So you’ve been watching anime on your favourite not-quite-legal streaming website for a while ago and a strange feeling hits you – guilt. You might not feel any guilt but you might just be surprised at the free and affordable legal ways in which you can access and contribute to your favourite hobby. For you folks living in the UK, I’m going to go through streaming services as well as online and high street stores that distribute anime.
The first step for anyone looking to move away from the dark side of anime viewing would be to find a free ad-based streaming service. In the UK we’re fairly well served by several streaming services that offer various series free of charge.
Perhaps the first port of call for streaming is the omnipresent Crunchyroll. After a while in anime world it might feel like Crunchyroll dominates your browsing history but it does so with good reason as it holds most titles that haven’t been licensed by Funimation. The service is free with ads or available to subscribe to as a member from £4.99 a month which gives you access to new shows a week early as well as getting rid the ads. Downsides are the lack of English dubs.
Funimation remain the biggest sole licensor of anime in the west and this year their streaming service has arrived in the UK and Ireland. Though their streaming library isn’t as extensive over here compared to in the US it still contains a good number of titles in Japanese and English. The service hasn’t been fully refined yet as we’re still missing console and TV apps. Access works on a similar system to Crunchyroll with a free service for certain subbed shows and a scaling membership for all subbed and dubbed shows. They also run a ‘broadcast dub’ service where new shows airing in Japan are given English dubs within weeks of their original release.
As the premium streaming site for all content Netflix needs little introduction. In the last couple of years its range of anime has been increasing especially in terms of some the most popular titles. It also has a good mix of English dubs along with the original Japanese vocals. Access is based on Netflix’s standard subscription fees.
Amazon is VERY new to the anime streaming market. At the start of the year it arranged a deal to stream all anime airing in Fuji TV’s Noitamina slot for the foreseeable future. Though it’s hard to say if we can expect more anime from Amazon, it does show an intent to get more involved in the anime streaming competition in the future. Subscription is a little more tricky than most sites as you are required to sign up to Amazon Prime or buy the series out right.
There are lots of other small streaming services such as Viewster and Daisuki which currently offer a very small amount of shows but shouldn’t be disregarded and can be accessed legally and free of charge.
Obtaining physical copies
The one high street chain to stock anime on a large scale (to my knowledge) is HMV. Not all stores will have a specific section and will often not stock much in the way of Blu-Ray. Much like much stock in HMV, anime is quite expensive (oooh, feel that burn) but it is the place to go to find DVD and Blu-Ray copies of shows without having to go through an online ordering process.
My personal favourite place for buying anime is Zavvi. In the majority of cases Zavvi is the place to go to find the best prices on most of your anime needs. Physical copies will never be cheap, but Zavvi does all it can to give you the best of a bad situation.
Another good online retailer with a specific anime section. An excellent range of shows are available on Base and it is often competitive in terms of price. Should always be checked.
I don’t like to recommend Amazon for anything. Despite the money I’ve put into it in the past, anime is one of the few areas I can safely say most of the time you’re not getting the best deal. Amazon excels in terms of its range and, if you’ve got a prime subscription, delivery speed. By all means go ahead and check Amazon, but unless you’re looking for something really obscure, you’re better off elsewhere.
So that’s it. This is how you I access my anime – no one expects you to pay lots to watch your favourite shows but if you can it will help the industry which means more shows to become your favourites in the future.