There have recently been a lot of circulating images about the new collaboration between some of the biggest anime firms. It was first reported by Variety, and the included partners were Toei, Shogakukan, Kodansha, Nippon Animation and a few others. The way most of the posts go is an image of “One Piece”/“Dragon Ball”/Some other show you’re likely to know. The text sounds like all of Japan has united to fight piracy and the Western licencors, and by using free anime at that.
Just like Aqua doesn’t have anything to do with this article, those images have nothing to do with the project in question (at least not yet). Some say that it will feature all of the big shows and we will be able to watch all our favorites legally. The support they would get from us watching it on YouTube would be minimal. At least when compared to what they get from selling licences or to what subscription services make. The way to legally watch every existing anime for free definitely sounds nice though. Here’s why I think free anime is not likely to happen:
First off, this is not Japan’s united front against piracy or the West. Analyzelog was formed in 2018 with investment from an American company “Next10 Ventures” and its founder Benjamin Grubbs. According to Variety, it has since struck numerous business and investment alliances with the Japanese companies that are now mentioned as participants of the AnimeLog project. Key words being “business” and “investment“. They’re obviously all trying to make money. After all, some of the potential ad revenue from YouTube is better than the traffic going to illegal sites.
Now, for the actual catalog. Funimation owns the licences to “One Piece”, “Dragon Ball”, “Attack on Titan”, “My Hero Academia”. Aniplex USA owns the licence to “Demon Slayer” (“Kimetsu no Yaiba”). VIZ Media owns the licence to “Naruto”. None of these companies are listed on the AnimeLog YouTube channel. That means there is currently no reason to believe any of their shows will appear on the channel either. There’s also no mention of Netflix (owns the licences to “Violet Evergarden”, “Devilman Crybaby”, “Beastars”, etc.) or Amazon (“Vinland Saga”, “Dororo”).
Of course, this refers to the regions where these services are available. AnimeLog could potentially stream the mentioned shows in countries where they aren’t. There is a trailer showing “Attack on Titan”, “Demon Slayer”, “Naruto” and several other popular shows. However, that is just one of many fake AnimeLog channels which have popped up in the past few days. The real official one only has videos restricted to Japan at the moment. Nothing is visible to the people outside, and you can find it here.
So what will the channel do?
What is more likely is that the channel will have classic, family-friendly anime that isn’t on places like Crunchyroll or Funimation. The stuff that isn’t licensed anyway, as any revenue is better than none. The content at launch is also a big flag that this will be the case. It includes only the “Black Jack” series from the 2000s and “Future Boy Conan” from 1978. There are no images of the big shows anywhere on the channel. There is also no mention of them being there within the expected “3000 titles”. Which they hope to have by 2022.
It is obviously a great thing that a lot of old anime classics could become widely available to us. However, I repeat that those will be titles that aren’t licensed otherwise and aren’t likely to affect the paid subscription services in any way. There are some YouTube channels which stream select titles like Muse Asia or Ani-One. Those are also region-restricted though, and have limited selections (definitely way better than nothing, but still depends on where you’re from).
There was a similar project started in 2013 in the form of a streaming website called Daisuki. It was originally co-owned by companies like Toei Animation, Aniplex, Sunrise, TMS Entertainment and several ad companies. Unable to compete with the other streaming platforms, it closed down in 2017. It also promised to feature a lot of titles, but the ones they did were added too slowly compared to the competition and most of them didn’t even get there. The companies involved still preferred to sell licences for their new shows to whoever paid more. That eventually lead to Daisuki only streaming shows that weren’t exclusive to other platforms and not enough people cared for it to keep it going. You can read more details on Anime News Network’s article about it closing down.
The point is, anime studios can’t just join hands and stream every anime for free on YouTube. That would mean a huge loss of revenue for the industry which they normally get from the licences for big shows. Still, dreams do come true sometimes, but I would like anyone who reads this to be very skeptical. Do not hope for an all powerful alliance channel which will be perfect in every way only to get disappointed down the road. The main thing for everyone is profit. None of the big companies are likely to risk a huge part of it on a YouTube channel which could very well fail quickly. That’s just my view on it based on the information I could find. Please do let me know if there’s something important I missed which misled me to doubt this project.