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Can Anime Ever Compete with Piracy? -- THE VICE PIT

Luffy ain't the only pirate on anime studios' minds! Join Tom & Sam for a PSA - - * AHEM * - - for a discussion of piracy. Have THEY done it? Have YOU? Can argue you argue with "free" if it threatens your favorite hobby?

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  • TIGER & BUNNY: The Next Big Thing in Anime?
  • Dub Vs. Sub
  • Comic Con / Anime Expo 2012
  • Toonami / FUJIKO MINE
  • Big thanks to swaggity for the most excellent Q!

    Be sure to submit questions and topics for a future Vice Pit session here. We will answer them!

    Tom Pinchuk’s a writer and personality with a large number of comics, videos and features like this to his credit. Visit his website - - - - and follow his Twitter: @tompinchuk

    Sam Weller is a writer and actor who's scribed for shows like FIRST EDITION, GEEK THERAPY, and most recently BATGIRL: SPOILED. He also really likes anime. To know what is going to happen next, follow@cravesam

    swaggityon Sept. 3, 2012 at 12:12 p.m.

    Well, my issue wasn't really "why should I get it for free", because I do have Netflix. But Netflix doesn't have EVERYTHING.

    They recently took off Bleach, for example. So what? Should I go and start paying for Hulu and Crunchyroll, spending all my money on these different services to get all this different anime that some services have that others don't, when it is already free online and all the episodes are there?

    I support Netflix 100%. I love it. But honestly, if it doesn't have a show that I want, the RIGHT thing to do would be to, for example, purchase a Hulu subscription and broaden your range of anime choices. However, the more PRACTICAL thing that most people would do, is just go to their favorite free anime streaming website that has practically all the anime in existence, for instance, and watch it there. Save themselves the money of having to pay for all of these different services.

    sickVisionz moderator on Sept. 3, 2012 at 12:21 p.m.

    Another good episode. I very much agree with Sam. At the end of the day, people deserve to be paid for their work. When paying for someone's work is as simple as watching a 30-second Hulu commercial, I don't get why people (at least people in the US where there are so many outlets for legal consumption) go for illegal viewing options when there are tons of free or cheap legal options available.

    There was a time where I pirated anime but I haven't done so for years because I like it too much and I don't want to contribute to the people involved with making stuff that I love going out of business. I think piracy will always be around though. Some people just don't care about what happens with the industry or the product itself to ever consider it something that has any financial value whatsoever. The type that thinks 30 seconds of time is too much to pay for anime will never be convinced that there's any value to it.

    On the flipside, I don't understand why some series are controlled in a way that makes piracy the only option. I can see an ultra popular series holding out forever, but there are a lot of shows that just tanked in Japan and aren't generating any revenue at all. I'm don't think they'd make huge massive numbers via streaming, but it couldn't hurt to have a streaming deal that was essentially pure revenue sharing rather. The serious would be exposed to a wider audience, there would be some revenue coming (minuscule > nothing) and it could lead to a more profitable home license in the future.

    @swaggity: You can watch Bleach 100% for free on Crunchyroll and Hulu.

    Daniel_Newton moderator on Sept. 3, 2012 at 12:59 p.m.

    This is absolutely the right mindset to have towards piracy. Once you understand the amount of work and money that goes into making anime (and video games, movies, etc.) you understand why it matters when you pay for that content.

    I think the thing distributors have to consider though is how convenient piracy is compared to the services they offer. Why would a consumer (morals aside) wait for anime to be licensed, subbed/dubbed and released months after pirates have already released fan subs on the internet? Distributors have to compete with that.

    Thankfully, they are competing with that, and that's why services like Hulu and Crunchyroll are successful. For most people, internet streaming is even more convenient than downloading anime through torrents. The subbing is done professionally and the picture quality is fantastic. There are still shows that just aren't available on these services, but they are generally few and far between and that number is decreasing all the time.

    swaggityon Sept. 3, 2012 at 1:37 p.m.

    @sickVisionz said:

    @swaggity: You can watch Bleach 100% for free on Crunchyroll and Hulu.

    Bleach was just an example. But that's nice to know that they have it for free. Thanks.

