Tuesday, January 23, 2018

How Orphan Chooses Projects

[I'm republishing this because I keep getting the same questions.]

Orphan doesn't get a lot of comments on its releases, but along with the "thank yous" (always appreciated) are invariably requests of the form, "Can you translate or resub XYZ?" Just as invariably, the answer is no, so perhaps I should explain how Orphan selects projects to work on. The process is different for original translations versus resubs, so I'll describe them separately. 

Original Translations 

Orphan was formed to translate abandoned series, OVAs, and movies - shows that were abandoned by other fansub groups or stranded on obsolete media like VHS tape or Laserdiscs. That remains the group's core mission. However, it's not possible to do every incomplete or untranslated show. A couple of severe filters get applied to any project idea.

The most important factor is the interest and availability of a translator. While translators can sometimes be coaxed into taking on other people's ideas, mostly they want to work on what interests them. The Orphan team includes a number of translators, but they all have real life commitments as well as projects they want to do. Like everyone on the team, they are volunteers, and like everyone on the team, their time is precious.

A second factor is the availability of source material. Some shows simply have no original source or existing encodes. Over the years, I've become more finicky about the quality of Orphan's encodes, so there's more emphasis on original encodes from primary sources, like LaserDiscs, DVDs, or BluRays. (We have VHS transcription capability too.) But a viable source is no guarantee that a project can get done.

A third factor is length. The group's sweet spot is movies, specials, and OVAs or series with a maximum of a 12-13 episodes. Experience with Polar Bear Cafe and Stop!! Hibari-kun has caused us to steer clear of long series.

A fourth factor is the interest of the team as a whole. If the team is not interested in a particular project, that project is unlikely to get finished in a timely fashion, if ever. And if I'm not interested, well… you can imagine.


While translation is much less of a factor in resub projects, it still matters. Wherever the subtitles came from, they need to be checked. For fansubs, translation checking looks for errors in the original subtitles. For commercial sources, the focus is on excessive localization or script simplification. Sanctuary, Hashire Melos, and Chameleon illustrate the sort of problems translation checking will catch in R1 subs.

Source material is perhaps more important in resubs than in original translations. After all, there already is a subbed version; a new version needs to improve not just on the subtitles but also, if possible, on the video and audio quality. I'd be very reluctant to base a resub project on random Internet raws. This has led to some strange and expensive quests for rare LaserDiscs or DVD sets.

In addition, there has to be a compelling reason to do a resub. For Next Senki Ehrgeiz and Sanctuary, it was to improve the video and subtitle quality (LaserDisc softsub vs VHS hardsub). For Nagasarete Airantou, it was to have subtitles that were actually readable. For Yume Tsukai, it was to have a full resolution softsub version from DVDs of a show that was only subbed from TV captures.

Also, the show has to interest me (or another project leader). I like comedy, slice-of-slice, historical, sci-fi, seinen, josei, shoujo, and cats. I don't like sports, mecha, or shounen. And I don't have the patience for long series anymore.

Finally, Orphan will not resub shows that have active licenses in English-speaking countries.

Orphans and Orphan Fansubs 

I'll close by reminding my readers that the original purpose of Orphan Fansubs was to finish orphaned projects. These projects often mix resubs (the episodes that were completed) with original translations (the episodes that were never finished). True orphans must satisfy the criteria for both types of projects: a translator must be interested; there has to be source material (at least for the unfinished episodes); the team as a whole has to want to work on the show; and there has to be a compelling reason to complete the series. And there's one other factor: the project needs to have been formally abandoned by the original group, or the original group must have disbanded.

Many orphan series fail on one or more of these criteria. For example, Sanada 10 has source material but no translator. MapleStory doesn't interest the team very much. And Hiatari Ryouko has not been formally abandoned, even though the group subbing it has not released a new episode in nearly years.

[Revised 19-Oct-2018]


  1. Great and big thanks for all the works you do from italy. I appreciate a lot when you sub old anime series (oav and other), because i think it's better than the actual animes...
    Go on like this, i'm looking forward to see new interesting series do by yours! Sorry for my bad english :-(

  2. I'd also like to thank you for all your work on old, unsubbed, unfinished, forgotten, or poorly subbed anime works! Most groups tend to focus almost exclusively on new releases and there are actually only a few groups that actively focus on subbing old and unknown content. Please continue your awesome work!

  3. Thanks for laying all this out and thanks for your continued work as well.

    Hiatari Ryouko is a particularly interesting case here, given that the group has openly stated that the translation step is complete for the entire anime, including the movie, and has been for some time. Not sure if that means a translation check is needed or not, though...

  4. I hope some of you people have a heart for delinquents.

  5. Hello collector, I read your criteria and well the reason I came here and ask for a translation of the Dai yamato zero-gou was because there is no fansub that translated it is a series difficult to find that was completely forgotten! the translation of the series is not a personal matter, it is more a question for those who are looking for and want to watch the whole franchise Uchuu senkan yamato.

    - As you may realize or not, I am a Brazilian with a passion for old anime, a Brazilian fansub acts as a base in English translations, and since I do not know translators who understand Japanese, it is very difficult to find who is willing to translate these eggs.

    I understand that you do not have so much free time like this, but I think it's for a bigger cause, the unlicensed works tend to be forgotten pretty fast, this holds true for older anime from the 80's onwards.

    I will leave the link that I left the anime, about the time if you accept, I said that it is not a question so personal so this translation is more for those who are looking to finish the entire series USY.

    So if one day translate or for sure watch, all for a better understanding, thank you!


    1. Thank you for the raws. I'll add it to the catalog of unsubbed shows. As I said, I can't make any promises - it all depends on whether a translator is interested.

  6. I've been waiting for years for hiatari ryoko to be completed but, there is no hope yet.