[Editorial Tuesday] Anime Streaming Sites: Legal vs Illegal

psycho-pass drama cd wallpaper

Admit it, we’ve all dabbled in illegal streaming sites at some point. Much of it was due to a lack of easy access to anime that we like and want to watch, especially for those of us who started watching anime more than 10 years ago. Many of the TV channels that we can find in our countries usually have very few anime available for us to watch and often times they aren’t even subbed, which a majority of the population prefers.

Importing the Blu-ray/DVD version of the anime can be very costly, not just for the price of the discs themselves but they’re import price as well. This holds true for many forms of media in fact. Other shows, such as simple dramas to even movies, that feature in other countries can be very expensive to purchase and many find it not worth the purchase price. Therefore, a lot of people use illegal streaming sites to view these forms of media and anime.

This used to be an understandable position to take. But with the advent of the Internet as a medium to convey filmographic material, that no longer has to be the case. There are such things as legal streaming sites nowadays, with official licensing rights to the anime themselves. Furthermore, with their subscription based services, it is much more worth it to simply subscribe than to buy the anime outright.

Here at Honey’s Anime, we explore the reasons why you should get your anime fix from legal streaming sites such as Crunchyroll, Daisuki, FUNimation, Hulu or Netflix, instead of illegal streaming sites.

Official vs Unofficial Translations

ET FateStay Night Unlimited Blade Works 1. Official v Unofficial

Unofficial versions of anime often rely on fansub teams to translate, encode and sub the anime upon release in order to create a working “product” that viewers over the internet can watch. This process involves someone getting a raw version of the anime, most times illegally by directly recording the anime or some other source, and the fansub team will then work on a short schedule to get the translated version out for people to watch.

This process is bad for a number of reasons. The most obvious of reasons would be the illegality of the whole thing, but we will explore more on this topic further in the article. The emphasis here is on the final product itself. Unofficial fansub are often times the work of a team of regular people who have regular lives and jobs. They’re not professionals who know for sure what they are doing or have the full breathe of knowledge needed to accurately translate an anime into sub form.

In the process of translation through the fansub teams, many cultural nuances and idioms that would have been more concisely translated by a full professional team can be lost in translation, literally. Famous memes such as “People die when they are killed” are spawned from such mistranslations, when the original context of the anime relies on the user's understanding of the Japanese language to fully comprehend.

Official sites not only have a fully dedicated team that are paid to translate anime as their day job, the fact that they are being paid also suggests that they have the qualifications needed to even be hired by the companies that own the sites. Furthermore, the official sites often have access to the original video in full HD quality, leading to a more palatable final product with official subtitles that are more pleasing to watch visually.

Just imagine watching the works of Ufotable or A-1 Pictures in full HD, wherever and whenever you want.

Ease of Access

ET onepiece 3. Ease of Access

It isn’t easy to get access to illegal versions of subbed anime most of the time. Those who can get such copies are usually fairly intimate with how the whole process works, and finding them can be very daunting for the uninitiated to the anime fandom of the internet. The usual way that is taken would be to access the illegal streaming sites and hope that they have the anime that the user wants to watch.

This often presents the conundrum of being unable to watch the anime due to how these sites skirt the edge of the law. Instead of directly hosting the videos on their server, these sites use third party players in order to showcase the anime. This allows them to get away with not actually have the anime on their site but still being accessible on the site itself. However, third party players are often unreliable and the videos get taken down often.

Imagine having an anime binge and not being able to find the next episode, leading to massive amounts of frustration.

Another way to get access is through the process of torrenting. Torrenting is often denotative of piracy and piracy is a crime in most commonwealth countries, where a majority of anime fans come from. Therefore, not only is torrenting a technically difficult process to utilise, it is illegal as well. In the United States, the act of pirating videos, including anime, can carry a penalty of $250,000, 5 years in jail and a felony record. Is that worth it just to get anime for free?

On the other hand, official streaming sites have a full and easily accessible database with all variations of quality a user needs to adjust to his network speed, from 360p to 1080p. They also boast many utilities that can be helpful to the user, such as the episode synopsis and auto play of the anime (great for binge watching!). There are very little hiccups that can come from using legal streaming sites, leaving viewers with more time to watch anime rather than to deal with the tedious process of getting unofficial versions.

Speed of Translation

As stated earlier, the official sites license the anime from the publisher or studio and either translate the anime from there or get the subbed version from the studio. It can vary from anime to anime as each studio works differently. Regardless, the releases of the official versions are done by people who are paid to work around the clock in order to bring out the official version as soon as humanly possible and immediately upon posting it on the site, users can usually get notifications that the anime they are currently following has been updated.

Unofficial fansubs are done by a group of people with a common interest in anime. These fansubbers are often unpaid and are done by regular people during their off time. After getting the anime from a dubious source, the work is put through a multistage process that involves the anime passing from person to person, whether to translate or to handle the encoding of the video. This is an understandable process because these people don’t stay within commutable distance from each other and can often be from different countries.