    Petiewon Sept. 3, 2012 at 2:03 p.m.
    It's a hard argument to really come to a conclusive end point on.
    Anime and manga are often released incredibly slowly, like mentioned in the video, or not at all. The first seasons of shows like K-on and Baka Test that I had access to years ago were only released in the UK earlier this year.
    Streaming sites are a good viable option, but only work for some people. You frequently hear "Why pirate when you can just stream it on Hulu or Funimation or niconico?" Well, you can't unless you use a proxy and pretend to be living in America.
    I paid for Netflix primarily for the anime, but there was so little selection and the majority was only English dubbed, with no option for Japanese with subtitles.
    I feel like piracy is primarily a problem for Western anime distributors, and less so for the Japanese studios that are creating them.
    If they don't want people to pirate they need to improve their distribution, quality and timing of releases.
    99% of the anime and manga I own are from series that I had watched or read online and liked enough to support.
    I'm not arguing that piracy is right since it isn't, but I think improving service would decrease it somewhat.
    Like with Steam, I could easily pirate all the games I have bought but I just don't since Steam is so easy to use and accessible. Western Anime distrubutors need to think up some kind of system like this.
    t3h_bashon Sept. 3, 2012 at 4:33 p.m.

    It's about money and availability. Make anime reasonably priced and I will buy it. As it is, I can download an entire series and put it on 1-2 DVDs, which costs me around $1. The same series if bought, most likely having a lower quality, will take up 6-8 DVDs and cost around $100+. As for availability, I can currently get (for example) Naruto Shippuuden Collection 10, which consists of Episodes 113-126. That's the latest release, with Collection 11 coming soon. Current airing of Naruto, fully subbed is at episode 277.

    FoxxFireArt moderator on Sept. 3, 2012 at 11:27 p.m.

    Ever since FUNimation, Crunchyroll, and HULU have been offering legal ways to watch these anime. I haven't watched a pirated version of anime in a LONG while. If there is a legal way to support the series and they are being as authentic as possible, why would I want to use any other service? I have no problem with ads. I'm not so impatient that I can't wait 30 seconds. Though, ONE PIECE FILM: STRONG WORLD is still tempting me. By watching these things online, I have been buying more manga and anime than I ever had before hand. Being able to sample these shows gets me excited to purchase them when they become available in the US. I wish I had more money to be buying more series.

    That's sort of what happened with HIGHSCHOOL OF THE DEAD. I read the first few chapters of the manga through a scan site, but dropped off since it was bi-monthly and forgot about it. Then, The Anime Network offered the anime for free on their site and HULU. I watched the subtitled version, I pre-ordered the Blu-ray when it was released, and I've also bought every volume of the manga Yen Press has published. I also plan to start buying Shoji Sato's (HOTD's artist) TRIAGE X when it's released next month. I probably never would have touched either if I hadn't previewed them before.

    The issue of piracy for me comes to censorship. Censorship to me is a form of evil. I want to like VIZ, but they keep censoring series over and over. Then they will never publish the story the way it was intended, and they try to hide their changes. We aren't being offered the actual story in English. All becasue someone at VIZ decided to target a younger audience the show was intended for, or due to some idiotic sense of political correctness. As with removing the cigarette and lighter from Shikamaru's mouth. VIZ ruined an incredible moment of character drama. They don't have a problem showing a graphic murder, but a character with a cigarette in his mouth once is apparently crossing a line.

    There is also the case of DETECTIVE CONAN. The US version by VIZ white-washed the entire cast. It's a series that takes place entirely in Japan and very often deals with Japanese culture, but none of the heroes are even Japanese. It's disgusting. Again. VIZ will never publish the real story. I really tried to stomach these moronic name changes and bought a volume. The random volume I picked had a translation error in it. What is being said and what is shown on the page contradict each other. It's a murder-mystery series, and they screwed up the evidence.

    If it's a mature series such as BLACK LAGOON, VIZ does some really good work. However, when I heard VIZ was publishing that series I was very hesitant to even start buying their version. It took a few years, and a few people reassuring me they were doing it right for me to try it. I don't trust VIZ, and they give me little reason to.On the other hand, Yen Press and Kodansha Comics (formerly Del Rey) always do incredible work. I love supporting their publications, and they deserve more attention.

    When you're talking about the more direct issue of anime piracy. More often, the US dubbed version of anime or manga isn't being pirated. I don't think I've ever seen a website offering English versions. It's the Japanese version. That's part of the issue I think you missed that deserves to be touched on.

    I can tell you that a lot of the sites that I used to use to watch ONE PIECE. When they saw how well FUNimation was doing with streaming the series. Every one of the sites I knew showing it completely dropped it from their catalogs.

    Om1kronon Sept. 4, 2012 at 3:05 a.m.

