This blog is about the rise of fansubbed hentai anime. H-animes are a somewhat delicate subject in the fansub community; hence, the title of this essay.
Five years ago, fansubbed hentai anime was comparatively rare. There were no groups really dedicated to the idea. Some fansub groups had an h-anime "division" which produced the occasional episode. Lunar did a few; Shinsen did the first two episodes of Kage (Shadow) and then abandoned the project. Almost all h-animes on the Interweb were rips of shows that had been licensed in the US and released, with subtitles and/or dubs, on R1 DVDs. For one thing, only the R1 DVDs were uncensored. All Japanese DVDs were and still are censored, with pixellation over the really "naughty bits."
However, since the middle of 2009, this trend has been dramatically reversed. Based on an admittedly unscientific survey, it appears that in the last three years, fansubs of unlicensed shows have outnumbered rips of licensed shows by more than five to one. There are groups dedicated just to fansubbing unlicensed h-anime, such as Erobeat, SubDESU-H, PixieS, and Fakku. What has changed?
One thing that has not changed, at least not for the better, is the "quality" of the shows. Current hentai shows are cheap and essentially plotless, a concatenation of sex scenes with minimal connective tissue. Gone are the romantic comedies with a final sex scene, such as Canvas, Yesterday Once More, or First Love, or the intense action and terrific artwork of Kage. (Actually, what was classified as 18-restricted in the 1990s is far less explicit than modern "mainstream" anime like Yosuga no Sora or Aki Sora.) In fact, fansubbing modern hentai is not really necessary. The dialog is, to put it mildly, beside the point. So what is driving the boom in fansubbed h-anime?
One possible answer is the rise of file-sharing sites, particularly sites that compensated content uploaders for downloads, like FileServe. Erobeat was the first group to realize the potential. The major bottleneck in fansubbed hentai was not lack of demand - the fansubbing audience being mostly otaku males - but lack of translators. Most fansub translators looked down on hentai and refused to work on it. (So did many timers, editors, and encoders, for that matter.) Erobeat use the money raised from file-sharing sites to pay for DVDs and translations. This in turn generated more content, which generated more money, which paid for more DVDs and translations - a virtuous circle. Erobeat used the file-sharing sites strictly to pay for expenses. Once a show had paid off its costs, it was released as a torrent instead. Erobeat dealt with the (lack of) quality in modern shows by focusing mostly on the back catalog, providing, for example, the first accurate translation of 1987's ecchi classic Junk Boy.
Other groups, notably SubDESU-H, picked up the model and ran with it. These groups used a variety of raws as sources, not just DVDs, which allowed them to work on even more shows, and more recent ones, driving up volume and the revenue stream from file-sharing sites. The MegaUpload shutdown interrupted the picture briefly, but new sites have arisen to fill the gap, and the flood of animated, subtitled porn continues unabated.
From a technical point of view, fansubbing h-anime is easier than mainstream shows. The most difficult part is finding staff, particularly translators. Once a translation is available, the rest is straightforward. The scripts tend to be short, with long sequences of just heavy breathing and sound effects. That simplifies timing. The dialog is cliched, mostly verbalized monologues of the action on the screen. Editing is reduced to finding different phrasing for reactions and body parts, to vary the monotony. There's no typesetting, beyond the title and the choice of a font style. So it's step 1: find a raw; step 2: create a simple script; and step 3: profit.
Exceptions exist, of course. Kage had a dense plot that required careful translation and editing, as well as beautiful visuals that needed first-class encoding. The great Tezuka Osamu's ventures into h-anime (Cleopatra and Sen'ya Ichiya Monogatari) haven't received the translations they deserve, although excellent encodes are available. But today's h-animes are interchangeable and disposable.
As with mainstream anime, h-anime has its orphans. Some of these are shows that were only partially licensed in the US, such as Beast City, Kiniraru Kimochi, Lunatic Night, and The Last Kunoichi. All of them are missing the concluding episode. Izumo and Kodomo no Jikan (the h-animes, not the TV shows) are fansubs, but they too were abandoned one episode short of competion. There are undoubtedly others.
So here's another example of the technology and finances of the Interwebs interacting with the fansub community to alter what shows are subtitled and how. Whether you think the alteration is good or bad is up to you. Technology has no inherent intent; how it's used by people provides that.