anime fansubs 2000 to 2010

Let’s dive into some old fansubs.

When I went to the A.O.D. convention back in February, I went to the Doremi Fansubs panel where one of the two co-founders of Doremi gave a quick historical look at anime fansubs. I thought, “Hey, that’s actually a pretty good idea. I’ll rip it off for my blog!” And, so, here we are. I will pick some fansubs that might be interesting for various reasons. What I am including is sadly limited by what is still available. There are a lot of “treasures” out there like Anime-Keep’s Chrono Crusade, Cellphone^2’s Gundam Seed, and AnimeJunkies literally everything that might be forever lost to time. I am not going into the technical side like timing or encoding since that has not changed much over the years. Since I am giving an history account and I am of advanced age, there will be things I do not remember correctly.

Kare Kano – 05 [Fushigi Anime]

Date: ????
File Size: 86mb
Codec: MSMPEG4v3
Resolution: 320×240, 483kb/s
Audio: WMA 32kb/s
Subtitles: Hardsubs

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In the ancient days when dinosaurs roamed the world, Texas was a blue state, and no one knew what “tsundere” meant, fansubs were primarily done with VHS tapes. A group would seek sponsors that would help buy the VHS tapes. In return, the sponsors would generally get the first gen 1 copies of resultant VHS fansubs. The group would make a limited number, and it would be up to copiers to distribute further to the masses. To get one of these copies, one would generally have to send a blank VHS tapes (and copiers were very specific about which type of tapes they would accept since they worried about wear and tear on their VCRs) with a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for the return trip for the tape. This method was basically how I got fansubs in the 90s. The last VHS tape that I owned was my Macross Do You Remember Love cassette, which I kept as a memento for years (even though I haven’t owned a VCR since probably 2003) until I lost the cassette in a move.

Eventually, people started copying those VHS tapes to their computers. The earliest digital fansubs were these VHS tapes copied into Real Media or Windows Video. This Kare Kano fansub is such a copy. It was an original VHS fansub that would be encoded into an ASF file. Yep, ASF. Even though the video and audio (not even MP3 audio!) were terrible, this method was one of the few ways to watch anime not licensed in America at the time: like the incredibly awesome Kare Kano. You had a huge rockstar director and anime studio coming off Evangelion, and they announced their next project: a high school romance series. It was jaw-dropping at the time, and Kare Kano did not disappoint. It still one of the premier high school romance anime because it actually deals with topics that no anime dare touches anymore (like the protagonists have sex and deal with the consequences of it). However, Kare Kano falls off a cliff at the end, both storytelling and animation, which contributed to the Hideki Anno can’t close off a series meme (if memes existed in the 1990s). However, staring at the huge gap between Rebuild of Evangelion 3 and 4… well… no one is going to mistake Anno for Dennis Eckersley.

(And for people who thought the ED to FLCL was cool… Gainax basically reused the Kare Kano ED and stuck a vespa in it.)

(If you want to see a comparison of how tiny 320×240 is compared to 1080p, here’s this Kare Kano fansub on top of a BD Haruhi fansub.)

Love Hina – 01 [Otaku no Anime]

Date: 2000
File Size: 81mb
Codec: DivX 3
Resolution: 320×240, 379kb/s
Audio: MP3 Stereo 127kb/s
Subtitles: Hardsubs

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Let’s go back sixteen years ago. Love Hina – 01 represented a phenomenal shift in fansubbing that helped launched anime popularity’s in the early 2000s (along with Spirited Away mania and Cartoon Network). What made this fansub revolutionary is that it used DivX (named after the failed disposable optical disc) instead of RealVideo or other inferior codecs. This innovation mean that not only was the video output the best we have seen at the time, it also meant file sizes were reasonable (for a 56K modem or slow DSL) to download overnight without sacrificing the OP/ED. Picture and sound quality blew away anything else of the era. It was literally dropping Strike Freedom on top of some old Zakus.

The second innovation was that Otaku no Anime was a group based in Hawaii. They could not as easily do the SASE fansub distribution that other groups might do if they were based in the 48 states. Instead, they used IRC and FTP servers to distribute Love Hina. While other fansubs may have been distributed via these services in the past, this group made internet distribution its sole focus. This was, thank Onaru-sama, the beginning of the end of the SASE distribution method.

Love Live Hina [Nekomi Kodai]

Date: 2001
File Size: 400mb
Codec: DivX 3
Resolution: 512×384, 625kb/s
Audio: MP3 Stereo 192kb/s
Subtitles: Hardsubs

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I am including this fansub because I found it when I was looking for my old Love Hina fansubs. This type of fansub was the Lexus of fansubs back then: huge file size, high encoding quality, and obscure content. If you want to hear Sakura Saku and other Love Hina songs sung by whole cast (including Horie Yui in her breakout role and Megumi Hayashibara) then this concert may interest you. However, there is something about this file that is interesting to me. Before I started blog好き, I ran an Aa! Megami-sama fansite named Sake, Bugs, and Angels. The only other major Aa! Megami-sama fansite during that era was Nekomi Kodai. Now there are none. RIP Belldandy.

