fucktons out there. That’s why you hire contractors in the first place — they’re easy to change out and you don’t have any real responsibilities to them.



Subbing so hard~

With the sheer number of shows and the ludicrous speed at which they have to be turned around, something has to give, and I suppose having a fully qualified team to do those things every season will always be a work in progress. But having a ready team of translators and editors ready to wake up at 3 in the morning to churn out an episode really quick and go back to bed is always going to be tricky, and I don’t expect everyone to be perfect all the time.

Bullshit through and through. Yes, delays happen, but if that’s the expectation, then that’s the expectation — it’s their fucking job. “Professionals” are always such whiners. When was the last time they even had to actually translate instead of throwing a provided script into Google Translate? Pampered little shits.

By the way, Justin is completely misrepresenting how much time this takes. Check out this sob story I heard from a Funi dev (ex-fansubber to boot).


Yes, nine hours is the worst-case scenario. Not exactly the story Mr. Sevakis was trying to paint, but I suppose “getting it right” isn’t exactly something “we just translate Japanese tweets” AnimeNewsNetwork is known for.



Subtle stupidity

Mikakunin was so fucking good holywow

A few of these dissatisfied fans, however, go to great lengths to find and catalog as many of these flaws as possible. There are whole blogs out there of screenshots, pointing out with a great deal of disgust what are usually very minor punctuation errors that most people would never notice. […] Ya gotta pick your battles, you know? Dedicating a blog to nit-picking the jobs of others doesn’t earn you sympathy points.

For the record, Mr. Sevakis is basing his opinion of Crymore entirely off of the Funimation Owari no Seraph review and the Chu-2 BD review. I’d like us all to take a moment to appreciate how out of touch this gentleman must be to think any criticism of those releases is “nit-picking” (protip: nitpicking is one word, old chap — F-).

By the way, do I get sympathy points if Funimation was so pissed off at my No-Rin review that they ran a DMCA against it to get it off Google?





The one thing that fansub aficionados point out over and over again is the lack of what they call “typesetting” in professional subtitles: the meticulous font selection, coloring, placement, and in some cases, animation of on-screen text. This used to be something sort of ridiculous back in the heyday of anime fansubs, but more recent developments in software have resulted in some truly spectacular work. I mean, look at this stuff. [Example below from fansub group Underwater’s work on Kill la Kill]


However, pro subtitles will never look like this, probably ever. The main reason why has to do with the software.

While true, that’s not the main reason. One thing you have to understand is that nobody of consequence makes a living off of creating subtitles. Much like the anime industry as a whole, you have to seriously sacrifice your financial stability to be an unknown, irrelevant cog in the middleman machine.

Like this, except uglier, and uglier, and... Okay, I picked a bad image -- it happens.
Like this, except uglier, and uglier, and… Okay, I picked a bad image to make a point, but a good one to get off to. You’re welcome.

This shit isn’t just me being an asshole; it’s the accepted reality for anyone involved in the industry. Of all the devs I’ve talked to, none of them will tell you this shit is profitable. So most people with the requisite skillsets and even the slightest hint of ambition or pride will look elsewhere for gainful employment.

When was the last time you saw Funimation innovate? Sentai? Their subs haven’t changed since I bought my first anime in 2004 (you can thank Azumanga Daioh for the Sage I am today). Nobody in the industry has any desire to succeed — they just want to die of adult-onset mediocrity before the diabetes kills them.



The main reason

I want to rewatch Desu Note but that's a lot of effort so I won't

I got off on a bit of a tangent there, gomenz.

With enough staff replacement, the anime companies could absolutely copy fansubbers in terms of visually appealing subtitles. They’d just have to hardsub their releases. So why’s this a problem?

Any animated titles would have to be burned onto the video, which would absolutely enrage the video purists.

What Justin doesn’t understand is that no video purist is waiting for American BD releases. Japan hates reverse-importation so much that the idea of Americans having higher quality releases pisses the fuck out of them. Unless a distributor is willing to engage in shenanigans behind Japan’s back, the best you can hope for is parity.

So what “video purist” would wait X number of months for an American release that might just possibly be as good as a Japanese release but most likely won’t be?

Here's a room filled with all of them.
Here’s a room filled with all of them.

If you want to know why American BD releases are nigh-unwatchable, you can thank this mythical edge case. And yes, they are literally the only reason anime companies won’t hardsub their BDs.

In case you thought I was extrapolating too much from a single sentence.




I dunno, this post didn’t really have so much of a point other than me enjoying target practice with words. Have a cute anime girl being cute:

19 thoughts on “Subtitle Hues and Answer”

  1. Gotta say the idea of a BD being hardsubbed would rub me the wrong way, though in practice I can’t think I’ve ever turned softsubs off other than to compare the typesetting job with the original. Considering that I’m a creature of 90% reason and 10% sexy tempestuousness, I imagine you’d see many people holding viewpoints even less rational.

