On August 11th, 2017, YouTube anime vlogger Digibro uploaded Where Should We Watch Anime?, a video where he explores four seperate anime streaming services: Crunchyroll, Amazon Strike, Netflix, and the infamous illegal site “KissAnime”. Digibro states that while he does use Crunchhyroll to view anime and support the industry, he also uses KissAnime, but only as a last resort (if there’s no legal alternate to view an anime, if the legal services offers a worse product than the illegal websites, etc.)
Despite his statement (and because anime fans lack comprehension skills), the anime community misinterpreted his words; believing he was promoting the illegal sites. This resulted in his his follow up video Utter Morons ForneverWorld & Half of Anitwitter Totally Miss the Point Of My Streaming Video where he states once again, that he only uses the illegal streaming services if the legal ones are offering a worse product than the legal websites or if he can not find a legal alternate to view an anime.
Both backlash and support for Digibro’s views followed. Many were furious at him for “suggesting” the usage of illegal websites. Others praised and understood Digibro’s stance. Those who supported his views brought up that the anime industry doesn’t make enough money off Blu-Ray and DVDs sales, that the industry’s main profits come from secondary sources of income (which he also states in the follow up video) as well as bringing brought up how major studios take most of the profits from the different income sources and not paying their artists a fair, livable wage. The anime fans opposing piracy rebuttal; to them, every dollar counts in supporting the the industry.
These videos breathed new life into an age old controversial topic within the community: Does pirating anime hurt the industry?
As someone who keeps it real, it’s my duty to tell you how I feel about this subject it is without holding back. From researching the topic, reading articles, and watching anime vloggers of both sides of the argument, I don’t think pirating hurts the industry. I do get where opposing fans are coming from with their anti-piracy stance, but again, I don’t feel that piracy does harm to the industry.
From my research, I discovered how the anime industry create captial in the modern era outside of Blu-Ray and DVD sales. Aninews’ video The Data Behind Digibro’s Stance on Anime Streaming: Legal vs. Illegal, breaks down how legal streaming services fund the industry through bidding for the rights to stream an anime on their services (the link to the video is listed in the cited source section).
When a streaming company wins the rights to a show, they’ll have to pay the licensing company (such as Aniplex) the cost of each episode, royalties, and licensing fees. Once paid, the licensing company takes their cut of the the money and split the rest up with everyone involved in the production of the anime. This meansthat regardless if you use an illegal streaming services or not, the animation companies have already received their money for the shows the provided to the streaming services.
At worst, the streaming companies will operate on a lost from ad revenue due to not breaking even or beyond from piracy. Therefore, the company will have to operate at a loss – forcing them to reduce the number of series to buy off the licensing company for the upcoming season.
Another way anime studios make money is through product placement. Some industries in Japan (such as the automotive and food industries) will reach out to animation studios and offer to pay thousands or millions of dollars for the show to promote their product or brand. For example: Sunrise 2006’s anime Code Geass, famously promoted the pizza brand Pizza Hut in many episodes due to a deal between both companies. This provided Sunrise extra capital for their pockets. Misty Chroenexia’s video Piracy is NOT Killing The Anime Industry explains this further in depth (the URL to the video is listed below in the source section).
Finally, companies make extra capital from merchandising such as toys, video games, figurines, body pillows, drama CDs, and music soundtracks. Bigger companies such, as A-1 Pictures, are linked to major companies: giving them access to extra funds. Miki Sim’s article How The Anime Industry Earns Money further explains this:
‘A few larger anime studios, such as A-1 Picture, actually sits within a larger entertainment ecosystem. They are linked to record companies, such as Sony Music Entertainment Japan. With the popularity of anime OPs drive the sales of anisong singles and albums. That is another reason why the anisong industry is becoming larger than J-Pop too.’
In short: Some studios are large enough to use high amounts of capital thanks to a connection with a thanks in part of another major company or brand.
What does all of this means for me? Well, if companies are making profits through other sources of income, have already received money from streaming websites such as Netflix and Amazon , and have connections to larger companies such as Sony (who have diverse income thanks to their products and investments) for extra cash, then me pirating their shows does not hurt them at all.
Admittedly, I do have an active Crunchy Roll subscription to support the industry. Crunchy Roll is wonderful and they provided me with good services. If Crunchy Roll has a show I want to watch then I will view it on there as oppose to say KissAnime. Now, if they do not have a show I want to see and there is no legal alternate available (that I like), then I’ll use an illegal streaming site.
This brings me to my next point.
I’m going to keep this all the way real: It’s the fault of the Japanese animation studios for not releasing their new shows outside of Japan (where there is a market for those show, niche or otherwise) to a legal service in North America (or any other international regions). Consequently, this forces fans to pirate shows that they cannot access legally because the Japanese businesses do not want to adapt to the current trend of anime viewership globally. In my opinion, this is bad business. Anime is a global market. You have to carter to fans around the world.
