About Region Locks

The Internet was supposed to save us all. No more platforms, no more restrictions. Everyone in the whole world would play by the same rules. It was like heaven itself.

But of course, that was nothing more than a simple lie. All because of those damned region locks.

I love anime, I really do. I want to support the industry as much as I can (if I agree with the companies, that is, but that is another matter). But trying to support an industry that does not want to support its customers, is a bit of a bother.

Websites such as Anime News Network, VIZ, FUNimation and many more stream lots of amazing shows you can watch completely legally. But they all have one big problem in common.

What it is?

Only in the USA.

Exactly. Companies own the rights to a huge amount of shows, but choose to only make them available to the citizens of the USA. We who live in the rest of the world, we cannot watch a thing. Nor can we buy the shows on DVD and Blu-ray because of region codes (unless you do not use hacks or watch via the computer).

But what about buying digital copies? That might work?

Nope.

If we look at one of my favourite shows, Toradora, over at NIS America’s website, we find this:

“Preview the first four episodes of Toradora! on the ANN for free! Purchase episodes 1-15 or 16-25, ad-free, for only $7.00 a set ($14 total)”

Great prices. But if we click on the link, this happens:

“Sorry, there are no premium series available in Sweden”

This editorial was originally written three months ago and when I look at NIS America now, I cannot find the text (perhaps you from the USA can see it?). I cannot check out if Toradora is still available at Anime News Network either, but that will not be necessary. My point is that there are some fabulous prices out there, but I cannot pay.

All in all, we cannot watch it streamed, buy the DVD and Blu-ray or buy digital copies. So what alternative remains? I think you as a reader have understood it already.

But fret not! There is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is a faint one. It is called Crunchyroll. If you do not know about its history, it started out as an illegal streaming website, not too different from those out there today. A couple of years ago, however, it turned into a legal streaming website! And the best thing about it is that the service is available in the whole world!

But wait.

Who am I kidding?

All of the shows are, of course, not available in the whole world. I do not know exactly how many of them are missing outside the USA, but I do often come across ones that I want to watch, but are not available here in Sweden. Despite this, we have access to a reasonable amount of shows, roughly around 140. Here are the ones I see.

If we ignore my own thoughts and experiences concerning the website, it is without a doubt a step in the right direction. As a free viewer the video is in SD-quality and you are forced to watch some commercials. And for ongoing shows, you have to wait one week after the episode was first aired in Japan before you can watch it.

Is this not enough for you, there is the option to pay 7 dollars a month and gain access to the episode one hour after it aired in Japan and watch it in either 480p- or 720p-quality. And no commercials!

So things are starting to become slightly better after having been almost standstill. But it is still far from perfect.

Meanwhile, we in the rest of the world will have to visit Hulu and drool. Currently there are a whopping 284 shows available, all from different distributors such as VIZ, FUNimation, Anime News Network, Media Blaster and more. Both dubbed and subbed. Both ongoing and completed shows. It is, what you might call, heaven.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Fruits Basket

School Rumble

Durarara!!

Trigun

Galaxy Express 999

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Only to mention a few.

But of course.

Only in the USA.

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33 thoughts on “About Region Locks

  1. Muse says:

    That really bites. And your use of Yuuko images is nothing short of amazing.

  2. draggle says:

    God bless America!

  3. Mira says:

    Yeah, and not only that– I’d love to support my favorite titles as much as I can and the internet doesn’t make it any easier. So yeah, buying dvds or blurays is the only expensive option. :/

    • Marow says:

      Hopefully there will be a proper service in the future, like Spotify here in Europe (America got it just recently too, if I’m not mistaken?). That’s good stuff.

  4. Kuuki says:

    France is kinda lucky in that aspect since a lot of shows are licensed for streaming. Usually the first couples of episodes are up for free one week after the original broadcast and then if you want to watch you have to pay.
    I’m aware of two companies that are doing that.

    Another company tried completely free online broadcast but it apparently didn’t work since they didn’t do it again. Which I don’t mind. I’m actually pretty pissed off at the fact it took them one whole fucking year to release the DVDs for DRRR without dubs, nor the bonus episodes, nor anything more than what they did for the streaming. One year.

    Anyway, I rewatch the series I love when they’re available for free on French sites, so they at least gain more money from ads, but that stops there. Because I’d honestly pay for pretty DVDs rather than for streamings.

    I have to thank Crunchyroll’s Dailymotion account for Gintama though, even if their subs started to be utter nonsense at the middle.

    In the end, well, …

    • Marow says:

      I would be so annoyed if I ever had to experience something like you did with DRRR. Sometimes you cannot help but wonder how companies think. If anything, at least add the bonus episodes! ‘

      I’m going to try watching some show on Crunchyroll later this year to see if my opinion about them will change or not. I have faster Internet now, so perhaps it won’t lag as it sometimes did before. They have some free trial going on, which is nice 🙂

      • Kuuki says:

        Well, it takes them forever to release the successful stuff and license some things people never heard about or are really confidential and not easily likeable.
        I don’t really understand their logic.
        I discovered a new company apparently licensing old anime for online streaming. Which bothers me a bit because they licensed Baccano and I wanted DVDs for that.

        I went through Crunchroll’s Dailymotion account for every video of them I have watched. After stumbling on a dozen pages I couldn’t access on their website I stopped 😄

  5. Nopy says:

    Even living in Canada, which usually gets the same things as the U.S. at the same time, streaming videos are one of the few things that we don’t get and the Americans do. I think the problem is that most streaming sites are based in the U.S. so that’s the market that they cater to.

