Fansubs. The practice of fansubbing titles originally began relatively harmlessly enough, as a service provided by anime enthusiasts for other anime enthusiasts who live outside Japan and don’t know the language, and who wanted to be able see certain anime series and movies translated in their own language that at the time had not yet been officially translated (in either sub or dub format) and licensed by a domestic English-language anime distributor. The conditions and terms that all were supposed to have agreed upon adhering to were that once the series or film got licensed and an American company owned the rights to its translation and distribution, these fansubs would stop being traded among people and taken off whatever sites and file-sharing programs they were being exchanged on. Unfortunately most people did not seem to be faithful to these rules, however, as the distribution and exchange of fansubs of these licensed series and films continued over the years and is still going on to this day, even as more and more anime is becoming widely available to rent at major chain video rental stores like Blockbuster and you can find anime for sale most places.
It fast became something more of a competitive thing, the practice of fansubbing and getting fansubs to watch. It turned into a competition of who gets to be among the elite handful of people to watch the anime title in question first, in good time before it becomes illegal to distribute due to license acquisition. Who gets in on the hottest new anime trend before it becomes mainstream and wide-spread in its fandom.
This is yet another thing that finds me missing the old days of anime fandom. It used to be that only the more obscure, off-beat and unusual sorts of anime titles (and/or just really old retro stuff like Rose of Versailles) which looked to be something that would likely only appeal to a minority of people in anime fandom would be chosen for fansubbing, in other words those series and movies that wouldn’t likely garner themselves a release by domestic companies any time soon, if possibly at any point in time. I think it’s perfectly understandable why those titles would need to be fansubbed, and what a great service that would be to interested fans. However, nowadays even series that everyone knows will be guaranteed 100% to get a licensed release shortly after it finishes its run of airing in Japan, in fact *especially* those ones, start getting fansubbed by obsessive fans immediately as soon as they get even as much as half-way through their run on Japanese television. Mainly it is for those reasons of competitive otakuness as well as elitist (and very ignorant) notions that somehow fansubs are always going to be far more accurate to the original Japanese script in translation than the jobs done by the companies that license them, whichever company they may be (Bandai, Geneon, ADV, etc.). Oh yes, I'm confident there's a far greater likelihood that your amateur "skills" of understanding and properly translating Japanese done at your own personal home space will turn out more accurate and true to the original dialog than a job done by a professional translator who is fluent in both Japanese and English. *eyes glaze over*
It’s getting ridiculously and quite harmfully out of hand now, fansubbing distribution, harmful in that it takes away much needed (and deserved) profits from those companies that put all that hard work into getting professional translation jobs handled by actual fluently Japanese-speaking people. And not to mention another consequence, one which personally bothers me even more, being that it usually results in underexposure and under-appreciation of the many very talented English language voice actors who put a lot of hard effort and work into their performances of the characters they portrayed (often multiple characters at a time, each sounding distinctly different from one another) for the dubbed versions of these anime. Most people don’t even get a chance to see either the sub or dub jobs done in the official domestic release of their favourite shows, or at least if they do it’s only after many years of obsessively watching only the amatuer fansubs they have, so they can’t even judge the quality for themselves the quality of these jobs. Instead as I've found time and time again, they tend to just assume that they must be bad just because I’m sure we all of us here are all too aware it’s considered the "cool" thing to do among the elitist, purist otaku community.
Okay, I believe I've ranted long enough on this particular subject, at least for now. I'm interested in hearing others thoughts on this highly debatable matter. Just try and provide good backing arguements to support whatever points you intend to bring across, as I usually value seeing people going to the effort to do.
P.S.- I feel I should add that I do understand why people would stick only to watching the fansubs of series that were pretty much butchered in their English versions by major edits and censoring like One Piece, Sailor Moon and Yu-Gi-Oh, that's a different matter altogether. I think in the case with shows like those, some exceptions can be made to the distribution of fansubs of them.