(Though Sake, Bugs, and Angels and Nekomi Kodai sound more like teams in Haikyuu! than anything else these days.)

Gatekeepers – 05 [Anime Factory]

Date: 2001
File Size: 131mb
Codec: DivX 3
Resolution: 512×384, 689kb/s
Audio: MP3 Stereo 64kb/s
Subtitles: Hardsubs

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We have progressed a year, which is an eternity for anime. File sizes continue to rise as groups increase their resolution and bit rates. However, because not everyone has a fancy DSL connection, CD-ROMs with fansubs burned into them as VCD started showing up on eBay. Because of this development, many fansub groups start watermarking their work. Anime Factory (not associated with the failed anime company) went craziest with watermarking (it animated!) and typesetting during this time. Turn around time for anime would be weeks.

(Fashion Czar’s comment: Gatekeepers ushered in an era of shiny anime skin.)

Kanon – 13 [Elite Fansubs]

Date: 2002
File Size: 189mb
Codec: DivX
Resolution: 640×480, 952kb/s
Audio: MP3 Stereo 128kb/s
Subtitles: Hardsubs

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Ah yes, the original Kanon. Elite was considered one of the better groups at the time, as they did karaoke and had generally good video sources. They also had an actual Japanese-to-English translator in LordOfAllEvil666. At the time, there were a lot of groups who translated Chinese-to-English because there were just more Chinese translators available than Japanese ones. It would also be common to see the same translator translate for multiple groups.

Also I remember this particular release because back then everything– every sign, every song– were translated. Elite purposefully did not translate one key sign, and people were bitching about it in their IRC channel. The sign? Aya’s nameplate in the hospital. It would foreshadow the ending to Kanon, and that’s why they did not translate it as it would have stuck out a bit too much.

Gundam Seed – 37 [AnimeJunkies]

Date: 2002
File Size: 223mb
Codec: DivX
Resolution: 640×480, 1,183kb/s
Audio: MP3 Stereo 112kb/s
Subtitles: Hardsubs

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We have arrived at the beginnings of AnimeJunkies, a group famous for low quality fansubs. But they were fast! One thing AnimeJunkies did do was sub almost every show out there. They were high volume, maybe even rivaling Crunchyroll today. But look at that encoding rate– Gundam Seed was the hottest show at its time. This show was one of the few times I remember seeing over 50,000 people in a single IRC channel waiting for an episode to drop. This show was also subbed by many groups, each competing to see who can release first. We have brought down time to release from weeks to days to hours.

Gundam Seed – 41 [Anime Kingdom]

Date: 2002
File Size: 223mb
Codec: DivX
Resolution: 640×480, 1,086kb/s
Audio: MP3 Stereo 160kb/s
Subtitles: Hardsubs

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I am a bit sad I did not keep my old Gundam Seed fansubs, as there were quite a few questionably-subbed one. However, I did stumble across this episode by Anime Kingdom. Why did they decide to write out the title in the style of the title in the title card? Do we really need to see “Gundam Seed” twice? Was their typesetting guy– Tomas– just really bored? Did they beat AnimeJunkies or Cellphone^2 to this release? I have a lot of questions that may never be answered.

My Hime – 07 [Static Subs]

Date: 2004
File Size: 179mb
Codec: Xvid
Resolution: 640×480, 896kb/s
Audio: MP3 Stereo 118kb/s
Subtitles: Hardsubs

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My apologizes to Doremi Subs. You guys were the inspiration for this post, yet I watched the most seminal anime series in the history of anime– Mai Hime— using Static Subs. That group couldn’t even get the name of the show correct. Sorry.

These subs are interesting (and hilarious) because Static Subs chose to color their subtitles based on the hair color of whomever was speaking it. It was a lot of work. Also, their subtitles would move– i.e. lines would slide down. They also put a lot of effort in their signage to make sure the English somewhat looked like the Japanese style and is placed near the sign. Nowadays, these are all just set on the bottom with dialogue, and dialogue is rarely color coded.

