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For decades, piracy on the digital seas was considered to be normal. But such an age wouldn’t last, as legislation around the world and corporations became more digitally savvy and aggressive in protecting their intellectual property. Music and media of all sorts would quickly get cracked down, especially in the ‘Western’ zone of influence. However, certain areas of interest continued to strongly persist in piracy. This was especially so for the various fans of anime/manga. But even this bulwark of piracy is soon finding a massive crackdown on the way, as Japanese laws and authorities make moves to strictly implement copyright laws on manga by January 1, 2021.
This means that “free” scanlations and the like, which have long been thought to be just par for the course in the life of a manga/anime fan, will soon find themselves targets of shutdowns and legal cases if they don’t shut down.
While most fans of this genre will wail and weep, adjusting to hide their piracy crimes, it is fortunate that there are large movements by the legal owners of these intellectual properties to take care of their fans. For anime in particular, this addresses the problem of having to purchase expensive DVD or Blu-Ray copies, which are also hard to acquire in most countries outside of Japan. Manga copies are also rather expensive to purchase in comparison to the cost it is published with in Japan.
A quick search turns up reputable services such as Manga Plus by Shueisha (which is our header image), which publishes Shounen Jump. Another big-ticket name is Crunchyroll, which is known for its anime services but also boasts a robust manga library. VIZ is also a well-known translated manga publisher and arguably was the big name in this industry. Today, VIZ also has made the shift to digital content. There are a few other legal manga sources as well, such as ComiXology although it has more western comics, and if you actually can read Japanese or are fine dealing with translation software, Book Walker.
Switching to anime, there is always Crunchyroll to top the list as one of the mainstays of legit translated anime. A huge player is streaming giant Netflix, which has a very strong and deep library of anime. Amazon Prime Video has also made an attempt to get into this market, with a comparable library to Netflix. Another solid name for anime is NicoNico although it is still region locked. Funimation is also one to put on the list, although the region lock is another issue.
But the one to watch out for in legal streaming anime is digital giant YouTube, as multiple Japanese anime companies have come together to build the upcoming channel – AnimeLog, with a rollout plan that seeks to populate hundreds of titles by 2022 – a library which frankly will dwarf everyone else (legitimately). I mean, seriously, when Toei and Kodansha are front-lining your publication team, there’s reason for having confidence in this channel’s library.
So as a whole, digital publishers will rely on subscription models to sustain their services, but the subscription fees are much more affordable since a monthly sub fee is roughly the same price as maybe 1 or 2 manga volumes (depending where you live, but this is based on SEA pricing). If you’re a huge fan of anime and you want to feed your weeb needs, dropping a subscription in one or two of these legit sites is not a bad idea at all, since you’ll be accessing a large library with multiple titles at your fingertips. Or you can live off the free manga services available on the publisher sites, who do make a few chapters available for many of their works.