    I pay for viz's shonen jump online manga service, but it is a month behind the scanlations. So I read the scanlations in peace knowing I've supported the creators.

    Major features I will just buy as they're available. Buying anime has been a pain in the ass over the years before media formatting always changes. I paid about 60 dollars for an akira dvd tin almost 10 years ago, now they have blu ray akira, remastered akira, etc, etc. I would love to have those versions, and they're cheaper than what I paid. But if your anime catalog spreads over 60 different titles that could get expensive. As far as serialized manga goes, I'd pay for crunchyroll but I've caught up to everything and I don't see the value in a service like someone else said that doesn't offer everything. Watching a series like one piece on hulu is like wasting 45 minutes of my life. 16 minutes of anime spread over the difference in commercials.

    Same with Naruto, what happens when there is a stint of filler for a few months. I don't want to pay for that shit, I'd rather wait months and months, and months before watching again and skip the filler completely like recommended in the guides on this site to certain series.

    For this very reason I haven't even bothered watching bleach since nobody has all of the episodes up anywhere and I hear the anime is just as bad as dragonball with filler or spreading itself thing through episodes.

    Crunchyroll does have all of the new seasonal anime series on for a bit, but then the networks take them off and like someone else said they're never released in a purchasable format I can buy them in or like this other series I got into the other day and watched 12 episodes of only to find out they didn't even have a second season of it. Shigurui: Death Frenzy

    I'm pretty much on the fence concerning the whole thing. I don't go and torrent stuff anymore because I don't really trust any sites. I've been trying to get back episodes of fairy tale to catch up to whats available on crunchy roll but episodes are only avail for a week or 2 there before they're taken down. I actually like the series so it's one of those compromises. Especially with our us distributors doctoring up the original anime for our market.

    I do plan on owning all of the naruto and one piece serialized manga.

    Rxanaduon Sept. 4, 2012 at 4:32 a.m.

    I like the mindset of showing support via product purchases, but what about those who don't have the funds to pay for them (such as myself)? How do we show support aside from the occasional forum post or fanart? Is just watching shows on their websites or other online services like Hulu just as well? For example, I watched the entirety of "MONSTER" on Hulu, and I watch episodes of Eureka Seven: A.O. on FUNimation's official website. Am I truly supporting the creators of these series, and if so, by how much?

    sotyfan16on Sept. 4, 2012 at 4:38 a.m.

    I use Netflix to watch various series that have been out for a while that I either haven't seen, don't own, or don't like enough to own. But also, Netflix is a bit limited in the number of series available to stream and not having an option between dub and sub. I do also use YouTube and FUNimation on occasion but rarely/do not use CR, Hulu, or The Anime Network. And yes, there are a number of series you can watch in their entirety for free but I am one of those people who doesn't like commercials (especially since almost all of them do not relate to the product I am viewing or my interests).

    Paying for the services does not make sense for me due to how far behind on shows I am. If I kept up with what is currently airing then I would consider doing so (for the sake of not having to deal with poor buffering, higher video quality, and no ads).

    Do I pirate? No. But do I watch fansubs? Yes. I watch fansubs of everything. If I like a series (and there are many) then I wait for the end product I desire and purchase it. The same goes for manga. I read scans of many manga (and hentai and ecchi) series and then buy them if they are licensed or become licensed. However, some anime and many manga series go without being licensed. Thus I am left with reading scans since I cannot read Japanese or Korean (meaning I import the volumes).

    Am I ashamed for how I do this? No. In the end I pay for what I like and if there is something I don't like then I'm not out anything (though I generally will not watch or read something if it does not fall into my interests). Most of what I enjoy (anime-wise) gets picked up so that is a good thing.

    As for Japan, the companies there are mostly worried about consumers importing the US releases for far cheaper than buying the individual volumes that are released there. Also, copyright infringement is huge in Japan. There are more doujinshi than one would care to count (and they get published). But the companies let it slide because they find in the end the original material gets more money through the spread of the infringing material.

    On another note, I'm not one for digital copies of anime or manga. I'm almost all digital with music aside from the occasional cheap CD but I prefer viewing anime (along with movies and TV shows) in disc form and holding a volume (or book) in my hands instead of my iPad (which I use for reading scans).


    I know sites that offer sub and dub versions of series. On the other hand I know sites that only deal with sub or dub. And no, not fandubs.

    sotyfan16on Sept. 4, 2012 at 4:43 a.m.


