STANDARD DISCLAIMER: This was written on January 25, 2008. Some of the numbers have changed since then.
Hi, I am Tofusensei. Myself and Sol are the only surviving active members of L-E who have been with the group from day one. A lot of you may know us from the various shows we have subtitled, but I wanted to give you a brief history of our group. For example, did you know that we will be celebrating our 7 year anniversary in a few months? Hardly any groups have combined that sort of longevity with consistently active releases.
How many releases has L-E done?
Officially, we are at approximately 700 releases. A release is a full length movie, 1 TV episode, 1 OVA episode, etc. If 2 versions of a show are released (h264 and xvid) it only counts as one release. That means we are averaging over 100 releases/year for almost 7 years. Our busiest year so far was 2003, though 2008 is looking promising.
How and when did we start?
First, in order to understand how L-E began, you have to understand some things about the early days of fansubbing. There was no bit torrent for distribution and certainly no video streaming sites, so almost everything was distributed via irc, usenet, and the occasional ftp or http server. File-sharing sites such as Direct Connect were also popular. This led to extremely active communities of fansubbers and “leechers” in irc chat channels. You had to actively participate in the chat in order to get files. This led to more interpersonal relationships between people than you see nowadays. Bit torrent is the main cause for this.
The year was 2001 and I was in one of the more successful fansubbing groups of the day, BakaMX Fansubs. BakaMX was an extremely influential group. At BakaMX, we were the first to touch some series that eventually turned into extremely popular shows. A great example of this is One Piece. At the time when BakaMX was subbing One Piece, no one was watching it. They claimed the art looked weird and its download numbers were abysmal. Kind of silly, when you think about it now.
Other shows were Noir, Hajime no Ippo, Gravitation, Fruits Basket, Onegai Teacher, etc. I was working primarily as a distro, encoder, and editor.
The founder of Live-eviL, sol, was an active member of the #bakamx chat channel. The story he tells is that he came up with a great name for something and went ahead and registered the domain name live-evil.org. According to the WHOIS directory, this was registered at 13-Jun-2001 01:33:49 UTC. Let’s call this the date of L-E’s conception.
He decided that it was be fun to use this name for a fansubbing group. Though he didn’t know much about how fansubs were created and didn’t have any staff, he plowed forward. He asked various people in the BakaMX community who might be able to help contribute to a fansub group. Back in those days, you did not have many tutorials on how to subtitle things like you see now and far fewer people were studying Japanese. Finding knowledgeable staff was very difficult. Long story short, I was one of the people who was recruited. Some of the first staff were: Seta-sans_Driving_Instructor, Methos, Ash2Dust, rixot, among others.
We didn’t know much about fansubbing but we had enough knowledge to get started. Since I was studying Japanese at the time, I was turned into the group’s first translator. We knew we wanted to subtitle a show that would get us seen, so we looked for a good project that was not being actively subtitled. We chose eX-Driver because it was a 6 episode OVA and only 1 episode was subtitled at the time (by kevp, a very good korean translator who translated from korean subtitles. He was also BakaMX’s Fruits Basket translator for most of the series). I pieced together a decent translation of eX-Driver episode 1 and we began.
We linked up with a manga group known as Dual Translations as well. They had done some manga releases and we had some sort of relationship with them. Work began on eX-Driver episode 1 and we were very proud of the final version, though the encode was laughable: 320×240 divx4 at 12 fps. Our original encoder, Ash2Dust, meant well but he was not very experienced. His skills improved quickly though. This was released to the public on or around September 24, 2001. You can see an early version of our web page here.
From there went on to subtitle up to episode 4 of eX-Driver before it was licensed. We have always maintained a policy of dropping shows when they become licensed in the United States. We also subtitled Hikaru no Go episode 1 but dropped that project after we realized we would not be able to compete with the larger groups subtitling it, Soldats (another group that broke off from BakaMX) and Elite-Fansubs.
At the time, I was rather busy with BakaMX subbing projects and did not provide much assistance to L-E. Things puttered on and the group hit a snag after releasing eX-Driver episode 4 on November 24, 2001. The translators who had translated the rest of ex-Driver and Hikaru no Go had left and the group was left without a competent translator. This left us with a six month gap until the next release.
Due to some internal conflict within BakaMX, I had left the group after the Onegai Teacher project ended on April 9, 2002. I was in need of a new home and decided to make it Live-eviL. After returning, we managed to squeak out a release of Ebichu episode 9 on April 18 but it was widely passed over by the far superior AnimeMPEG release.
