In the past, I have touched upon thoughts about piracy and how they are taking a wrong approach. Although legal alternatives have made some strides, it has shortcomings besides other issues like region locking and that the subs have quality issues in the viewer’s eyes.
With that in mind, while fans tend to look down other fans because of their tastes of Anime, there is another issue that is also apparent, people chastising people because they prefer to download anime opposed to streaming it legally or buying Blu-rays. While I will share why this practice is counterproductive, there are various reasons why people choose to continue to download instead of watching it on a legal streaming site.
Just about 10 years old, there are only about three ways one can only watch Anime: watch a limited selection on select cable television channels, wait for licensed DVD releases or download fan subs. While the latter have legality issues, it was the only way one could watch currently airing shows thanks to a sizable group of anime fans that knows the Japanese language deciding to dedicate their free time to translate, typeset and do the timings for the subs.
Nowadays, legal streaming sites like Crunchyroll, Daisuki and Funimation have replaced the need of fansubs for most people. While it’s a good step in the direction, it’s not perfect. First of all, the service is not available in all regions, meaning that certain shows can’t be viewed in all regions other than North America and parts of Europe in most cases. Moreover, there is no functionality to download these subs for offline viewing and of course, the debatable quality from the official subs. Despite being official subs, they usually have poor typesetting compared to fansubs and some cases, poor translations due to errors and poor editing. As a result, some people are deterred from subscribing to these services and I don’t blame them since they are not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.
On the other hand, I think it’s not necessarily fair to chastise people or saying that he or she is a terrible fan for not buying anime Blu-rays or watching the shows on legal streaming sites or accusing them for killing the industry. Sure, people should support the shows they enjoy by buying a copy or related merchandise such as CDs or Anime goods, but I feel that supporting the industry by buying stuff is only part of it. I have to admit, I still download shows since not only it would be a pain in the butt to take screenshots since you can’t download the stream, but there is a tradeoff. I would rather spend the money on buying things that would support a production I like more such as buying music CDs, Blu-Ray (in some instances), video games (if any) or even figurines.
The sad reality with streaming is that while it gives you a good feeling that you are supporting an industry, only a small percentage of the revenue gets seen by the production team and the studio for each view thanks to the middle man. The same is true with streaming music, which is why I still buy CDs aside from my desire to listen to everything in lossless formats. Streaming music in most cases screws over most artists since they only see receive only a small percentage of the revenue, which is determined by how many times people listens to it. The same goes for licensed DVD and Blu-ray releases. Although the cut is slightly better than streaming, the licensing company and the rights holder still get a good chunk of the revenue, which is not as bad compared to streaming. This is probably why Japanese releases tends to be expensive as mentioned in an earlier editorial so that studios can recoup most of the costs from producing a show, which is not cheap at all.
Still, there are a few exceptions where I bought the Japanese releases aside from licensed releases in the past. It’s usually because I enjoy the show a lot that I want to own the whole thing. I have done this with The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls and buying all 9 sets. Yes, it’s expensive as all the volumes $739 without shipping, but it was worth it in my eyes from a collection standpoint. Also, I decided to buy a copy of the Love Live Movie since I didn’t get a chance to see it in theaters. In most cases though, I tend to buy CDs instead since they are not as expensive.
From this, there is a reason why people still download anime opposed to streaming it or even buying Blu-rays aside from region locking. Fans are people and they will have different priorities. Perhaps some people would rather buy the source material such as light novels, visual novels, video game or manga after finishing a show. Perhaps there is someone who prefers buying CDs and character goods such as figurines over buying Blu-ray releases or spending money on a legal streaming subscription. One cannot assume that a fan is horrible for not watching a show legally and thus, hurting the industry. In some cases, it can be beneficial despite the legal issues behind it since we all know that anime in general can be considered as an advertisement for a franchise or someone’s work. If he or she liked what they saw, there is a good likelihood that they might buy something to support their favorite franchise.
On the other hand, people should realize that supporting the anime industry does not only consist of buying stuff or subscribing to Crunchyroll, but also the fandom’s involvement. To me, I think discussion of anime, creation of fan art and other creative works along with anime blogging is far more important since people are sharing the passion and of course promoting a show he or she likes. Given that anime is a niche medium outside of Japan, the fandom’s involvement such as writing reviews, supporting voice actors/actresses and studios, participating in anime conventions, etc. is important to promote a franchise that otherwise wouldn’t be popular otherwise.
At the end of the day, it’s not entirely fair to chastise fans harshly because he or she chooses to download anime opposed to legally streaming it. However, there needs to be a balance since people who work on making your favorite show possible such as key animators, voice actors/actresses, in-betweens, directors, etc. need to make money to put food on the table.
With that in mind, instead of downloading the opening to some anime that you enjoyed or an album released by your favorite voice actor/actress, one should probably consider buying it instead if one has the money. Moreover, one needs to realize that not everyone has money to buy a lot anime merchandise or even subscribe to streaming sites, especially for people who are still in high school and college.
Moreover, the anime industry needs to improve their product by improving the subs and work harder to make their service accessible to more regions to attract more people to subscribe. Most importantly, they also need to realize the value of the fandom that wouldn’t be made possible without access to fansubs. In other words, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
What are your thoughts? Do you think that fair to look down towards fans for not legally streaming anime and choosing to download instead or do you think otherwise? Also, feel free to share how you support your favorite anime, studio, etc.