When western fans first discover anime, they often arrive at the misconclusion that not much of it is available from legal sources and that the easiest way to watch anime is via illegal streaming websites. This would have been true in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, but nowadays we have a whole myriad of sources that allow viewers in the UK, as well as many other countries, to enjoy their favourite shows while supporting the creators.
I understand that many anime series are unlicensed, unavailable on legal streaming services and don’t have a physical release in the UK, but I heartily encourage everybody who loves the industry to give back to it whenever possible – and that doesn’t always mean parting with your hard-earned money!
So, other than supporting the industry, why should I avoid pirating anime?
Firstly, nearly all illegal streaming sites serve advertisements, some of which have malware injected in the code, to profit from work they had no hand in creating.
Next, the translations used on illegal streaming sites tend to be from HorribleSubs, which simply steals content released by Crunchyroll, Funimation, Netflix and other legal sources without doing any work themselves.
And finally, the video quality on legal sources tends to be at least marginally better than on illegal streams.
Right, so how much should I expect to pay to watch my favourite shows legally?
In a lot of cases, you won’t need to pay a penny to access the anime you want to watch! If you don’t need to watch the newest episode of a currently airing show the very moment it comes out and are willing to put up with advertisements, Crunchyroll and Funimation offer most of their catalogues for free.
Both of the aforementioend services simulcast plenty of shows each season and offer subscription packages that allow customers to access all their video content without any advertisements in return for a small recurring fee.
Great, but what about anime not offered by Crunchyroll or Funimation?
There are quite a few other legal streaming services, although not all of them have free options – for example, Amazon Prime Video has a growing catalogue of anime series and films, both old and new. It costs £79 per year and comes with unlimited one-day delivery to UK addresses for eligible Amazon purchases, early access to Lightning Deals, Twitch Prime and much more.
A recent addition to the legal streaming scene is HIDIVE, which is the exclusive carrier of selected titles licensed by Sentai Filmworks. They offer both subtitled and dubbed anime, are simulcasting a respectable number of shows at the time of writing, and the service is inexpensive at $4.99 (USD) per month or $47.99 per year, regardless of where customers are located.
Netflix, which many people already subscribe to for their extensive western TV and film catalogue, also has a decent anime selection, although they focus mainly on popular series and films. The availability of anime on Netflix can change at the drop of a hat so its always worth checking back and seeing what titles can be streamed at any given time.
Somewhat less well known than the aforementioned options, Viewster offers a limited amount of anime available to stream completely free of charge, ranging from comedy to horror.
On a pay-per-episode or pay-for-series basis, popular gaming platform Steam recently started offering a fair bit of anime, although prices can range from reasonable to ridiculous (I mean, the Blu-Ray for Love, Chunibyou and Other Delusions!: Heart Throb can be found cheaper than the Steam release!), and much of their catalogue is available legally through sources that won’t leave such a gaping hole in your wallet.
A non-subscription platform with more reasonable prices is Apple’s iTunes, which has a lot of popular anime films, plus some TV series.
There used to be a few others such as Daisuki and Animax, but businesses come and go, and I’m afraid not all of those who tried to gain a foothold in the anime industry were able to make it work.
If you want to search all legal streaming services easily, head to Because.moe and set your location to UK, then search for the title you’re looking for, and voila – it will tell you if there’s a legal way to watch the series online.
I want a physical copy of my favourite anime, where can I find one?
I have written an extensive guide on finding anime merchandise in the UK which focuses on the high street, so I’ll regurgitate some of that. Firstly, HMV always seems to have a decent anime selection if you’re looking for DVDs or Blu-Rays that are still in print.
For older stuff, CeX is a great place to find pre-owned physical anime media at an affordable cost. I’ve seen DVDs there for as cheap as £2, and the discs tend to be in reasonable condition in my experience.
Some Forbidden Planet stores have a selection of anime DVDs and BDs, and you might even have a local, independently-run shop willing to cater to your nerdy needs!
What about online stores?
I love browsing shops in search of dazzling deals, but the internet can come in handy too. Nearly all recent releases can be found on Amazon, and they offer one-day delivery at a reasonable price to regular customers and free to Prime members.
Zavvi is also worth a look. It has several different website categories dedicated to various types of anime merch and sometimes boasts the best prices around.
Older releases are often sold on eBay, although the reliability of sellers can vary massively. I advise you to look at any product photos as well as a seller’s previous feedback before making any purchases or placing any bids.
And if you can’t find what you’re looking for on any of the big marketplaces, where better than the licensors themselves? Manga UK and All The Anime both have their own online stores where you can directly buy their products.
MVM Entertainment also runs their own online store known as Anime-On-Line, although unlike the aforementioned companies, they sell all kinds of anime products, some of which are their own, others that are not.
Anime has seen a huge boom in popularity in the UK over the last 5-10 years and we now have legal ways to watch many of our favourite shows and films. Using legal streaming services and buying physical releases allows at least a bit of money to reach the companies and people who put in strenuous work to bring us the entertainment we’ve come to adore.
Even if you can’t afford any premium subscriptions, surely its better to use the free version of Crunchyroll and allow advertisement money to go back to the anime industry rather than the pockets of pirate operations profiting from stolen content?