Welcome my friends, my enemies, and those whom I do not yet know.
Let's sit and talk for a while, you and me. We haven't talked in some time. Let's explore the past a little, and chat about the present and future.
Naruto has been around for a very long time now. When I started downloading fansubs in early 2003, Naruto was already past its 20th episode. I used to watch TW's releases. At that time, TW's releases got about 8,000 downloads per episode in a week, and TW released 5 weeks after airing in Japan.
By May 2004, with TW languishing, AONE had primarily taken over Naruto. Naruto's popularity had soared. AONE was releasing a week after airing in Japan, a schedule they would keep for a long time. They were averaging 60,000 downloads per episode after a week by episode 85.
When Anime-Heaven (the precursor to Dattebayo) started 6 weeks later, it got 60,000 downloads on its first release, a low-quality speed sub. At that time, because AONE was releasing a week after airing, there was room for other people to try to do it faster.
It was July 16, 2004 when the leader of Anime-Heaven approached me about typesetting their Naruto. I slapped some polish on their release, edited it, gave it karaoke and a nice looking font, and the era of higher quality speed subs began. Within a couple weeks, I had recruited a number of my friends to help with the show, all of whom still work on DB's staff. During the 12 weeks that A-H subbed Naruto, popularity grew from 60,000 to 120,000 downloads per episode after a week. We noticed that the earlier we released, the more downloads we'd get.
Now let me step back for a moment. There's lots of big numbers floating around up there. Part of it was about the number of people who were seeing it, but mostly we loved the show. We loved feeling like we were a part of the action, and we loved putting our own spin on things. The numbers showed us how much people liked what we were doing. It told us we were doing it right. We also brought on our Portuguese and French versions, both of which have developed over the years into wonderful groups in their own communities.
Another year goes by. It's now 2005. We subtitled Tsubasa Chronicles with Live-Evil, and that started a great long term relationship between the two groups. Naruto was up to 200 episodes, and got 200,000 downloads per episode after a week. We started subbing Bleach at the suggestion of someone at the fansubbing panel at Otakon. (I wonder if you, the person who asked that, are out there.
It was somewhere around here, in the midst of the filler, that I stopped liking Naruto as a show. I stopped watching it. I still did some timing, and the karaoke. As the filler wore on, some of those karaoke got pretty lame. I apologize for that.
And you didn't like the filler either. Download numbers dropped. In October 2006, Naruto was getting about 175,000 downloads in the week after release. The staff hated subbing it.
Our own quality dropped because none of the staff really liked the show when Naruto was peeing on people. We kept doing it because fans kept telling us they liked it. They'd tell us how it brought their families together, how it guided them through rough times, how it was something to look forward to in their otherwise dreary lives. Every week on the same day, they had Naruto.
I know that sounds really corny, but that made a huge impact on me, as I think it did on the entire staff. It's what kept me working on the show for two years after I stopped watching it.
A year later, in October 2007, Dattebayo left behind its home at yhbt.mine.nu and moved over to dattebayo.com. Shippuuden was in full swing. People had forgotten about the fillers, and Shippuuden was getting a mind boggling 450,000 downloads within a week of release. It was around this time we released our most popular episode.
I hardly ever go to the Dattebayo website nowadays. I don't really have much involvement with Naruto or Bleach on a week-to-week basis. I still design the karaoke, but I honestly didn't even know that Bleach and Naruto had changed air dates a while back. Zarharva has taken over the role of Naruto's overall management, along with Bleach, and done a truly excellent job.
But there was one thing I'd still go to the website for, and that is to check to see how many downloads Shippuuden 20 had gotten.
For some reason I can't really understand, it is our most popular release. It started off normal enough, 384,000 after 7 days. Then about 500,000 after 20, 705,000 after 87, but after that, it started to pick up. As of the time this writing, it is 489 days old and has 976,405 downloads.
I'd always check because I wanted to make sure I didn't miss the million mark. It's just an arbitrary number, really, but I liked the idea that one in every 6000-something members of the human race will have seen it.
Think about that for a minute. There are 15,000 people in my town, and that means that, statistically, there's a significant chance that someone in my town, whom I have never met, has downloaded one of our releases, based on our download numbers alone. Never mind all the illegal DVDs, YouTube views, and people sharing it with each other. It means that we've affected the lives of a million people, probably more, and hopefully made them a little better. There aren't many groups of people who can say they've done that.
Sadly though, I don't think it will be on our website long enough to hit that mark.
When I spoke at Otakon this past summer, I talked about the steps that anime companies needed to take to compete with fansubs. I said how it would have to be available just as fast, and free.
And though I don't dare take credit for it, that's now happening. Viz, the US licensor of Naruto, will be offering streaming viewing of Naruto for free a week after it airs in Japan.
For some small fee, you can pay to see it the same day it airs in Japan over at Crunchyroll starting in January.
Why did Dattebayo start subbing Naruto? Because we loved it, and because we felt the fans deserved to see a good-quality subtitled version promptly after the Japanese release. And come January, you can do that legally for a small fee, or for free after a week. Viz's subtitling work on the show is respectable, though a little stiff. And sure, it's not the same having a nice AVI that you can watch on your TV or whatnot, but its going to have to do.
If we continued to sub Naruto, it would be a direct affront to Viz, a company that, for the most part, has been pretty amazing to us as fans. Sure, you can say that their dub sucks, or whatever other axe you have to grind, but never once did they ask us to stop subbing Naruto or Bleach, something that is well within their rights and power to do. We have episodes that have gotten almost a million downloads. We've had episodes that have gotten more downloads in their their first 24 hours than they had viewers when they showed on Cartoon Network.
I've often asked people I know in the anime industry why they think Viz never asked us to stop, and they say, "Well, Viz isn't really into the whole C&D thing, they just don't do that." That may be true to some extent, but I've always liked to think it was because we had a silent symbiotic relationship. We only did things that helped the popularity of their shows, and they turned a blind eye to us.
But like any symbiosis, you have to know when its time to move on. That time has come. Viz and Crunchyroll have gotten their acts together and are trying something new, with one of the most popular shows in anime today. I, and the rest of the staff, know that if we continue to subtitle it, they will have to ask us to stop. That's something they probably don't want to have to do, because it will most likely make all of you very mad at them. That's something they really don't deserve.
While I wish some things about the situation were different, a lot of things are being done right. Who knows, perhaps even more will be done right in the future.
So with that being said, Dattebayo will be dropping Naruto Shippuuden permanently on 1/15/2009, which, interestingly enough, will probably be around episode 91. This is not a joke or a troll. The staff voted in favor of it, and I've notified the international groups.
I know the FAQ says that if we dropped Naruto for real, there would be no announcement, but I don't think that would be very cool. You deserve more, and we deserve more.
For now nothing changes. Enjoy what time we have left with Naruto. Those of us on staff certainly will. Download the episodes now. Though I'm not planning to remove the torrents yet, I'm not sure exactly when it will happen.
We'll still keep subbing Bleach, and perhaps the extra time will allow us to get some other work done (though that is unlikely).
I think the thing I will miss most about Naruto will be designing the karaoke. Even though I don't do much work on our main shows anymore, I still have had a hand in every one we've ever done. Every six months, I have to come up with a new karaoke style. I usually lament it, but when I download it after release day and see it encoded, I remember why I love fansubbing so much - because its just really cool, and I can make it look how I wanted.
Thanks Naruto, for bringing me from Episode 91, to Episode 91.