Anime Fans These Days Are Too Damned Spoiled

Anime Fans These Days Are Too Damned Spoiled

When I left America seven years ago, I couldn’t even imagine the idea of free streaming video on the internet — much less free streaming anime, subtitled in English, and simulcast with the episode’s Japanese airing. So as I’ve gotten more and more back into anime, I’ve been surprised by hatred of some fans for sites like Crunchyroll, Viz Media or Hulu.

This hatred sends my mind reeling. How could anyone complain about getting their anime free and translated on the same day as it airs in Japan? And when people cite having to watch commercials — like every TV show that goes on the air — as rational for pirating instead, I am completely dumbfounded.

When I started watching anime in the far flung past of 1994, the stereotype of “what anime was” varied from crazy animated ultraviolence to hardcore pornography. Most shows that we now think of as anime, Robotech, Transformers, etc, were thought of as purely American-made shows. In the days before Toonami, the only “anime” on TV was Sci-Fi Channel’s Saturday Anime and Sailor Moon on USA Network.

At the video store, our anime section was a small half-shelf with movies like Battle Angel, Dominion Tank Police, Akira and Tenchi Muyo in Love — and there were no complete series to be found at all. Moreover, at this point in time, an anime VHS tape cost $US25 ($US35 for subbed) and had two episodes on it — three if you were really lucky. If you do the maths, that means to get a whole series, you’d have to spend upwards of $US325 just for a single show — and they’d only release a single tape every two months or so.

By the time I hit high school, I’d figured out some of the tricks to make the hobby (read: addiction) affordable — namely importing semi-bootleg VCDs from Singapore (getting a whole series for only $US40). And once I had a few of those (Evangelion and Lodoss War), I was able to start trading. By using message boards, I was able to find people interested in swapping series and an envelope of CDs was much cheaper than importing from Asia — though that’s not to say I didn’t have to mail a giant box of VHS tapes from time to time.

The quality of what I was watching at this time was horrible. The first time I saw Dragon Ball Z, it was in real media format so blocky and degraded that you could not read the subtitles 90 per cent of the time. However, by the time I graduated, the quality of anime had improved to what we’d call 480i today.

It was also in high school when the world started moving away from 56k modems and on to highspeed internet. Suddenly getting anime was easier than ever with mIRC, direct FTP servers and Kazaa. This is when fansubbing really exploded. Suddenly, I was watching anime the week it came out in Japan — and long before it was even licensed in the West.

At my high point, I was averaging two to three anime a week.

This anime boom only grew as I entered college and Bittorrent exploded onto the scene, decimating all other types of file sharing in the process. Torrents were a large part of the death of the American anime industry. Suddenly, the people most likely to buy anime DVDs had already seen the entire show years before and had since moved on. How could any company compete with a free, English-subbed, DVD-quality anime coming out mere days after it aired in Japan?

The answer is, well, Crunchyroll and the sites like it. They provide the same product, but legally, and without the hassle of a download. And best of all, these sites fix the underlying problem with fansubbing: that the creators of the anime you so love get no financial recompense whatsoever.

So, really, at this point, I don’t understand why anyone with access to free streaming anime would bother to torrent. It’s there, free, on demand, in English, and supports the creators of the anime. It’s a win, win, win, win! And all you have to pay is a few seconds of your time to ignore a commercial.

There you have it, my “Why, back when I was a kid” story about what it used to be like growing up as an anime fan. Here I am, not even 30 years old, and I feel like I need to tell the youn’ uns to get the hell offa my lawn.


  • Muten Roshi makes for the best article header image.

    Those sites like CrunchyRoll don’t stream those videos in Australia, right? A darn shame. Maybe I’d bother to keep up with Naruto if they did.

      • And It’s not just naruto either, there’s plenty of shows that are simulcasted which are rather good and it only costs roughly around $6 AUD to gain access within the hour that It’s aired “or free for guests a week later!”
        I’ve been on there for a year now and It’s definately worth it, plus it helps support the industry too! =D

    • Maybe I’d bother to keep up with Naruto if they actually had a story going with a goal at the end.

      Seriously, I only got into Naturo to see what the fuss was about, and I stopped caring once Naruto and Sasuke had their mutant fight by the waterfall. The series was leading up to it and once it was done and they went into their, “filler, but let’s pretend we have a story” habit I just stopped caring.

      • That probably wasn’t a bad part to quit at either.. before the change to Shippuden anyways.
        I say, give it another shot at Ep 1 of Naruto: Shippuden and you’ll see there’s plenty of story and direction to be had!

