I work with teenagers on a daily basis, and I teach animation as a subject. It’s no surprise then, that I have a lot of anime fans that want to talk shows with me. I’m always happy to chat, but when it comes up where they watch their shows, I always get a pirate site as an answer. KissAnime being the most common one.
KissAnime, and other sites like it, do not license the anime that they link to on their site. They rely on illegally uploaded online videos to provide content for their viewers. That means that the content they link to – it was never given permission for it to be online. The Japanese animation companies, like Kadokawa or Bandai for example, probably have no idea that their content was taken without permission and put online. The only people benefiting in this instance, are the viewers and the streaming site.
“Have you not heard of Crunchyroll?” I always ask. Most say no. This always leads to the “pirating debate” as I like to call it. Most of the kids have no idea that the site they are watching shows on is not legit and is pirating most of the media they link to. “I watch it because it’s free. Why do I need to pay for it?” is ALWAYS the answer I get.
Do you care about the creator of your favorite anime? Do you want them to be able to live happy and healthy so that they can make more anime that you love? Then that’s why you should pay for it. If you watch illegally, then the anime company and the creator get no revenue for their hard work. Animators in Japan already struggle to make a living on what they get paid. It takes years and years to really earn anything, and a lot of them work themselves to death – literally.
My students always respond with, “I’ve never thought of that.” Yeah, most people don’t think it through. They just want their fix and they don’t care where it comes from. You should care, though, especially if you are really vested in the shows that you watch. The industry in North America has really progressed in recent years. We are getting more licensed anime that is simulcasted along with Japan than we ever have before. Much of it goes on to get dubs, and some things are even making it into theaters. This is amazing compared to a decade ago. Anime is more accessible now than it ever has been before, and viewers should invest their traffic, time, and even money into the right places to help it, and the industry as a whole, continue to flourish.
Where are the right places to watch anime? The following are sites where licensing agreements have been made between the companies streaming the shows and the Japanese copyright holders.
This is where you go to get the current season subs as well as past years’ shows. That means the shows are in Japanese and you must read the subtitles. I’m all on board for that, as I like to hear the Japanese and even understand the show better at points because of that. Crunchyroll simulcasts episodes right along with Japan. Which is kind of amazing. Their service is free with ads if you are on a tight budget – which most students are. The only caveat is that you have to wait a week to see the episode for free. But hey, if it’s free, you have no reason to complain! According to the CEO of Crunchyroll, even if you never pay a cent, the ad revenue that happens with your viewing still helps to support the Japanese companies who license out the anime. So your time on the site still gives back to the anime creators. If you have some change to spare, you can get a monthly subscription that allows you to see the content right away and has no ads. And the longer subscription you buy, the cheaper it is. Let’s say, though, you are not into listening to Japanese. Then you want to go to the next site.
Funimation is the dubbing king of the anime simulcast world. If you want to watch current anime, but can’t stand listening to Japanese, then Funimation has got you covered. They have what is called a SimulDub. Essentially within the first few days of it being broadcast, they get their voice actors into the studio and create dubs of the content. You can watch the first couple episodes for free, but more will cost you a subscription. Understandably, as the voice actors and producers deserve to get paid. If you don’t have to have the audio in English, then consider the previous option above.
Like Crunchyroll, Daisuki is a subtitled streaming service for current and past airing anime. They have not been established as long, but are growing rapidly. They have three levels of membership, and some content is exclusive to having a premium membership. That means you can’t see everything on the site unless you pay. So some of you may be asking “What’s the different between Daisuke and Crunchyroll?” Content mainly. Some of their content is the same. Some things are exclusive to one or the other. Also, on Crunchyroll you can access every show regardless of what type of membership you have. That’s not true on Daisuki, as some shows require a premium membership. However, I ended up with a Daisuki account to watch One Punch Man, since that content is exclusive to Daisuki and you have to pay to see it on Hulu.
Amazon Prime Video service can exclusively stream series from Fuji TV‘s Noitamina programming block. So far that has included Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress and supposedly Kuzu no Honkai (Scum’s Wish) for this season, yet I cannot find it on there right now. So Amazon Prime has some exclusive titles that are behind a paywall. If you want to watch them, then you must have a prime membership. Sucks, but that’s the licensing agreement. I also find this site really hard to navigate. There’s not a category for simulcast anime, so you have to know what specific anime you are looking for. Even a search will bring up buyable episodes, which is not necessarily the purpose of watching the current season.
A decade ago, Netflix was my go to source for anime. That was before we had online streaming, and I always got 2-3 discs in the mail at a time. (Dang, this is so dating me!) Netflix had a ton of anime on DVD and I tried out all kinds of series. But discs often got lost, and new content was not getting added quickly or nearly enough. Even the “new” streaming was stuff that I’d already seen. When simulcasting became the thing, I left Netflix for Crunchyroll. Netflix still has an impressive library of titles, including some that are hard to find now. So if you are an anime buff looking to expand your viewing selection, it’s not a bad option. They have even started streaming their own exclusive series in the past couple of years. Knights of Sidonia was an Netflix original, and they have series like the Seven Deadly Sins that is exclusive as well. Netflix is a subscription service though, so it is going to cost you to see anything.
The Anime Network is a subscription cable service. In addition, they have an online library of their titles that you can stream. The first episode is free, but any additional ones will cost you with a membership. There is a mix of dubbed and subbed on the site. They have a few exclusive titles, but most of their popular ones are also on Crunchyroll. They do offer a free two week trial, so it gives you a chance to compare services.
Hulu is a paid subscription service with no free episodes. It has 2 membership options – paid with ads and paid without ads. Honestly, if I’m paying, I don’t want ads period. There are some great anime in their catalog, however, that may be hard to access anywhere else – Inuyasha and Pokemon being some.
Ah, YouTube. The venerable cess-pit of illegal video uploads on the internet. Really, there’s a lot of stuff that shouldn’t be on this site, and it’s taken advantage of by pirating or aggregating sites. However, some of the legit companies post things here legally. So it’s that content that I’m pointing out here now. Recently, Crunchyroll posted the first 3 episodes of Yuri on Ice on YouTube. Funimation has posted episodes online here as well. No subscription is required, and it’s all free to see. Some of the Japanese companies like Toei Animation have youtube chanels and you can see anime with subtitles on them as well. I once watched all of Marmalade Boy legally that way.
These are the places you want to go watch shows. If more people watch shows on these sites, then it will be easier for the Japanese companies to see how well their product really does in America and other countries. Pirating sites do not report to the Japanese companies, so their data never gets analyzed by them and they never see any money for the time spent on the pirating sites. That’s a problem all the way around. The data alone could influence what series and type of anime gets licensed. Even the ad revenue helps pay for the licenses themselves, instead of the fees for the pirate site website hosting.
If you spend your time on a legit company’s site, Japanese companies and artists do benefit. They get some kind of revenue, be it from ads or subscriptions. When their shows do well, then they are more apt to continue sending shows our way. The North American companies benefit and little ‘ol YOU will benefit. Especially when your favorite anime show begins to get DVDs and merchandise that you want to buy and collect.