Why We Should Stop Pirating Anime In 2016

By Gregory Vendramini

Might be time to hang up your pirate hat, matey.

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.

Anime Piracy

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Major series eventually aired on TV, so if you had the chance to watch it this way, you could consider yourself lucky.
  3. 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. 

Will Turner - Anime Piracy

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.

Anime Piracy

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.

Join the conversation
Gregory Vendramini

Translator, author, and piñata enthusiast. Greg currently writes about anime, videogames, and pop culture while working on his next books, "A Long Halloween Night" and "The Fifth Archangel". He avoids social media a little, but is very open to exchanging ideas through emails or comments. Or in person, if somehow you find his house in the woods and get past the cat guards.

Become a contributor

Looking for writers from around the world to join the Yatta-Tachi team! Find out how!

Learn more

Join the conversation

Let's Talk! What did you think of the article? Let us know!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I will only download anime for two reason. The first is when it is unavailable legally in English (the latest season of Milky Holmes for example). The second is to bypass censorship (Valkyrie Drive was superfluously censored by Funimation).

    Otherwise, I encourage everyone to watch shows legally 🙂

      1. Sorry for the delay, iamgamer413. I could swear I had answered your comment before.

        Lucky Star truly is tricky to find, but Dragon Ball Super is a touchy subject. A lot of people is wondering why the hell Funanimation (or any other streaming place, honestly) have the rights to simulcast it.

        It’s just a weird case. DBS is one of the highly anticipated animes of the year.

    1. Hi John! Thanks for reading!

      Piracy is usually a problem of services and not a problem of pricing, as Gabe Newell, one of the creators of Steam, once said.

      You only download said shows because you cannot, in any legal way, watch the proper versions. I once downloaded Batman the Animated series because it was totally impossible to me to watch it on my native language. Not on DVDs, no streaming, nothing. Sometimes

      Censorship, on the other hand, is something the fandom can try to change with signatures and campaigns. Let them know we don not approve of some changes, and at least try to get an uncensored version.

      1. In my experience, companies are much more inclined to listen to dollar signs over petitions. I’m just going to cancel my Funimation membership and let them know the specific reason. It isn’t a very popular show so I doubt a petition would get many signatures anyway >.<

        1. Well, yes, of course. When I said ‘signing petitions and such’, what I meant is showing them that we are not happy with a certain characteristic, and such discontent will have an impact on their earnings.

          You know, if you, and a big enough group of people cancel your membership and explain exactly why you did so, someone will take note of it. Maybe it’s Funimation who’s gonna say “we should change this”, and maybe it’s another company that will say “Hey, our product suits your better, come to our side”.

          Piracy is a solution, of course, but in some cases, people haven’t even tried other options. The goal of this article was to let this clear: If you have the means to watch your anime legally, it’s better that way. Artists get paid, the business keep rolling, and the flow of money makes companies more interested into producing more anime, more seasons, merchandising, and everything we like.

          Do you know of any more cases like Funimation’s censorship on Valkyrie Drive? I haven’t watched the show so I didn’t know about it.

          1. I know that many shows are censored for a variety of reasons. Generally the shows that are censored for western audiences were also censored when they aired in Japan (from what I’ve seen). This is the only example I’ve seen where a streaming site imposed their own censorship though.

            I’ve sent Funimation a message expressing disapproval over their censorship. Only time will tell if it makes a difference. Thank you for your replies 🙂 I do indeed agree that piracy should 100% be a last resort.

        2. I’m replying to this comment since for some reason, I can’t answer your last one.

          I’l discuss this with my coworkers, since this kind of censorship is new to me, and to a lot of people, I think. Soon, we will write about this and hopefully bring more attention to the issue.

          Thank you for taking the time to read and give us your 2 cents! I had no idea of the issue with Valkyrie Drive and Funanimation prior to your comments.

    2. You do know Funimation just use the broadcast version of the anime. When the bluray version come out, Funimation released the uncensored version. The reason why some Funimation’s videos have some censorship is due to licensing agreements, they have to use the broadcast version until the blurays come out.

  2. I started watching anime legally at the start of last year because my country had a new law which made it so the internet company we were with could give out our personal info if a company found out we downloaded their show, music, book, etc illegally.
    At first I did it because I downloaded a lot and was scared of having to pay a expensive fine one day. But, when I saw how cheap Crunchyroll and Funimation were, I decided to stay with those even though the law is now less strict.
    I still download some anime though, as my internet connection is really bad and Crunchyroll bugs a lot on me. I also like to own the episodes so I can watch them even off-line. I only buy DVDs of shows I really like.

    1. A similar thing happened to me, exactly a year ago. Are you from Spain, by any chance? There was a similar law here a year ago.

      Buying DVDs and BluRays are only for shows you like, of course. I’m a huge fan of some series that unfortunately, never came out on DVD (at least in Europe), so sometimes it’s hard to get them and downloading illegally is the only way to go.

