South African anime fans have it hard – harder than they really should. I’ve been getting questions from time to time, on where to get hold of or to watch anime – and it’s a pretty common question on any of the local communities. We had an Animax channel, at one stage, but that went nowhere pretty quickly, and the only print magazine dedicated to anime didn’t really last long either.
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So, in response to a short conversation I had on Twitter a few days ago, I’m going to cover some of the things you can do to get your anime fix as legally as possible, but before we get to that, first:
A little bit of history
Back in 2007, the local anime community was overjoyed when it was announced that Animax would be joining the bouquet of channels offered by DSTV. It’s unfortunate that at the beginning it wasn’t particularly impressive, but I figured it couldn’t get any worse, and that things were on the up for anime fandom in general.
How wrong I was.
A few additional months down the line, I decided to revisit the channel, and it was pretty apparent that there was a pretty half-arsed effort going on with regards to the programming.
Things got worse. At the beginning of 2009, Otakumag announced that they would be shutting down due to a lack of funding caused by advertisers pulling out. The recession hit hard, and South Africa’s fledgling community just didn’t represent a solid market at that point (some may argue that it still doesn’t). Despite a last ditch attempt to save the mag, it left the local scene, and its staff moved on to other things.
By 2010, myself, and probably quite a few others had given up on Animax, given that it had turned into an MTV clone – in effect, not living up to its intended purpose. I figured it was time that the channel rather depart than inflict any more hurt.
My thoughts turned out to be prophetic, and at the end of that same year, it was announced that Animax SA would be shutting down for good, to be replaced by … something else.
Which left local fans in the lurch – desperately looking for other sources. Uncapped internet (or any packages with decent allocations of data) was a pipe dream at the time, so even downloading wasn’t necessarily a realistic option for most.
How are things standing now?
Well – the SABC seems to be airing some anime shows from time to time. Although I haven’t seen them myself I’ve heard reports of Naruto and One Piece airing, and Dragonball Z seems to appear rather regularly (feel free to let me know if you know of others).
But anyone following the local news will know that the SABC is in a rather sticky mess, and decision-making regarding programming is apparently conducted by the flipping of a coin, right after said coin has been wrestled for at the morning meeting.
Nobody knows when what will be airing, and this of course causes a great deal of frustration for people who would like to watch shows. And, from my personal perspective, only airing mainstream shounen titles really doesn’t do much to expose fans, and potential converts, to the sheer volume and variety of titles and series available.
You might be thinking: “This is nice and all, but where do I get my fix?”
I’m going to cover the completely legal options first.
Crunchyroll has a relatively extensive library going back quite a few years, and you need only have an account to be able to watch. If you insist on keeping up to date with shows as they air, you’ll need a premium account which will set you back $7.95/month (between R80 – R90).
The only drawback being that not everything they stream is available because regional licensing is still a thing. And it can be pretty hit and miss – some seasons you’ll have access to a decent selection, other seasons you’ll be lucky to see anything you want.
Daisuki is a newer site, and thus far has only the free account. Their library is still quite small, and unfortunately regional licensing again rears its ugly head here. Staying on the butt-end of the anime fandom has its drawbacks.
If streaming isn’t your thing, your only other option will be buying the series, but this, of course, means waiting several months while desperately trying to avoid spoilers doing their best to ambush you on every single social media platform available to man (especially bloody Tumblr).
I’ve seen anime at some stores like Musica, Look & Listen and so on, but this is pretty hit-and-miss, and not reliable. As far as South Africa’s concerned, Animeworx is probably the go-to where anime is concerned. The prices are pretty decent, and if you’re lucky enough to stay in Gauteng, you can visit their physical stores, but outside of that, you can make use of their online store. I haven’t used the online store, so I can’t guarantee how well things will go there. If you’ve used them, and have feedback, pop it into the comments below.
Besides that, AWX also has a selection of other anime related merchandise for you to drool over.
Heading overseas, you’re almost guaranteed to get what you need from Amazon or Amazon UK. If you’re wondering why I include Amazon UK in the list, it is simply because you might find a series that has been licensed by Aniplex in the US (and they very often charge a portion of your soul), available for a much lower price from a UK licensor. As an example, I got Bakemonogatari for the equivalent of R700, where the Aniplex version would have set me back R1,700. Yelp! Yes – so I don’t get access to all the extra goodies, but I can honestly live without them.
