About three months ago, UTW officially turned 4 years old, quietly, generally unnoticed, unlike its previous birthdays. A day before that, on April Fools, I made a quick announcement that UTW would be taking a season off, and that we would probably be back after that.
Now that the Summer 2014 anime season has officially started, it’s perhaps a little late for any announcements of the group’s plans, but it’s better late than never. Two of the shows this season are sequels to shows I’ve personally worked on under the UTW name in the past: Sword Art Online II, and Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Ilya 2wei!
It is with regret that I announce that we will not be working on Sword Art Online II. Although we did put in a considerable amount of time and effort subbing the first season back in 2012 (it’s been two years! How time flies!), unfortunately the staff working on the show did not enjoy it very much. It wouldn’t make sense to sub it now either, with CR/HS providing releases within a couple hours of the show’s airtime in Japan and a few other fansub groups also jumping in on it. I apologize to those of you who were looking forward to follow the series with us once again, but I’m sure our absence will have little effect on your enjoyment of SAO in the six months to come.
As for the second title, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Ilya 2wei!, __ar has plans to push ahead with it and has already assembled a team for it; I will be assisting as a consultant but will not be directly working on the release itself.
As of today we have no plans for any other shows, but between CR/HS and other groups you should be pretty much covered.
What follows next concerns the group’s future plans, spoilered because giant walls of text are bad:
As I mentioned earlier in this post, how time flies! It’s been over four years since UTW was founded, and more years still since I began fantranslating. Along the way, I’ve worked on media including doujinshi, manga, anime, VNs, games, and more, and learned many, many things (most of which probably won’t be of much use in the real world!). Though I’ve lost an astronomical amount of time to and put in a great deal of effort into this hobby, looking back, I can definitely say I don’t regret it. Your appreciation and continuous support gave me the energy I needed to wake up in the dead of the night, toil over the releases for hours on end, and then deal with the lack of sleep and what the rest of the day had to throw at me, every week, every year, for the past four years. You guys were a big part of what kept me going.
When I first began fansubbing anime, the environment was very different. Already my memory is hazy, but at the time, simulcasts were very few in between, and when available were late and often of poor quality. CR I believe was just starting to take off, and fansubbing was thriving. Fansub releases were pretty much the only way to watch anime timely outside of Japan, and the fansubbing itself was done quite differently from now (it was generally much less efficient). Over the years, there have been many innovations to the craft, particularly in the areas of video and typesetting, as well as the methodology (the use of public pads, for example), and I’m glad to have participated in, pushed for, and witnessed these innovations.
In the past four years of working for and running UTW, my life too went through many changes. I was still in my college dorm room in the US when we excitedly founded the group and independently subbed our very first episode, and since then I have emigrated to Asia, held a day job (and an evening job concurrently at one point), and am now attending medical school. I went through a couple girlfriends and spent time with my family, all the while juggling this secret time-consuming hobby of fansubbing with my real life. And even after simulcasting companies started taking over practically every title each season, after the workload of medical school forced me to sacrifice even more of my free time in favor of fansubbing, it was your generosity, kindness, and unending support, as well as the joy of working with the wonderful and talented people I have the honor of calling my fellow staff, that kept me going.
Even so, I knew for a long time that this wasn’t sustainable. Even when I was working two jobs, I somehow managed because my free time was mine to control, and waking up in the dead of the night gave me more free time. That changed after I began studying medicine. It’s unbelievable how much time studying that stuff takes. It’s ridiculous how much you have to remember and be able to accurately recall without much prompting or clue. While my classmates locked themselves in the library and their rooms studying all day and night for our first ever finals, I was subbing the Evangelion 3.33 movie all day for the three days or so that it took us to release, then pulling all-nighters to catch up on the studying (of which I was already behind on to begin with from the weekly subbing I was already doing), along with my extracurricular activities, sports competitions etc… You get the idea.
The workload literally doubled this year, for Year 2, which effectively forced me to sit out from working on anything last season so I could pass my exams. And during this break, I was able to figure a few things out.
