How I accidentally helped create a Chinese torrent site

It was the early to mid 2000s. Video streaming was still establishing itself, and piracy and torrents were where you went for to pirate video. Before Crunchyroll went legit in 2009, non-Japanese speaking anime fans would have to wait for an American company to buy a show, translate it, then dub it. People circumvented that process by translating shows off Japanese TV rips and releasing them as torrents. The US distributors turned a blind eye as long as the pirates took down their versions once the DVDs were released.

The other kind of anime pirate

Around that time, I was doing an English degree and wanted to be an interpreter after I graduated, so I figured fansubbing would be free practice in exchange for internet cred. I joined a group as a translator and became one of the core members pretty easily due to the scarcity of native Japanese speakers in the scene. [1]

But we were by no means internet famous or anything - we did a few niche shows well, and we just had the usual combination of a site, a blog, an IRC channel, a community forum that was more active than some local Slack teams I’m in… 

I’d forgotten about all of this for years, other than noticing that the Google results for our group name kept returning results in Chinese. Fast forward to 2019: I was trying to figure out blog hosting, and trying to remember which Google account I used on Blogspot. When I tried an old account, I discovered that I still have admin access to one of the fansub group release blogs. I went to see if the old site and forum were still there, and they weren’t.

However while our domain was [group-name].com, there is a Chinese torrent site at [groupname].com, which has been alive and well for at least 10 years. It seems pretty popular and has a fair number of torrents and activity. [2]

In general, the group was from all over the place [3] . There’s a practice in fansubbing where instead of translating directly from the Japanese dialogue, you translate using the English subs [4] . The Italian guy in our team would translate our scripts and release in Italian. One of the other translators in our team was based in Taiwan, and as well as doing Japanese to English, she was involved in translating into Chinese. 

After a few years I lost interest because the industry had just started moving towards the otaku pandering squeaky voice thing that I hate. And the group slowly disbanded but… our forums stayed active. I think the Chinese translator invited some friends, plus we got non-English fans from one of our final releases that was a DVD-only miniseries based off a visual novel that didn’t get an English release, or something. 

At some point the subforums for Game/Manga/JPop downloads appeared. I don’t think they overlapped with my time in the group, but I was busy translating, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ And as the translation group disappeared, the filesharing kept attracting more Chinese users. The new admins added a Chinese bbs in a subdomain and moved all of that content, and it had a link to the old team’s work and the English forum in the footer. Up until this point, I’m guessing I still had admin access. But the English team hadn’t existed for years by that time, while the Chinese userbase kept growing. Eventually there was just no point in keeping the long-dead English forums around.

Finally in 2015 or so, they migrated onto the new domain of [groupname].com, closed down the English forum, and removed the link. Now it’s quite hard to tell its origins aside from the name.

And that is how I accidentally helped create a Chinese torrent site.

  1. The one show I actually cared about and was the main translator on is pretty hard to get hold of, so my version from over a decade ago is still floating around on the internet. The biggest video on Youtube for it is a supercut of the two protagonists, and has nearly 3 million views, which is nice but is also my biggest contribution to human culture. Which is a bit sad, but oh well.

  2. I tried to look for actual numbers, but I accidentally fell down into the SEO/web analytics part of the internet, and it was awful.

  3. Once, I used the phrase “I’ll shout you” in a script, which went unnoticed through a check by a Taiwanese translator, an Australian editor, an Italian subtitle timer, and a Dutch video encoder. When it was released, someone posted on our forum asking if “I’ll shout you” was a Japanese cultural reference they didn’t get, and that’s how I learnt that using “shout” rather than “treat” is a mostly Antipodean thing.

  4. It has a name. It definitely has a name, but I've long forgotten and Google hasn't been useful here. For the more uncommon languages where you’d have trouble finding a Japanese speaking translator, this was normal - the one show I actually cared about was translated into > 10 languages by people I haven’t even heard of after we finished subbing it, and I assume a lot if not all of them used my version as the basis.

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