Want to see the latest episodes of Inuyasha as they air? Or if feudal Japan plus magic isn’t your thing, how about the latest incarnation of robots plus teenagers making the world a peaceful place via war in Gundam 00? Or prefer shojo? How about Fruits Basket, a bittersweet dramedy with supernatural elements, and Ouran High School Host Club, a shoujo comedy of errors?
All of these very popular shows are now available online via legal means. Considering that a year and a half ago, The Learned Fangirl had a post Fansubs Don’t Grow On Trees: Gundam 00 and the new ethics of fansubbing, the increased number of legal sites is a positive response from content owners/licensees.
That post ended with:
So it’s an interesting point we’re at with anime fandom, just as with music fandom, where the much of the fan expectation is lightning-fast turnaround and professional-level quality from fansubbers without also participating said volunteer efforts, or intending to financially support the original creators in any way. Without sounding too much like a fogey, I wonder at what point does this interpretation of the Free Culture mentality hinder fandom just as much as big business and restrictive copyright does.
But even though there are so many avenues to legally stream licensed anime, fansubbing is still continuing. Even now, considering that there is often a delay between original air date and release in the U.S., several popular licensed shows have active fansub communities.
But this activity isn’t going unnoticed by the content owners/licensors. According to Otaku Pride, in response to pushback regarding a DMCA takedowns for specific fansubs, Funimation, an American licensor, tweeted:
- Less $ spent on anime in U.S = fewer dvd’s in stores = less $ to buy titles from JPN = less $ for production = fewer anime = Global impact!
- We get that fansubs exist. We get that people watch them. In fact, we totally get that its the only way to watch some series because those series may not get licensed in the U.S. -BUT- I want others to get how supporting fansubs of licensed series hurts the industry.
I’m very glad that the anime industry is making so much content available for free that fans actually want to see. And by watching on these legal sites (plus, hopefully in the minds of content owners, buying DVDs and merch), fans help make it possible for these and other anime shows to be created and produced.
But that isn’t to say that there aren’t still issues for both the content providers and the fans. For example, there are plenty of examples on both YouTube and Veoh of episodes of licensed shows available on those sites in non-licensed formats (this doesn’t mean fanvids — this means exact duplicates of the licensed episodes — sans links to the licensed versions on the same site!) And even worse for the conscientious fan, the search functionality often doesn’t put the licensed content first or sort in any way.
I’m glad that unlike the music industry as a whole the anime industry understands that fans are fans (and consumers) and not content vaccuums. So one final note for any anime execs that are reading this — if you are sending takedown notices against fansubbers and websites, it would be a good idea to allow the first episode to stay up, allowing new potential fans to have a try!
It’ll be interesting to see what changes happen to the distribution of anime in another year and a half!
As of this posting, some of the sources of legal streaming anime include:
- specialty sites like Crunchy Roll,
- content producer-owned sites like Hulu, Funimation, and Viz, and
- anything-goes-plus-licensed content sites, like Veoh and YouTube.