The Live-eviL staff regrouped and discussed new project opportunities. One staff member, rixot, had access to HK dvds of You’re Under Arrest! Season 2 and we were able to recruit staff to translate this, so that became a project. Shogun Anime was slowly subtitling the series so we decided that with the limited resources we had, we’d be better off picking up from where they were as opposed to starting from episode 1. This series was culminated with a rarity for the times, a mass release of episodes 16-26 all on the same day, August 28, 2002. This was before bit torrent so we had recruited some very high-powered distro power, an xdcc bot run off of MIT’s bandwidth thanks to anrp and a very high-speed bot run by our dump operator, akahige, off of a european university’s connection.
Another series we had picked up was Shoujo Kakumei Utena. At the time, the first two thirds of the series were available on DVD in the United States but license negotiations for the last 13 episodes were barely moving by 2 years after the initial series release in the US. I had access to some incredible translations for the show so I imported the R2 DVDs and we cranked out episodes 27-39 within a 5 week span between May and June 2002. This was a highly successful project because VHS or digital fansubs of the end of the show were very difficult to find in those days. I am particularly proud of this project.
Other key players in Live-eviL at the time were people such as tanman508 and isurs. I am not sure how or where we had recruited them but they were some of the best staff this group has ever seen. tanman508 came to us to gain experience because he was applying to become staff at one of the larger groups at the time, Anime-Empire. isurs was an incredible timer who timed all of You’re Under Arrest Season 2, Utena, most of Rose of Versailles, among other things. She left us to pursue her MD to become a doctor. tanman508 left to focus on academics.
The next chapter in L-E’s development as a group had some of the most important releases our group has ever seen. We were following a show called Condor Hero that was airing in Japan. It was not being subtitled and raws were not being archived. We had a person in our group named Methos who meticulously downloaded any raws of the show he was able to find on Japanese trading sites (pre-Winny days). We decided that we wanted to subtitle the show but we did not have a translator for it. It remains one of the most difficult-to-translate shows we’ve ever subtitled.
We enlisted the services of Strato, a.f.k.’s main translator, to translate the opening song for us. tanman508 provided the karaoke timing and I typeset it. We released the opening subtitled by itself, along with a notice asking if anyone would volunteer to translate. An aspiring translator who now lives and teaches in Japan named Yukinoroh came to our door offering to help. He slaved away for hours and worked closely with a Japanese person he knew to solidify the translation. We had successfully subtitled the first episode of the series. At the end of the episode I put together a notice begging the anime community for any and all translation assistance we can get. We were approached by at least one talented translator and it began what is one of Live-eviL’s flagship projects, Condor Hero. This was by far our most popular series we were subtitling, due to its ubiquity within Chinese communities, and it had put us on the map as a fansub group known for quality releases. Episode 1 was released on June 24, 2002.
Around the same time, I had attended a very small convention in New Jersey called ShoujoCon. It was not a very good convention so I spent a lot of time in the video rooms. It was there I saw two shows that I instantly fell in love with, Rose of Versailles and Creamy Mami. I decided to make these the next Live-eviL projects.
I had a friend of mine from BakaMX, Jaganshi_Hiei, go onto WinMX and collect raws for Rose of Versailles. Around the same time, I made a trip up to Toronto, Canada and ended up in a Chinese mall. I found a copy of Creamy Mami hard-subtitled in Chinese on HK dvds. I immediately bought it and returned home with them.
I had spread the word among fansub circles that I was in that we were going to be subbing Creamy Mami. Since the chinese DVDs had chinese subtitles, we decided it would be easier to recruit chinese translators to do the translations. This is how most of Creamy Mami was translated initially. Word spread via a person I was close with, mashadar from AnimeCo, that we were going to be subtitling Creamy Mami. Word got to a person in AnimeCo who goes by the nicks Sindobook or Access. He happened to own the Japanese r2 DVDs for both Creamy Mami and Rose of Versailles so he became a defacto member of Live-eviL. We released episode 1 of Creamy Mami on July 11, 2002 and episode 1 of Rose of Versailles on August 12, 2002. These would go on to be two of our longest running and most successful series. We are very proud about completing both of them.