However, it is also extremely time consuming to translate anime in such a manner. Not only do the fansub teams have real jobs and lives to get back to, passing it from person to person can only mean that the process would take far longer than an official translation team. In a full team, they usually edit the video together in the same working area and in doing so, they are able to handle all stages of the anime translating process in a speedy manner.

Furthermore, without the strings attached to the earlier subtitle, ease of access, the official versions simply have to be posted on the legal streaming sites without fuss or worry and are immediately watchable from their servers. The illegal versions have to be uploaded multiple times on third party players or be put up for torrenting, which is once again, time consuming. Using the legal versions is just faster and easier, and who doesn’t want that?

Illegality

ET Prison School 4. Illegality

Piracy is illegal. Not only does it come with a jail sentence and penalty, in countries like the United States it comes with a felony record as well. By viewing, downloading and pirating the illegal versions that come in torrenting or streaming sites, you are putting yourself at risk of civil and criminal legal proceedings. Not only can these leave a person destitute and lose many years to the prison system, the record that comes with it can bar a person from many education and employment opportunities.

The ones at greater risk to this process are the fansub teams who produce the illegal versions of anime. While downloading and viewing for personal pleasure is already bad, imagine what sharing the illegal copies on the internet carries with it! By having an over reliance on these teams, they are made to share what is essentially thousands of episodes of anime over the internet. An example of why this can be damning is the following case in the United States.

A former Ph.D student in the States was recently made to pay the fine of $675,000 in total for the downloading, streaming and/or sharing of songs on the internet. The fine carried for each song is $22,500 each. With 30 songs being used to implicate and prosecute him, it adds up to the hefty amount above that could be used to feed a family of four for 5 years.

Imagine the consequences this can have for the fansub teams. The student has already incurred more than half a million in fines for sharing 30 songs illegally. These teams share thousands of episodes in order to sate everyone’s desire for more anime. Not only is watching anime this way putting ourselves at risk, but the teams that are relied on can have their entire lives taken away just because they’re trying to please the masses.

Supporting the Studios

ET tonari no totoro 5. Support the Studios

Watching anime on the illegal streaming sites can be taxing on the site’s servers. This is often supplemented by the adverts that are present on such sites. The income from the adverts pay for the servers used and the site owners can even profit from such adverts. Overall, it forms a nice little ecosystem for the user and site owner, right?

Not really.

The adverts can often be cumbersome and distracting, giving a dreary user interfaces peppered with banners of weird products or obviously illegal surveys. This is further compounded with pop-up ads that wish to inform you that there are hot lonely singles in your area who really want to do the horizontal tango with you. The more tedious the adverts, the more money the owner gets each time one is brought to your attention. If you were the owner, wouldn’t you put as many as possible?

The worst caveat that appears with this “ecosystem” comes with the division of profits, or lack thereof. The money goes to the people who maintain the sites. It does not get shared with the studios who produced the anime we love at all. This is obviously because these sites are illegal to begin with and profit from doing nothing more than sharing the illegal versions.

It can be hard to find one season of an anime. Often times, anime that are wildly popular still get discontinued purely from a lack of funding. This is due to the anime being watched through illegal means as opposed to buying the DVD or Blu-ray version of the product. Since the studios don’t receive the money, they don’t have the funds required to make another season of the anime, leaving us hanging.

However, supporting the anime can be costly. Buying the Blu-ray and importing it can be a costly process, and often times, it’s even harder to find a subbed version. Buying the figurines or official products of the anime can also potentially bankrupt the fan as well. So how can one support the studios without losing all financial stability?

By subscribing to the legal streaming sites. The subscription fees of these sites are often reasonable to upkeep with and they provide the benefits that have been listed throughout the article. Due to the licensing agreements that these sites have with the studios, the studios are paid a portion of these subscription fees in return for licensing the anime. In watching anime on the streaming sites, you are supporting all our favourite studios directly with cold hard cash, and this allows them to keep making the very anime that we know and love!

Concluding paragraph

There is no question that legal sites have all the advantages over an illegal site. There are literally no downsides to using a legal site, and doing so is completely risk free to the user. Getting the full HD version of an anime subbed the very same day it’s released in Japan is great as well. Most importantly of all, it gives us a cheap way to support the studios that we like, allowing the anime industry to grow and expand. This can only be good for anime fans as more anime is released, the bigger the industry is as a whole.

Support the legal streaming sites! (Or by the DVD/Blu-ray if you want to!)

Official Sites you can checkout: Crunchyroll, Netflix, Daisuki, FUNimation and Hulu. There are more, but these are some to start you off with.

Aria

Writer

Author: Aria

Hi, this is Aria. I have abandoned the 3D world for the 2D one. Occasionally I leave the 2D world to write my thoughts down. With that said and done, it's time for me to depart once more to the forbidden world, my waifus await.

Previous Articles

Top 5 Anime by Aria