Text version and links:
Anime Calendar: http://animecalendar.net/
This video features music from the Haibane Renmei, Spice and Wolf, and Turn A Gundam soundtracks.
Japanese Animation is a vast medium, with an even more vast culture surrounding it. There are thousands of anime communities and millions of anime fans on the internet, and all of these individuals and groups have unique anime watching habits; whether they watch one episode of one show every week, or marathon five shows every three days, or anything in-between. In general, anime viewing styles can be broken down into two main categories: backlog anime viewing, and current anime viewing.
Backlogged anime is stuff that’s already concluded its TV run, or has been running for more than one season. A lot of anime fans primarily watch backlogged shows, either because those are the only ones that they’ve heard of, or because they only watch the American releases of shows that come out some time after the original broadcast.
However, the practice of watching currently-airing shows has grown in prominence over the years, and is now pretty normal among anime fans. The process of getting into and following current shows, however, can be confusing for new fans, and I’ve never seen a simple or widespread guide introducing new viewers to the practice, so that’s what I hope to provide with this video.
The most important thing to understand about how anime is released in Japan, is that new shows typically come out on a seasonal basis. There are four seasons of TV, which almost perfectly begin and end at the start of the year. The Winter season begins in January, the Spring season begins in April, the Summer Season begins in July, and the Fall season begins in October.
In the current anime landscape, a typical series will run for one season, totalling twelve, thirteen, or occasionally eleven episodes depending on the show. Once a show has ended, another show in a similar genre will typically take over its TV slot, but for the most part, Japanese broadcast times and networks don’t effect the way fans around the world view anime series.
More ambitious and higher-budget series will often run for two seasons, totalling twenty-four to twenty-six episodes, and a lot of successful one-season shows will receive continuations later on down the line. Meanwhile, anime aimed at children and preteens tend to run a lot longer. A lot of Saturday-morning shows tend to run for 52 episodes, and adaptations of long-running manga aimed at younger audiences will often run for several hundred episodes, or however long it takes to catch up to the manga.
Every time a new anime season begins, a whole flurry of new shows are released. The Spring and Fall seasons tend to have the biggest haul of new shows, often numbering over forty. Shows that run for two seasons often begin in the Spring or Fall and continue running through the Summer and Winter. Meanwhile, the Summer and Winter seasons often see mostly one-season shows, and continuations of successful one-season shows of the past few years.
The main method that fans use to keep track of new and upcoming shows is via charts, which are maintained by fellow fans. The past few years have given rise to incredibly handy tools such as AniChart.net, which has countdowns to the next episode of each new show, or animecalendar.net, which lets you customize your own calendar for following the shows you care about. These sites usually give you basic information such as summaries, a glance at the series artwork, information about the animation studio that makes the show, and what kind of series it’s going to be in terms of length and release dates.
If these sites don’t give you a good enough idea of what you’re getting into, there are also hundreds of anime blogs, forums, and youtubers who can help to inform you. If you search the name of a show and something like “episode one,” on google, you’ll usually get a ton of posts from various anime blogs sharing opinions and summaries of the episode. You can also use my own anime channel, Digi Does Anime, though I provides more review than summary. A lot of these anime bloggers will be more experienced and probably use a lot of language that could be confusing to newcomers, but google can help a lot with this terminology. And for my servant , if you ask him in the comments what something he says in one of his reviews means, he’ll gladly explain it.
Now, hopefully you’ve got a good general sense of what currently-airing anime is, how it works, and how to keep track of different shows, but the most important question then is: where do you watch it?
In the mid to late 2000s, the primary method of watching currently-airing shows before they made it to the US on DVD, was via fansubs. It used to be that not every show was subbed, and typically a fansubbed episode was released anywhere from four days to several weeks after the episode dropped, and their continued release depended entirely on the whims of a small team of unpaid fans. Over time, however, as anime and fansub culture grew in prominence, more and more groups emerged releasing subs faster and faster until we reached a point that virtually every new show was being subbed, and most were subbed by the end of the day that they came out.
Eventually, Japanese companies caught on that a large part of the anime fanbase outside their country was more inclined to watch currently-airing shows and didn’t mind watching in Japanese with subtitles. Around the time of the American recession in 2008, the anime DVD industry took a massive blow, with a lot of licensing companies closing shop. Moreover, as licensing companies lowered the cost of DVDs to remain competitive, Japanese companies weren’t making enough money from US releases to actually justify the cost of localizing shows. Therefore, Japanese companies started seeking to cut out some of the middle-men and release their shows directly to international audiences exactly the way those audiences were already watching them: through fast, streamable, subtitled videos on the internet.
The movement is not fully complete, but there are nonetheless a ton of anime each season now which are released to legal online streaming sites. Crunchyroll is the forerunner of these sites, allowing you to watch shows for free with minimal ads spliced in, or to watch in high-quality with no ads for a seven dollar monthly subscription. This is a ludicrously affordable way to not only view a ton of shows within hours of their Japanese broadcast, but to support the anime industry in the process.
American licensing company Funimation also offers streaming on their website, though most of their shows require a premium account to be viewed. A lot of Funimation shows are also streamed on Hulu, which has its own selection of currently-running shows, some of which can be viewed for free with a lot of ads thrown in, or viewed on hulu premium… also with some ads. I really don’t understand Hulu’s business model.
As it stands, not every single series is broadcast on these sites, so there still may be times that you must defer to fansubs. Now, downloading or streaming fansubbed anime is not technically legal, and is considered a form of copyright infringement. However, it’s also debatably not illegal and healthy consumer practice, and there is nothing morally wrong about doing it whatsoever. I can’t really link you to any places to collect fansubbed anime because I don’t want to possibly get in trouble, but it’s dead easy to find them.
A lot of anime database sites like AniDB and MyAnimeList will have lists of all the sub groups that are covering each show, and you can easily search for those groups on google. You can safely download these shows via torrents and IRC if you know how, and some places even have easily findable direct downloads. Illegal streaming sites tend to have decent quality video these days, so if you don’t mind a show looking less than amazing, you can easily search the name of a show and the word “streaming” and get a list of sites that offer it. Just make sure that you have an adblocker enabled when visiting these sites as some may feature pop-up ads, and frankly you shouldn’t be making any money for sites that don’t support the industry.
Hopefully this guide has been helpful to anyone looking to get into currently-running shows. And remember, if you want someone to discuss all those new shows you end up watching with, subscribe to my anime vlogging channel and participate in the comment discussions on my videos. I’m giving pretty much every show at least a shot, and will have a video coming out soon about what shows are worth watching from the current season, so be sure and stick around!