      Like John said in a comment above, piracy should be a last resort. If there really is no other way to watch it legally or you really just can’t afford it, it’s understandable.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  3. Just like many things in life, piracy is in the grey area. There are probably as many reasons to why pirates do what they do as why do people consume (download, distribute, watch, etc.) the pirated stuff.

    As much as I dislike piracy there are definitely some more positive things that came about. Not 100% positive, just, slightly more than 0.

    Every industries and companies react and quite often times, in our favor. A really good example is the history of Crunchyroll that evolved from a site full of not-so-legal anime to a great streaming site. Of course there are others who followed too.

    The idea of opensource distributions and collaborations (for games, software, and other sharable creative things) probably took off because people realize how easy it is to share stuff.

    Many streaming sites like YouTube now have official channels for anime/singers/record companies and such. My hypothesis is because they know people will upload music videos and use the songs from their beloved series. Kind of like “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”. I personally subscribe to some artists’ official YT channels because they have great quality video/songs.

    I also benefited from the sharing era because those years introduced me to many different artists, including my fave band, X Japan. Though unfortunate, I like to think that many artists got their exposure through the P2P sharing era.

    The last thing is, if anything, we ALL learn from this and now know how to better support the animators, mangaka, game devs, and companies that we love because of what we did before.

    KWEH!

    1. Hi Detrop!

      Well, it’s in the grey area, true, but it can be avoided real easy.

      You listed many of the great things that derived from piracy, but the problem is not what happens when we download stuff or share it with friends, but when we choose to deliberately not help the industry to keep going. I’ll give you an example:

      A few months ago I wanted to watch Revenge of The Sith with my girlfriend. I own the DVD to that movie, but I couldn’t connect my DVD player to my new TV. What I could connect was my laptop, so I downloaded the movie, connected it to my TV with a HDMI cable, and watched it.

      Was it piracy? Yes.
      Did I support the industry? Yes.

      I own that DVD, paid for it. I could have spent 20 minutes setting up my DVD player (and finding the remote! That thing was lost during the moving) or 5 downloading the movie.

      Sharing also introduced me to many things I ended up loving. There was a point when I just searched the “anime” tag on TPB, and whatever sounded cool, I downloaded. Now I can do that on FUNimation/Crunchyroll’s catalog.

      Like I said before, the problem is not the download itself, as it obviously had a lot of benefits. The main problem, to me, is when people still insist on arguments like comfort or expensive pricing to justify piracy.

      Getting to know new artists is always a good thing, regardless of the way it happens. Once I downloaded a book because it was impossible for me to buy it, as it was from an overseas writer who didn’t export his book. When I finally could buy it when I visited, I actually joked on Twitter with him that I downloaded his book and was sorry for it but I bought it later, and he was completely chill about it.

      Thanks for taking the time to read the article and comment. Some of the reasons you listed are so good, I’m considering writing a “benefits of piracy” article next week.

      Cheers!

  4. Hey there fellow anime enthusiasts!
    As a young man in university , without a way of earning money to do anything luxurious as buying dvds or pay for stuff monthly reliably, i usually am on the illegal end of the spectrum. I do feel extremely bad for not being able to show support to most shows I absolutely adore and have watched a trillion times (like barakamon or durarara). That said, if there’s a legal way of doing things, (for a recent example, watching One Punch man and other shows on Daisuki) i typically opt for that. Hopefully i will be able to support my favourite content creators, sooner rather than later ; )

    1. Hello there, Pedro!

      I cannot speak for the rest of the Yatta Tachi team, but I bet most of has have been through that kind of phase at some point in life. University is expensive, and hard, and like I said, even if you care about the industry, that’s a moment you should care more about yourself.

      You seem to be a good fan, and one with good tastes for anime. I wave the ‘support the industry’ flag quite a lot, but yes, support yourself first. Whenever you’re able to, the industry will thank you.

      For now, if you can, choose to use the legal alternative. If a certain show -such as One Punch Man- is available for free legally, it’s a great idea to watch it that way. Sometimes, like ‘iamgamer’ said here in the comments, there is no way to find them.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, and rock on your studies!

  5. Join the dark side!

    All joking aside, streaming legally is more convenient for me due to the quality being MUCH better and the release time. With illegal websites that stream Anime, you don’t get both or you may get one, but not the other. Also, streaming helps support the industry and that’s respectable. If you did an article for Manga and Light Novels, then I would love to read that as well since Manga and Light Novels in particular are MUCH harder to get a hold of.

    1. Hi Julian! Good to see you here.

      Fortunately, the industry evolved quickly. It would have been a shame if we had to deal with low resolution or extenuating waits. Besides the ‘legal’ factor, legal streaming sites actually provide a good service.

      I don’t know much about light novels, but I can research a little. Stay tuned.

  6. Im hybriding the illegal with the legal.
    I pay for crunchyroll because they offer a good price (heck i could pay more) and they have many new shows available fairly quickly.
    Netflix is a bust only 1 anime show available in my region.

