The anime industry was a whole different beast a decade ago. While Internet access was on the up-and-up, anime found itself in a grey area where fans tried to find content abroad where it didn’t exist. Shows such as Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon could be found in store catalogs if fans looked hard enough, but many titles were kept stowed away in Japan with a language barrier locked up from fans. The geographic and lingual hold-ups forced anime fans to embrace its now-infamous subbing sects, but times have changed since fans have to rely on illicitly fan-dubbed VHS tapes.
Now, the Internet is doing its best to make anime a mainstream market for audiences around the world.
Even the most technologically illiterate audiences in the U.S. will have heard of sites like Netflix and Hulu. The streaming companies began a quiet revolution years ago to challenged cable conglomerates, and cable-cutting has become an everyday thing for consumers these days. More people are turning to on-demand streaming for their TV needs, and the growing anime audience seems to like the trend.
Thanks to the Internet, anime has become easier to watch than ever before, and it can be found whenever and wherever. While sites like Netflix and Hulu do carry their own anime content, other sites have cropped up which cater to the fandom specifically. Funimation has successfully gone from being a licensing studio to a streaming company with its own exclusive catalog. Crunchyroll stands as one of the most popular anime streaming sites for international fans, and other places like Anime Lab and Daisuke bring streaming services to countries like Australia.
The prolific rise of legal anime streaming services has grown over the years, and the phenomenon recently prompted Funimation and Crunchyroll to made a landmark deal to share its catalogs with one another. Japan has also taken notice and started to simulcast anime titles on websites so that international fans can keep up with shows in realtime. For less than $10 a month, anime fans can access their favorite shows from past and present if they have a wifi connection - and that reality is starting to scare the anime community’s fan-creators.
For years, anime fans have been self-reliant when it comes to watching their favorite titles. Communities would gather to rip, translate, and subtitle popular anime titles because it was the only option they had; If they wanted to watch the new Yu Yu Hakusho season without a year delay, they had to adapt the Japanese version for themselves.
The advent of Internet streaming has given the anime fandom a way out of its old ways of illicit fan-works, but the community still has its pockets of resistance. Fan-subs and dubs are popular given their cost, but legal thoroughfares continue to champion their services for overall fandom. With the anime industry growing more fragile due to poor work conditions and ever worse salaries, official support brings some much-needed cash to overworked animators over in Japan. And, if fans can keep the legal streaming trend growing, then the Internet might house the next big more in anime access one day soon.