Friday, August 2, 2019

Watching Anime is Really Easy These Days

When I was a kid, I tried so hard to stay up every night and watch the latest episode of Inuyasha. Not because I particularly liked it as a show, but because I liked anime and back in 2004 you worked with what you had. But today? Anime is everywhere. There are a bajillion DVD and Blu-ray releases and a dozen streaming services. Not to mention every time I go to the movie theater I see a poster for a limited release of an anime I never even heard of. I'm envious of anime fans growing up today. They have no idea how easy they have it.

In my first era as an anime fan, our options were both limited to how and where we could watch and as well as what we could watch. In the last great years of Saturday Morning cartoons, everyone had their "mon" show and the occasional other cartoons where all the characters had big hair and big eyes and overly Americanized names and personalities. I remember thinking how big a deal it was when Fox Family's "Made in Japan" block didn't try to hide where anime came from. They even ran little mini-documentaries in commercials that explained things about Japanese culture. But that was only two hours a week and of course, it ended when Fox Family got sold to Disney.

As I got older and anime became more of a thing, Toonami reigned after school and on Saturday nights, almost entirely dominated by anime. And then there was Adult Swim, which aired braindead comedies on Sunday nights while letting the cool and interesting anime run free on Saturday. But again, you had to stay up late. It was really hard for me to watch .hack/SIGN at midnight when Samurai Jack was on at 11:30. Samurai Jack is definitely a better show, but a lot of the episodes were slow and quiet and made it really hard to make it to the slower and quieter .hack episodes.

Nowadays, I don't know if you can even find anime on TV outside of Adult Swim. But that doesn't mean it's harder to find these days. It's actually easier than ever.

I first became aware of Crunchyroll when Attack on Titan was first airing, blowing up the world like it was the Game of Thrones of anime. I watched maybe ten episodes before losing interest and never really browsed around the rest of the site. Later, I created a Crunchyroll Premium free trial to watch the first Digimon Adventure tri. movie. When I forgot to cancel it and got charged a week later, I decided to look and see what it offered and get my money's worth out of it. Crunchyroll doesn't have any of the classic anime series most casual fans could name, but it does have plenty of fun and weird hidden gems.

I did eventually cancel that premium subscription, but forgot about that and tried to watch another episode of the show we were watching at the time. Surprise surprise, it still played! This time, with ads. So Crunchyroll lets you watched the latest stuff in HD without interruption for a subscription, but it still has most of its content available for free with ads! This is what I like to call, "The Model Every Streaming Service Should Have."

I only ever got Crunchyroll's premium for new Digimon movies. There was never really a reason for me to keep paying each month since I wasn't crazy invested in any of the shows they had and I didn't mind ads as long as it was free. Except for those repetitive ads where pro athletes try to make us care about elephants. WTF?

Other than a few seasons here and there popping up on Netflix or Hulu, there isn't much of the big-name anime streaming out there. Of course, I've always heard that the big boys are on Funimation's site. Again though, I was never fully motivated to check out their service either. I really just don't like paying for more than a few subscription services. (Hear that companies. How many do you think the average consumer is willing to pay for?!)

This current anime season marked the first time I got a bit of fandom depression and FOMO. We're getting anime of Dr. Stone, which is a lot of fun, and Astra Lost In Space, my favorite manga of the decade. You know I'm gonna get the Astra dub on Blu-ray the moment I can, but I still wanted to watch it ASAP. So I decided to poke around on Funimation's website and wouldn't you know it: FUNIMATION IS FREE WITH ADS! You have to wait a week to watch new episodes but still, I am just ecstatic and upset all the same. How am I only hearing about this now? I get that companies want to get you to sign up for their subscription services but it feels like if they're free with ads that should still come up sometimes. What if Netflix is actually free with ads but no one ever thought to check?

Between Funimation and Crunchyroll, and of course the limited selections of anime on Netflix and Hulu, it's easier than ever to watch anime. And the same goes for manga. When I was a kid book stores were just starting to add manga sections, but you basically just had Viz putting out whatever was popular in Japan and TokyoPop putting out literally everything else - and then watching it burn a few years later. But now Viz has an app that lets you read unlimited manga for just $2 a month. TWO. DOLLARS. And new chapters are available the same time they come out in Japan. FOR FREE.

Seriously why would anyone use a pirate site these days? There are a dozen websites where you can watch the hottest new anime, even some the day they come out in Japan, all legal and legit and usually FREE! Stop pirating anime.

Also, after binge-reading Bakuman on the app I watched to watch the anime and guess where it is? On the Viz website. For free with ads! And just for the sake of this article, I went to Adult Swim's website. Guess what guys? Free anime with ads. It's the kind where you have to log in with your parent's cable info though.

When I was a kid, if you wanted to watch an anime you had to make sure you were home by 4 and your brother or sister wasn't on the TV first and if you missed an episode you just stopped watching the show because you would be lost the next day. How, how things have changed. Thanks to all of the streaming services out there, you kids can watch whatever anime you want, whenever you want.

Well, except for Digimon I guess.