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by Jamie

Guides · Updated Feb 7, 2018

Hey You! Stream that Anime! A Guide to Legal Streaming Services

How we used to watch anime

There’s never been a better time to watch anime than right now. Fans of the 70s and 80s had to “know a guy” with VHS copies and fan scripts to get their fix. Imagine if you had to glance offscreen for your subtitle. Yes, it’s that bad. DVD volumes and boxsets emerged in the 90s and upgraded our experience, albeit at a rather steep cost. Some volumes would cost over $30 a piece and you’d get maybe 4 episodes, but that didn’t stop some fans. Evolving from the early 2000s anime landscape, viewing parties  were the best way to binge Adult Swim shows, learn about Japanese pop culture, and share loot from media superstores like Borders and FYE. Yet through the decades, fans never really stopped making illegal copies of anime titles  despite people purchasing more physical anime goods than ever before.

Then 2009 happened. Borders’ collapse rippled down to North American distributors and while we feared the worst for the anime industry, we still had robust illegal access to anime titles. It wasn’t until fan-based streaming service Crunchyroll went legit that we fully see how physical media and television would become second place against the appeal of streaming anime online.

Why should you stream anime legally?

There’s many reasons to give a service your hard earned cash for monthly access.

  • On-Demand. The biggest appeal is watching what you want, when you want it, for hours at a time. Television assumes your show is airing, requires you to tune-in, and makes you suffer through a bazillion advertisements. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • Cheaper. Streaming is a budget-friendly alternative to traditional cable packages. You can cancel your subscription anytime, skip unnecessary lock-in fees, and avoid the pushy salespeople. Some platforms even offer a free, ad-supported pricing tier!
  • Filtered. Many platforms have parental controls to ensure kids are watching wholesome anime titles and not… the other stuff.
  • Abundant. Channel-based services offer more than anime and even produce their own award-winning content. Companies like Netflix and Hulu are based around big media networks so you can feasibly ditch basic television and movie rentals forever.
  • Contemporary. Some dedicated streaming companies are passionate about serving the anime community directly. They license the latest titles, simulcast the hottest shows, and create original programming to inform and entertain their subscription audience.
  • Innovative. Services like Crunchyroll and Netflix collaborate on new shows to attract anime viewers to their platforms. This model encourages producers to fund offbeat creators who may be considered niche, unusual, or somewhat risky. Many of these releases will be considered staples and even masterworks of the medium in due time.
  • Impactful. The best way to support anime and its growth? Pay for it. Companies look at viewing metrics and annual industry revenue to gauge the health of the community, which tells them what to spend on and where to cut.
  • Legal. Paying for a streaming service is the right thing to do. Streaming and downloading illegally could land you jail time! Japanese law enforcement agencies routinely arrest people who don’t pay for their anime and manga content. Who knows when the West will catch up.

How to choose the right streaming service

  • Estimate. How much time will you spend watching every month? If it’s less than 10 hours, paying for a service is might be overkill when there are so many free and legal streaming options available.
  • Budget. What is the dollar amount that you feel most comfortable with spending every month? Stick to the smaller number and comparison shop for monthly subscriptions. Avoid the yearly subscription price unless you’re confident you’ll get your money’s worth!
  • Review. Which service offers the best quantity and quality of anime titles? Compare their catalog against MyAnimeList.net for synopsis, reviews, and promotional videos to evaluate if their content is actually worth your time.
  • Test Drive. Do they offer a 1-month trial? Sign up when you have extended quality time with your couch! If you didn’t spend your estimated hours for the month, cancel your subscription before they start charging you.
  • Evaluate. Did you under-utilize the service compared to your initial hour estimate? Or are you not liking the service overall? Cancel your subscription for a few months and maybe come back at a later time.
  • Switch. Do you get bored easily? Strategically switch providers every few months to keep your selection fresh and exciting.

Support anime

It’s bonkers that anime streaming services are so popular and yet so very affordable. You can support anime legally even if you are in school or on a restricted budget.

The majority of anime fans are teens and young adults who aren’t earning a full-time wage. The companies know that so they price their services accordingly. So if you want new innovative anime produced, and creators to be paid living wages, and dependable access to new anime titles, then start streaming anime today!

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