What Do You Do When Your Fav Anime Isn’t Simulcast? – This Week in Anime

In the modern streaming landscape, almost every anime series is simulcast for fans. Almost. Chris and Steve discuss what happens when a highly-anticipated series gets passed over.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

Uma Musume, Symphogear, and Tonkatsu DJ Agetarō are currently streaming on Crunchyroll, while Tonbo! is available on Amazon. Pon no Michi is available on YouTube.


Chris

Steve, the Preview Guide has just about wrapped up, but it looks like there are a few shows our co-workers missed. You and I already pinch-hit for some series like Laid-Back Camp and Sound! Euphonium, so I reckon we can take care of those leftovers for them. Not sure how the likes of Girls Band Cry got skipped in the first place, that one looked like it was going to be pretty neat!

Steve

Chris, I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, but Girls Band Cry is…gone. We haven’t seen the hide or hair of it since the last PV dropped. There are rumors that it’s hiding somewhere in France, but for the time being, law authorities are treating this like a missing persons case. While I can’t help but fear the worst, I’m doing everything I can to get to the bottom of this mystery. Putting up posters. Adding photos to milk cartons. Just asking everybody I run into: have you seen these middle fingers?

Look, if Bocchi the Rock! taught me anything, it’s that music anime that includes girls with red color schemes flipping the bird are guaranteed to be winners. And lord knows, I’ve caught those particular hands all over my timeline the past couple of weeks in screenshots and redrawn memes. But you’re right, for the life of me I can’t find Girls Band Cry across any of the fine anime streaming services that cater to us here in English-speaking land.



I can only assume that Nina’s obscenity caused an international incident, leading her to be barred from entry on our shores.

Whatever the cause, and wherever these girls are crying, they are most certainly not doing so in the States. And that in itself is not unusual. Despite the apparent ubiquity of the modern simulcast ecosystem, there are always anime that don’t get picked up for streaming. Maybe it’s a weird short that airs at 2 am, or maybe it’s a super niche title that licensors aren’t interested in. But in this Spring 2024 season, we seem to have an aberrant concentration of unlicensed shows that would otherwise fit the mold of usual simulcast choices. And since we like to tackle the hard questions here, let’s ask: what the heck’s up with all that?

Having already started with Girls Band Cry, we might as well continue along with it. It was certainly the most high-profile in my circles, being a heavily promoted original series from pillar of the industry Toei. And yet circumstances have conspired to make one of the most talked-about anime at the beginning of season one that Western fans can’t legally watch.



Granted, its oddly unlicensed status likely contributes a lot to the prevalence of that conversation, but still.
I mean, if I were a publisher, in between the critical/commercial success of MyGO and the hype for Ave Mujica, it would seem to me like the perfect time to get as many eyes as possible on a 3DCG anime about weird girls tolerating each other enough to form a band. They even went through the trouble of adding English subtitles to some of the PVs on YouTube.


Yeah, I can’t pretend that a large contingent of my interest in the anime came from my love for It’s MyGO. But they also have Kazuo Sakai on director duty, from Love Live! Sunshine!!, and I love Sunshine!



Hell, Toei‘s official Twitter account was even posting promotion for it, in English, in the lead-up to its premiere! It makes sense to presume that precludes some official streaming release, or you’re just taunting your prospective audience.

It boggles the mind. But then again, Toei isn’t exactly known for operating within the confines of what you and I might call “reason.” If all we can do is speculate (and that is all we can do at this point), then I’m inclined to wonder if the problem is on their end.

You’re reading my mind. The company’s logic about its releases has long been questionable to fans paying attention. Think about how long we had to pester ol’ Puss in Boots to lift the blockade on a powerhouse franchise like Pretty Cure.



They want viewers to know about the show, spread it around, and (presumably) buy music and merchandise based on it. But how do you actually watch it? It’s not Toei‘s problem; it’s between you and God.

Or, more tangibly, you and fansubbers. And that’s another wrinkle that Girls Band Cry‘s absence has brought to the surface. As more and more people become enticed by gifs of a cartoon girl flipping the bird, they’re flocking to extra-legal means of anime watching. And they’re discovering that 10+ years of ubiquitous legal simulcasting has done a number on the fansubbing community.

It’s funny since it almost feels like bringing things full circle. Over a decade ago, keeping up on seasonal anime meant anticipating which fansub groups would pick up which shows, much in the way we wonder if anime will go to Crunchyroll or HIDIVE (or dread they’ll wind up on Hulu) today.



