Hi everyone, before I start talking about HorribleSubs, I want to put out the following disclaimer. This post is written strictly by me, one of the many people who was part of HorribleSubs and this post does not reflect the opinions of everyone that was on the team nor am I confident that everything I am going to say is 100% factual and proven. I will, however, say that everything I am about to say is information known to me to be as factual as I perceive them to be.
To start, I want to talk about my history with HorribleSubs and what I did for them. I joined HorribleSubs around 2013-2014 by knowing a few of the people who were on the team via fansubbing. I was a former fansubber and did fansubbing for anime for about 5 or so years doing mostly timing work. I joined HorribleSubs mainly as a community moderator at the time to help manage the website chat. It was mostly just to talk with the people in the community and make sure there weren't any bots spamming the chat. As time went on, I helped out with timing some of the releases but realized that I wasn’t able to provide the consistency that was needed from the team. I ended up becoming the community manager for HorribleSubs’ Disqus & eventually, our Discord server. Coinciding with that, I helped out with our release schedules and kept the team up to date with any feedback we got from the community.
*History of Horrible Subs*
HorribleSubs was started by a group of fansubbers who wanted to create the best fansubbing team that would release their releases with consistency that no other fansub group could beat. HorribleSubs wanted to be the group that everyone could rely on when it came to watching that one show on a certain day, certain time.
As time went on, Anime evolved, became bigger, and grew tremendously. The number of shows available per season increased as time went on. To keep up with the popularity wave that Anime was riding, the team expanded to take on more shows each season. We recruited off of a referral based system and invited acquaintances from the fansubbing scene to help out. In order to maintain the consistent operation we had going on, we were only willing to take on help from those who had experience and knew what they were doing.
*Fansubbing, Piracy, & Simulcasting*
This section will be me giving my own personal opinion on fansubbing, it’s history, the gray zone it falls in, and its contribution to Anime as a whole. If you’re uninterested, feel free to skip to the next section. As an ex fansubber, my personal opinion is that without fansubbing, anime would not have been as big as it is today. Fansubbing was an essential part of the growth that Anime saw in the 2010s. The obvious byproduct of fansubbing, however, was the increasing number of illegal piracy websites that took fansub releases and used it for their own profit. One can argue that without these piracy sites, Anime would’ve never gotten the exposure it needed to become as mainstream as it is now. I personally believe that fansubbing has contributed a lotto Anime, it’s growth, and still continues to do so in many ways. It’s definitely not a side that can be proven, but at the same time, the same can be said for the other side of the argument (where the growth was inevitable with or without fansubbers).
Fansubbing has always been a gray area when it came to whether or not it was moral and whether or not it was illegal. On one hand, one can say that fansubbers are transforming the original work by adding subtitles, thereby increasing exposure far beyond the original intended audience. On the other hand, you can argue that the distribution of these fansubs, often free, affect the studios and the industry negatively. In my opinion, I believe the effects of fansubbing on the industry has changed overtime. In the early days of fansubbing, I believe fansubbing played a huge role in getting Anime as a genre to the mainstream. However, now that Anime IS mainstream, there is no real reason for fansubbers to exist when you have the many services out there that offer FREE subtitled content worldwide.
At the end of the day, when it comes to the present, I believe that fansubbing, illegal streaming sites, downloading sites, and piracy as a whole does have a negative impact on the industry and those who are working in the industry. I think the argument of these illegal sites contributing to the growth of anime in the present day is absurd and I think that argument can only be applied to the early days of Anime. When you can literally watch an entire anime for free on a LEGAL website, you have no excuse to be looking at illegal platforms that essentially steal and profit off it. This may be a hot take to some, but this is an honest take from someone who’s been a part of the community and has had a close tie to Anime genre for over a decade.
*The HorribleSubs Team & Personal Growth*
Over the years, many of the team members moved onto new positions in their lives that required more time investment. Whether it was a new job, starting a family, a business, or pursuing higher education, it became increasingly hard for a lot of the team members to keep up with the work they were doing at HorribleSubs. It was very apparent that there was a lot of burn-out when it came to the subbing work and often caused a lot of delays for shows. Many of you have noticed these delays in the past three years and how they became increasingly frequent. This was essentially the starting point of what would end up being a long process of fatigue that gradually affected the team as time went on. One of the key things to note on top of the fatigue was the overall decrease of fansubbers in the scene. As time went on, fansubbing became less and less practiced which meant that it was practically impossible to find new people that we trusted to help us out.
*COVID-19 and its impact on our team*
When COVID-19 hit, it initially didn’t affect our team much. As our team is spread through-out the world, the impact COVID-19 had on our team members varied depending on the country they were from. What we didn’t know at the time was how COVID-19 would continue to spread across the world and eventually affect every single one of the team members. Many team members lost a lot of time due to increased responsibilities in real life. Many team members started facing financial troubles due to losing their jobs and in order to sustain themselves and their families, they could not spare any time fansubbing. This would cause a domino effect as work was passed on to the next member who had time and eventually caused the entire team to burn out faster than before. Needlessly to say, a lot of people on the team expressed that maybe it was time to call it quits.
