It makes sense that people who are fans of a certain TV show, video game, or tabletop RPG would want to support and demonstrate their affection for their fandom. Others may cosplay as their preferred characters, collect scale models and figures, or write fanfiction about their favorite characters. Anime enthusiasts share the same commitment.
From the late 80s, when anime first reached niche popularity in the US, until now, anime fans have found ways to enjoy their favorite series, whether creating animated music videos (AMVs) or producing fan subs of their favorite series, pre-serialization. Throughout the decades, many of these activities in the anime community have evolved, and some have disappeared altogether. Regardless, anime fans will never again experience these hobbies as they did during their heyday.
Competitive and Popular AMVs
AMVs, or animated music videos, are musically accompanied videos that feature images or video segments from an anime. AMVs are primarily popular in the West, as opposed to MADs (music anime douga), which were made by Japanese fans. Although some people might think that AMVs are a 2000s invention, the earliest known English-language AMV existed before the internet. Jim Kaposztas used two VCRs to create a Space Battleship Yamato film in 1982 to the Beetles' "All You Need is Love."
Due to a lack of access to anime and editing programs in the 1980s and 1990s, making AMVs was exceedingly challenging. Despite these challenges, devoted fans nevertheless created grainy, subpar AMVs, transferred them to VHS tapes of fansubbed anime, and distributed them across the community, leading to some of the first AMV competitions. AMV competitions had become a big deal in the anime world and convention scene by the late 1990s.
On websites like YouTube and AnimeMusicVideos.org, AMVs saw a surge in popularity at the start of the new millennium. AMVs were produced by fans showcasing their preferred ships or significant episodes. Popular songs from the era, such as Evanescence, Three Days Grace, Cascada, and Linkin Park, were frequently used as the soundtracks for these AMVs. Sadly, as AMVs became more well-known, there was also a corresponding rise in criticism from both inside and outside the anime community.
The phrase "LinkinBall Z" was created by influential figures in the AMV competition circuit in response to criticism of the excessive number of repetitious AMVs for well-known shonen series like DragonBall Z that feature songs from Linkin Park. Similarly, many people in the anime world started to think that AMVs were embarrassing and juvenile. The mainstream has issues with AMVs as well. The music industry is less tolerant to fan-produced works than the anime industries in Japan and the West. Over time, several AMVs were removed as a result of copyright infringement reported by record labels.
Despite the controversy, AMVs have thrived. Fans continue to create AMVs for popular series like Jujutsu Kaisen using sophisticated software like Premier Pro from their computers or phones and use complicated editing techniques like motion blur. To this day, small and large conventions host highly competitive AMV competitions for cash prizes and bragging rights.
Community-Based Fandubs and Fansubs
Before anime and manga were effectively serialized in the West during the 1980s and 1990s, they were very difficult to access and quite expensive. English-speaking fans had to come up with a unique way to watch and discuss their favorite shows due to the lack of access. Fandubs and fansubs were created as a result.
If a fan managed to obtain a series in the 1980s, they would copy it onto a VHS tape and distribute it throughout the anime clubs or convention circuit. Soon, groups of amateur translators produced basic translations of anime like Dragon Ball and established amateur production companies. The cost to produce these videos was high, and the quality frequently declined with each VHS tape made in imitation of the original. But by the middle of the 1980s, the fandom had developed a successful method for giving enthusiastic viewers better-quality VHS copies. The laser disk CD signaled the end of the VHS fansub and dub era in 1999. Similar to AMVs, improved technology facilitated higher caliber outputs and distribution.
During the early 2000s, fandubs and subs continued to be made by fans to increase access to specific series. Amateur fandubs were roughly translated from the original Japanese audio and could alter the plot to a hilarious effect. These, often intentionally comedic, dubs gave way to what fans know as an "abridged series." Different abridged series were created by various groups, with the most popular series including Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged, Ghost Stories, and the Dragon Ball Z Abridged series.
The fandom expanded as fansubs and fandubs gained popularity on websites like YouTube. Fandubs and fansubs, however, threatened copyright legality as more anime got serialized and made available on streaming sites. Copyright disputes as a result led to the dissolution of several fansub and dub groups and the removal of their work from YouTube and other platforms. Fansubs and dubs are now only remembered by people who were young when they first appeared.
AMVs, fansubs, and fandubbing's nearly 40-year heyday may have come to an end, but anime fans can look back knowing that their work influenced how people engage with anime today. AMVs have always been a means for anime fans to show their passion while hone their technical abilities. Fandubs and subtitles helped popular anime programs gain professional attention while introducing new series to anime fans. But because of the rise in licensing, simulcasting, simuldubbing, and copyright disputes, viewers will never again be able to relive these bygone eras in the same way.