    Were you alluding to ADV’s initial Eva DVD release? DVD release was 2002, but that one had people complain about hardsubbing street signs and stuff.

    • I reeeeaaaaally dislike hardsubs when it comes to a fansub release, but when it comes to a BD, I think it’d be acceptable, or understandable at least. It’s the only way they’re going to provide quality subtitles. And depending on how much space is on the disc, they may even be able to just duplicate the video with a non-subbed track and avoid the issue altogether. Kind of a brute force solution, but it’d work…if they cared one iota about making the highest quality product instead of the lowest quality they can still get people to pay for.

      • Multiple video tracks existed for DVD, for example with band member focus (heh heh, “member focus”) in concert DVDs and stuff. Assume it’s the same for Blu-ray. If it were possible to have the bits with no signs the same across the with/without tracks, it’d be like 1.5x the size or less, even.

  2. I read the article a bit and when I got to this:
    “It’s pretty cool looking, I have to admit. However, pro subtitles will never look like this, probably ever. The main reason why has to do with the software. Fansubbers have developed their own software since the earliest days, and the current gold standard, Aegisub, is THE most powerful, flexible subtitling software that exists. Unfortunately it was developed in a bubble, completely oblivious to all of the standards and use cases in the professional world. There’s no good way to import Aegisub scripts into any professional video program. None of its unique features, from text styling to animation effects, can be translated to any other format.”
    I just stopped reading, what’s the problem? I mean, shit, I don’t know how FUNi or CR work to get these things out but you’re basically saying this software is better than you’re currently using, then why not use it? Because it’s not “professional compatible”? Fansubbers use it and they put out videos just fine, why can’t you guys use it too? “Professional” programs don’t work? Then fucking use a normal program.
    I don’t get it, it’s not like “fansubbers” is a single person and if you, FUNi or CR, ask them to use their program they are going to be like “lol no, go suck a dick”.

    • The tool that was done in was Aegisub. Crunchyroll uses it, Sentai and Funi won’t (considering they’re too cheap to hire anyone to edit or typeset.)

    • I’m currently on a corporate job and I’ve seen the entrails of what makes a business tick (a little bit). The thing is, most corporations want to invest the least time, money, and effort into something to be able to receive bigger profits from it. If a piece of software is known well, has a solid base of people who know how it works and how to give it support, and costs nothing to port to it, they’ll use it despite the disadvantages. See: Java.

      And in this case, people who watch subs will most of the time:
      a) grin and bear with whatever subs they can find
      b) not pay anything for them
      c) pay for the original Japanese release if they plan on paying, so as to cut the most middlemen (but not the most important one, anyway).

      So why spend more in having decent subs if most people will probably not care one bit? I’d understand if you’re Crunchyroll – and Crunchyroll kinda sorta understands.

      To go deeper in the subject I’d need to know more about how USA anime watchers think beyond the very niche places I go to and the small amount of people I talk to. Most of the folks I know offline are adamant about not watching anything subtitled. Anything. But this is Mexico, and Mexico is not USA. Who knows how it is over there in your countries.

      • It just rubs me off the wrong way how this guy is all like “this is nice but these guys are wizards, this software is actually unusable, these wizards are just making you think there’s some nice TS here, there’s actually no way to make it!”
        At this point I’m wondering why they aren’t just taking some group’s release and using those, or even give a group $50 and have them make the release instead.

  3. “So what “video purist” would wait X number of months for an American release that might just possibly be as good as a Japanese release but most likely won’t be?”

    While your reasoning is correct, Justin is actually right, even though I don’t think “video purist” is the right way to describe it. There are many people that would be outraged about hardsubbed releases, even if they would never turn the subtitles off anyways. It doesn’t make much sense, but people rarely behave logically. Even if those people are a minority, the companies would rather avoid that kind of publicity (and save money) by simply not changing anything.

    • You don’t need to hardsub everything, though. Signs at most. That would still give people the option to turn of subs, and 99% of people wouldn’t even realise that typesetting was preset, since — if done right — they’d just think the anime studio did those signs in English.

      >the companies would rather avoid that kind of publicity
      At most what would happen is:
      1. Some person would realise that a sign was hardsubbed
      2. He’d post it on some terrible website like Reddit or ANN
      3. A few people would throw their toys out of their pram and cry about how terrible said company is (this backlash probably wouldn’t extend further than a thread or two on reddit and ANN.
      4. After a week people would forget about it and a bunch of new people would start buying official releases because they actually have proper styling, which means no more need to wait for fansubs’ BD releases.


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