    You'd have to be an industry insider to quantify the monetary gain from viewers like you watching the free streaming content.

    But yes, watching through official means does help. The more views, shares, etc. help companies know what viewers like and want more of.

    sickVisionz moderator on Sept. 4, 2012 at 9:01 a.m.

    Man, I want to know what it is specifically about Bleach that makes people continually say that you can't watch it online.

    @sotyfan16 said:

    Do I pirate? No. But do I watch fansubs? Yes.

    This makes no sense at all

    @Om1kron said:

    Crunchyroll does have all of the new seasonal anime series on for a bit, but then the networks take them off and like someone else said they're never released in a purchasable format I can buy them in...

    The massive majority of anime on Crunchyroll stays up for years upon years on a service that has only been around for years. Of the small percentage that does get removed, the massive majority of it gets a physical release and is still available for legal streaming. I'm not sure where the "never released in a purchasable format" line is coming from.

    @Rxanadu said:

    I like the mindset of showing support via product purchases, but what about those who don't have the funds to pay for them (such as myself)? How do we show support aside from the occasional forum post or fanart? Is just watching shows on their websites or other online services like Hulu just as well? For example, I watched the entirety of "MONSTER" on Hulu, and I watch episodes of Eureka Seven: A.O. on FUNimation's official website. Am I truly supporting the creators of these series, and if so, by how much?

    I can't say a number because I don't know, but anything available on a legal site is there because there is money exchanging hands between the people who make it or license it and the service streaming it. It may not be a ton, but it's certainly more than...

    • What some torrent tracker filled with ads gives back... which is $0
    • What some bootleg streaming site filled with ads gives back... which is $0
    • What some fansub group gives back... which is $0.

    @t3h_bash said:

    It's about money and availability. Make anime reasonably priced and I will buy it. As it is, I can download an entire series and put it on 1-2 DVDs, which costs me around $1.

    They will never be able to compete with an entire series for $1 because a fansub group has no overhead and could care less whether or not people like the animators, voice actors, background artists, musicians, get paid for their work. A legal business however would likely get sued for trying to stiff these people out of their paychecks. Even being in a position where this seems like a choice to be made would likely mean they are on the verge of total collapse.

    DocHauson Sept. 4, 2012 at 9:13 a.m.

    Only thing I can say is that anime is slowly trying to follow the same thing that gaming and music industries have done, compete with the pirates by making the time/monetary/risk costs cheaper through legal services like Crunchyroll. You'll never be able to fully compete with pirates, but you can peel off a few of those who have spare change to support their favorite series.

    tristenkw5on Sept. 4, 2012 at 9:55 a.m.

    As a person who actually prefers dubs, that's part of the reason I watch some anime online surprisingly. It's true that services like Netflix and Hulu are good about having dub versions because they're obviously aimed at wider American audiences. But they don't have the anime selection of a Crunchyroll or an Anime Network which cater towards the more niche crowd who prefer subs, and therefore focus on having all sub eps and the dubs whenever it's easy to get them. So my options are to watch the few anime available on Netflix or Hulu, or watch many anime in a format I don't prefer.

    Now, the first thing I know will be said is "just watch them subbed and get over it!". Yet, I know if I ever told someone who preferred subs to do the same and just watch a dubbed version of an anime they want to watch, I'd be told I'm crazy. It's just the bias against dub watchers at work, and I've come to terms with that. I have no problem with subs, I just prefer dubs more often than not. If there are any big changes to the material that are actually important, I can look them up. I've hardly ever had to do such a thing, however.

    This doesn't mean I don't pay for anime when I have the chance. I'm trying to build up a collection of anime on Blu-ray, but sadly the releases come out at a trickle for US releases. But I'm willing to buy almost any anime I've enjoyed if able, in order to pay back what I owe. I'm only buying Blu-Ray however, as it's obvious DVDs are on the way out, so I'd just end up re-buying many of the same series again once they get re-released.

    So as many others have said, it's simply availability. For example, I never would've watched one of my favorite anime, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, if it weren't available online. Not because it's free, but because the anime wasn't available at all on Netflix streaming. I didn't have the DVD plan, and even if I did all the dvds weren't available at the same time most likely. Not sure if Hulu had it, but I know they wouldn't have had the dub if they did. Crunchyroll doesn't look like it has the dub either. I didn't even think the dub existed until I did some digging and found it on a free-streaming site.

    But you know what? I didn't stream the movie, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, because I could BUY that on Blu-Ray. It was available. And if the series ever comes out, I'll buy that day one as well.

