So right about now I should be embarking upon a what appears to have become a traditional “My Thoughts on the Current Anime Season” article. You know - about 6 or so episodes in to each series where I can give my opinion on what has been good (or otherwise) so far.
But I can’t.
Well, I could, but I wouldn’t be able to cover all the shows I want to cover in what has been a pretty stellar season so far.
One of my problems has been with the recent fragmentation of streaming services. We see this happening with mainstream TV - established giants like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, upcoming disruptive influences like Disney Plus and all manner of other services like HBO, DC and CBS All Access - multiple services clamouring for the streaming dollar. Each service has ring-fenced their exclusive content so that in order to watch everything available, it gets pretty expensive as viewers must pay multiple subscription fees.
Anime is not immune. Not so long ago, almost every new streaming show was on Crunchyroll, bar the Netflix exclusive ghetto and Amazon’s Noitamina niche. HIDIVE existed but most people ignored it. Some stuff showed up on Hulu, but here in the UK you can’t access that so I didn’t care. Funimation (henceforth to be known only as F***mation) and Crunchyroll were friends, everything was cool.
Then Sony gobbled up F***mation and Warner Brothers devoured Crunchyroll. Those two services no longer share catalogues because of BITTER CORPORATE WARFARE. Yes, we the poor anime fans have become unwitting pawns of Big Streaming.
So this season, I’m as usual following a bunch of things on Crunchyroll. I’m watching O Maidens in your Savage Season on HIDIVE (their only notable exclusive this season) and Vinland Saga on Amazon Prime (also their only exclusive). Netflix I have not bothered with in a while because they annoy me with their shitty release patterns.
Crunchyroll is awesome. It is on every stream-capable device known to man and just works. Amazon and Netflix are similarly flawless in functionality - no problems there. (Though Amazon never seem to advertise their current anime, making it so hard to find or even know what’s available - do they even care?) HIDIVE desperately needs a PS4 app and their iPad app’s subtitles are broken, but I can cope.
That brings me to F***mation. I’ve never needed a separate F***mation subscription because their stuff has mostly been also on Crunchyroll. Not this season. If I want to watch Astra - Lost in Space or How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift or Cop Craft or even Episode 0 of the new Fate/Grand Order anime, then I have to get it direct from F***mation.
No problem, I thought. I’ll just add it to my list of subscriptions. It’s annoying, but I feel that if I have the means to support the anime industry, then I should do so. It’s not like I’m a poor student any more who needs to torrent anime or watch one of those illegal streaming sites with the disturbing hardcore porn ads.
Oh look, I thought. There’s even a F***mation NOW app in the UK Playstation Store. I can watch it on my PS4. How convenient.
I should state now that my preferred mode of anime consumption is lying on the sofa, watching it on a large television, the way Kamisama Himself intended. I’ll watch on an iPad as a distant second place, usually because I tend to grind away on mobile games like FGO on the iPad while my attention is focused on the bright pretty colours on screen. (You can tell I am a man of culture with discerning tastes.)
Imagine my crushing disappointment when after signing up for a F***mation NOW subscription that the PS4 app turns out to be HOT MOLTEN GARBAGE that doesn’t even work. At all. Even just logging into the fucking thing was an exercise in frustration, wailing and screaming as it refused to recognise the mandatory “special character” in my password. F***mation’s website by the way, was completely fine with it. Turns out the app will only accept the characters “@” or “&” as special enough. So that massive security hole makes the whole requirement for special characters pointless...
Password grudgingly altered, I then reached the app itself. And what is this piece of difficult to navigate poorly designed crap? I tried to load episode 1 of Astra. No luck. Endless black loading screen of death and disappointment. Same with everything else I tried. Except some ancient TV series from about a decade ago. That worked which suggests to me it may be an issue with permissions. Uninstalling and reinstalling the app made no difference, nor did rebooting the PS4. Despite having paid, the app lists my subscription status as “unknown”. Fiddling with auto/fixed streaming settings made no difference either.
A quick glance on r/f***mation - lo and behold, multitudes of others are having the same problem and have suffered it for months without F***mation doing a Kamisama-damned thing about it. No-one receives replies from their support team, apart from automated replies to say that the support team’s inbox is full. Oh boy.
I’m nothing if not resourceful though. I have an old 3rd-gen apple TV box I no longer use. I hooked that up to the screen and tried mirroring the iPad app. Oh, how I wish this could have been the solution. F***mation’s app does not support Airplay subtitles. WTF? The shows do stream, but the app either expects me to somehow understand untranslated Japanese or switch to their dubs where everyone sounds like the same constipated valley girl. Plus the streams keep pausing, resetting, crashing, losing connection, freezing... What an embarrassment. Even HIDIVE’s super clunky app is better than this.
I guess I could buy a 4th or 5th gen apple TV and install the app directly onto it but apparently Reddit says that’s terrible too. The Android app also has it’s own share of crap, so that’s a Roku stick out. Who in hell can actually watch anything on F***mation NOW? Do I have to sit hunched over my laptop or suffer the piss-poor iPad app? Are those my only options?
But wait - Amazon Prime has come riding to the rescue. There’s now a F***mation channel! Hooray - I can watch the shows on an app that actually functions... No such luck. I don’t know if this is only in the UK, but the Amazon F***mation channel only has old stuff. None of the currently airing shows. WTF?
Now I do not begrudge a company trying to make money - that is how they pay their employees after all. Fine. Have some exclusives. Whatever. What I object to is that in order to legally view the shows I want, I am made to pay for a service that doesn’t even work, by a company that surely must know but clearly doesn’t care that their software is so laughably defective even a Catholic priest would have agreed to abort it before birth.
I wonder how many others are plagued by these truly appalling access issues? Are they enough to harm the popularity of these shows? Should Japanese licensors be made aware of just how poorly F***mation treats their shows? Would it make any difference anyway?
Fuck you, F***mation. Seriously, fuck you. Looks like I’m cancelling and returning to my torrenting days. But only for F***mation shows. I’m happy to pay everyone else.