Let me start by saying that being an anime fan in the UK can be tough. I’m not blaming anyone, I’m just putting it out there. By the very virtue of you being on this site, my guess is you’re an anime fan, and if you inhabit the fine island from which I write this, I have no doubt you share my sentiment. Our options for streaming seem limited compared to the likes of the US and Japan, and even our Stateside compadres have their grumbles. Buying physical anime series often looks like it could become an expensive habit, and then where do you even get it from? All these reasons and more, ladies and gentlemen, are why I hang my head in shame and confess that I am (or at least, was) a pirate.
I’m unfortunately not talking high seas adventures, of course. I’m talking about watching anime illegally. I had done it for many years, and thought nothing of it. If I wanted to watch a series, I knew exactly where to get it gratis, with no hassle. But this year, that changes. This year, I am… no… we are saving the anime industry.
Now let me preface this with a further admission. I’m no economics or business expert, much less an expert on anime, but even I see an inherent problem with the anime industry right now. On the surface, it doesn’t look like they need my help, and even if they did, what exactly could a Class C hero like me really do? Well, the simple fact is that the reason the anime scene isn’t huge over here, the thing that forced me to left me feeling compelled to stream/download anime in an unsavoury fashion, is that it’s hard to make a profit on anime over here, so many don’t try anymore. This seems at odds with the amount of self-professed Otaku we have on these shores. This is simply because with so many people streaming it from illegal sites, it then means we don’t get genuine distribution because it’s illogical to waste the resources when people will watch it for free, which annoys the fans because of the lack of availability and that drives them online. It’s a vicious cycle, and one that only we can break
The biggest problem is that pirating had always seemed inconsequential. No-one is going to knock my door down and drag me away because I wanted to illegitimately rewatch Flint the Time Detective. But I’ve started to look at the bigger picture. Surely the fine folks who work hard at their craft day and night to create these incredible Japanese cartoons we all love so much deserve not only to be properly paid for their work, but also to be given the financial opportunity to make more. And then again, to my earlier point, it hurts the chances of anime coming to this country officially. Which in turn means we don’t get as much merchandise. Which puts me even further from my dream wherein the UK has it’s own Akihabara.
After some long and hard thinking about this, I have reached the conclusion that when it comes down to it, a large portion of anime fans in the UK are essentially equivalent to those people who moan about the state of this country and our government, all the while sat around drinking the Special Brew they bought with their benefits. The bottom line is, if you don’t contribute, then really you have no right to complain.
That’s why from this point forward I stop claiming Anime Seekers Allowance and start paying my way. I want anime and the surrounding culture to be openly and readily available to everyone over here. How incredible would it be to be able to head into town on a whim and walk back home with a DragonBall hoodie, two Gundam figures and a replica of Kirito’s Dark Repulsor?! And by taking my head out of the sand, I have found that much like the old adage that “there just isn’t any work out there”, the notion that there is no way to watch anime (legitimately) in this country simply isn’t true. Netflix, for example, has a fantastic selection. For just £5.99/mth you can watch Attack On Titan, Sword Art Online, Tokyo Ghoul, Psycho-Pass, Steins;Gate and much, much more. If you don’t mind a few ads, and a low quality stream, Crunchyroll is free, is available on a myriad of platforms and has a huuuge library of current and past series, as well as manga. Hate ads, or want access to the HD streams? Chuck them just a fiver a month and unlock additional content. What about last year’s breakout anime One Punch Man? Imagine a world where you could watch that series for free, simulcast with Japan. Download the Daisuki app on your smartphone or tablet, and there you go, alongside many more great series like Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans and Erased. For FREE!
What about that pricey physical anime, you say? Well it may not be as bad as you think. In Japan, you pay around £30 for 2 episodes, over here you can pick up a whole season for that price (compared to 10 years ago here when £20 would get you 4 or 5 episodes). If you’re unsure where to buy, distributors like Manga Entertainment often sell directly from their site, or will have links to where you can buy. Budget still a little too tight for a whole series? How about a movie? I picked up Evangelion 1.11 for £6 on Amazon the other day, on Blu-Ray. I bought Akira from HMV for my sister for £2.99. Two pounds ninety-nine. That audio-visual experience is worth way more than 3 quid, you can’t even buy a cup of coffee for that these days
Just for a second imagine if it was you making these shows. You worked countless hours to storyboard/script/draw/animate/edit/voice/dub a masterpiece. All those days grinding and nights grafting. All your blood and sweat going into creating something that amazing, that people love, and receiving nothing for it. Do most artists work just for the money? Hell no. But man cannot live on passion alone, and neither can an entire enterprise. Moreover, beyond your duty as a fan to support content creators, really it’s just common courtesy
So what say you, brothers and sisters? I don’t want to seem like I’m preaching. There’s nothing worse than that person who has found a new faith and now tells you everything you do is wrong. I cast no judgements. I understand your position having come from that side of the tracks but I have turned a corner. I believe that we can make a difference. If we band together, if we stand strong, and maybe make a few sacrifices, we can show Japan why we call ourselves “Great” Britain. We can make the UK the anime capital of the world (outside of Japan, obviously). We can show the creators that we appreciate what they do, that we have earned the right to their content, and look to create a better place, not just for future Otaku, but for ourselves.