    Point is, I pay for what I watch when possible. I go back and pay for stuff I watched in the past when possible. Because of pirating I'm able to experience anime I don't have access to otherwise and later make sure the creators get what they deserve, as well as spread the word to my sub watching friends who do have more options to spend money on the series.

    I'm not saying piracy is right because of that, or that all people who watch for free are as willing to pay eventually. Nor am I using this as an excuse. I am only giving my reasoning for dabbling in less-that-legal means for my entertainment.

    Daniel_Newton moderator on Sept. 4, 2012 at 10:50 a.m.

    @tristenkw5: I think you may be presuming too much when it comes to re-releases. Even in Japan where lots of anime series are released on Blu-ray, DVD is still the main format, and dubbed anime is released much more often on DVD than on Blu-ray. Sometimes the Japanese companies don't even allow American distributors to release anime on Blu-ray (take Panty & Stocking for example). Since DVDs can be played on Blu-ray players, and Blu-ray discs are probably going to be the last major home video format, I doubt a lot of anime released on DVD will be re-released on Blu-ray later. It's far more likely high definition content will appear more and more on streaming services like Hulu and Netflix.

    There's a chance I'm wrong and someday everything will be available on Blu-ray, but the change from DVD to Blu-ray isn't the same as it was from VHS to DVD. Because of the backwards compatibility you're buying discs for the same machine. It made so much more sense to re-release content on DVD back then than it does on Blu-ray now.

    If you're intent on paying for the anime you like and building a collection, I'd recommend just getting the DVDs instead of pirating them. I'm not judging you, just trying to explain why you may be disappointed.if you think most anime will see Blu-ray releases down the line.

    Of course the advantage of shifting focus to streaming over home releases means we should see more and more dubbed anime appear on streaming services, we're just in this in-between phase right now and will be for a while.

    sickVisionz moderator on Sept. 4, 2012 at 3:19 p.m.

    @Daniel_Newton said:

    Even in Japan where lots of anime series are released on Blu-ray, DVD is still the main format.

    Perhaps for overall media consumption but in the anime industry, Blu-rays far outsell DVD releases of the same series.

    tristenkw5on Sept. 4, 2012 at 3:31 p.m.

    @Daniel_Newton: Oh no no, I'm under no disillusions on that front. I know full well I'll probably never get a Blu-Ray set of Death Note for example, but I'm not in any hurry either. (EDIT: For the record, this is not to imply that I pirated DN. I watched it on Cartoon Network, just to be clear.) Plus you never know with these things. My full set of Yu Yu Hakusho Blu-Rays tell me my patience may actually pay off one day.

    I really hate DVDs at any rate, and don't want to have 20 for the space of 5 Blu-Rays. If anything I'll wait for the next round of consoles and buy them digitally.

    That said, this is all besides the point of why I have pirated in the past, and probably will again some day. The minute I get a service that allows me to stream 100% fully complete, dubbed series with no restrictions, I'll be there. Until then, I'm not going to pay 30 dollars a month to hope that the dubbed series that come up on Netflix, Hulu, and Crunchyroll even catch my interest past the first episode. In the meantime, I will however show my support elsewhere by buying more merch and spreading the word out about the anime that mean something to me until I can properly give my thanks through digital sale or Blu-Ray if I'm lucky.

    Daniel_Newton moderator on Sept. 4, 2012 at 3:44 p.m.

    @sickVisionz said:

    @Daniel_Newton said:

    Even in Japan where lots of anime series are released on Blu-ray, DVD is still the main format.

    Perhaps for overall media consumption but in the anime industry, Blu-rays far outsell DVD releases of the same series.

    I wasn't talking so much about sales, I meant that more anime is released on DVD than Blu-ray. In Japan it's really close and almost all new shows come out on both formats now, but DVD is still the "base" format if you know what I mean. If you can name a bunch of shows that have come out on Blu-ray but not on DVD I'll be very surprised.

    Daniel_Newton moderator on Sept. 4, 2012 at 3:47 p.m.

    @tristenkw5: Ah that's okay then, I just wanted to make sure. I'll admit I had no idea Yu Yu Hakusho had been released on Blu-ray, that's pretty cool.

    sotyfan16on Sept. 4, 2012 at 4:18 p.m.


    I've always seen pirating as taking something you didn't pay for and having it for your own use (such as downloading a series). I haven't done that and only go to streaming sites.

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