Mai Hime signaled roughly the start of the oversubbing era where numerous groups would sub the same show. Prior to this era, maybe only a handful of shows every season would be subtitled (like Gundam Seed). Now, more than half, but some of those shows would be picked up by more than one team, which resulted in the typical fanboy complaint of, “Why don’t you sub a show no one else is subbing?!” (Well, because those shows were terrible.) What led to this era was just the general popularity of anime. You could walk into Suncoast or Best Buy and see shelves of VHS and DVD anime. Another consideration is that anime hit China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, which enabled Japanese to Chinese translations which would then turn over faster as there are more Chinese to English translators than Japanese to English. There were even blogs during this time that did nothing but compare which group had the best subs. It was a hilarious era of bored college guys with nothing better to do.

Paranoia Agent – 02 [AnimeJunkies]

Date: 2004
File Size: 157mb
Codec: Xvid
Resolution: 640×352, 741kb/s
Audio: MP3 Stereo 112kb/s
Subtitles: Hardsubs

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We have arrived at widescreen anime! You probably noticed that the preferred codec has switched from DivX to Xvid, which was a fork of DivX once DivX became a hungry corporation and started charging for more and more things. Xvid would then become the dominant codec until h264. I also included this file because of how atrocious AnimeJunkies’ logo is. Their karaoke continues to suffer from poor translation.

This time is also around the last gasp of huge IRC bot networks to distribute anime as Bittorrent becomes more and more popular. No more idling in an irc channel waiting for your download to complete. No more pasting xdcc send over and over again. Bittorrent will be the future of file distribution and still relevant into the modern streaming anime era. Also thanks to Bittorrent and digital distribution, getting raws from Japan have never been easier. A lot of monumental shifts happening in the anime community at this time.

Paranoia Agent – 05 [Anime-Kraze]

Date: 2004
File Size: 180mb
Codec: Xvid
Resolution: 640×352, 893kb/s
Audio: MP3 Stereo 93kb/s
Subtitles: Hardsubs

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“Splash” screens were common, as were fancy karaoke. It is funny that some of the fansub comparison blogs used fancy karaoke as a criteria in their judging. What a time to be alive.

Ergo Proxy – 20 [Shinsen-Subs]

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Date: 2006
File Size: 361mb
Codec: h264
Resolution: 1280×720
Audio: AAC
Subtitles: Hardsubs

We have arrived at the future, or at least a reasonable facsimile of it. Ergo Proxy ushers in high definition anime. Finally. It was almost ten years ago when we had our first 720p anime TV series broadcast in Japan. Unfortunately, that fact is the only reason Ergo Proxy is still relevant today. If Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya were the first high definition anime, then Ergo Proxy would be lost to time much like Sola. We are also at a time when there is enough bandwidth that fansubbers can add tons of text notes to their files… as part of the video rather than a .txt file.

A lot of fansubbers also provided .sfv files to verify the download. But with Bittorrent more or less taken over the distribution scene (from IRC), having corrupted files were less of an issue.

Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – 12 [a.f.k.]

Date: 2006
File Size: 179mb
Codec: Xvid
Resolution: 640×360, 894kb/s
Audio: MP3 Stereo 128kb/s
Subtitles: Hardsubs

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We have entered the modern golden age of anime. Fansubs came fast and plentiful. Anime bloggers were prolific and blogged everything. You can still read my original post about this episode. All hail Oharuhi-sama.

(I have to include Haruhi. It is what this blog is known for. The series did win Best of 2006. I think my next project is to catch up on Best of posts.)

(Oh, you might be wondering why a lot of fansubs around this period are 179mb files? Because you can fit 24 of them on a single DVD-R. Nowadays this does not seem relevant, but when you only had a 500mb hard drive and a 2mb internet connection, you had to constantly burn DVD-Rs to keep fansubs and clear out space. Nowdays, I don’t even remember the last time I used my DVD drive prior to writing this post.)

Maria+Holic- 05 [gg]

Date: 2009
File Size: 200mb
Codec: h264
Resolution: 848×480
Audio: AAC
Subtitles: Softsubs

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gg’s typesetting of Hanaji is over the top and ridiculous in the most subtle way possible. Kudos. One of the best typeset anime openings ever. It’s one of those things you look at and have to admire because it is the right show, right opening, right everything. Paint it red.

Speaking of right show, right opening, right everything…

Bakemonogatari – 12 [gg]

Date: 2009
File Size: 354mb
Codec: h264
Resolution: 1280×528
Audio: AAC
Subtitles: Softsubs

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If I had to pick one fansub file that is my favorite over the years, it would be this episode of Bakemonogatari by gg. You are wondering why. Well, only Shaft and gg could combine for a 1280×528 form factor as Shaft did the episode in cinematic widescreen, and gg cut out the black boxes (which other groups left in). It is also one of my favorite anime episodes ever with one of my favorite openings ever. So there. I watched this episode, and I knew Bakemonogatari was my Best of 2009 winner.