        • You misread me, I said I stopped caring at that point. I still read it for some time. One of the last things I remember is a stupid puppet fight with Sakura. Around about there I stopped reading and caring about the franchise. Only watched the abridged versions after that.

          • “stupid puppet fight with Sakura.”

            Man you must be hard to please. I thought that fight was awesome and the only thing I thought was stupid about it is how it did every puppet-battle thing I could think of, thus ruining the potential of any new puppet-battles to be conceived.

          • Not hard to please, I loved pretty much every fight with Shikamaru in it. I just thought that puppet fight was way too stupid, and how it showed how pathetic Sakura was.

          • I do admit Shikamaru’s battles are always brilliant, and the writer of Naruto has lost every opportunity to create meaningful female characters, especially considering that he’s set them up to be incredibly deep and powerful people but never takes it anywhere.

          • Neo Kaiser was clearly some distance in to Shippuuden, and still didn’t enjoy it. Fair enough, mate, you’ve done the right thing to claw back some free time every week.

            …I must absolutely recommend the Ultimate Ninja Storm games on PS3/360, though.

    • Some of them they do, some of them they don’t. It usually depends on whether the show’s also been licensed by one of the US companies or just licensed to Crunchyroll.

    • they do stream in Australia. Just not all shows, because it depends on whether or they manage to get the local publishing rights.

  • I find a lot of “anime fans” today to be really stuckup with a hipster and emo attitude. Most don’t even care about all these Japanese cartoons, they’re just in it because it’s still percieved as “mature” and niche to be into it.

    • Didn’t even know the ’emo’ sub-culture still existed..
      From what I’ve experienced personally, it’s not very “cool” to like anime so I’m not really feeling your last sentence..

    • What even is a hipster and emo attitude and how can you make such wide-ranging statements about them not caring, they only do it to be cool? I don’t get that.

      • Actually it does happen…

        There’s many a “fan” out there that just grab animu for their collection and props to say they have it and skim to say they’ve watched it. Would they ever buy it tho?

        Hell no! I have it for free already! But i’m cool coz I got a big collection! and so forth…

    • This. I actually pay for some streaming subscriptions but download the rips anyway – my bandwidth is way too low to be able to stream video.

      • You and I have very similar opinions Zero

        I buy BluRays but my computer no longer has a disc drive (Macbook Pro -sigh-) so I just download a copy online. Fair use? Maybe not legally but I think so, I’ve paid for this content so fuck you

          • As a matter of fact, I DO have a Blu-Ray player, which is why I buy Blu-Rays. However, unfortunately, when I travel I can’t drag my TV into the car/plane/boat along with the power needed to use the device. In these situations, I just download the same movie to my laptop for the travel.

    • Oh man there are so many things I would buy if there were services out there like this! I know lots of people like to stream shiz and that, but I much prefer to archive things so I can check ’em out later.

  • crunchyroll is fantastic, i’m member and being able to watch anime as soon as it’s released in japan is great, it’s also helped me find new animes to watch as well.

    • ^ This. It isn’t perfect, as I’d like to see some some more anime on there, is missing a bit.

      But let’s hope it gets better.

  • Yeah +1 to Crunchyroll. Tons of free anime to watch without even paying though I did pay for a few years and was worth every cent.

  • the reason i have a problem with sites like crunchy roll is the fact they are STREAMING sites, i hate streaming if im downloading something on my limited internet connection that i may watch multiple times then why wouldnt i want to have it on file.
    another thing i have to add is from the new world a show that is being simulcast after it airs on a different channel this means people who pirate get it days before the people on streaming sites, so sucks to be them…
    if there was a legit way to get episodes online and DOWNLOAD them i would be all for it (although i do buy the dvds when/if they get released in australia)

    • Same thing here. I’ve got limited bandwidth and my home net connection is dodgy a bunch of the time so it can even be a pain to watch a 5min Youtube vid, let alone a half hour episode of something.

    • this is my comment, i made an account so that i could add some things to it

      im basically watching every single anime that is in this current airing season to do this effectively i would have to go on both crunchy and viz to get certain shows but for others their either not getting streamed at all or not available to Australia, so what do i have to turn to then?

