How Bootleg Translations of VHS Tapes Started an Anime Fan War in the 90s

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The little-known story of how a fight over Fushigi Yûgi subtitles built Ottawa’s anime community.

A fascinating story from the bronze age of subtitles over at Vice: “In the nineties, before broadband modems became widely available—and before anime streaming services like Funimation and Crunchyroll—staying up-to-date on anime was an arduous process. North American fans who wanted more than televised runs of Sailor Moon had to buy expensive subtitled VHS tapes from fan groups, who translated anime tapes themselves and then redistributed them after importing them, untranslated, from contacts in Japan.

Fushigi Yûgi

Buying anime this way meant sending money to people without distribution licenses, who were technically engaging in international copyright violation, and trusting them to send your tape in the mail. The Wild West mentality of the fansub industry led to members of the Ottawa-based Anime Appreciation Society (AAS) taking matters into their own hands after one of their favourite fansub groups, Tomodachi, refused to release its version of the final 20 episodes of the much-loved show Fushigi Yûgi—all because of its war with another fansub.”

Read on over at Vice Motherboard.

Photo above: AAS members and cosplayers. Image by Katy Watts

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