Amagami SS – 04 [Eclipse]

Date: 2010
File Size: 338mb
Codec: h264
Resolution: 1280×720
Audio: Vorbis
Subtitles: Softsubs

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We have reached more or less the pinnacle of modern digital fansubbing. Almost every show gets picked up by a group, releases are speedy, and anime is enjoyed in high definition widescreen. We are also using two modern codecs, h264 for video, and finally mp3 is supplanted by Vorbis and AAC (though some groups still use mp3). I guess that shows just how fantastic mp3 worked over the years. We have full karaoke. We have proper chapter stops. The best groups still maintained their file sizes so you could burn at least 1 cours onto a DVD-R. Digital fansubbing would still be a year or two away from being crushed by Crunchyroll. This is it. It is the best we have.

(I was looking back at my old Amagami SS posts, and I noticed one thing: I blogged about every heroine except Haruka. Sorry! So I picked Haruka’s final episode for this post… and I think she did get shafted a bit as she had the shortest arc. And Junichi becomes a detective in her arc, which is just inexplicable.)

I hope you enjoyed this look back at digital fansubs as I enjoyed the nostalgia trip. I think I spent more time looking for files and listening to old OP/ED than actually writing this post.

9 Responses to “anime fansubs 2000 to 2010”

  1. Not to date myself, but I’m so glad I wasn’t a teen during the fansub VHS days. SASEs? Even when I’d do that for cereal box prizes, it would take forever to arrive. iirc, my earliest fansub was for Death Note. Stayed on top of that show weekly, though I was far from getting fully immersed into anime. That wouldn’t be until the Bakemonogatari season early in my college years. Which reminds me that the phrase “bored college student” was and will forever be relevant for that age group.

  2. I remember all of them. The best of the groups out there were A.F.K., Eclipse, and gg. A-Kingdom did a decent job with SEED, and A-ONE did pretty well too.

    Anime licensing companies did themselves a huge favour by supporting companies like Crunchyroll- that did in a lot of fansub groups by providing timely, easily accessdd subs. I think they’ve made a mistake by going exclusive with other steaming services, splitting their audiences across several companies and making sure each company has a smaller share of the market.

  3. This post brings back memories. The crappy vhs days back in high school. The terrible real media rips, and then early digisubs back in college. Then the almost 0 day multiple digisub release competitions when I got a job. And now you can stream almost everything within an hour on Crunchy+Funi, with a smattering of additional exclusives on Hulu+Netflix. I still have all those spindles of CDR’s full of anime. Man I’m old.

  4. Man, this post takes me back. It was a mad, mad world then. A wild west when Napster and KaZaa showed up and fansubs became available over wider distribution channels compared to the limited p2p offered by IRC. I still have some old Hong Kong bootlegs (including the terrible Macross 2 in NTSC-J) and those horrible dub jobs that made dubbed anime a joke back in the bad old days. Who would have thought that the American VAs would grow to rival their seiyuu counterparts back then?

    Also a blast from the past: “Yup, those are my readers”.

  5. Those Love Hina subs are so nostalgic. Tiny by modern standards, but they took an age to download over 56k modem, those and the realmedia Evangelion subs. Haruhi was the show that got me into regularly watching shows as they aired, previously I’d download batches of older stuff every so often.
    .
    And you just don’t get groups like afk and Eclipse any more :(

  6. http://bibanon.org/everything-.....bbing.html
    Shii’s article on fansubbing is also interesting!

  7. Those nostalgic times……………. Need new bloom subbers out there as Horrible subs become Horrible lately since february…. And Jason was missing the Megumin train.

  8. Ahh the good old days of IRC anime. I remember trying to get macross on realplayer (!) on IRC… those were the days :) And of course the tidal change when Love Hina came out!

    No mention of the mass naked child event though?

    Haesslich, my favorite group was KAA (kickassanime), and Lunar Anime, I’d say gg/afk/eclipse were pretty good but KAA consistently had top quality subs and the best video quality out there.

    Ahh the good old days of early torrent downloading when you had to visit a group’s website to get the link, before AnimeSuki started to list them out. Not to mention old sharing places like AnimeReactor…

  9. Woah, this is a trip down memory lane. I watched Static’s Mai-HiME too (we only did Mai-Otome, lol).

    Anime Junkies looking back were pretty shit. I remember Cellphone^2 being the best subs for SEED/SEED Destiny. And yes, Haruhi in 2006 was the 3rd Renaissance of Anime (Sailor Moon and Evagelion were the first 2). And we’re still in the golden renaissance age.

    Nowadays, fansubbing is a dying artform. Crunchyroll literally took over.

    Nice post though; interesting to see how fansubs have evolved. I still have an archive of that Love Hina sub somewhere…

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