    Since you mention Crunchyroll, I just have to say that I despised them when they were an illegal streaming site. They were making money off of people who were subbing anime for free. One time in 2007 I helped create a video which they posted on their site and their viewers got really pissed off at them though 😄

    • Marow says:

      They were making money?! Never heard of that before, but it makes you wonder why that site became the legal one, haha.

      What kind of video was it?

  6. Yerocha says:

    I hate it when this happens. You’d think bringing shows over to Canada wouldn’t be so difficult, but I guess I underestimate how silly people can be sometimes.

  7. 2DT says:

    This killed me when I was living in Japan. Oh, the irony!

  8. Ty-chama says:

    As far as supporting the industry goes, I do my best to buy the shows I have enjoyed, (after illegally downloading them, of course) on DVD but, which shows are released on DVD in Ye Olde England is a bit hit ‘n’ miss! If I were to write a list of my top 30 shows, I’d only be able to buy about 10 of them. I’m massively tempted to buy a region-free DVD player…

  9. Ty-chama says:

    I’ll be glad to tell you my top 30 if you don’t mind me spamming your comments in such a way…

  10. Ty-chama says:

    1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
    2. Blood+
    3. Kuragehime
    4. Spirited Away
    5. Clannad: After Story
    6. Shiki
    7. Durarara!!
    8. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
    9. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
    10. XXXHOLiC
    11. Welcome to the NHK
    12. Samurai Champloo
    13. Mushishi
    14. Baccano!
    15. Bakemonogatari
    16. Eden of the East
    17. Death Note
    18. Jigoku Shoujo Futakomori
    19. Eve no Jikan
    20. Gankutsuou
    21. Haibane Renmei
    22. Code Geass R2
    23. Honey and Clover
    24. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
    25. K-ON!!
    26. Spice and Wolf 2
    27. Nodame Cantabile
    28. Arakawa Under the Bridge
    29. Lovely Complex
    30. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei

    and I can’t own the others as they haven’t been released in the UK
    Out of all of these I own only Spirited Away, Higurashi, Holic, Samurai Champloo, Baccano, Eden of the East & Death Note. Asides from DRRR, Tengen, Code Geass & FMA:B the rest haven’t been released in England!

  11. Ty-chama says:

    -Ignore the ‘I can’t own the others…’ sentence, copy/paste error…
    *facepalm*

    • Marow says:

      No worries 🙂
      Nice list you have. Pretty different from what I would choose, but that’s because I have only watched a few of those on your list. Agree with Spirited Away though, such a masterpiece.

  12. Ty-chama says:

    I first watched Spirited Away back before I knew what anime even was, I remember being in complete awe of it! It’s a rather nostalgic choice…

  13. seibun says:

    I live in England and while we are making progress (we now have an on-demand, ANN-endorsed streaming website), we still have very little choice. I pirate anime because it’s not available or I just want to complete a collection that has no choice of being licenced over here… In the UK, at least, we seem to get a lot of really good/popular shows… and a couple of average shows and then a few crappy ones. I know about licencing deals and agreements (US companies: ‘You can’t have this anime unless you promise to distribute this other anime!’) but… I really do wish we didn’t have region blocks at times. I also wish it was easy to find a multi-region DVD player that actually doesn’t require you to type in the region codes each and every time, like my old piece of crap does.

  14. lostty says:

    I live next door to the US, in Canada, and I still have to deal with this depressing problem all the time. I didn’t even know hulu offered that much greatness! That’s depressing. Even if small steps are being taken towards the positive for the rest of the world, I think its going to be a while before we get close to what the USA already has. 😦

  15. Yi says:

    It’s not just anime… I’m living in Taiwan right now, and never have I felt I misse Hulu so badly. It’s a shame. 😦

  16. I still don’t really like to use streaming websites because:

    1. Most of them don’t even have captions for the live-action or reality shows that I want to watch. This greatly hurt my choices since I’m deaf.
    2. I’ve watched fansubs for so long that I’ve started preferring them for their better quality and also their stylish captions. I’m more visual, and seeing white plain captions kinda lessen the impact, I suppose.

    Guess I’ll always be a pirate to catch up on airing shows unless I find a better quality streaming website. 🙂

  17. Rei says:

    I myself, try to find a way to support the shows I love. I’ve tried all the things that you mentioned in your post. Sadly it doesn’t help much in my country.

    You can actually use proxy and other things to bypass it, but the internet connection will be like 10 times slower of the usual (unless you use premium ones). So of course I ended up downloading most of my anime’s on an anime dll site which provides almost all the current anime I could find.

    The only thing I could do is buy some figure of the anime series. I’m not sure if it will help them, but I’m a figure collector anyway. So I would most probably buy them anyway.

    The last picture you posted is epic btw.

  18. Matt Wells says:

    In the UK we’re in something of an awkward position, though we still have a much easier time of things than the rest of Europe. Here, the industry really isn’t that big enough to bring over anything but all the up to date, number one hit series. Any release over here has to be high profile or it flops, and the industry is too small to survive any major flops.

    As a result we usually get releases of what’s currently big in America, and they hype it to death. Around 30% of any anime DVD sales is either Bleach or Naruto. Which is fine if you like either of those shows, but a bit restrictive for the rest of us.

    All the really fun, niche anime like older OVAs, mecha anime, or even stalwarts like Dragonball Z and One Piece: none of them ever get a UK release. The market for anime here is so small the poducer probably wouldn’t be able to make back its money.

    Hence I am reduced to buying Region 1 anime through Amazon. Not sure about the streaming situation, but its similar to what you describe here. Europe and Region 2 gets screwed over in the digital format, and unless you’re living in France or Italy, the presence of anime DVDs is negelible.

  19. […] a lot of series are still not available worldwide due to dumb region locks (read a related post HERE). This means I, who live outside USA, have no choice but to watch Nisemogatari by other means than […]

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