First, it’s that every show that isn’t virtually ignored by humanity in general has been simulcasted for a long time now, and so fansub groups like us aren’t really needed. For a long time I’ve told myself that the improvements I made here and there, the better video, the glorious typesetting etc. that we offered were worth the time and effort, even though, also for a long time, I didn’t believe it. At the same time, I felt duty-bound to deliver because you guys cared. It made the effort worthwhile. But after stepping back for one season, it only highlighted how unneeded we are as a group. I know full well that you guys still want us around, but you don’t need us. And that goes double these days, with the reliable simulcasting and more-than-acceptable quality, particularly for a niche medium like anime.
Second, and somewhat related to the first, is that I feel there’s plenty enough talent and skill in fansubbing (and even in some of the simulcasts, script-wise) that my departure won’t matter. It’s true that the extremely skilled and native translators of old that were around when I first started fansubbing are now a rarity, but incompetence was also rampant back then. The translators I’ve had the chance to work with recently more than make up for it with exquisite attention to nuance and detail, and a creativity with and sound command of the English language. Simulcasts have also upped the bar considerably; the best translators at CR rival our own, and their access to scripts gives them an incredible advantage. Thanks to CR, one does not even need a translator to start a fansub group now.
Third, it really hit me how much more free time and less stress I had from simply taking a season off. I didn’t have to schedule my life around the airtimes of the shows I work on, and I didn’t have to deal with all the crap that comes with working for and running a fansub group. It was like a load off my shoulders; it was liberating. I had time to concentrate on studying, and after my exams, I had the extra time to catch up on Game of Thrones, find a new girlfriend, and go wakeboarding. I wasn’t able to make time to follow any shows from last season due to the intense studying, but if I took this season off too I’d be able to pick up a few shows and truly enjoy them (subbing a show is pretty much the best way to kill it for you, by the way). I know this paragraph comes off as rather selfish, but I would never wish this on anybody, and I’m sure you wouldn’t wish it on me either.
I could keep going, but I’m sure you’ve heard enough about me. What remains is for me to say a few things about the future of the group itself.
First, about the F/SN remake airing next season. Believe me, I am extremely excited about it too and very much look forward to it. However, whether I will personally work on it or not is still up in the air. The quality and punctuality of the legal alternatives will be the deciding factor: if the simulcaster provides legitimate 720p video or above and/or the script quality isn’t completely unacceptable, I will almost certainly forego the opportunity of working on it, because, well, I think you’d agree that waking up at 3am in the morning and spending 5-6 hours to make a bunch of insignificant changes in an already decent script for a show that 90% of people have already watched because they couldn’t wait isn’t exactly a good use of my time and sanity… right?
What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Perhaps we’ll close up shop for good, but there’s still Evangelion 4.44…
Next, about donation money, a subject many of you will no doubt be interested in. As of today (July 8th, 2014), about a year after our donation drive, $1,127.43 remain. I still have a BD expense or two that I owe to some people, but as you can see I did increase our spending rate considerably (it’s not difficult to do that; most of it went into renting new shared servers). I did so because I didn’t (and still don’t) know what to do with so much money. However, I’ve cut the main server I’ve been using since UTW’s beginnings last month and moved our FTP to a server shared by a few other groups and individuals to minimize the cost, given that I probably won’t be subbing for much longer. The funds will go to contributing to that server for now… until we come back or start some other venture, who knows?
I know some of you will no doubt suspect me of embezzlement, and it’s true you have nothing other than my word for it that the money hasn’t been misspent, but I’ll take it upon myself to reveal some information I don’t have to reveal because I respect your generosity. The funds are still sitting in a separate bank account I opened in the US specifically for it. Transferring those funds to where I am now would require a lot of paperwork and fees and I have no intention of doing so. Even transferring those funds to my Paypal to pay for servers requires time, partly as a measure to keep the vast amount of donation money safe. To this day, I am proud to say that I have not spent a single cent from the fund for personal reasons. As for the stories of me using the money to pay for medical school that are apparently circulating around… please, 3.7k is about a month’s worth of tuition fees, and I’ve just passed my second year. I’m paying for that using student loans and scholarships, like every typical student.
What happens after the group disbands? Well, some of us will continue to work in other groups, for CR, in other ventures… and some of us will/have already moved on to greener pastures. Who knows what the future holds?
At any rate, thank you for continuing to follow and support us even now, and let’s enjoy this huge season of anime!