“Japan’s first official anime channel on YouTube” AnimeLog opened it’s doors to the rest of the world on Friday. When the channel was first announced in August, the darker side of AniTwitter cheered. Would this finally be the death of the US anime industry?
Misinformation spread quickly. The most common claim was that anime companies in Japan were tired of American politics being inserted into English dubs. AnimeLog was their way of taking matters into their own hands. By cutting out the middleman, they could release their content directly to consumers without having to share the profit.
When the service launched with mostly classic titles for Japanese residents only, the discourse mostly faded into obscurity. Now that some titles are no longer region-locked, it’s safe to say that AnimeLog is not going to change the world.
Currently, six titles are available:
- Ahare! Meisaku-kun
- Hello, Anne Before Green Gables
- Hungry Heart
- Fantastic Children
- The World of Golden Eggs
- Jungle Emperor Leo
While it’s always great for more people to get access to more anime, AnimeLog in it’s current form is a mess. The landing page is an unorganized, low-effort affair that I would expect from a college student that just got into vlogging — not a partnership of 30 anime companies with financial backing.
The About section is only in Japanese, which means that non-Japanese speakers that stumble upon the channel will have no clue what its about. Episode labeling is all over the place in terms of consistency, and include multiple formatting and punctuation errors.
Video quality for some titles is laughably low. Fantastic Children, for example, has a maximum resolution of 360p. They also can’t seem to figure out how they want to implement subtitles. Some shows have subtitles burnt in, while others use YouTube’s closed caption feature. The subtitles for Fantastic Children are auto-generated and based on the dub.
Something that’s particularly funny about the narrative surrounding AnimeLog is the claim that it was created so anime companies could “own the American SJWs.” I’m going to go on a limb and say that wasn’t the case because they put a trigger warning in the summary of almost every video.
The warning reads:
This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions. However, we respect the historical value of the works and the historical background of the time when they were published, and we decided not to change against any of them. Thank you for your understanding.
This is similar to the disclaimer that Discotek put on their Blu-ray of Lupin III: The Pursuit of Harimao’s Treasure. Despite this being common practice when older titles are reprinted, some fans revolted. One person was so incensed that they issued a trigger warning for the trigger warning. You probably shouldn’t click that link.
Despite the writing on the wall, some people are still holding out hope that this is Japan’s attempt to kill off the localization companies that provide them with millions of dollars of revenue each year (because that makes sense). One commenter, Yang Wright, claims they’ve spoken with the people in charge, and they were told that the channel will eventually contain “all anime” and not just family animations and nostalgic masterpieces.”
Even if this were true, I can’t imagine a world where someone would prefer to watch anime on YouTube unless it’s their only option. The channel is clunky enough with only six titles. If they achieve their goal of 3000 titles, navigation would be a nightmare
While it’s entirely possible that some studios dislike working with overseas companies and would instead prefer to have complete control of their products, this isn’t the way to do it. The lazy implementation of AnimeLog proves what I suspected from the start — this is just a cheap and easy outlet for ad revenue. Throw a bunch of titles online that no one is interested in licensing and see what sticks. Considering what the channel looks like now, it’s anyones guess what they spent their investors money on.
AnimeLog is planning to upload 100 more titles by the end of next year. Unless they step up their game, I don’t expect them to survive that long.