You have fans who’re willing to watch new shows legally. They want to show their support with the money, but these companies aren’t listening. If they do release a show, it’s usually a season or two later.
Example: Netflix recently acquired the rights to Kakegurui, one of the most popular anime series of the Summer 2017 season. Netflix will air Kakegurui in Winter 2018 – two seasons after its original Japanese broadcast run. This means if you want to watch it legally, you will have to wait five months (at the time of this writing) to support it legall. The only way to watch Kakegurui and stay current with it is through an illegal streaming service.
Now, if you can’t afford to pay Netflix that $10/month plus tax because you have other paid streaming services you’re subscribed, to and you want to support it legally, well, you’re out of luck. This is another case of bad business practice. You have three streaming services fighting each other to win the rights for a show. And if the winning company is Netflix, you may have to wait a few months to view the show.
Now that I think about it, this is goofy.
Once a company wins the rights for a show, they have that show exclusively. No other streaming company can have it, just that one company. Let’s say Amazon Strike wins the rights to the show The Misadventures of an Alcoholic Magical Girl (this is not a real show). Since Amazon is the only North American company to stream that show, you cannot get it off your Crunchy Roll and/or Netflix account(s). You really want to watch and support the show, but can you afford an Amazon Prime account along with the cost of $4.99/month with Strike and $6.95/month with your CR account?
So, what you’re going to do? Spend that extra cash? Cancel your CR account to save some money? You can do that, but now you have to wait a week to watch the newest episodes of a currently airring show. If you really want to watch it, then you have to pirate it. Which is not that bad if you bare in mind the animation studio has already earn the money from Amazon.
Let’s take this a step further.
Netflix and Amazon are notorious for not understanding their anime fanbase demographic. Netflix has been under fire for uploading anime shows with false “HD” and horrible subs quality. Amazon Strike requires you to have an Amazon Prime account along with paying $4.99/month for Strike. Doing the math $8.99+$4.99 = $13.98/month. Then you have your Crunchy Roll account, which is $6.95/month. So $13.98+$6.95=$20.93/month. THEN, if you want to watch an anime that’s only on Netflix, you’ll going to wind up dropping $10/month plus tax. So $20.93+$10.00=$30.93/month plus tax. Finally, if there is a show that you desperately want to see that is not available legally on all three legal platforms, you’re out of luck.
Unless you pirate of course.
Pirate sites host anime with true 1080p or 720 HD (both native and upscale). They have fansubs in excellent quality. They offer a massive selection of anime that you can stream and download for free without worrying about hundreds of dollars on. There are shows on these websites that may never get a re-release. Viewing them on these sites is the only way to experience those shows. If you want to explore the history of anime at its fullest, you may have to use KissAnime or 9anime.
This begs the question: Why pay and support a service to companies that doesn’t care about their anime demographic, rip them off by offering them “HD” quality that is not HD at all, and provide low quality subtitles? At least CrunchyRoll understands their given that company is fun by anime fans. They need our money and support. But Netflix and Amazon? Screw them. Screw them and their bad business practices If Amazon Strike and Netflix’s anime streaming services belly-up due to piracy, oh well. They’re large companies with other sources of income to keep them afloat. I doubt Amazon and Netflix would suffer that much.
The whole business model is stupid. Japan not expanding further and adapting to the current trend for their anime demographic is ass backwards. I honestly don’t feel bad for pirating their stuff. They’re providing poor-to-bad services because of it. If you’re giving the customer a bad experience due to your shitty practices and you can’t help with their needs, you don’t desire to make money.
At this point, you may be asking “Ben! So what about the little guys? Yeah, cooperate assholes may make a lot of money, but the artists and creative team only make little to no money a month! They need your support!” Well, that brings me to my next point – a good point Digibro brought up in his video that I like: A donation button.
Artists put in countless hours of hard work into their craft; providing us with amazing shows that we all love and enjoy. Because they work hard and passionately, they deserve our money. However, while there is a lot of capital flowing in the industry, the top people will get the largest payout while the smaller ranking dudes will get less. Way less. The average animator in japan makes about $300-$500 a month. The “lucky” ones make $1000 month. Still, that’s criminally wrong. Even if I do view anime legally through Crunchyroll, the animators are being screwed by their employees regardless.
This is why I like the idea of studios of exploring alternate ways to make money through donation service websites such as Pateron or Go Fund Me. Let’s say at the end of an episode or season, you can click on the donation button and give whatever amount you feel that episode or series was worth. If you feel a series was excellent, then you can drop $80-$100 on it. If the series was horrible, then you give it little-to-no money. This allows fans and the studios to cut out the middle man and have a direct connection with one another payment wise. Most anime fans stream anime nowdays and Blu-Rays and DVDs are pricy (although not as pricy as they were ten years ago), and enjoy the convenience of watching a show on-demand, so this could work out in the future.
