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Evolution of an Anime Fan (Part II) PDF Print E-mail
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Monday Musings
Monday, 18 April 2011 13:49
So, we left off last time at the end of the original UK anime boom. My perception then was that anime had become all tits, ass and tentacle porn, as whatever Manga UK were actually releasing at the time, that was all my local stockists were selling - and frankly, I really wasn't interested. Urotsokidoji was never my thing. With interest drying up, there was no more anime on my platter, until the arrival on the scene of the UK version of kids' channel Fox Kids...

Fox Kids never really got a good rap. It was always considered to be kids' TV on the cheap, packed full of low-cost animated imports when the likes of CBBC and Nickelodeon UK were putting on quality (your definition may vary) UK-produced shows. It's since been replaced by DisneyXD. But back then they were showing things like Sailor Moon, Teknoman (or Tekkaman Blade in its original form) and Samurai Pizza Cats, and these were enough to get me hooked on anime again. At around the same time, Cartoon Network was trying to introduce its Toonami block to the UK as well, but I have to admit that Gundam Wing and Tenchi Muyo just weren't working for me. It was ultimately Sailor Moon that opened the door again, though: they screened the DiC dubs for the first two seasons, and in around 1999, on learning that there was more, I went out to find them: initially through importing the subbed VHS editions of the movies from Pioneer, before spending a small fortune on a region-free DVD player (£500 for what was then a mid-range model) and going absolutely nuts on DVD imports. Slayers. Escaflowne. Fushigi Yugi (bought at full RRP, $200 a set). Even when I twigged onto pre-order discounts and the joys of express.com, I was still spending $300+ a month on anime DVDs. An expensive habit had been formed, it needed to be fed - and there was a free ride waiting to feed it.

This was the Napster era (although I always preferred Audiogalaxy, myself) - peer-to-peer was taking off, the idea of getting things for free was very appealing, and the digisub scene was just kicking into high gear. My quest for more Sailor Moon led me first to some very poor-quality Real Media rips of the old Arctic fansubs of Stars, and from there the trail led to IRC and the joys of XDCC.

XDCC is one of those things where, looking back, you wonder why you bothered. A bolt-on script to certain IRC clients (I was using mIRC on Windows at the time), it turns your IRC client into a very basic fileserver. Bot commands let to connect to the server, browse what the user at the other end was sharing out, and queue up requests for whatever it was you were after. If you were lucky, a few hours later the file would appear on your machine - but more often than not, the guy at the other end logged off to do something else, purged his queue to let his mates leech something, or glitches meant that when your turn in the queue came up the XDCC bot at the other end couldn't connect and you lost your slot. I remember quite literally spending hours queuing things up at the weekend, and getting nothing for my efforts. But after all the frustration, there were still shows I found this way that I enjoy to this day (and that, for the record, I have bought - on occasion multiple times): Love Hina (I know, I know...), Crest of the Stars, and many more. I was even chanop on a fileserv channel for a while. Yaaar.

But let's put this in context a little. Back then, people still worked by the "ethical" approach to fansubs, or at least paid lipservice to them: Download them, keep them if you like them, toss them if you don't. If you keep them, buy the English-language release if/when one appears. For fansubbing groups, that mean dropping shows and ceasing distribution when licenses were announced. While you knew some people weren't sticking to that, the impression at the time - before the "boom" in the US, when many shows weren't making it over - was that people were largely playing by the "rules". It was only around the time that Naruto hit the airwaves, BitTorrent gained critical mass, and groups like AnimeJunkies popped up - openly breaking the no-licensed-shows rule and being quite robust in telling the US companies where to stick their licenses when the subject was raised - that the tone of fandom turned nastier.

The fansub "community" had become something I was now seeing more as a problem than as a try-before-you-buy opportunity.

Next part: Older and wiser...


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