Welcome to Blickwinkel’s Anime 101, where the lecturers inexplicably disappear for 6 months at a time only to return and act as though nothing interesting happened. With another year’s worth of anime under our belt and another fresh season just beyond the horizon, I thought the time was ripe to tackle something many of us now take for granted, but is something which can be incredibly taunting to newer and perspective members of our community.
Imagine this. Six months ago, your friend gave you a hard drive with things titled “Death Note” and “Code Geass”, telling you to check it out because apparently anime can be pretty cool. Out of curiosity, you watch a few episodes and discover that yes, there is indeed a certain element of coolness to be had. You feel invigorated, and return to your friend asking for more. He gives you even more titles, and you marathon through them like free movies on a long flight.
Your curiosity piqued, you do an internet search for Anime and get instantly bombarded with information from every direction. Your mind reels as recommendations and discussions are hurled left and right. You’re not sure where to start; if you’re lucky you might stumble upon a few friendly forums who happily point you in the right direction, but for the most part, it’s all a huge nonsensical mess.
Fast forward to the present day, and somehow you’ve made it. Along the way, you’ve picked up jargon like moe and tsundere and some know-how, maybe even some memes. You’ve probably experienced shounen, perhaps you’ve seen some shoujo, you’ve probably been in contact with comedy and you might’ve even dabbled in slice-of-life. Altogether, you’ve maybe seen 10, 15 series. You’re ready to take the next step into the online anime community, if you are willing. You want to watch the latest, understand what all the new fuzz is about.
Airing anime is arguably where the most exciting things happen in the community. For the slower of us, airing anime refers to anime which are still currently being broadcast on Japanese television. The “raws” of each new episode are obtained and passed on to various groups or “subgroups” that translate and add subtitles, they then encode and release the newly subtitled episodes a few days later for us to enjoy. The best part about watching airing anime is that everyone is on the same page. Of all the discussions you find on various forums, reddit or /a/, the threads about the latest episodes are always the liveliest. New jokes, new memes, moments that immortalized in anime history, they are all born here.
Many viewers are turned off at the difficulty of understanding how to go about finding these so-called airing anime. Perhaps they’ve never had to use their computer for anything else other than Microsoft word until now. Perhaps the huge array different sources is daunting. Whatever the case is, this article aims to absolve some of those difficulties by providing a step-by-step introduction to new airing anime, an effective process which I still use today. Hopefully by the end of this we would have given some people a helping hand.
STEP 1 – Find out what’s airing
There are over a dozen new anime that air every season, as well almost an equal number that carry on from the previous season. You’ll have a hard time if you try to find them all individually. Luckily for us, many kind folks dedicate their time producing neat lists and summaries every new season, so we don’t have to do any of the hard work.
AnimeNewsNetwork produces a nice list of new anime that is airing, along with various info and even professionally written previews. If I want to see what there is for the new season with all the extra mumbo-jumbo like voice actors and staff, this is usually where I go. You can check out their list of anime for Winter 2012 here.
Alternatively if you prefer something more eye-candy worthy, Neregate produces a sweet looking chart every new season that not only outline the new anime coming out, but also details things like studios, plot synopsis, OVAs and even movies. Very concise and easy to use. You can check out their chart for Winter 2012 here.
Various other blogs and forums also like to produce their own summaries where possible. Use whatever works for you!
STEP 2 – Deciding what to watch
Chances are you have a life outside of your room, so you’ll probably not want to devote all of your free-time to watching anime. It’s important then, to pick only a few anime each season to follow so you don’t wear yourself out. The question is, how do you determine which ones to watch?
The honest truth is that there is no best way to decide. Previews and trailers and often misleading and the only real way to see if an anime is good or not is to actually watch it. You could make educated guesses based on the directors and source material and whatnot, but those methods are generally tedious and not for the inexperienced. There are however, a few ways you can narrow down your list.
Sequels for instance, you can instantly eliminate. If you haven’t seen their previous iterations, you’ll have trouble keeping up with some of the stories and characters. Hence, you could probably cross out anime like Zero no Tsukaima F and Amagami SS+ for this season. Next, you might draw from your rather limited knowledge. For instance, you might have watched Bakemonogatari based on a recommendation and really enjoyed it. You might also notice that Nisemonogatari is also produced by Shaft, the same studio. You could pick Nisemonogatari then, as an easy choice.
That’s about all the advice I can give, everything else is up to you. Maybe you could look at the genre tags and pick the ones you enjoy, like adventure or sci-fi. If you’re really baller you might even have a favourite voice actor, and want to see more of the characters that they voice. Or you could do what I do and throw darts at a wall. Either way, you’ll eventually want to come up with a list that interests you.
STEP 3 – Create a MAL account.
Click on the above image to be directed to their homepage.