    But i still stick to streaming and some downloading because region restrictions (F USA and their stupid licensing bs) i live in europe-Sweden so very few shows become available here if the US licenses them. Or they are expensive to buy.

    And to be frank i still watch a lot of old shows and few legal online sites has the variety i demand. Also Funimation is the biggest Censor/region messing BS i have ever encountered in a legal streaming site. I avoid them like the plague >:[

    1. Hey, Anton!

      I understand you. I live in Europe as well, and legal streaming is only starting out here. Whenever possible I support the series I like, because I want them to have a 2nd season, OVAs, and that kind of stuff.

      I do download stuff, as well. Some of the things I look for are nowhere to be found (sometimes not even on illegal sites!).

      Crunchyroll is slowly expanding to other countries, let’s hope legal streaming becomes a thing in Sweden too.

  7. what they should do is get a local channel to air anime 24/7 and sell tons of commercial space, network/local channel TV advertisement will always be a money maker; will will more than be enough to take care of expenses and even licensing, and i think the other problem with localized anime is that it’s sometimes too localized, changing names, ages, of characters for example, or making things too “Politically correct” or safe.

  8. Hello! Thank you for this! First of all I wanna say my opinion and story.

    I always watch on KissAnime (An illegal anime streaming app/website) because even though I can download Crunchyroll,due to the phone’s version I’m using,I can’t watch any anime in there.I always felt bad that I can’t help the companies and the creators since anime made such a big change in my life.I thought of downloading another legal app which is Daisuki and searched if it is legal.Thanks to that I can watch some anime legally now even though Daisuki doesn’t have much anime.And since Daisuki only has like 20+ anime,I think I’m still gonna watch the anime I can’t watch on Daisuki on KissAnime,do you think that’s alright?

    Again,thank you so much!

  9. First of all, I wanna say this is an awesome article, really well written, next I wanna quote my favourite phrases of the article:

    “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”

    “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. ” (Bro, that’s deep.)

    “they also like ice cream and wonder what happens if two black holes swallow each other at the same time.” (Actually started to wonder after reading the article)

    The article is really interesting, I had flashbacks of myself pirating Anime while reading your article. I must say I really agree with you in a lot of aspects. I truly think that stopping pirating things is really a part of growing up, I used to pirate everything I owned , but after getting a job, getting my own money, my own debit card… it changed my mind completely. I wanted to start buying everything, perhaps I was a little excited for using my debit card, but still, I did it.

    In my opinion, one of the problems into contributing with the Anime industry; is the availability and the presentation format (DVD, Blu-Ray, etc..)

    It’s true, streaming Anime is really easy nowadays, specially in legal streaming sites. I live in a third world country, and my Internet connections isn’t really that well, I have 3mb/s and I pay 33 dollars, perhaps not so much in the US but it’s a normal price in my country after the conversion, not too expensive and not too cheap, just normal. With that connection, I can’t watch a continous streaming at 720p, I have to leave it buffering for a while (a pain in the ass). I think that’s mainly one of my problems, second, I don’t really like the idea of streaming, unfortunately, I’m used to have all my content available offline, I don’t like the idea of only be able to access my content while being online.

    It would be a completely different story of I could buy each episodes individually and I could download it to watch in in my PC (with my favourite media player) or transfer it to my Phone and watch it there while I’m travelling. Anything cheaper than 10$ per episode seems reasonable to me, and I would definitely buy each episode individually in Full HD with a professional translation, totally, without thinking it.

    For me, that’s one of the main problems, I contribute to the Anime industry, I’ve bought lots of light novels and a couple of Mangas. Both physical and digital. Mainly in Kindle, which is a platform I didn’t liked at that moment, but I’ve learnt to love it. I still don’t like the fact that I can’t download my light novels and Manga and read it in my favourite reader, but oh well, they offer a good book reader so it’s fine. Mangas though, they need to improve a lot on Manga Reading.

    Which drives me to my second point, the availability, originally I wanted to buy my Manga and light novels in Google Play Books, because I love Google, they’ve made a lot for me. But the content wasn’t available… yup, a big turndown, in fact, I would probably have pirated my LN and Manga if it would’ve been available to download on the net, but I bought them, and I don’t regret it, I love my LN & Manga.

    I remember another ocation where I listened to an opening in an Anime (Re:Re, the oppenong from Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, God, such a good anime) I liked it so much I actually wanted to buy the song, a totally new experience to me, wanting to buy a song after having downloaded thousands of illegal songs, “Such a weird feeling” I thought. But, again, not available in any of my music markets (not available in iTunes or Google Play Music) I ended downloading it illegally.

    Those are the 2 main reasons why I still continue to pirate some of my Anime content, maybe the 3rd reason is when I find some content too expensive, I say to myself “I’ll make sure to buy it when I have money” gonna be honest here, usually a lie.

    Sorry for the long comment, once again, nice post.