Our group grew and we had new staff join us, some who make up the core of the group today. People like Demn, bmfrosty, Mamo-chan, Vash, DeadAlready911, Inexxess, Skywallker and others.
I was going to be studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan from September 2002 until the summer of 2003. I would be without a computer for some time so I was AWOL for quite a bit of the end of 2002. Projects slowed down a bit but people like DeadAlready911, NeX and AnimeLeader kept the group on life support. Our releases slowed a bit near the end of 2002, but we were gearing up for our most successful year yet.
In the Winter of 2002 going into 2003, I had met up with one of the founders of BakaMX, Teppei, in Tokyo. I discussed that there was a show starting in January 2003 called Wolf’s Rain that would be fun to subtitle. He said, “so, let’s do it.” And that was how that project was born.
I had received a shiny new Dell laptop from my parents for Christmas 2002 and bmfrosty graciously donated to me a firewire video capture device that he had. He even paid to ship it all the way to Japan! I was going to enter the mysterious world of video capture!
We released the first episode of Wolf’s Rain on January 9, 2003. This would prove to be the most pivotal release L-E has had since Condor Hero 1. I was still working out the kinks on video capture, but the project went forward. I was an extremely unexperienced translator at the time and some of our scripts suffered because of this. However, this managed to recruit a translator named Akutenshi who assisted us until NeX was able to recruit us greenkabbage, one of our top translators of all time and trilingual speaker of German, Japanese, and English. With the project underway combining my video capturing skills with his translation skills, we became the most successful group subtitling Wolf’s Rain. We started routinely releasing the new episodes of the show within 18-26 hours of it airing, a true feat then and now.
For a random bit of trivia. For pretty much all of Wolf’s Rain, greenkabbage was on 44k dialup in Germany so I was encoding 18 megabyte divx3 video encodes to send to him to do the translations. Not too shabby, huh?
Running with the Wolf’s Rain momentum, and with the benefit of having another translator (tanman508’s Japanese-American roommate, jko) we decided to add some new series to our Spring 2003 plate. We began subtitling Dear Boys with AnimeOne, Last Exile with Rice-box, and Wandaba Style. All of these shows would end up licensed, though we did manage to complete Dear Boys before that happened. Later that year, we would pick up Tomorrow’s Nadja, Rumic Theater, Detective Academy Q, Persia, Yawara, Planetes, Gilgamesh, Galaxy Railways, Mermaid’s Forest to add to the shows we were already subtitling: Rose of Versailles, Creamy Mami, Ask Dr. Rin, Condor Hero. It was exciting times for L-E. We gained more staff who are with us until this day, guys like gumbaloom, interactii and mikala.
Going into 2004, we added two new classic shows to take L-E back to its roots: 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother and Galaxy Express 999. 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother was a show I initially attempted to VHS subtitle in the late 1990’s but had only managed to get 9 episodes translated and 4 episodes subtitled. Galaxy Express 999 was a show I had always wanted to do but I finally managed to begin acquiring the DVDs for it.
2004 trekked on and we began such great projects as Initial D: 4th Stage, Phantom the Animation, Space Symphony Maetel, Shura no Toki, Akazukin Chacha OVA and a project we’d rather forget (Kyou Kara Maou). We gained the beginning of our LLE (Ladies of Live-evil) when tlynnec and crypticgimp started in our QC group who have become fully contributing staff for us! Of course we saw others come and go, but that is normal.
In 2005, we continued to work on the projects we had begun and added a new show, Gallery Fake. This was a project that we’re glad we got it going because it is being subbed well by runpsicat from Anime-Kraze now. It also led to another one of our milestone releases, Tsubasa Chronicle episode 1 with Dattebayo Fansubs, released on April 11, 2005. This began another one of our most successful projects to date and opened us up to a whole new audience of fansub viewers. Almost each and every Saturday for a half a year we brought you quality subtitles for the new CLAMP series within 12-16 hours of airtime in Japan.
We also successfully completed our goal of releasing the last episodes of Rose of Versailles on Bastille Day in France, July 14, 2005.
We also picked up Blood+ which we had to end up dropping because of it being licensed. We had a new translator named tsubasa join the group as well. 2005 also saw the start of another one of our great long-term projects, The Snow Queen. It also saw the beginnings of our highly talented Matsumoto group subbing Captain Harlock; gaining valuable staff such as YaoiBoy, MazoneMayu, emsko, Masakari and picking up suzaku and WillowD.
