Long-time readers of this blog will remember this posty-poo from way-back-when, in which I questioned whether we even need anime licensors due to how these days, fansubs are basically on par with, and in many cases superior to, the licensed product.
Recently for me its become an issue again, but not with anime…. but rather, with my recently-discovered love of Tokusatsu.
A few years back, Shout Factory shocked the world by acquiring the license for Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger and releasing it on DVD. It apparently was successful, as they soon after released its follow-up Gosei Sentai Dairanger, and a few months back announced Ninja Sentai Kakuranger as well.
That last announcement prompted me to make this post on Henshinjustice, and I cared enough about the issue to send an email to Brian Ward at Shout Factory. To make a long story short, Kakuranger is a series that will live or die on the strength of its translation.
What boggles the mind here is how many people seem to be just fine with that.
When I brought up anime licenses (see the previous blog entry), one person said that a factor at play is that licensed anime might have dubs, which would make it more accessible. That doesn’t apply to Shout Factory’s releases–they’re gonna be subtitles only. So they can’t afford to coast on them.
And yet I see people acting like its somehow wrong to ask the official licensor–the guys putting out the DVD set I’m expected to pay $40-$60 for–to not put in the effort that a bunch of fans did for free.
Granted, part of the problem is that people got sidetracked into trivial areas–it doesn’t matter whether some clan is called Saima or Catastrophiend, all that matters is “they’re the bad guys.” But that’s not the kind of thing I’m worried about. I’m worried about whether jokes like Jiraiya’s imperfect grasp of Japanese, the storyteller’s puns, the cultural significance of the various Yokai (which plays into how they’re portrayed in Kakuranger) will come across in such a way that a first-time viewer will be able to laugh at or enjoy them without needing an external explanation… in a season that’s primarily comedic in nature. As a famous Clown Prince of Crime once said: “If you have to explain the joke, there is no joke!”
It’s no different than asking that Ibuki Fuko’s habit of speaking of herself in third-person–a defining character quirk that is part of what makes her adorable–be preserved.
And again, keeping in mind that I’m asking for this in the version I’m expected to pay cash for. As it is currently, whenever I look at official tokusatsu releases, I still like to keep a fansub on hand just in case… and that’s not something I like to do. In an ideal world, a licensed release would REPLACE fansubs. Instead we live in one where most fansub groups will pull their version the minute a licensed one exists–which actually makes licensed versions a bad thing if they turn out to have significant issues (which, by the way, turned out to be precisely the case for the Viz release of Sailor Moon).
I just can’t see why anyone would think this state of affairs is a good thing.