ASCII by Jason Scott

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Don’t Interrupt, Jerk —

Waxy pointed his faithful readership to an interview with a fansubber. A fansubber in this context is someone who takes a film in a foreign language (“film” being “anime episode” and “foreign language” being “Japanese”). The interview asks all sorts of questions of the process, the ideas behind it, and of course the morality, since this is some commercial product being repackaged and distributed elsewhere (at no cost) which theoretically means it affects the market for it.

Anyway, it’s a good interviewee, who gives lots of context and writes clearly without sounding like a dope, but somewhere in the thick of it comes this exchange:

So why do you continue to do what you do knowing that it’s having a negative impact on the people who create the anime you like?

That’s a tough question. It’s one of those things where the technology has allowed it to happen. I can’t think of any entertainment medium that hasn’t had to deal with this – let’s take it back to the late 90’s and early 2000’s with Napster and MP3s..

Well, hang on there, I’m going to cut you off for a second, I apologize. There is no comparison here to the music industry because musicians can still make money with live performances if their product is being passed around gratis. Anime companies can’t. It’s not really the same problem.

Well, you’re right, but there is a value to be added as far as the subtitles are concerned, and the companies are adding value to the product. But I understand your point where the fansub scene is hurting that, and it’s basically that old habits die hard and one fansub group bowing out isn’t going to make a bit of difference and everyone knows that.

Woah now! Hold on there, Tex!

Two major problems are here.

First of all, don’t interrupt your fucking interviewee. Let them answer the question, and even if you think they’re fundamentally flawed in their assumptions, do a follow-up question that either shows up the person’s line of reasoning as being in need of recalibration, augment. Don’t cut off.

Second of all, you’re fucking wrong. Anime companies in fact do have alternate streams of revenue related to the specific video episodes. The actors/singers for an anime’s sountrack will do live performances and concerts, posters and figurines and merchandising of breathtaking levels. In other words, the base premise the interviewer brings up is flawed.

Dude, shut the fuck up!

When I first started doing interviews semi-professionally, the single most difficult skill I had to learn was shutting up. I had spent so much time elaborately engaging in conversations, often dominating them, but never shutting up, that even I recognized it was going to be a big problem for taped interviews. I started trying to talk to people and being quiet after asking questions. I’d go to parties, talk to someone, and as soon as they started to tell me things, I’d be encouraging but never redirect their responses into an opportunity from another sermon from me. This was very hard, but I did the best I could.

In some of the interviews, you can hear me telling stories, but a lot of that is because I’m trying to work with people in getting the memories flowing again. I bring up something I heard and they go ‘Oh, yeah! When that happened, I thought this was going on….” If you listen to the tapes, you can hear me immediately shut my piehole and let them speak.

The rules of interviewing are simple. Ask good questions. Listen to the answers. Ask better questions based on the answers you just got. Don’t read from a script. And don’t interrupt.

The interview remains excellent because the interviewee kept moving forward with his thoughts, but it’s in spite of the interviewer, not because of him.

Don’t interrupt, jerk.

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  1. Jason Scott says:

    Ah, duck, my little fan.

    You seem to be confusing “point of license” with “place of manufacture” with “item of worth”. This is OK. Let’s step through it quickly.

    When you buy from, say, or or hie yourself down to a physical store in Flushing, NY ( or downtown NYC for Forbidden Planet (, you’re buying items that the original publishers/licensees were paid for. These items are hiked up due to imports but are still, ultimately, the same things you get in Japan. The money does get to the original guys.

    Bands made famous through anime play here all the time. The money they might lose through the fansubbing is made back on the concerts. 1:1? I have no idea. But that situation exists.

    Now, tell me more.