Another store, with probably the best selection, is Rightstuf, which has a tendency to run some pretty awesome specials. They can be a bit of a pain to use, especially when ordering for the first time. It becomes a little easier after that though.
A word on ordering from overseas, though. If you keep an eye on the news, you know our postal services are unreliable at the best of times, so that’s something you will always need to keep in mind. I have had orders disappear on me – luckily I’ve been able to get them replaced.
The Semi-legal options
Right, so at this point we’re going to be wandering into slightly grey territory. The reality remains that getting to watch your anime as it releases is going to be a tough prospect if you live in SA. I can’t even call it a first world problem, because watchers in the States can get their fix almost immediately.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could watch along with them?
Well, you can, as long as services like Hulu and Netflix keep turning a blind eye (not guaranteed) towards folks who pretend to be watching from somewhere they don’t physically exist. First off, you’re going to need to be one of the pretenders.
The easiest (and free) way of doing this is to install the Hola plugin – which is available for most of the popular browsers, as well as Android and Apple devices. Once active, it lets you choose your location, and for me thus far, it works pretty well.
[I have removed the link to Hola given the high probability that it’s a serious security risk for users. This article discusses the dangers of using Hola in greater detail – it’s a long read, but worth checking out. Your better bet would be to find a reliable paid VPN – unfortunately I have no recommendations. Of course, you can still use Hola, but you will be doing so at your own risk.]
Your more reliable option is to set up a VPN, which I’ve never had to do, so I can’t give much of a guide there. There is a cost involved, although it won’t burn huge DSTV-sized holes in your bank account.
Once you’re up and running, you can grab your anime from the following (and a couple of others I’m not mentioning here) services:
Hulu – which comes with both a free and subscription option. Hulu has a fairly large library of series, and also simulcasts quite a few series as they air. The subscription will set you back $7.99/month – the only drawback is that you’re going to have to live with ad breaks, regardless of which option you go for. However, I consider this a pretty minor niggle, and streaming has, thus far, been pretty smooth and problem-free for me.
Netflix – as far as I can see, only has the subscription model available. Since I haven’t availed myself of their services, I can’t say much about the size of their library, but I do know they have a few series available.
Funimation – probably the biggest licensing company in North America (although Sentai grabs a lot of shows too). They have series – and simulcasts – available for free on their site. If you’re going with the free option, however, you’ll have pretty limited access, and you’ll be stuck with ads. There are two subscription options available – the Sub Pass at $4.95/month and the All Access Pass at $7.95. The former gives you access to all their subtitled anime and simulcasts, while the latter gives you access to their dubbed series as well, which is great if you’re not a fan of reading while watching. It also gives you access to some video extras.
All of these are pretty viable, and in my personal opinion, worth the price they charge. There are a couple of additional services available, but I’m not going to go into all of them here.
What’s the drawback?
It comes back to that blind eye I mentioned earlier. At any point any of these services can decide to clamp down on users watching from outside the country, and delete your account without you being able to do anything about it. So, we’ll just keep hoping that they prefer taking your money.
The non-legal option
Well, here we are – shady territory. You feel that waiting months for a show to become available is complete BS, or you probably don’t have a credit card available that will let you sign up to any of the streaming services.
So, first, let me preface this section with the following:
I don’t condone downloading anime at all, and in a perfect world I wouldn’t feel the need to justify it in any way. But, if you’re living in South Africa, you’ve got hellishly limited access to shows, and if you’re at all like me you’re not going to put money down for a shiny box-set if you haven’t confirmed that you enjoy the show in question – I really prefer being able to watch something before I go ahead and add it to my collection.
In keeping with my philosophy, I’m not going to link to download sites myself – however, I will point you in the direction of a site that can help with both torrents, as well as XDCC links (which will let you download using IRC clients if you’re in the appropriate channels). This would be Haruhichan.com, and if you’re new to doing this, you should probably start over here, where you can find a few guides and walk-throughs that will get you started.
This is a form of sophistry, I know, but like I said, we don’t live in a perfect world, and if the various anime players want my money, they need to come to the table, and make it available to me so I can easily get it. Do that, and I’ll give you my money.
If I can’t do this much, I might have to spend more time outside …
Does this help you? I hope so. If you have any other thoughts to share, please do so in the comments below.