#1 The fuck is this interface?
The usual source for all my anime is experiencing a bit of downtime these past weeks and, right now, I don’t have anything on the shelf that I still need to watch. In desperation, I turned to my family’s Netflix account that we have had for several years and I only used maybe 3 times. Somewhere on this service there had to be a show I wanted to see, right?
Well, if there is, then finding it proved too much of a bother. This web interface is the stuff of nightmares. Everything is presented in giant blocks (admittedly, just like my website) and presents little to no information. The categories are arbitrary and force you to scroll through handfuls of shows at a time, which might also be included in other categories on the same page.
Even when you set it to display everything at once, uncategorized, I know for a damn fact it’s withholding stuff. Kill la Kill is not on this page, but I know it’s there. You can search for it and BOOM! it does turn up. Same with Black Lagoon, which turns up nowhere unless I search for it.
Categorization is a joke. Shows and movies are separated from each other, but Netflix makes no distinction between TV shows, ONA, or even OVA. Rather than distinct genres, shows are described with vague terminology like “Raw”, “Elaborate”, or “Compelling”, which only lose more meaning when translated into Dutch. In the default view, there are bizarre decisions like putting Anohana in the section “shows for teens” or it recommends the now-ancient Ninja Hattori-kun series for kids aged 8-10, even though it’s not translated for this region and doesn’t even offer subtitles. Again, that is also not information I could find without actually starting up the show.
Everything about this site irks me. I am constantly not getting the right information, categories are random, shows don’t appear even if they are available, and man does it get annoying when they start autoplaying these unflattering samples of a show when you are trying to read what little information it does offer.
#2 The selection
Regionlocking on DVD and BluRay is bullshit, but even worse is having shows locked by region when dealing with online streaming. If you play around with NordVPN or your equivalent you can see the Netflix library expand and contract as you jump between countries. The Dutch catalog that I see by default is… eh limited.
They have some big-name shows here. Some recent hits like One Punch Man, some older classics and long-running shounen stuff, some shows for kids and even some obscure gems, but it’s hardly ideal. Even if I went in not having already seen any of these shows, I could work through everything that interests me in a few days. Your experience will vary of course and I did hear about colleagues who rediscovered Naruto through Netflix. They’ll be busy for a while, but not many people are going to be similarly hyped for stuff like Dinosaur King or the remarkable collection of cheap-looking CG titles that are tucked away at the bottom of the page.
Even then, the available shows aren’t always complete. Only season 1 of One Punch Man is available, there are bits & piece of the Fate and Gundam series spread throughout, and sometimes you just can’t find these unless you deliberately search for them. Remember that big Neon Genesis Evangelion announcement they put out? Finally, this anime classic was going to be available online! Except, it’s only the TV show and first 2 movies. Everything else is missing.
Even worse is that stuff constantly disappears. I am absolutely certain I watched the Madoka movies on Netflix while waiting for the physical release, but those are now gone. I had watched a few episodes of Mahou Shoujo Tai Arusu, which is also gone. If Netflix actually has something you want to watch, you better be damn quick about it. Lord knows it might be gone the next day.
#3 Rubbish value
10 euros a month is relatively expensive considering Crunchyroll charges half of that and has a vastly larger catalog. Of course, Netflix has an enormous list of movies and live-action TV shows to supplement its anime shortage, and Crunchyroll has problems of its own that pushed me to cancel my subscription, but for an anime fan it’s just not worth it.
If I am being charitable, I’d say that Netflix has impressively collected a wide range of shows to appeal to different demographics of the anime fandom. There is anime for childhood nostalgics, for fans of the traditional shounen, for eccentrics, and even for the retro crowd, but there is not enough for any of those people. It’s cool that they have Steins;Gate… but I have already seen Steins;Gate. It’s telling that Netflix’ own recommendations for similar shows just seem to pull whatever from their library, because there is no synergy in their offering.
And there is the larger issue at play here, in that Netflix is now just yet another party snooping up exclusive rights to anime and making the online streaming scene more fragmented. I have to get it if I want to watch Black Lagoon legally, but then I am also volunteering to have my inbox spammed with advertisements for 13 Reasons Why and live-action adaptations of which the original anime are region-locked out of my reach. With every other company like this, it becomes less accessible to legally watch anime and more of a hassle to find the shows that you want to watch.
10 euros is not just expensive, it’s money that you pay that goes towards upholding region-locking, exclusivity deals, and shoddy preservation of our medium’s history. My family is lucky that I care about their enjoyment of the platform, otherwise it would have been canceled years ago.