The new year is here and this is the perfect time to reflect on what worked last year, and what needs improvement. It’s the time when many of us consider losing some weight, quitting smoking, or finding more time for our hobbies, actual attainable goals and not some impossible mission.
I’m sure that at this moment you already have your goals in mind, and it’s cool, I totally support you. If you ever find yourself feeling weak or wanting to quit your goal, hit me up and I promise to motivate you in any way I can. There is, however, something else you should add to your list. Something that is good for yourself, for a lot of people, and for the anime industry itself. In 2016, you should stop watching anime illegally.
Hold on dear pirate, for I am not here to judge you. Those of you who read my articles know I’m fond of confessions, and this time won’t be different. There was a time when I had in my possession at least 2 TBs of downloaded anime. I’m not ashamed or afraid to admit it, but I’m not proud either. It was a desperate measure in a desperate time. A few years ago, it was very hard for people to get into anime, especially the not-so-mainstream anime. Before streaming and things like Crunchyroll, Amazon, and even Youtube were a thing, you had literally 3 ways of watching anime:
- Somehow, you saved enough money to buy a VHS tape with a few episodes. ‘Few’ as in ‘three random episodes of a 120 episode series’.
- Major series eventually aired on TV, so if you had the chance to watch it this way, you could consider yourself lucky.
- If you really knew how to search on the Internet and had a reliable connection, after 3 days of non-stop download you could get your hands on a raw or badly subbed 240p episode. Maybe.
As you can imagine (or remember, if you’re a bit older) this wasn’t easy. These few methods felt really, really fishy. Anime quickly became something niche and subcultural, because c’mon, it couldn’t be any other way. Fans would meet and exchange tapes of episodes they already saw, or help spread some word file with the translations of the raw episodes. If somehow, you could catch a series on TV, you’d better get it from the first episode, and never miss one. Ever. This was nigh impossible for some people, of course: I couldn’t watch my favorite shows, or any show at all, because they aired way after midnight and I had class the next day.
Eventually, things got a little better. P2P sites, DVDs, and sharing with friends made it possible to get your favorite anime for a relatively cheap price. And even better! You could actually get into new anime without that much effort!
At this point I went crazy. I downloaded everything, and I wanted it top quality. No more 240p episodes, but better and better ‘rips’, until 1080p was the only way to go. I knew every way of finding good quality anime in no time. I was the King Of Torrents, and whenever a friend asked if I could find him some obscure anime, I was swift to find it in less than 48 hours. I felt like Will Turner in “Pirates of The Caribbean”: beautiful, free like the wind, and able to achieve anything. I would shield myself with the excuse that a) there is no way to watch anime on TV; and b) even if there was, the Internet allows me to watch it whenever I want regardless of TV schedules. I’ll give myself a point as my excuse was quite valid. After all, I was right! Illegal, but right.
The problem is, eventually the industry fixed these issues and I no longer had the need to download or stream illegal anime. I suppose this kind of maturity comes with age, but at the same time the industry evolved, I actually started to care about it. To want to take care of it.
You know, anime is expensive. From the animation to the licenses, from airing to soundtracks and everything else that forms the ultimate product we consume, there is a lot of money thrown at it in the hopes of making people like it. Because, hey, in case you never thought about it: most times, the people who make a series really like it. And they want you to like it, too. Not because it will make them rich, not because it will make them famous, but because every time an artist does something, he puts part of his soul into it. Every work of art is an extension of the artist’s self. But hey, the animation industry is, after all, an industry! So its main goal is to make money. Most fans instantly call the industry a bunch of fat cats and treat them like villains. But business men are people. They eat and sleep too, and just like you and me, they also like ice cream and wonder what happens if two black holes swallow each other at the same time. In order to keep the production companies running, they need us to support what they do.
Look, if you’re really short on money and can’t spare it on anime, I understand and wish you the best of luck and strength to get out of that hole. But ask yourself if you really are in such a situation, or if you just want stuff for free. There’s a difference between “I can barely pay rent” and “I can’t pay 10 dollars for anime, but I smoke 2 packs a day, eat out every night, and spend $50 on my phone bill.” If you’re in the first group, I’m sorry for your situation and still recommend looking into the free services that Crunchyroll and Funimation offer. You deserve it! If you’re in the second group…it might be time to reevaluate your priorities.
Bringing anime to the west is really expensive and quite difficult, even nowadays, but that’s an effort you won’t feel on your pocket. Heck, many websites offer free streaming as long as your register (See our Ultimate List of Legal Anime Streaming Sites). Crunchyroll’s Premium membership is $ 6.95 a month, which is nothing compared to the amount of hours we all watch. And of course, you can watch it whenever you want. Time and budget are not excuses anymore.
Streaming sites have pretty much everything, from mainstream titles to hidden gems, passing through OVAs, extras, movies, and even the Animation Expo. They might even have “A Dark Rabbit has Seven Lives“. And no more waiting for years until you got a dub or VHS fan-sub: Some sites have their episodes up just a few hours after they originally air in Japan. Forget the tight TV schedules, excruciating waiting times, or not being able to see your favorites.
And if you like a show and would like to own it, Blu-Ray and DVDs are more affordable now than ever. They may even come in cute boxes with special covers, art books, and a bunch of stuff those “evil businessmen” put there to get your love.
Some of you might think this is a sponsored/paid article with some streaming site, but really, it isn’t. It’s just that, as fans, it’s our duty to try and keep the industry healthy and working, and not bleed everything we can out of it. It hurts a lot to hear a certain anime or manga won’t be released in the west or isn’t getting a second season because of low ratings, when it’s actually a pretty hot topic over the Internet. We just said goodbye to 2015, a year with great surprises in anime like “One Punch Man,” “Iron Blooded Orphans,” “Food Wars,” and “Prison School,” or nostalgic returns like “Digimon Tri” or “Dragon Ball Super.” 2016 is sure to bring another round of good anime, and for not that much money, we can make sure the wheel keeps on turning for a few more years.
If you used to be a pirate, tell me in the comments what exactly made you change your mindset* or why you WON’T stop downloading anime. And of course, pirate or not, Happy New Year!
*Keep in mind this question is aimed at people who used to download anime illegally, and NOT for folks who actually committed crimes on the sea. However if you have some cool stories from back then, it’s OK to share, just don’t brag about it. Or you can brag about it if you want, just please don’t hurt us.