“Where can I watch that?” That’s a question asked by many people that hear of a pretty cool anime, but don’t know how to watch it. Most of the time, it’s not through legal means. The simple fact of the matter is that it’s impossible to watch most anime legally. Everyone I know watches most of their anime through a certain website, which will not be named. This website provides 99.9% of every anime I want to watch. For the downside of a couple of annoying, but easily closable ads, you can watch just about anything you want, in HD quality, for free. There’s something wrong about that.
As Gabe Newell, CEO of Valve, once said “The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting antipiracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates”. The antipiracy measures put in by these Japanese producers don’t do a whole lot. It only goes as far as automatically removing a direct upload of an episode rip on YouTube. By changing the speed slightly or adding a border around the video, the bot doesn’t catch it. Of course, the video and audio quality is drastically worse, so not a lot of people watch anime via YouTube. You can literally go to Google, search for “watch anime free”, and and you get tons of sites that allow you to watch anime, in HD, for absolutely free. The so-called “alternatives” don’t provide a much better service when compared to the illegal methods.
Okay, let’s look at Crunchyroll, the most popular legal anime streaming site. It has a lot of entries compared to other sites, but is still lacking compared to just how many anime are out there. It’s not that the site doesn’t have some obscure series, it doesn’t have a lot of popular anime, like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Clannad, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, etc. There is the option to look on other sites, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Funimation, and Daisuki, but it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem: there’s no way to watch these series online. I add the “online” part because the option to buy the entire DVD set still exists, but is totally impractical if you’re not willing to spend a lot of money. Here’s an example: the “Neon Genesis Evangelion: Perfect Collection” DVD set (keep in mind that this isn’t a Blu-ray release), costs $189.99 on Amazon. Meanwhile, Game of Thrones Seasons 1-5 Blu-ray release (without Amazon Prime) costs $161.98. Did I mention that the Eva box set price was that of a used item? The new price is $229.99, and it’s actually at an all time low!
So sometimes, you can’t watch something legally without coughing up a lot of dough, so most people resort to pirating for the sake of convenience and sanity. That makes sense. Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias is an American comedian of Mexican ancestry. He made a video on his YouTube channel promoting his new movie a few years ago. Unfortunately, the video is now private (I’m pretty sure this is the URL). In the video, he stated that he knew a lot of people can’t watch the movie legally because his production company didn’t release the movie worldwide, and he actually promotes piracy in this case. This is the only “evidence” I can provide. I do remember watching the video before it was private, and I will vouch that he actually said that. This brings up a valid point, and explains why some people pirate: region lock.
As you may know, anime producers usually don’t promote their stuff anywhere outside of Japan. Combined with the fact that Japan keeps going through economic recessions, and you have anime that barely sell. A YouTuber by the name of The Anime Man, who has lived a good portion of his life in Japan, uploaded a video last year explaining how the anime industry is dying because of piracy. As he points out in the video, anime production companies keep bumping up the prices for anime DVDs because no one is buying them in the first place, which in turn causes more people to steer away from buying those DVDs. Combined with the almost non-existent promotion or distribution outside of Japan, and what you have is an industry that is barely able to keep itself afloat.
Now comes the big question: “What can I do about it?”. As The Anime Man said, if you have the money, try to buy any anime-related merchandise. Try to support the anime creators as much as possible. One of Crunchyroll’s selling points is that part of the money that you put into a premium account goes towards the anime producers in Japan. Funimation buys the rights to upload a lot of anime, and you can even buy DVDs that go on sale constantly. Of course, this poses a problem. A lot people actually cannot buy stuff like this, be it because of student loans, being unemployed, or anything that’s beyond their control, and that poses a bit of a moral issue. In situations like that, is piracy still morally wrong? I’ll let you guys decide on that.
The anime industry is greatly suffering because of piracy, and many fans simply aren’t aware of the damage they’re causing when using illegal streaming sites. Of course, there isn’t that much that can currently be done about it without having a lot of money ready to spend. Simply put: be aware of what you’re doing. If you can, try to help out the industry as much as you can. If you can’t put forth as much as you want, that’s perfectly fine. Being aware and spreading the message will hopefully do something useful. Let’s give something back to the anime industry. Let’s show them that we are truly passionate about what we love.