At the beginning of each new season there was a looming threat over the section of the anime community that watched their shows through legal streaming. Several shows that a wide verity of people wanted to see were captured by Amazon and their attempt to take a slice of the western anime market, Anime Strike, that cost a total of $160 a year, which was more expensive than any of it’s competitors. Additionally, due to how late into the game they were joining with as little knowledge as they had about the market, they had the smallest library out of any of their competitors. However, something odd was afoot when the Winter 2018 season rolled around and not a single frustrating announcement came from the Anime Strike Twitter account. In fact, the account had vanished.
On January 5th, 2018, Anime Strike had finally bit the dust and died, which was one of the two unfortunate inevitable ends that the service was going to hit. While their Twitter account had been void of all human made tweets since July and signs of them clearly falling apart go as far back as HIDIVE, a platform that is an infinitely better example of how to get into the anime market, Crunchyroll, and Funimation getting rights to Pop Team Epic, they were doomed from the beginning. I didn’t necessarily expect them to die off this soon, having only lasted about a year, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect them to eventually leave us. Today, let’s talk about the rise, fall, and aftermath of Anime Strike.
Enter, Anime Strike
On January 11th, 2017, Amazon decided they would be launching a new “Amazon Channel”, which is an exclusive streaming channel for Amazon Prime members. As opposed to Amazon Prime Video, which any Amazon Prime member could watch for free as an added perk to their $100 a year payments, Amazon Channels cost additional fees. This new channel in particular cost $4.99 a month and would be focused entirely around anime. On it’s launch it didn’t have any reason to join, at least it wouldn’t if it didn’t take over the part of Amazon Prime Video that it did. Starting that day forward, all anime that was previously included in Amazon Prime Video would now be a part of this channel — Anime Strike.
While this wasn’t a huge issue, considering that a majority of their launching library was shared with Crunchyroll and Funimation, both vastly cheaper services by less than half what Anime Strike cost. Additionally, the exclusive shows that the service had access to weren’t shows that people who legally streamed anime would have seen in the first place let alone have a hard time parting with, considering how little anime was watched on Amazon Prime Video prior to the introduction of Anime Strike. What irked people on mass was the double paywall being marketed as a single paywall — Amazon Prime was required to pay for Anime Strike, yet the channel was still advertised as a $4.99 a month service — and the fact that shows were taken out of a previously free library. Overall, it was like watching a hideous corporate monster come to life and carefully hiding behind a bush while it learned how to walk.
Then came the Spring season of 2017 and Anime Strike had gained an important new partner — the western anime licensing company, Sentai Filmworks. With this partnership, Anime Strike would gain the rights to a majority of not all of the shows Sentai Filmworks were grabbing as they were announced. Additionally, this being a child of Amazon, it could afford to make big buys in attempts to bring over customers from it’s largest competitor, Crunchyroll, by simulcasting anticipated shows. The most notable of these buys and when Anime Strike showed exactly what it was capable of, was when it got the simulcasting rights to Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata‘s second season.
This was not only a show that Crunchyroll owned the first season of back when it aired in 2015, but a very popular show that the anime community expected Crunchyroll to stream the second season of. While Netflix was also making less than super great moves with it owning the rights to the much anticipated Little Witch Academia TV series, this caught my attention in particular a lot more. Netflix didn’t care to make any reaches like this, it so far had simply stuck to what it always had the rights to, playing by it’s rules in a field far away from ours, so when an enormous company like Amazon flexed it’s muscles and showed what it was capable of, there was obvious discourse.
This continued for the seasons to come with Anime Strike grabbing shows that the community in general showed mass interest in, like Made in Abyss and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou, and overall the general outrage towards this subset of Amazon continued to grow. It was around the time that Anime Strike was grabbing simulcasting shows that everyone wanted to see that members of the community at large started tweeting at Anime Strike with their frustrations. Since Anime Strike did at least a little bit of research into our community, it saw that Crunchyroll’s success came in part due to it’s interactivity with anime fans in general, and because of that the channel tried to do the same in it’s starting time on Twitter. Eventually, however, with a mountain of complaints at it’s doorstep every single day, it stopped tweeting to it’s timeline, only responding to questions from it’s few subscribers about technical issues they were having with the service.
Exit, Anime Strike
While they continued simulcasting anime to it’s very few subscribers all the way until the end of 2017, Anime Strike vanished in all meaningful ways. In the Fall season, it’s communication with anyone in general had slowed to a dead halt. It’s Twitter account was only tweeting out automated updates to when episodes were available through the service, while when it first launched it attended a convention it was never seen at one again, and the mountain of complaints were still piling up on it’s doorstep. The unconscious body of a monster that once (at least tried to) ravage the anime community was lying cold on the ground despite still making actions on shows it was airing.
