I think we can all agree anime is pretty great. We’d like to extend our thanks to Fujinsei for featuring this post on their page, as theirs is a great resource for sharing similar interests and ideas in ways that only otaku can. Though there’s no such thing as too much anime, if you’re starting to wonder, check out their post on “10 Signs That Anime is Ruining Your Life.”
Can you believe the 90s were two full decades ago? We’ve come a long, long way since the days when the only way to get your fix was through mail order, specialty store, or the occasional late night showing on an obscure channel. For a time, nothing was professionally subtitled, and your options were to either learn another language or hope someone had made fansubs on a VHS.
Of course, in our youth, many of us naively accepted the worst alternative: Cable TV dubbed shows. Sure, it seemed okay at the time—Serena and Darien looked like pretty regular names to us, until first being exposed to the source material. Suddenly it became apparent that there was something better out there.
Fortunately, around the same time the internet was getting big, although broadband was expensive and sometimes unavailable. Still, we managed. Then when broadband started to take root, fansubs got big in a hurry. Back when Naruto first started, Dattebayo Fansubs would have episodes ripped and subbed within 24 hours of airing. Still, similar groups only tended to do a few select shows due to lack of manpower.
Enter the first big time streaming services.
Netflix and Hulu
Well, sort of. That’s not to say there weren’t other services, but they caught on big first. Whereas Netflix mostly had movies, Hulu brought us actual shows. Even today, Hulu continues to offer the mainstream shows in both subs and dubs. Although the ads can be a little trying, it’s convenient to be able just to click and stream.
Both have a shared pitfall. Their content is restricted by region, meaning content available to US residents is only available to someone physically in the US. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can navigate around that by hiding your IP address and using one of a remote servers instead. It is similar in some ways to a proxy, but with better security, no bandwidth throttling and multiple host locations.
Still, a certain amount of focus was and is lacking from these services. So as some of us already know, a few companies have decided to try and fill that niche. Although not perfect, they’ve got some good stuff.
Crunchyroll and Niconico
Crunchyroll and Niconico cater to the die-hard fan that just can’t wait till tomorrow. Both have vast arrays of anime available for viewing, although if you want your shows as they come out in HD without ads on Crunchyroll, you need a subscription. But it’s cheap enough not to be a big deal, especially because you can stream to your phone or tablet with an account.
Niconico is a Japanese website, so it can be a little trickier to navigate unless you’ve been brushing up on your kanji (except that most of the navigation are actually in English). They’ve got more than just anime available, so their site is a tad more diverse in nature. It’s like a YouTube/anime streaming hybrid chimera.
I find Crunchyroll to be easier to navigate, but it has its problems too. It usually only has shows that are currently airing, meaning some of the old classics aren’t available if you’re just looking for a trip down memory lane. Quite a few shows are excluded, so it might not be the right service for everyone.
The Other Guys
It’s probably worth mentioning that Amazon Prime also has a few shows, although I would tend to recommend against using them as a primary service to stream. Their library isn’t all that diverse, and it’s kind of all over the place. But if you already have Prime, it doesn’t hurt.
Funimation has also started offering a streaming service, with a mixture of free and paid services. For the most part, you need to pay to enjoy the proper gamut, but they do have access to some shows you won’t find on the other streaming services. Funimation keeps kind of a tight grip on its licenses, so it can be difficult to find it elsewhere.
If you’re willing to look deeper, there are some sites offering streaming that don’t charge but also carry a more ad-heavy appearance. One that I’ve used in the past is KissAnime. They’ve got a pretty diverse library of old shows, in standard definition and HD. Please note, however, that the majority of these sites are pirates and are therefore illegal.
Their main downside is the heavy ad experience. They’ve gone the route of large banners and so the site itself looks like something out of the Angelfire or Geocities days. But the content is good, as long as it’s allowed to continue existing.
An exciting new invention still largely in testing is being pioneered by a well-known torrent website. It’s a plugin called Torrent Time that allows you to stream torrent content rather than downloading the entire file. Ideally, this means less of a wait to start watching and fewer problems with hard drive space (though you may be building a small collection of DVDs anyway).
Cable and its competitors have also taken a small stab at the market by offering a huge array of On Demand options. With the right subscription, that means bringing up your favorite shows whenever you want—at least, if they have them.
The truth is, streaming still has a long way to go in the anime department. Plenty of highly rated shows aren’t available on the paid services, effectively forcing us to search for slightly less reliable third party services to meet our streaming needs. Naturally torrents, downloads, and buying the content on DVD/Blu-ray still exist as options, but it sucks to get left behind while everyone else is watching their entire TV load on Netflix.
Here’s hoping one day they’ll have the whole library ready to go at the click of a button. Until then, better hold onto your personal collection/stash.