Japan Curiosity’s Essential Guide to Watching Anime in the UK Part 2

Welcome back friends! In part one we covered the best ways to stream anime in the UK, and while streaming can be convenient, it’s not the only way to consume Japanese content in this country. So in this part I wanted to go over a few other ways you can get your anime fix, and the various advantages to these platforms.

Blu-Ray & DVD
If you had asked me a year ago about physical media, you would have gotten a very different response to what I’m about to write. The scarcity was always something that pushed me away from physical, alongside the cost, and the fact that I have nowhere to put them. But I had an epiphany back in November, or rather the anime Gods shone a light down on me. I won a contest on Manga UK’s Twitter account which led to me being able to choose from a selection of Blu-Rays. I opted for Madoka Magica (being a fan of Gen Urobuchi, the masterful writer behind Psycho-Pass) and upon receiving, and watching them, the visual treat that befell my eyes transformed my life forever.

Hyperbole aside, there is truth to that paragraph. I did win some Blu-Rays, and they were a visual treat indeed. The fidelity of Blu-Rays is a sight to behold. While many services stream in 1080p, there is a crispness and vibrancy to BR copies that the internet can’t seem to replicate. This has sparked a fire in my soul, a passion, a love affair affair with those azure discs. So now I still subscribe to most of the services mentioned in the previous article, but I now also actively seek out physical copies, usually of things not available to stream. Many movies, for example the Evangelion Rebuilds, Summer Wars, and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, are only available physically. So then concerns about cost creep in; Blu-Ray is expensive, right? I bought each of the aforementioned movies for just £6. And unlike streaming services, there is no chance they disappear, I can lend them to friends, or just show them off on a shelf. i’m not saying all Blu-Ray is that cheap, but doing a little research will show you it’s not as expensive as you might think (especially when compared to how much they pay in Japan). Wanna save a few quid, grab the DVD instead.

So where do I get them? There are three HMV stores within realistic driving distance of my home/work. All of them sell anime. Failing that, I bought Evangelion 1.11 on Amazon (and received it the same day with free delivery thanks to Prime). Zavvi and Rakuten have a good selection on their sites too, and Base.com often have really low prices. Or you can look directly at distributors like Manga UK and Animatsu who will often let you buy directly or link to where you can get them. If you’re not fussed about having brand new, try places like CeX. Searching for anime in store can be a pain because everything is alphabetical, not categorised, but searching their website is easy. You can even trade in your old Blu-Rays to save a few bob, something you can’t do with a digital copy. As for storing them, solutions are a dime a dozen, and I’m proud of my slowly building collection, much more impressive than just having the Crunchyroll logo on my PS4 dashboard

HMV AnimeTheatrical Releases
I love the cinema. I love the atmosphere, the superior audio/visual experience, the shared wonder, the popcorn. The only thing better than going to see the average movie in the cinema, is going to the cinema to watch anime, surrounded by like-minded people who all love Japanese animation as much as I do. My excitement levels for Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F and Captain America: Civil War were probably around the same. Dragon Ball was a staple of my childhood that molded me, Civil War is my favourite Marvel Comics arc of all time, plus Spider-Man is finally in the MCU. And I loved both movies. But Resurrection F had something Civil War didn’t. I can’t put my finger on it, certainly couldn’t properly put it in words, but my Resurrection F screening had a vibe of sorts. There was a charge in the air that a regular cinema experience just cannot provide. Maybe it’s the rarity of seeing anime in the cinema, it’s a real occasion, maybe it’s just what you get when you put that many otaku in a room, a culmination of Japanese nerdery. Whatever it is, it’s f**king awesome.

Finding screenings isn’t always easy. There are 2 real ways to keep informed. Follow distributors on Twitter and Facebook. Bringing anime to the UK can be risky for distributors, because it’s expensive, as well as complicated and time-consuming (obtaining rights, screen space, subbing or dubbing etc), and they need to get a return on the investment. So if they have something coming, you best believe they will shout about it. The other thing i’d recommend is signing up to cinema mailing lists. They will keep you up to date with the latest releases, and also may let you in on event screenings, such as anniversary showings etc. It’s not just new movies that are shown, often theatres will show classics that you may have missed the first time around, these are well worth catching. Right now, The Electric Cinema in Birmingham is in the middle of a Studio Ghibli season, reshowing Miyazaki & Co’s back catalogue from May through to July. This is part of the Studio Ghibli Forever partnership between StudioCanal and Picturehouse Cinemas, a full list of screening can be found here. Speaking of which, I’ve been wanting to see Akira in the cinema for years and missed the 25th anniversary showings, so if you hear anything, hit me up, we’ve got to look out for one another!

Erased PictureTelevision
Sadly this category will be rather short. I’ve written reverently in a previous article about all the anime thrown at my eyeballs in my younger years. Some say a better time, but traditional TV is dying, and as such so is the anime scene on the gogglebox. There is the rare occasion, mind you, when we do get Japanese cartoons via our cable services. Much like The Electric CInema, Film 4 run a yearly Studio Ghibli season, a two week celebration of the seminal production company, and will no doubt continue this tradition each year. These seasons can be a great opportunity to introduce the uninitiated to anime, as they may be more inclined to watch something that’s on the telly, rather than trying to convince them when they “don’t want to try a crunchyroll” (actual quote from a non-anime fan). Plus they tend to be dubbed, which takes away another potential entry barrier. That however, is all I can think of, aside from maybe Pokémon XYZ on iTV, certainly nothing to satiate the more advanced Japanophile.

Anime TVAnd now to the final paragraph. I had rather hoped this whole article would be longer, but all my ferreting around for ways other than streaming has turned up very little. I did a little research in subscription boxes like Loot Anime or Anime Bento, but this is mostly merch, with the occasional manga thrown, no real anime to speak of. But what we have is certainly better than nothing. The physical scene is still alive and well here, and the more we buy, the more we’ll get. The same goes for theatrical releases. if we try and keep ourselves informed, and fill these screens, the cinema owners should see the demand and feed us more. As for TV, well, who needs it?! With the veritable smorgasbord of streaming services we went through in part one, all of which cost less than a monthly Sky or Virgin subscription (even if you take up multiple anime services), plus the added convenience of being able to watch anywhere on a multitude of platforms, the idiot box has lost its necessity. So with all this said, go forth my brethren and enjoy some anime. There’s really no excuse not to now, if anything, it is your duty!

Thanks for reading, and thank you for your support for both Japan Curiosity and the anime scene in the UK. Be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming guide to reading manga!