On that day, weeaboos received a grim reminder. Always buy the home release of the anime you like.
In case you haven’t heard, there was a great disturbance in the force of legal anime streaming, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Today, June 1st, Hulu purged a staggering number of titles from their anime library. Before the purge, Hulu had an insane library of over 840 different anime titles encompassing both TV shows and films. Over 200 anime were cut from the service, and in a shocking twist unlike what usually happens when a service has an exodus of anime titles, these shows weren’t removed due to licensing reasons. Rather they were removed by Hulu’s own volition.
Anime News Network’s Justin Sevakis says in his Answerman column regarding this topic that less than 20% of anime titles bring in 80% of the views, meaning this is more of a cost cutting move as Hulu prepares to launch a risky new live TV streaming initiative. Nevertheless, the sheer scope of this purge is something you have to stare at in awe. They are taking out between a third and a quarter of their entire anime library. To say this is going to cause ripples in the legal anime scene is a massive understatement. Several of the titles being lost are now going to be ridiculously hard to watch legally. Either because they aren’t licensed anywhere else, or because their home release has been long out of print and thus possibly really expensive.
On top of that, it signifies the death of the selling point of Hulu as a place to watch anime. Even though I’ve personally only used the service on and off a lot, I’ve been a rather strong champion of Hulu as a place to watch anime if you could only pay for a single streaming service, because you were getting the noteworthy titles from FUNimation, Sentai Filmworks, and Aniplex all in one place every season, on top of titles that weren’t available elsewhere in simulcast form, such as the shows from Viz. With it looking like Hulu is shifting their anime focus to only the most popular shows, that also means a more narrow scope of titles. Few exceptions aside, I fully expect Hulu’s anime library to mostly be comprised of the more mainstream action-focused shows. So if you are more into the critically acclaimed dramas and comedies or more artistic shows, you’ll probably have to start ponying up for that Crunchyroll or FUNimation subscription, because much as I tend to love these kind of shows it’s no real secret these kind of shows usually don’t bring in the viewers.
To get what I mean, some of the shows to receive the axe include Silver Spoon, one of the most acclaimed slice of life shows in recent years, Shirobako, a recurring favorite pick for Anime of the Year last year, Gankutsuou, one of the most visually striking anime ever made, and even Ping Pong: The Animation, my personal second favorite anime from 2014, is getting caught in the blast radius. What is being lost to anime viewers using Hulu are not just any random shows, but several examples of the kind of shows that exemplify the creativity and artistic merit that anime can achieve. Obviously I’m not saying everyone needs to watch all of these kind of shows or else be total plebes, but I do think every anime fans needs to at least sprinkle in a few of these every now and then so they don’t think anime is just blood, explosions, and boobs for days. Trust me, I love a good mindless action show every now and then, but I’m a fan of anime in general, so I tend to experience the whole spectrum, for both good and bad.
I know I may possibly be coming off a bit harsh towards Hulu, but how can I not when it was the streaming service I used to simulcast shows when I came back from my hiatus period where my anime consumption significantly slowed down? I got back into anime in full force in the Spring 2013 season thanks to Richard Eisenbeis’ article on Kotaku detailing the five shows from that season that you should be watching and I noticed four out of the five shows listed were on Hulu, so I decided to go with that service at first as it was the most common denominator, and as a result saw the first three shows of my comeback into anime; Attack on Titan, The Devil is a Part-Timer!, and Red Data Girl. I would eventually switch to Crunchyroll as my primary anime service in the Summer 2013 season, but even then I’ve been using Hulu as a secondary option.
It is through Hulu that I’ve seen many memorable series over the last few years, including when I watched the masterful Steins;Gate for the first time ever in conjucture with the AniClub on TAY. It was the place where I watched several of FUNimation’s best shows in recent memory, particularly whenever FUNimation’s service was acting up or the device I was watching anime on didn’t have a FUNimation app. To put it another way, Hulu has been almost as synonymous with my time in the legal streaming era of anime as Crunchyroll and FUNimation have been, and it kind of sucks to see them cut back so much, effectively taking them out of the race, as it were. What worries me even more is that there’s a real good chance that this isn’t the end of Hulu’s purging. I fully expect at least another round of cuts in the future, possibly even later this very year.
So what about you guys? What are your thoughts on Hulu and the news of this mass culling of shows? Does this affect you as an anime fan, or is this entirely a non-issue for you since you use other services instead and thus never even touched Hulu?