"Fighting evil by moonlight, Winning love by daylight."
The familiar sound of the DiC Sailor Moon opening radiates from the television screen. But something seems off. Sailor Moon's got wings... who are those strange looking threesome in the black leather mini-outfits... and what's up with the dialogue? ("Amara, have you been eating too many sweets lately?" "That's it, you're gonna get a spanking later.")
Where did that come from? What happened to Amara and Michelle being faithful cousins and now Sailor Moon is saying, "Moon Eternal Power"? What happened to Moon Crisis? Where's Sailor Mini-Moon? And where did all these DiC music cues come from? WHEN WAS THIS EPISODE DUBBED AND WHO DUBBED IT?
You've just entered the fantastic world of fandubbing. The missing episodes of Sailor Moon dubbed "by fans, for fans."
Back In The Stone Age, The Early 1990's
Initially, fandubs were crudely produced with the use of 2 VCRs (Video Cassette Recorders--in other words 2 VHS machines) and a lot of stopping & starting.
But then, within the last few years, with the availability of laserdiscs, the emergence of prosumer post-production software and the ever increasing speed of computers have all helped foster a new, growing phenomenon in the Anime world: The professional fandub.
A fandub is a dubbing effort coordinated and performed by a dedicated group of fans of a series. The fans do the translation, writing, editing, production and even the voice acting. The finished product is then distributed throughout the fan community free of charge (except for the cost of the tape & shipping).
And guess which series is the most commonly fandubbed? Sailor Moon. The amount of editing, censorship, episode skipping and unpredictable release schedule of the official English version of the series and features all fueled a market for the underground productions. But the demand was created by Sailor Moon fans and their passionate interest in the original story and now, in an ironic twist, the DiC adaptations.
Today, with Cloverway having produced a version closer to what the most vocal of fans wanted, other fans are going back to the DiC style. These fans got hold of a copy of the DiC music cues (the underscore) and are using them with the original story creating a bizarre world of western entertainment filled with decidedly taboo content. (In other words, no cousins in this world!)
One fandubber summed up his own feelings: "I think it makes perfect sense. Fans that salivate over the original version already have all their episodes available. It makes little sense to me to fandub a series if you're going to keep the names, attacks, and script exactly the same. You might as well watch a fansub." ("Fansubs" are productions which have been subtitled into English by fans.)
Concerning the choices of adaptation, they wrote: "You'd think the professionals would wake up. The fanbase of Sailor Moon are not 8 year old girls. I was in the Air Force and we'd get together and have mini marathons of the show. 18-25 year old males love it... (the DiC version anyway). I tried showcasing some fansubs but the music scared them away."
It's such a fascinating situation that someone from within DiC has requested copies. (No word yet on Cloverway's reaction.)
The best way is to first translate an episode into a script. Then by playing back a tape or via a hard drive they have to work the new dialogue into the movement of the characters' mouths. Some fandubbers care more about an exact translation than the sync while others will change the words and sentences to fit with the mouth movement.
Some fandubbers (as with Optimum) "rock and roll" the image to create easier mouth movement. "Jedite" of Negavision reveals, "I know on the fansub of the episode where Serena and Darien get back together (in R) and Tux says "your turn"... Sailor Moon's mouth flaps once for "Hai." But in the DiC version it flaps twice and she says "Right-o." Negavision later adopted this technique. Jedite explains, "With a couple well placed snips and loops it's quite possible to get the characters to say what you want. (The process was being experimented with through the Lost Episodes and a couple bad shakes in 167... but from ep 168 on the cuts are impossible to distinguish)."
Once a picture version is finalized they're ready to get it recorded.
Because of the Internet, it's possible to collect voice talent from all over the world. Your Serena could be in South Africa, your Amy in England, or your Raye next door to the Dairy Queen. They never get together to record in the same room. However, some of the most devoted, will go across country to meet one another at anime conventions. (With Optimum, they always record in the same room but they record each Voice Artist separately.)
To get the Voice Artist to perform in sync with the mouth movement the fandubber emails them a copy of the script and can snail mail a VHS tape of the episode or require that the performer buys their own copy. Today, it's possible to send scenes over the Internet as downloads.
One fandubber revealed, "For those difficult scenes I send Rythmoband avi clips to the va's."
The Voice Artist playsback the picture and records their own lines until they get their best performance (both in terms of acting & sync). They can record onto an audio tape cassette or (becoming much more popular) directly onto a .wav file (an audio file) on their computer with a microphone. The Voice Artist (VA) sends their recording to the fandubber.
Putting It All Together
The fandubber will then add all the new dialogue to the picture on their computer via software such as Adobe's Premiere. Sometimes if the dialogue still doesn't quite fit it can be made to fit via image editing (like the "rock and roll" method described earlier) or thru sound manipulation (by speeding up or slowing down the dialogue with harmonization--which prevents "chipmunking").
The fandubber adds the other tracks as well. Most use the original underscore from the many Sailor Moon CD soundtracks available; while some are using a mix of the Japanese cues, DiC underscore and newly commissioned music.
Sound Effects are sometimes pulled off of the original Japanese show or from professional CDs, while others are done the old fashioned way using Old Time Radio techniques. The latter is usually performed as scenes are played back with the sound effect recorded in real time. This is called "Foley" which was named after the man who invented it at Universal Studios years ago.
Because of the music industry there are plenty of mixing programs to handle all the dialogue, sound effects & music tracks on almost any standard computer.
Finished productions are played back in real-time on computer with a monitor to TV converter which allows outputting onto a videotape recorder . The videotape is then duplicated for distribution.
The Finished Product
The VA's and producers of these fandubs will be the first to tell you that they are not professionals. They're just dedicated fans with a lot of spare time and a vision of anime in English. Some fandubs feature excellent Voice Artists who would make good professionals someday, while others do the best they can and wind up sounding mighty corny. However, the translation accuracy and faithfulness to the original Japanese version usually surpasses that of the professionals.
Some of the tapes we've had lying around here at the clubhouse include the Moonlight Fandubs version of the R Movie, Mark Sprague's episodes of Sailor Moon S, and the "lost episodes" (2, 20, 167) made by Negavision. These are all excellent specimens of good quality fandubbing.
Mark Sprague (perhaps the very first Sailor Moon fandubber) produced tapes with excellent voice acting. Moonlight Fandubs does an amazing job with translating the Sailor Moon R movie (with the original music cues). Negavision's episode 167 features a great new opening sequence, a mixture of DiC and Japanese music cues, and a return to the original, non-familial relationship between Sailors Uranus and Neptune. More in-depth reviews can be found at Negavision's site.
There are, naturally, even more groups out there (with some of them not wanting any publicity).
With more and more fandubbing operations cropping up, continued evolution of media compression technology and the advent of Internet broadcasting such as Toonami's Reactor experiment, it becomes clear that the nature of the relationship between fans and content providers has changed forever. The fact is, technology is advancing to the point where fans themselves are able to do the job that advertisers would normally pay entertainment companies to do--whether it be dubbing their own English language versions or viewing broadcasts from the other side of the planet (recently, "Angelic Layer" by CLAMP premiered on Japanese television and within hours was available for download anywhere in the world).
Is this illegal? Yes. Can legitimate producers fight this? No. Is it necessary to fight this? No. Because most anime fans are collectors. There has been enough room for both the legitimate and illegitimate offspring of productions.