You’ve probably already heard of this website at some point. If you haven’t already, now would be a good time hop on and make an account. MyAnimeList contains a number of useful functionalities including a huge database of all the anime that has been aired to date, detailed information about each series and even dedicated sub forums.
Most importantly however, it lets you keep tabs on the anime you’ve watched so far down to the episode, which makes keeping track of where you’re up to a lot easier. When older veterans try to help you out with recommendations, it makes their job a lot easier if you can show them a list of what you’ve watched already and give them an idea of what your tastes are. It’s also a great source of information, sort of like an IMBD for anime if you like.
STEP 4 – Finding a Subgroup
OK so you’ve decided what you’re going to watch, created an MAL list and happily key in those entries as “plan to watch”. Now what? Well, now you have to actually figure out where to get those anime. Different people will tell you different things. My advice would be to get it directly from the subgroup.
The easiest way to find to find which subgroups are working on your anime is to go to the anime’s respective MAL page. Once you’re there, scroll down to the near the button and you should see a section called “Fansubbing groups”. Right here.
Simply click on the subgroup to be directed to their MAL page, which will contain a link to their website. New anime pages sometimes take a few hours to get updated. Don’t worry, just be patient.
As you become more accustomed to the community, you’ll eventually grow fond of certain subgroups and chose them preferentially. For now however, it’s fine to pick whichever has the most approval. Generally the more users a group has, the less likely they will drop a project midway.
STEP 5 – Downloading
You’ll be able to find all the download links and relevant material on subgroup’s homepage. Subgroups usually offer their material on several platforms; you can get it straight via IRC, peer-to-peer via torrent or downloaded straight from file-sharing sites. All the methods give you the exact same file so there is no real reason to pick one method over another. Some subgroups archive past projects while others remove them.
Here’s a typical example of layout from UTW.
It should be noted however, that when someone downloads a file uploaded by the subgroup, they gain a small amount of revenue from the file sharing site. Therefore, choosing to download straight in this manner helps support subgroups to continue to offer what is essential a free service to us, as opposed to using an aggregate site such as Animetake or Nyaatorrents. (Which by the way, are also excellent sites to use once you get the hang of things, or you’re following several different anime and can’t be bothered going to each subgroup individually)
For those who are interested, I use mIRC and uTorrent for IRC and peer-to-peer respectively. You can download them both for free by clicking their respective links. A quick google tutorial may be necessary if you’ve never used them before.
STEP 6 – Playing the episode
You might encounter situations where you are unable to play certain video files you download. In rare cases this is due to the subgroup messing up their encoder and usually a fixed version is released within hours. More commonly however, it means you don’t have the required codec or media player, usually because the anime your friend gave you were all DVD or mp4. Don’t worry if you don’t know what this means, it’s basically computer talk for “download this and it’ll work”.
Experienced viewers will all have their own various setups they prefer, and the purpose of this article isn’t to go through the merits and flaws of each. The only one which to my knowledge is with the Combined Community Codec Pack. Recently, many fansub groups have started releasing their episodes in 10-bit. The CCCP is the only codec that guarantees your playback.
For Mac users, MPlayerX is a great open-source multimedia player that will play basically anything.
STEP 7 – Nuts and Bolts
If you’ve managed to get this far then you probably don’t need my help getting to where you need to go from now on. Here are however, some pointers that you might like to know.
- Blu-ray releases are not the same as airing anime. Blu-rays higher quality, and are usually released long after the anime has already finished airing. They are however, great if you have a series you really love and want an HD copy of.
- Many anime series come with extra special episodes in their Blu-ray and DVD releases that don’t air on TV. Don’t feel compelled to hunt these down as they are usually non-essential to the plot, but they are fun to watch.
- Unlike pirating movies, downloading subtitled anime is not “as” illegal, as long as the anime hasn’t been licensed. Websites like BakaBT, go out of their way to make sure all their content is unlicensed and ‘legal’. (Unimportant technicalities that go on behind this that you don’t have to worry about at this point. We’ll cover this next week)
- It’s ok drop anime if you don’t like it after a few episodes, and pick up new ones. One of the silliest things is to feel obligated to continue watching anime you don’t like. Remember, if it starts feeling like a chore, you’re doing it wrong.
- Find a good community and have fun discussing! I generally lurk around on AnimeSuki.
And there we have it. Now I know know for the large majority of the community the advice in this post is largely redundant. However I just know that someone on the internet some poor 14 year old trying earnestly to “find something similar to Bleach” and getting bombarded by flames and trolls from all sides. If you find them, point them here so we can get them going the right direction. There are other methods, and hundreds of different sites of varying benefits and efficiency that I won’t go into here because there’s simply too many to list.
Alright, that’s the end of the lecture. Next week, we will delve deeper and go behind the scenes of fansubbing, talking about it’s history, how it works, different groups, and some interesting facts you might not have known. Ciao~