Saturday, November 04, 2006

Byron's Guide to Anime

Anime refers to animation originating from Japan. It can either be a tv series or a full length motion picture. It comes in many different styles and genres. This guide will provide a brief introduction to fansubs (anime that has been subtitled by fans). Although many anime files contain multiple audio tracks (including English audio dubs), I recommend watching all anime with the original Japanese audio and English subtitles.

- hardsubs: "Hard subtitles" are encoded directly into the video, and are not customizable. They allow certain advantages over softsubs (such as karaoke subtitles for songs).
- softsubs: "Soft subtitles" are kept separate from the video stream. This allows customization on how the subtitles are rendered.
- AMV: Anime Music Video
- OVA: Original Video Animation, anime released directly to video.
- Chibi: A style of anime where the head and body are severely disproportioned.
- Otaku: Someone who is obsessed with anime/manga.

Legal Issues:
To avoid legal problems, most fansub groups do not profit from distributing anime. They also stop distribution once the anime has been licensed outside of Japan. Wikipedia provides a nice summary of some fansubbing ethics:

"1. Fansubs are made for fans, by fans, and not for commercial purposes. Therefore, fansubs should never be sold for a profit. They are either given away or sold for exactly the cost required to make them (usually, the cost of a blank cassette plus shipping expenses). Many fansubs contain subtitle text that reads "free fansub: not for sale or rent" that pops up during the video, in order to discourage bootleggers from violating this rule.
2. Most fansubbers only work with material that has not been licensed for domestic release in their country of distribution. If a domestic company licenses a given title then fansub production and distribution of that title stops. An exception, for some, is made when the licensor intends to heavily edit the content without releasing an uncut version, as is the case with 4Kids Entertainment. However, this only constitutes a very small portion of licensed products, few of which are titles which are overwhelmingly popular with fansub communities to begin with.
3. There is an expectation that if a given fan enjoys a show, then he or she should buy the official domestic release if and when it becomes available.
4. If a show is very far along when it is licensed (Bleach, for example, was in the 70's in episode numbers when it was licensed), then some fansubbers will continue to release later episodes and phase out older episodes as they are aired in America."

Media Players:
VLC is an excellent player for hardsub anime since it is easy to use, platform independent, and probably contains all the audio/video codecs you need. However, I have found it to be terrible at displaying softsubs (rendering ugly subtitles and lacking customization options).

My preferred application for anime in Windows is Media Player Classic, and MPlayer for Linux. Both of these program allow excellent subtitle customization. However, they also require that you have the correct codecs installed in order to view the video.

Anime Recommendations:
If you are new to anime, I would recommend:
-Fullmetal Alchemist (鋼の錬金術師, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi)
-Cowboy Bebop (カウボーイビバップ, Kaubōi Bibappu)
-Samurai Champloo (サムライチャンプルー, Samurai Chanpurū)
-Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi)
-Princess Mononoke (もののけ姫, Mononoke Hime)

I personally prefer some of the more philosophical and deep science fiction anime. Some of my favorites include:
-Ergo Proxy (エルゴプラクシー, Erugo Purakushī)
-Serial Experiments Lain (シリアルエクスペリメンツレイン)
-Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊, Kōkaku Kidōtai)
-Texhnolyze (テクノライズ)
-Akira (アキラ)

Here a few resources that may be useful in finding anime to download:
IMDB - only lists movies (and some are not anime). - only lists tv series (and some are not anime).

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