5 May 2017

NyaaTorrents closes its doors, the end of an era?

Being a European anime fan and being active on the internet since the early 2000s, I've spent my fair share of time on the torrent-site nyaa (.org, .eu, and also.se). It's been a part of my anime watching life for years now, and I wasn't really that surprised to see it being down once again (happened a a few times before). What did surprise me was the series of messages that followed it, because it wasn't just "down for a short while". No, it's down for good. The anime-torrent-cat has been put to rest.

V reflects on Nyaa

Long story short

The owner of the site Nyaa.org/se/eu has decided to close his sites on voluntary basis. The reason why is not confirmed by the owner yet, but the people close to him do state that it's most likely due to the recent Kodi ruling in European court (again, not confirmed. Do take this with a grain of salt).

For those who don't know, the Kodi ruling is a court case where the manufacturer of devices that contained the Kodi software were pre-configured to have pirating tv-series as its primary function. While the Kodi software by itself is still not considered illegal (which may change, considering), the pre-programmed device IS considered illegal, because it's configured in a way to promote piracy.

And while this ruling by itself could not be a reason to shut down Nyaa, IT IS a precedent that may very well extend to other "sites that are configured in a way to promote piracy" (which Nyaa technically is). And since the owner didn't want the hassle or media attention the MegaUpload owner (Kim Schmitz) garnered when his site got taken down, he took it upon himself to pull the plug.

Fan-subs: Legal or illegal?

Fan-subs have been kind of a legal gray area in Europe for a long time. Yes that IS strange, isn't it? For Americans and Asians it was clear for a long time that it was illegal to share this kind of content. Heck, in Japan it's even illegal to OWN fansubs.

But in Europe... nobody really cared and there was no general law prohibiting to create fan-subs nor share them for free (emphasis on: for free). Some countries had some form of law, while many others had pretty much nothing.

And since anime was pretty much unavailable in most European countries (if you're not living in the UK, France, Germany, Spain or Italy at least), most countries had other priorities to handle when it came to handling piracy.

How to watch anime in Europe in the past? Fansubs was the only way!

If you don't live in America, Asia or the previous mentioned 5 European countries, you're like me and have had a hard time watching anime in a legal fashion.

While during the anime boom of the early 2000s, some anime have aired on TV and some companies have tried selling official subs in a lot of European countries, the bursting of the anime bubble around 2008 caused most of those companies to become bankrupt. Today, not a single company is foolish enough to repeat that mistake, unless it's a Ghibli movie or Pokémon.

So how could you watch anime? Well, you either hoped some TV channel would broadcast it, you imported overpriced DVDs or BRs or you did like most people over here and went to nyaa (directly or indirectly via fansub sites).

Unless you had bank notes to spare, there really wasn't any other option!

Do NOT diss fan-subs

I get that it's not-done as a blogger or Youtuber to promote fan-subs due to piracy reasons (let alone promoting thieves like Horriblesubs), but you have to admit that they're a necessary evil.

Many anime only got popular in the west due to fan-subs. Mainstream series like Naruto and Bleach got their hype due to the fan-subs.

Many less popular titles would never have gotten a dub or release in the west, if not due to fan-subs making them more popular.
A sequel or remake is announced of a classic anime? Go search Nyaa or IRC for who subbed the original series and you can get up to speed.
Somebody advised you a niche title that may be up your alley? Search online and enjoy!
DVD's sold out and no longer being made due to the anime bubble bursting? You can rely on fansubs to be there for you.
Don't have any money? You could still watch fan-subs until you have money to start your own collection (it's what I did).

If not for fan-subs, the anime community would never be this big.

Times are changing - legally streaming anime

Luckily times have changed. Crunchyroll going from illegal to legal and Netflix starting to offer anime were two very big changes the anime community desperately needed. We now have options to watch anime in a legal fashion without it costing an arm and a leg. Go to Crunchyroll and you'll find hundreds of anime you can watch for free (including big titles like Gintama, Gundam, Naruto Shippuuden and Yu-Gi-Oh). Go to Daisuki and Viewster and you can find some other titles, no matter what country you live in.

Make this happen for One Piece and DB Super and you got me sold.

Yes, there's still that annoying "Content not available in your region" BS we have to put up with on the popular shows (like Attack on Titan or Dragon Ball Super).
But of the current season alone, there are LOTS of titles available to watch everywhere, even outside of the US. I counted all shows currently airing that I can legally watch in my area (Belgium) and I came up with 35 different titles (on Crunchyroll and Daisuki combined). And that's not even including the offers Netflix and Amazon have.

And yes, that includes popular titles like Boruto, WorldEnd, Berserk, Akashic Records, Love Tyrant, Alice & Zoroku, Eromanga Sensei, KADO, Hinako Note and many others.

Think about it. 35 titles that are still airing that you can watch without bothering to download anything illegally. And if you pay for their subscription, you can even watch the latest episode just as it aired in Japan! That is something that was unthinkable 10 years ago.

Back then, any site that offered you a subscription model was basically selling "free fansubs" for money. And yes, I did not forget Crunchyroll used to be part of these kind of scumbags. Why do you think it took so long for me to actually trust Crunchyroll? I only started trusting it after Funimation officially endorsed the site.

What about the anime "not available in your region"?

Well, the other thing that is good about the changed times is that the overall price of anime DVDs and BRs have dropped significantly due to decreased demand (and online/legal alternatives). I got quite a nice collection of anime DVDs and BRs that are otherwise "unavailable" to me via legal streaming.

Sites like Amazon, Zavvi, Archonia and others have made it possible to buy full seasons of classic and current anime for 30€ and below (which in the past could barely get you a single DVD disc containing 4 episodes of questionable quality).

Random screen grab from Zavvi anime Blu-Rays.
At this price, it's an offense to still bother with piracy.

But for the series that are not available (yet), I sadly enough still rely on groups like Horriblesubs. No, I don't like them either (they're no fan-subbers. They just steal Crunchyroll's content), but until region locks are a thing of the past it's the only option for me to watch shows like My Hero Academia, Attack on Titan, Atom the Beginning, Sakura Quest, The Eccentric Family and Dragon Ball Super.

Heck, I will make a promise here and now. The day Crunchyroll announces they're getting rid of Region Locks, I'm dropping torrented subs all together and I'm buying a Crunchyroll premium membership for the rest of my life. And I'm a man of my word.

How do I know which anime is available in my region?

Use the following process:

  • Go to: http://because.moe/. (bookmark it)
  • Type in the anime you want to watch/test.
  • The site will return the platforms you can watch it on legally (CR, Daisuki, Viewster, Funimation, AnimeNetwork, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon).
    Note: This search engine does not know about region-locks.
  • Click on the site logo (e.g. the Crunchyroll logo) and you'll get a direct link to the anime page.
  • If you receive an episode list, it's legal in your country/region.
  • If you receive that [censored] message of region-locking, you're in no luck.

Note: Sometimes it's handy to test multiple platforms. Blue Exorcist Kyoto Sage (for example) is unavailable on CR in my region, but IS available on Daisuki. Same goes for Eromanga Sensei. Why? I have absolutely NO idea. But that's the way it is.

Okay, I got this little rant out of my system. Rest in Peace, Nyaa. You served your purpose.

Until next time, V out.

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