We trekked on into 2006 and began some very high-profile series, Tsubasa Chronicle season 2 and NANA TV. Unfortunately, due to some very personal issues in my life, I had to take a hiatus from the group thereby driving these projects into the ground. I do apologize for this.
Though I departed, the group marched on and managed to begin some very exciting series, Trapp Family Story, Sailor Stars, Queen Millennia, Captain Harlock SSX, our blockbuster series, Death Note. Death Note in particular was a very unique project because it was run almost exclusively by female fansubbers (LLE), which is a true rarity in this scene. Also, the episodes were of very high quality and delivered very quickly. This was another series that did much for our credibility. Unfortunately, we did have to drop the show due to license. We did recruit a new translator, though, Beloculus, who has been pleasing all our fans with Shion no Ou translations lately.
2007 came and we continued on with our series. We did what many thought we’d never do which was complete subbing the 52 episode series Creamy Mami. This is why I tell all the fans of Live-eviL, if you plan to watch our shows, just be ready to stick around for the long haul. We will complete almost everything we begin and our history proves that.
We also picked up Sisters of Wellber, which is in the process of being revived. Late 2007 saw one of our most popular recent series, Shion no Ou. I returned to the group in late Fall 2007 and started up a new project, You’re Under Arrest! Full Throttle (I do believe people expected us to subtitle this). I am also doing my best to put some more energy behind our on-going series such as Galaxy Express 999. Teppei was able to recruit us help from C1Anime to keep 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother going and added Princess Sara.
So far this year, we were able to get out the Production I.G 20 year anniversary special OVA Tokyo Marble Chocolate, among other releases. We have 2 super exciting releases planned for you in the next few months. They are classics and will shock the anime fansub scene, trust me. We also have a new suicidal timer in our group as well, Deus_Ex_Machinae. Our QC team is back and as strong as ever. We would not be where we are today without the talented folks who have contributed as QCers over the years.
So, that is our history up until now, and we look forward to continue to supply all our viewers with high quality fansubs of some of the best anime Japan has to offer.
What about those series you didn’t mention? Dramas, etc.?
We have subbed quite a few movies, chinese/korean/Japanese television dramas, one-shot OVAs, etc. This article is very long so I focused solely on our core releases only, all Japanese anime.
What is the secret to your longevity?
Honestly, it all has to do with the way the group is structured and having common goals. The first and second generation digital fansubbing groups almost always had a very strongly defined hierarchy in their leadership. The groups succeeded and failed depending on the actions and talents of a very small core group of people at the very top. It was not uncommon for leaders of groups to order people to do things and assign people to tasks they felt they wanted them to do, with deadlines, etc. Our group has never been about that. Right from the start, the group has never had a defined “leader” like the other groups had. Projects can be run completely independently of one another and as long as there are multiple projects with different members contributing at any given time, the group is able to move forth even when someone goes AWOL or is tied up with RL obligations.
We also almost never impose deadlines or force people to do tasks that they do not choose to do themselves. Also, the quality of one’s work is almost never insulted. If someone is taking time out of their precious lives to volunteer to do the, sometimes redundantly, boring tasks involved in fansubbing, who are we to insult their work? We should be grateful for their contribution!
Also, this was pointed out to me by Sindobook, who has experience in more groups than I do. We really did have an open door policy when it came to recruiting at L-E. We very rarely turn down help (though this has led to times when we’ve had 5 editors and no scripts to edit ^^;) but it allowed us to keep a healthy influx of fresh talent coming into the group. We also were willing to train and work with people who did not have a lot of experience. I like to believe that this attitude goes back to L-E’s roots as an upstart new group playing in the shadows of giants (BakaMX, Elite-Fansubs, Anime-Empire, etc.). We couldn’t afford to turn down staff because we did not have the recruiting appeal of the larger groups. My, how times have changed 🙂
Basically, we’ve always had a pragmatic view that fansubbing should be fun and that people will work harder when their group is successful. Success drives hard work and hard work drives success. It’s not that complicated!
One interesting bit of information is that Creamy Mami holds the record for the most translators (over 12) and most timers (at least 20). Almost every person who has joined Live-eviL between 2002-2007 had timed at least 1 episode of Creamy Mami, a show notorious for making timers go insane.
Thank you for sticking with us over the past 7 years! Feel free to reach out to us via email, the forum, or irc. Thanks!