  • This sounds very familiar… I remember setting the VCR to record DBZ every weekday morning, trying to get the next season on Kazaa (realmedia was a terrible format, and a horrible video player), and torrented fansubs thereafter. Sortof drifted away from anime after all my favourite shows ended, and Naruto’s filler episodes became too much… Even the manga feels like DBZ’s style of fights – ten chapter long fight sequences tend to drag when only reading a chapter a week… And don’t get me started on Berserk’s update schedule…

    Also, I never like doing this, but I think you meant “as *rationale* for pirating”.

  • I’m not interested in streaming shows because seriously unless it’s youtube you can’t guarantee uninterrupted viewing. Not only that but I can’t watch the anime as it comes out every week, some animes stories go so slowly that it’s better to marathon a bunch of them. Even more so, I can’t do anything more than eat when I watch anime as I need to read the subs and so they can’t overlap with any of my other competing activities. So I torrent it, I get good quality to watch in my own time with my choice of fansub (not that I care).

    I treat my shows like watching a TV broadcast so buying it matters less to me and when i go to places like JB they want quite the price for DVDs (blu rays practically price fixed) and that gets sillier when you consider some animes run into the hundreds of episodes. Lastly, the bit about whinging about ads is pointless, we’re not Japanese and the ads are for Japanese people they are pointless to this audience.

  • “he first time I saw Dragon Ball Z, it was in real media format so blocky and degraded that you could not read the subtitles 90 per cent of the time.”

    Oh man I can remember coming across some stuff like this back in the day. Sure they got an episode down to about 10Mb, but considering the actual resolution was about the size of an icon and the file didn’t even playback smooth at that incredibly tiny size it really made you wonder what they were thinking when they encoded the damn thing? o.0

    I never new this about Crunchyroll, will have to check it out!

    • Even back then I’d think ‘this is ripped from a ten year old VHS tape, I can barely read the subtitles or even make out the characters, I appreciate the effort but why bother encoding and uploading this?’. At one stage I remember finding some 100MB rips and thinking the quality was insane, but I could never find a complete set and I suppose even if I did I’d run out of space to store it.

  • I still remember riding my push-bike for half an hour just to borrow Alita on VHS, or copying Ninja Scrolls onto a blank VHS, treating it like Gold, and lending it to my friends, or waiting patiently for the next english sub of Initial D to be released.

    Man, those were the days.

    When things become easily accessible, it loses value, and so we bitch about everything. When we have to climb a mountain to get it, then we’ll appreciate it’s true value.

    • I’ve got the original VHS copy of “Warriors of the Wind” (the early Americanised version of Nausicca in the Valley of the Wind) that I used to rent countless times. Ahhh memories.

  • Yup i been using crunchy roll on my mobile devices of all things, as the quality is pretty god via wifi, and very convenient for those nights you lay in bed but cant sleep. Currently catching up on bleach via CR, as all the other streams/downloads i could find were unreliable at best.

  • I haven’t watched a good anime in years. I still love all the classics mentioned above which used to be under that old Manga Entertainment label on vhs :). The last recent anime series I watched was probably Naruto (surprise surprise! ). Why don’t I watch it as often anymore? Just do not have the time to sift thru a 500+ep series anymore.

    I only have 1 gripe with Anime, and I have had it for years. (here it comes haters!):
    The English dubs pre-90ies are wayyyy better than the horses%it dubs of today.
    Seriously! Dominion Tank Police got mentioned in the article. Watched it for the first
    time English dubbed way back. The voices fit the characters flawlessly!
    Everyone had their place and personality and it just all clicked :).
    Try watching a recent Anime on English dub, you want to tear your eyes out of your skull,
    and you don’t even listen with your eyes so your ears are the next to go!!

    • im quite annoyed when i see people talking about how bad the english dubs of anime are but never give any specific examples for me to shoot out of the water, so if its not to much trouble could you throw me some “bad english dubs”

      • Dragonball
        One piece
        Soul eater
        Hunter x Hunter
        Death note
        Samurai champloo
        Yuu yuu hakusho

        Thats just a few mainsteam ones.

        Like are you kidding me? They’re all horrible- bebop is the only one that is even half way tolerable- but still miles from the original intent of the author.

    • I want to agree…

      But are 90’s dubbed animu better because they were? or because of nostalgia? xD

      I started anime by first grabbing the dubbed VHS of OMG! OVA’s donkey’s years ago and to me the dubs were perfectly fine. That being said these days I prefer subs over dubs and while i “like” the OMG! dubs I can’t completely claim their “great” if only because of the bias of me watching them first like that before switching to subs!

  • Being spoiled for choice has ruined your average fan, if you ask me.