It’s Twitter header was still showing off anime it was simulcasting for the Summer season despite it being deep into Fall and anticipation for the Winter season of a new year beginning to build up. It took much longer than it should have to start streaming the last episode of two of it’s by far most popular simulcasting shows, Houseki no Kuni and the aforementioned Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou. It was yet to announce any simulcasts for the Winter 2018 season, despite it’s competitors, including Netflix, making statements on what to expect from them. Then, suddenly, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and HIDIVE all got the rights to a particular show that many, many people were looking forward to: Pop Team Epic.
Like or hate the show now that’s begun airing, this was an interesting happenstance not because Anime Strike was known to take shows everyone wanted to watch, to the point where Netflix getting the rights to Violet Evergarden was more a relief than a frustration, but because it was Anime Strike’s partner, Sentai Filmworks, that had licensed Pop Team Epic. What was previously thought to be merely a body lying unconscious was now questioned on whether or not it even had a pulse. Anime Strike had yet to announce that it was streaming one of the biggest anime of the new season, and all of it’s major competitors also had access to the show and had made their announcements. Then, two days after it’s biggest competitor, Crunchyroll, announced that it had the rights to stream Pop Team Epic as well, the channel’s Twitter account vanished and the body was confirmed dead.
With Anime Strike dead, the entirety of the channel’s previous library was returned to Amazon Prime Video. With this death, there were ups and downs. Firstly, the positives. In the year that Anime Strike pissed off the community as much as it could, it managed to grab ufotable’s Kara no Kyoukai films — movies that previously there was no way to watch legally — and with the fall of Anime Strike, Kara no Kyoukai returned to an infinitely more affordable service with many more perks than just the ability to watch anime late. This also meant that the shows that Anime Strike grabbed while it was simulcasting were available through regular Amazon Prime as well, allowing a good portion of the western audience to finally witness a few shows that parts of the community who found other ways to watch the shows Anime Strike got (or just paid for Anime Strike) loved.
The downside, however, is in the money. Without any doubt, due to the launch and year long life span of Anime Strike, piracy jumped up in popularity again. No one wanted to pay for Amazon’s awful deal but as members of the anime community, plenty of people wanted to still watch the shows so they wouldn’t be out of the loop, so piracy was the easiest thing to turn to. It cost $160 less and showed up at around the same speed as Anime Strike itself started streaming shows, so there was no reason not to. The idea of supporting the anime industry only meant so much — once a triple digit price tag is put in front of people’s faces, and paying it meant supporting a business practice no one agreed with, people stop caring about supporting the anime industry.
I’ve repeated the whole piracy point many many times so I’ll spare the elaboration on it this time around, but Anime Strike without a doubt made it a tempting offer that was hard to decline. On top of that, a good number of shows that could have used the attention and may have even been better than a majority of the shows that aired in 2017 wont. Aside from the shows that I mentioned in this post, Princess Principle is the only other one I not only remember but have any sort of interest in watching. While I could go through the Amazon Prime Video catalogue and pick out a few, I really just want to watch the backlog that developed over the course of a year.
Anime Strike could have been something great. It could have been a premium service apart from Amazon that Prime members got a discount on, it could have had an ad supported free version for non-Prime and non-Anime Strike members could watch with differing setting options and feature availability. The Anime Strike that died was not what I wanted it to end as. More than anything, I welcome new streaming platforms into the anime space, but they absolutely need to do their homework. HIDIVE has been doing an excellent job becoming a part of this market, as I mentioned earlier. Without beginning to sound like an advertisement, that platform is the cheapest of all of it’s competitors and has a decently sized library to actually offer people who want to pay them. I wanted Anime Strike to see the complaints, see people not paying them, and watch their funds quickly diminish and take that as a sign that they had to change. Instead they accepted defeat and, honestly, I won’t miss them. Here’s hoping it doesn’t get revived into an even worse monstrosity next year.
Thank you very, very much for reading this week’s editorial! I hope you enjoyed it and if you had anything to add, as this has been a reoccurring topic for me so I’m sure many people have been following along, or thoughts to share feel free to leave them in a comment below. If you’d like to see what I’m up to when I’m not finishing this post at 2:40 in the morning, feel free to follow me on Twitter. I will see you all next week!
The featured image for this post was drawn by 玖珂つかさ