Is Watching Anime Too Expensive?

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Welcome back to this series of re-uploaded columns from my work with my college newspaper. One of the topics I covered on my column was the cost of anime as a hobby. While there are certainly a lot of modern conveniences that make watching anime easier, for those who would rather not resort to illegal streaming, it can still be expensive. I hope you enjoy the read.

One of the most deceptively difficult questions to answer about anime over the last few years has actually been “where do I watch it?” Most people would reason that since media of all kinds has become significantly more accessible that anime would follow suit. While this is true generally speaking, much like any hobby that isn’t rock collecting, the dollars start to add up after a while. 

First, it is worth acknowledging again that, relative to just 15 years ago, it is definitely easier to watch anime. Before, if a show came out that someone was interested in, they would have to either buy an expensive box set or pirate the anime online in terrible quality while also risking the safety of their computer. Now, most people do not have to think twice about this.

However, the advent of movie and tv streaming has brought both solutions and also new problems. While getting a large number of shows for a set monthly price is a totally reasonable bargain, the model begins to unravel once a large number of similar services start to emerge, each carrying their own unique libraries. In fact, one might say that the problem streaming services set out to fix has been revived in a new way. 

As time has gone by and the popularity of anime has gone way up, many of these same streaming services, Netflix, Hulu, as well as anime exclusive services such as Crunchyroll, Funimation, and HiDive! are also looking for a piece of the pie. Even Amazon a few years ago wanted a share of the market and attempted to cash in with their service “Anime Strike,” which cost five dollars a month extra on top of the existing Amazon Prime fee.


Exclusives have also become a significantly bigger part of the streaming service appeal, and the same is holding true for anime as well. Netflix made a huge effort early on to cash in on anime’s upward trend, and it does appear to be paying off, as the company owns the exclusive rights to an increasing amount of hot-topic shows within the community. 

Companies like Crunchyroll are also beginning to dip their toes into exclusives as well, with a number of Webtoon crossovers including “Tower of God” and “God of High School.” These shows have also turned out to be relatively popular among fans. Funimation, while not as focused in that area, does corner a large part of the market for English dubs for many of the most popular long-running and seasonal shows, including “Black Clover,” “One Piece” and “The Promised Neverland.”

This further division of popular shows among various streaming services means that anyone looking to keep up with what is new is going to have to pay a fairly hefty price. This has led to many figures in the community talking about a potential rise in piracy if companies begin to raise their prices too much. 

The streaming wars will probably continue to rage on for some time. Companies will continue competing for the various series which draw the most eyes in the short term. Long term, however, it may just be the case that being an anime fan, or a fan of tv and movies for that matter, continues to get even more expensive. It might be that streaming just becomes the new cable. 

How do you all feel about the cost of anime? Let me know in the comments below. Feel free to also check out the column I uploaded last week about “Tokyo Godfathers” and Satoshi Kon.

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25 thoughts on “Is Watching Anime Too Expensive?”

  1. I’m going to say, no! I grew up spending five pounds sterling on a thirty minute video cassette that contained one episode of the Guyver. That was close to ten dollars American. I would regularly buy a video a week and they were usually fifteen to twenty pounds. Being able to subscribe to two or three services with an almost unlimited number of shows for the price of two videos a month isn’t even comparable.

    Trying not to sound like a grumpy old man here, but these young’uns don’t know how good they have it!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I totally understand. A good amount of my anime watching experience was as a pre-teen/teen with no money pirating anime, and whenever I looked at the prices of box sets I would have to do a double-take. My main point is that if streaming were to fracture into smaller and smaller companies with smaller catalogues we could have a somewhat comparable situation. Appreciate the perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never found anime more accessible than it is right now. Having to buy very expensive physical media (when it was available – had the original sailor moon series on VHS and it took up half a shelf and cost me a fortune) or essentially break the law to download it as a teen meant very limited offerings. Now for a very reasonable price I can access hundreds of titles on a handful of streaming services and each season there’s something new. Also means I only have to buy the DVD of anime I really love and have already watched and want to watch again rather than saving, spending and then hoping.
    While I find exclusives a little problematic (Amazon exclusives are my real issue) there are so many other anime available compared to what I used to be able to access it feels a little silly to complain about it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Very true. It’s actually because of the accessibility that I’ve also thought about collecting. I have a decent amount of Ghibli, Hosoda and Shinkai already. It wasn’t so much of a complaint of access as much as a what if. I definitely would not want to go back to 10 years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “… would have to either buy an expensive box set or pirate the anime online in terrible quality.”

    Actually, the quality was pretty good. I mean it wasn’t Blu-Ray good, but it was at least as good as what you get on streaming. Sometimes better.

    Actually, the problem was that you either had to torrent it, or you had to wait two years and hope an American distributor picked it up. Then they would sell it on discs that came out every two months or so. Each disc would have 3-5 episodes on it and cost MSRP $30, but you could usually get them for $20. This would mean that a 24-episode series would take a little over a year to fully come out.

    So if you wanted to watch all of a series that came out in 2002 on disc, you needed to wait until 2005. That was the reason that streaming and simulcasts were such a big deal.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with the other commenter, anime has become so much cheaper and more accessible in the past ten years. I live out in the middle of nowhere and I used to have to wait for an anime convention once a year to get all of my anime watching treasure. The first convention I went to I spent over $500 USD on anime DVDs and the price tag went up every year. The last time I bought anime at a convention I spent about $1000! Now I pay less then $10 a month for Crunchyroll and like $7 for Funimation. And I watch soooo much more anime now.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. A lot of folks are pointing out how cheap-and-easy streaming is compared to Ye Bad Ol’ Days of physical media… (And I go even further back, before physical media was even an option!) But I think they’re also, to an extent, comparing apples to oranges. Why? Because streaming is inherently ephemeral. You’re not purchasing the anime, you’re renting access to it. Ownership and renting _are not the same thing_.

    So, while it’s easier than ever and cheaper on a per-show basis to watch anime… You’re not getting the same product. I don’t think you can fairly compare the two (three) eras on a level playing field.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a fair point to make, however, I do also think that, for the most part, the physical collectors in the fandom are the extreme minority nowadays, and that while it is true that ownership is not the same thing as renting, most people do not particularly care about ownership on the same level.

      What that means for anime and art more generally is a conversation that admittedly feels a little above my head given my current knowledge, so I’ll avoid making an definitive statement on that front.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It uses to be. Growing up, all I had was Toonami and Adult Swim, because they aired on basic cable. Now, I can watch on Hulu, Crunchyroll, Netflix, and Peacock. If your willing to deal with ads, some of those streaming services are free.. Plus, some public libraries have an anime section for free rentals. So, I’d say it’s much easier for me to find new anime and watch old favorites. In my opinion, buying hard copy anime is more expensive.

    Liked by 1 person

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