*The final discussion*
After a few months of the team working their ass off, it was clear that the situation with COVID-19 would not be getting any better soon. We had to make a decision. Between the necessity of whether or not we really needed to fansub anymore and the fact that most, if not everyone on the team was just completely burned out, we came to the conclusion that it was time to close shop. We had thought about trying to find more people to help out, but as previously mentioned, the number of people we could reach out to was very limited and with COVID-19 affecting everyone’s lives, it didn’t make sense to be asking people to contribute thei precious time to work on Chinese cartoons.
While I was mainly a community manager, I could see the relief come from many of the team members when we made the final decision to close up. In recent years, there’s definitely been a lot of conversation on whether or not we actually still need to continue to fansub when there are all these new and better legal services out there. I would confidently say that with the way the Anime industry now, I don’t believe people need to worry anymore when it comes to accessing Anime outside of Japan.
HorribleSubs is going to be a chapter of my life that I will never forget. It was, in many ways, a big learning experience. From the people who have joined and left our team over the years, to the team members that I’ve never met, I wish all of them the best going forward. As the HorribleSubs community manager, I want to thank all the moderators that have assisted me with managing the community over the years. Your support means a lot to me and I wish all of you the best.
*Conclusion & FAQ*
For those of you who read everything up until now, I thank you for your time and for reading my extended thoughts on our closing and on the Anime genre as a whole. I also want to thank everyone who has been sending me nice messages via Discord & Twitter, it really means a lot to me and the team as a whole.
I will now answer a bunch of the frequently asked questions we’ve received since we announced our closing.
1. Will we consider passing on the website/operation to someone else to take over? No - We don’t trust any other people or group to have the same level of consistency as us to carry on our legacy.
2. Will we consider selling our domain? No
3. Are we going to come back in the future? No - However, some of our team members may contribute to miscellaneous fansubbing projects in the future. This will not be under the HorribleSubs name.
4. Are we going to keep our domain? Yes, we have plans to hold onto the HorribleSubs.info domain. This is for the safety of our users as we don’t want anyone to fall victim to any potential scams/fraud. Needless to say, HorribleSubs.info is and will be our only domain. If you see any other website pop up claiming to be us, it is NOT us. We are not responsible for anyone who ends up with malware because they thought another HorribleSubs domain was us.
5. Can we share all our files/releases that we have stored? No, everything we had is already deleted.
6. Can we share our site code/design/backend code/etc? No.
7. Did we sell out to <Insert Company Here>? No.
8. Was COVID19 just a lame excuse? No, as I’ve stated already, it was obviously not the sole reason but it was a big contributing factor. Ultimately, life itself was the reason.
9. Can we donate X amount of $ for you guys to stay? No.
10. Can we pay you guys to sub X show for us privately? No but I’m sure you can find some freelance subber out there willing to do it for you.
11. Will <Insert Other Website Here> also shut down? I have no idea, we are not affiliated with any other website or group.
12. Where will I get my Anime now?
If you have the means to get access to simulcasts via platforms like Crunchyroll, Funimation, Netflix, Hulu, etc, stop being a cheap ass and just pay for access. If you truly love anime and have the means to pay $10 a month for a subscription, I encourage you to do it. You could easily pull together a few friends and have everyone contribute to one different platform to cut costs. Hell, personally, I use CrunchyRoll myself and I think they're the best in the industry. I already use Netflix to watch western content so the Anime is an added bonus.
If you were one of the people who are willing to donate to HorribleSubs, you have no excuse not being able to pay for a subscription to one of the many platforms out there that simulcast and have massive archives for anime.
If you do not have the means to get access, there are plenty of free legal options out there like CrunchyRoll. Hell, even Youtube has free legal anime nowadays. I do not have any alternatives for people when it comes to other fansubbing groups.
If your excuse is being geo-blocked from legal platforms like Crunchyroll/Netflix, VPNs are a thing. Haven’t you heard about <Insert VPN Service Here> from your favorite YouTubers?
13. Will the Website stay up forever? No, we plan to eventually close it.
14. Will the Disqus stay up forever? No, we plan to take it down with the website.
15. Will the Discord server stay up forever? Currently, we do not have plans to close our Discord server. This may change in the future but I am strongly insisting that we leave it up as I do think HorribleSubs can stay as a general community there for people to talk about anime.
Finally, the question I’ve been asked the most in the past decade: What is your favorite anime?
I've always been afraid to answer this question. In the past, every time I was asked this question, I always gave the age old generic answer of "Oh, I don't have a favorite". Truth is, I do have a favorite. I just never wanted to say my favorite Anime. I was afraid of being judge and teased. But now that everything is past me, I'm not afraid to speak out anymore.
My favorite anime is Detective Conan.
I want to close off this post by thanking everyone I’ve worked with at HorribleSubs. From the subbers, timers, encoders, all the way to the Disqus mods and friends of the team, it’s been a great experience.
For those who supported us over the years, I want to thank you for your support especially to those who've stuck with us from the start all the way to the finish line.
Personally for me, I’ll still be around in the community and for anyone who still has any questions you are free to shoot me a tweet or DM in Discord. While I can’t guarantee that I’ll respond to you, I do read everything and will generally answer questions if I’m able to. If I end up ignoring you, I’m sorry, I’m probably just listening to K-Pop and can’t hear you over all the IZ*ONE I'm listening to.
I’m truly happy that anime has grown this big and has become this accessible. I’m confident that this will be a medium I will continue to enjoy for decades to come and I hope everyone does as well.
Thank you for reading my lengthy post.