    So much of what’s produced is garbage but people consume it at an unhealthy rate because we’re used to being starved by late night SBS screenings of Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell, or cutting it close to being late for school because we needed to see if this was FINALLY the episode of DBZ where Goku goes super saiyan. Remember when a really big flick like Perfect Blue got limited screenings in an arthouse cinema like Dendy, and that all got flipped around when Spirited Away hit the mainstream cinemas and how big a deal that was?

    Anyways, I don’t mean to come across all hipster but I lost interest a long time ago. I still like the stuff I used to like, but I’ve long stopped trying to keep up with it. I think the irreverence and in-humour of Cromartie High School finally indicated to me it was ok to accept that I wasn’t enjoying this hobby anymore. I was watching anime purely for the sake of watching anime.

    But hey, I’ll still happily sit down with a beer and a box set of Cowboy Bebop.

    • Lol, I’m one of the SBS people. I watched Evangelion late at night as a kid, and try to stay up as late as possible. But this is SBS so I started seeing nudity filled arthouse movies afterwards.

  • I’ll just take this opportunity to tell anime kotaku that ‘Wolf Children’ is an awesome movie and if you get a chance to do so please do!

  • Have to agree w/ the article

    You kids think 56K/Kazaa RM files were bad? Try the days even before proper licensed anime on VHS existed.

    I’m talking “real” fansubs when you had communities on the net/forums/bbs where people would organise to send blank VHS to “fansub” groups who got the original VCD’s from Jp who teamed up w/ folks who had decent subbing equipment. They would tape the content, throw in the subs while taping and mail you back the VHS… all they asked was the price of the shipping. Not a single cent of profit and pretty much a labour of love back in those bygone eras.

    Those days we treasured those drip fed animated stuff and hoped that one day Japan would eventually venture out and start selling this stuff to foreigners and we would go buy them on the spot to support the industry! Heck even fansubbers had a code of “no licensed anime” at one point…

    Fast forward now and you have goddess knows how many ways to get anime and manga but if you ask any one if they would buy a copy and your more likely to get a “why? I already have it!” attitude =/

  • late one night I saw nge on sbs this happened 14 is years ago since then I’ve watched 200+ anime series and could never just stop watching even though a lot of crap is released all it takes is 1 gem out of 10 series and its so worth it. people who give up on it are missing out on so many great anime.

  • “and without the hassle of a download.”

    Actually that “hassle” is all I need and precisely what turns me off these sites. Streaming -with the shaky internet speeds and stability we enjoy in Australia- is an exercise in frustration. If the connection died for a second, if the browser crashed, if a plugin failed and a lot of other ifs… you have to start streaming again while tying you to your chair the whole time (one of the reasons I no longer watch tv.)

    Downloadable episodes allow me to watch them on my own time, on any device of my preference and with less chances of poor internet interfering with my experience.

  • “How could any company compete with a free, English-subbed, DVD-quality anime coming out mere days after it aired in Japan?”

    I lol’d.

    There is no free English-subbed anime mere days after it airs in Japan… It’s all HD recorded .ts raws from Japanese airwaves that usually gets subbed first. DVDs (now uncommon) and BDs (used whenever available, ie almost always) are subbed months after shows air. Japan just has some really nice HD broadcasts and and good fansub encoder just knows how to make things look right.

    On another note. I am all for supporting the creators of these wonderful shows. Which is why I usually buys overpriced BDs down the track. But in the now CR is an impossibility to compare to quality fansubs for me. Firstly yes I am still on 56K dial up, with only prepaid wireless for support. I can’t stream anime, but with a tiny bit of patience I can download it in top quality. Secondly, even if I did have faster internet, Crunchy Rolls subs and video quality is incomparable to fansubs. CR translations are poor and inconsistent, video is often blurry and bad quality and they don’t even provide karaoke with the opening and endings. :'(

    So this boy is still a fansub fan.

  • I have no problems with what Crunchyroll does, except that a majority of the anime that I like to watch each season isn’t available on the Australian streams. I’m a fan of Cardfight Vanguard (due to helping one of the main distributors of the card game get people into the game itself) and its unavailable for me on Crunchyroll and Buishiroad has only made the first 40 episodes available on their YouTube channel (with an English dub).

    I’m a big avoider of DVD/Blu-Ray releases due to Madman’s stranglehold on the market and the insane prices that they charge. Anywhere up to $50 for half a season? no thanks. If release where even $20 cheaper, then I’d be happy to get them, but they are not so ill stick with other methods.

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