It seems anime piracy has become a hot topic as of late, with high profile YouTubers Digibro and Mother’s Basement uploading videos that, while not immediately addressing one another, clearly advocate for completely different approaches towards watching anime. In Digibro’s video he expresses that watching anime legitimately does very little to benefit the people actually making the show and Mother’s Basement’s video goes into impressive detail regarding the income and practices of Kissanime, the most prominent illegal streaming site at the moment, which concludes by saying people shouldn’t be supporting Kissanime under any circumstance.
I watched both videos and enjoy both YouTube personalities, but more or less agree with neither of them. Like with video games and movies, anime piracy is largely influenced by accessibility. While Steam and Netflix haven’t killed piracy in their respective mediums, they have done a lot to make the legal alternative more appealing in their own ways. While Crunchyroll should fill this role in theory, it mostly just doesn’t.
I feel it’s safe to say that 8/10 anime I would like to watch end up not being available on Crunchyroll, and yes, competing platforms taking up shows is sometimes a factor, but just as often the shows I’d like to see just aren’t available legally for streaming in any way. Even worse, due to me living in Europe sometimes shows are visible, only for them to just not play because region locking is absolute nonsense.
So, how about buying anime physically? Sure, I do that all the time and have a neat collection, but getting anime sight unseen is absurdly expensive. Before I started this blog I watched Gosick via Kissanime, because it wasn’t available anywhere legally and buying it physically would have cost me over 130 euros. Even stellar recommendations from the most reliable reviewers aren’t enough to get me to throw hundreds of euros at a show because I might enjoy it. The only series I ever spent that much on are Cardcaptor Sakura and Lyrical Nanoha; CCS I was already a fan of through the fantastic manga and Nanoha I had already watched before, so these shows I was certain I would enjoy enough to be worth the investment.
Piracy has no downsides for the viewer, it gives them instant access to any show ever released in a convenient format and free of charge. Meanwhile, legal anime is divided between competing subscription services, region locked in increasingly complex ways, and buying it legally can cost you a fortune depending on the show.
I will always make the best effort to get my anime legally, because I don’t buy into this mentality that it earns the actual creators so little you might as well pirate away. The system is far from ideal and deserves changing, but I don’t feel it’s our place to wage that war. If legal alternatives exist and are reasonably accessible, then using a service like Kissanime anyway just makes those legal alternatives even less sustainable. If you can watch the show on Crunchyroll or your existing subscription services, or if you can get it for pennies on DVD or Blu-Ray, then I urge you to consider it. Then again, if these legal options are just not cutting it or you don’t have the finances to buy often, then don’t feel guilty for taking an alternative route.
It doesn’t fall upon us to topple the system, nor should we, as fans, feel obligated to go beyond our means to sustain it. The fact piracy exists is a failure of the industry to deliver us the stuff we want for a price we are willing to pay.