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An Open Letter to Whoever's In Charge of Netflix's Anime Distribution

Illustration for article titled An Open Letter to Whoevers In Charge of Netflixs Anime Distribution
Image: Shonen-world.com

I don’t care that you’re probably a furry, I just want to talk.

I have nothing against your taste in the subject matter you’ve curated for your streaming service. Bojack Horseman was a surprisingly good call back in 2013, and you did a fine job of marketing stuff you got the rights to like Zootopia, but I must say the most welcome surprise has been the anime of a certain... “genre” that you’ve given a platform to over the years: Aggretsuko, Rillakuma & Kaoru, Devilman Crybaby (arguably), and of course, the sleeper hit of 2019, Beastars. And we’re about to see Brand New Animal, a Trigger series that I know will be one of the most talked about shows of the year. Well, it would be, but outside of Japan we’re gonna have to wait for what’ll probably be three months (at least) for a dub to be available, at which point its worldwide hype will be greatly diminished, and something made by the creative team behind Gurren Lagann and friggin Promare is in danger of being an afterthought by the time it re-releases.

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Which is why I’m pleading with you, whoever you are: it’s 2020. It’s time for Netflix to start simulcasting its anime premieres outside of Japan.

This is one of the few areas where instead of being a pioneer, you’re strangely behind the times. We’ve seen anime streaming services that did this rise and fall to the point where there are only two big players left, one of which is copying your own model of creating and producing its own content. But while Crunchyroll is now on the defensive against Funimation (freaking. Funimation), they at least can still do what you refuse to for some reason. Simulcasting, while not easy, is not difficult either, and it’s been one of the driving factors that’s unified anime fandom across the world in past decade. We went from being a scattershot community heavily dependent on people being lucky enough to watch the same select group of physical media, to one that on a weekly basis can talk about and enjoy the shows we look forward to and love, right as they happen.

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Illustration for article titled An Open Letter to Whoevers In Charge of Netflixs Anime Distribution

I talked previously about how Anime Strike was for a little over a year the most hated streaming service because of its double paywall, but they learned harsh lessons from having a (frankly) quite dumb business model, and now over a year after its demise, an Amazon Prime show was one of the most well received shows of the past year, and Vinnland Saga deserves its praise. But so did Beastars, dammit, as did Carole and Tuesday, Violet Evergarden, and Hi Score Girl, and while BNA probably won’t be left like its CGI counterpart being “split” between years, it’s still an odd kind of hurt to see half a dozen episodes be available already in Japan, but in order to watch any of them now I have to go through channels that I don’t want to use.

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Funimation might have an app that’s frequently infuriating, and Crunchyroll might be left wholly dependent on partnerships via VRV, but they both get right the basics that completely changed the anime landscape in the 2010s. And I have no qualms when you want to pull a situation like Devilman Crybaby where you release an entire season everywhere all at once. But for stuff you license for outside of Japan? For once, it’s time for you Netflix, to catch up with the rest of the world. And I’d argue you’d gain more than you’d think: look at the reception of The Mandalorian on Disney+. It’s shorter than most of your live action Marvel shows, but its weekly viewing schedule meant that we were talking about for two months instead of just two weeks. Look at the cultural touchstone baby yoda has become over the past few months; need I say more?

I get binge watching is “your thing,” but it doesn’t have to be your only thing, nor should it be. Some shows work better when you watch them one episode after another, but some really do work best when you have a week to digest each episode. I suspect this is why everyone else who makes their own content for their own service still goes by this model, from Prime Video to Disney+ to even DC Universe. And with the talk shows you produce like Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, you’ve shown that not only can you do weekly content, but that it’s successful as well. I know simulcasting, not even the extra-extra mile that is simuldubbing, is capable of, desperately wanted, and would be equally as well-received as it is for shows on other streaming services (your own included).

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I ask this as an anime fan and Netflix customer who’s been with you for a decade now. Please: start simulcasting your anime.

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