I subscribe to many streaming services, and I can honestly say they are one of my best sources of entertainment, particularly in terms of value for money. But they are not perfect. In fact, the merits of them came into question when I recently got into a debate with someone around piracy. Now piracy is something I turned my back on a while ago, and I don’t regret it, but this guy had a list of reasons why he prefers to not pay (besides being a cheapskate). So following that conversation I decided to reach out to some of the anime community to see what improvements they’d like to see in streaming services. These suggestions might not remove some people’s sense of entitlement to get everything for free, but as Crunchyroll and their ilk grow some improvement and adaptation certainly couldn’t hurt.
This is something that I would argue has improved over the last year or so, with Funimation Now and Crunchyroll joining forces, and Funi’s SimulDubs™ getting English-voiced content out within weeks of it airing in Japan, but I can’t say that more wouldn’t be better. As someone who doesn’t really watch dubbed anime, it’s hard for me to weigh in on this frustration because it’s not something I notice but I certainly know a lot of people who would watch a lot more anime if they had the option to enjoy it in their native tongue. One thing that’s worth noting for any international readers, Crunchyroll last year announced foreign language dubs and have confirmed as of November 16th, 2017 select shows are available in French, German, Spanish or Portuguese in certain regions.
An end to regional restrictions
This is not an issue specific to anime, but an annoying one nonetheless. It’s 2018 for Pete’s sake, we live in a globalised society. Thanks to the internet information can be served across the world in a matter of seconds. Yet despite this, we still have archaic licensing agreements which mean that companies have to fight not just for shows, but also which territories they can show them in. It’s incredibly irritating that I pay for the exact same services as those in North America yet I don’t get access to the same shows. This is one of the more common reasons cited for piracy, the show simply isn’t available in my country, and I do share the same chagrin. In recent news, the EU are pushing for companies like Netflix to offer the same catalogue across all EU countries. It’s baby steps but it’s a push in the right direction and hopefully means bigger things going forward.
The reasons for us getting censored anime over here are seemingly two-fold. Firstly, the subtitled simulcasts we get here are the broadcast versions of the shows, which often have certain restrictions as they are holding back all the sexy, gory content for the physical release. The other reason is that Japanese premium anime channel AT-X often hold broadcast exclusivity on uncensored content, so in order to get content to you as soon as possible, all anyone else can do is give you the PG version.
Of all the points on this list, I honestly think this is the one least likely to change. Saving the uncut/extended version for the physical release is common practice in film and TV, and can be one of the key drivers for physical media. It happens in western TV, Hollywood movies etc as well as anime, in fact, it was one of the core marketing shouts for The Wolverine for example. That said it wouldn’t go amiss, sometimes censorship of violence can take me out of a show, it happened to me with Tokyo Ghoul, where I was very aware that I was not being shown certain things, and given the themes and nature of the show it felt unnecessary (On the flip side though the removal of some sexual content can sometimes make watching anime in public a far more comfortable experience for me!).
As we move on to the top 3 points that came up this is perhaps the one that resonates most with me. I’ve never seen Neon Genesis Evangelion outside of the Rebuilds, I was in CeX the other day and saw the Perfect Collection with all 26 episodes on DVD. It was £80 (and not in the best condition)… Sometimes getting hold of older anime content can be a difficult endeavour. Just finding stuff at a reasonable price can be a hard task, if it’s even available at all. Anyone who knows me knows I have a real penchant for 80s/90s anime, but often my choices for streaming are limited. If you saw our Essential Guide, you’ll know how excited I was about seeing Parasite Dolls on HIDIVE, and that’s not even that old. In fact, HIDIVE are one of the services bucking this trend (they also have Cobra The Animation, Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water). Again a lot of this does come down to rights but I’m sure there must be a tonne of shows that the rights have lapsed on that are ripe for the picking. There is definitely an appetite for classic content and I’d like to see companies make more moves to satiate this.
If you don’t know, My Anime List (MAL) is a site that helps you track your anime viewing. You get a bunch of lists including what you’re currently viewing, what you have on hold, as well as what you’ve completed and dropped, and upcoming shows you’d like to watch. It’s a site that I find incredibly useful because I’m quite forgetful. I can often completely fail to recall what shows I’m currently watching, I can now just consult MAL and see where I was at. It’s also extremely helpful when I’m recommending shows to people because I can just flick through and see if there are any shows my brain missed, plus MAL has recommendations for similar shows if I want something new. The only problem with MAL is that I have to remember to update it, I’d love to live in a world where the second I watch something on Funimation Now, my list is updated to reflect that. It seems like a minor thing but one of the major reasons why streaming services have taken hold is the convenience, and this would be just another notch on the belt (plus in my research, this was the second-most requested feature so clearly it’s in high demand).
This was far and away the most wanted improvement to anime services, the ability to download shows to watch on the go. Like many of the things we’ve covered here today this is a case of not having the rights. There is a difference between having the license to stream shows and having the license to let people download content to their devices. However last year Netflix finally managed to introduce the ability to download, which is now available on most of their catalogue, including the bulk of their anime, so if you need anime offline this is the place to start. It’s something I would love to see rolled out on other services, being able to have the shows on my phone or tablet for plane journeys, long train journeys where the signal is spotty etc would be a godsend. Hopefully, Crunchyroll and Co. have noted the positive reaction to it with Netflix and are going to invest a little extra to allow people to take their anime with them. I have to have a 40GB data plan because my short attention span means I require constant entertainment, if I could download over Wi-Fi and store anime in my phone’s memory, I might save a few bob each month.
What do you think? Did we miss anything? And do you think any of the above would help to dampen piracy? I personally don’t think the lack of the features above is a good reason to steal content, and I think the services are improving day by day thanks to an increase in investment by the anime community, but let us know what you think in the comments below or on social media.