Studio TRIGGER is rumored to have experiment with the idea of using Pateron to crowd fund future projects, but efforts have been slow to pick up due to Japan’s conservative, old-school ways of performing business. Animator Jun Sugawara has opened an animator dormitory in Japan funded by Generosity. This dormitory is open for animators across Japan who don’t want deal with the bullshit of the current industry standard, as well as work in a fair, almost stress-free environment I think these are great ideas and I hope it catches on within the industry.
I would rather pay the creative staff behind my favorite shows my money to support them, rather to give them to Crunchy Roll. As much as I respect Crunchy Roll and support them, the money I give to them supports shows and studios I don’t like – not just the ones I enjoy.
This means that shows I hate such as In Another World With My Smartphone and Sword Art Online are being funded. I don’t want those horrible shows being supported off my hard earn money. A1 Studios is also getting a cut of my money. I can’t support that company after the fact their strict, brutal practices caused an animator to commit suicide in 2014 due to being overworked. I can not support that company ethically. I don’t feel right about that.
Let’s hope that more teams and studios get on board with this new donation and crowd funding model. Japan really needs to adapt to the new era and stop being stuck in traditional about their old-school way of handling business within the anime industry.
It’s clearly taking a toll.
While I am not bothered by piracy, I do understand why people are against it. Pirating shows take away extra profits off Blu-ray and DVDs sales. Mother’s Basement’s video How Much Money do the Biggest Anime Pirates Make states that the pirates of KissAnime earn an estimated $18,000,000 USD a year from ad revenue – much more money than the animators in the industry. KissAnime also has a history of stealing subs from official streaming services and fansub groups and reuploading the files to their website.
According to GoBoiano’s article How Much Money You Cost the Anime Industry When You Illegally Stream illegal streaming services and torrents has cost the anime industry an estimated $33,009,636 to $132,038,554 in 2016. In 2015, animation studio Manglobe (famous for Gangsta and Samurai Champloo) filed for bankruptcy due to an estimated debt of $4.43 million USD. Fans have theorized that the lost profits from piracy resulted in the company’s demise, but this is just a theory without any solid proof backing these claims.
In July 2014, the Japanese government founded the “Manga-Anime Guardians Project” to combat against online piracy of anime and manga, monitoring illegal websites for uploads, and as well as help fans find legal alternates to stream and watch anime.
With pirates making multi-million dollar profits from stealing official subs, the industry losing millions from it, the Japanese government having to step in and protect the work of artists, and a company bankrupted due to possible piracy, I can see why opponents of piracy want to end it. Animators are losing jobs and money from illegal activities. You can easily assume the reason why animators are underpaid is because of piracy and the companies have to operate at a loss. A loss of money means less pay and fewer jobs on the market.
To conclude, I do not see the big issue about pirating, but I still want to support the industry. With companies making money through other sources of capital such as promotion, legal streaming, and maketing, I don’t feel that pirating doesn’t hurt the industry at all. Even if stream anime legally, the major players of a company will take the majority of the profits, leaving the creative forces with less than livable wages. The industry and businesses need a new model to operate on. People aren’t buying blurays or DVDs anymore. Fans would rather stream their shows.
The idea of studios and animators using crowd funding for anime is a fantastic idea which we as a community need to get behind. Animators deserve a living wage for the hard work they put into their craft. While this won’t completely stop piracy overall, it does give fans a chance to support their favorite companies without a middle man.
I am just one person who believes piracy isn’t harmful but there are many who believe it is and they have good reasons to think as such. Illegal streaming services cost the industry millions is lost capital. That’s not right. The animators earned that money – not the pirates.
And finally, if you believe that these legal streaming services are giving you a worse product and service, stop using them! Don’t give them your money because it’s the moral and right thing to do. You know what’s not moral and right? Ripping off people with a shit product.
Vote with your wallet you weeaboos.
Where Should We Watch Anime by Digibro
The Data Behind Digibro’s Stance on Anime Streaming: Legal vs. Illegal by Aninews
Piracy is NOT Killing the Anime Industry by Misty Chronexia
Frost Bite: Anime Piracy and Illegal Streaming by Glass Reflection
How Much Money do the Biggest Anime Pirates Make by Mother’s Basement
MONEY IN THE ANIME INDUSTRY:
Alison’s Hawkins’s Piracy as a Catalysis for Anime Evoultion essay
Jun Sugawara’s Animator Dormitory Project
Erika Furudo from Umineko: Ougon Musou Kyoku CROSS (Golden Fantasia CROSS)
©2007-2017, 2012-2012 07th Expasion, Ryukishi07
Ruby Heart from Marvel Vs. Capcom 2
Nami from One Piece
©1997-2017 Eiichiro Oda, Toei Animation
Marika Katou from Bodacious/Miniskit Space Pirates
©2008-2017 Yuuichi Sasamoto and Satelight