Of course, any wistful nostalgia is immediately tempered by the reality of, “Oh right, this is what it was like waiting two weeks for decent subs of Symphogear G.”

We’ve been spoiled! There’s no way around that. Many former fansubbers have since plied their trade for official channels, which could be considered a healthy development (pending better pay, working conditions, etc.). But this has, in turn, dissolved much of the fansub infrastructure of yore. As such, I have heard from trusted sources that it took about a week for decent English fansubs of the first Girls Band Cry episode to drop after several awkward or machine-translated attempts from other groups. That’s a far cry from day-of delivery.

There’s the additional effect that all un-simulcast series share: obstructed visibility. There was plenty of chatter about Girls Band Cry and its situation around its premiere. But needing to sus out decent subs and then torrent them (something I have on good authority a lot of the younger fans these days aren’t as practiced in) means there’s a massive chunk of the mainstream viewing audience that just plum isn’t going to be watching and talking about this show as it airs.



And getting your co-workers whom you convinced to check out Delicious in Dungeon to watch? Forget it.
Yep, and even same-day fansubs wouldn’t fix that. From down here in our tiny consumer hole, it seems like either the publishers or licensors (or maybe both!) are throwing money away, letting a potential hit languish. But I also can’t pretend to be privy to the nitty-gritty business and economics of licensing anime. I’m just here to complain about their effects.



I should also note that not all hope is lost. Even if Girls Band Cry isn’t picked up by Crunchyroll or HIDIVE, it is currently licensed in France by ADN. Last season, the same company licensed Pon no Michi, which was not simulcasted here. However, they did start uploading episodes to YouTube later, with complete English hardsubs. So they might end up doing the same with this show. But who knows!

Pon no Michi was last season’s most notable simulcast-skipper, but at least that one made a bit more sense. Previous mahjong anime like Saki have gotten streaming releases, but it’s hardly the most well-known subject for American audiences.

Well I’m certainly in the target audience for passing off intrusive FKMT references as jokes, but I acquiesce to your point. Girls Band Cry has a much wider net to cast.

The potential popularity of this season’s simulcast draft-dodgers makes them stand out, comparatively. From a promotional standpoint, making your series widely available in an industry where that’s the norm nowadays would seem to be the obvious choice. That goes double when the anime in question entirely exists as a promotional vehicle.

Yeah, you and I both know that we’re freaks who can’t get enough of girls with guitars and mental illnesses, but we’re hardly a representative sample of the anime audience as a whole. On the other hand, Blue Archive has a built-in fanbase of gacha addicts who already know how to throw money at this franchise and their haloed gaggle of gals. It’s free real estate.

Look, I know nothing about the story or characters of Blue Archive The Animation, but as a member of the esteemed anime press, I do know that its popularity measurements via the Comiket Index are off the friggin’ charts. You probably could have logged a few thousand streams just from people who knew the name tuning in to finally figure out what the hell Blue Archive is actually about.

Myself included! I’m in a comfortable Arknights-only stage of my gacha career, but I’m curious to see what all the hubbub is about and to learn the names of some of these girls my friends keep retweeting onto my timeline.



And if we want numbers, an official and barebones (i.e., no subs of any kind) YouTube upload of episode one went live on the Blue Archive channel three days ago, and it has logged 657K views as of writing this. That ain’t nothing.
That YouTube upload underscores the point. It’s the same reason Bandai streamed Gundam Build Fighters on its channel, or Bushiroad regularly uploads series there—the Blue Archive anime is essentially a commercial, in this case, for the mobile game.



But at least those other companies included English subtitles on their uploads. Is there some reason Nexon doesn’t see a point in promoting the game here, even as it has a worldwide release?

I can’t think of one. But I guess it could also be the opposite problem: Nexon believes they have a hit on their hands, so their asking price is too high on our licensors’ side. And as the anime market becomes larger and increasingly globalized, it wouldn’t be surprising for publishers to ask for a bigger slice of that pie to return to their pockets. Maybe they’re caught in a game of chicken now, each waiting for the other side to fold to the whims of consumer demand. Or maybe they’re both too rich to care.

It’s funny since innumerable other mobile-game tie-ins have gotten streaming releases. Some for games we can’t even play here! You look at Uma Musume’s successful run. It’s made the franchise known enough among Western anime fans that many actively ask Cygames to give the game an English release. Guys, they are banging down the doors of the casino, begging to come in and spend money!

No doubt all kinds of strange and unintuitive anime accounting results in these decisions, whether they’re ultimately sound or not. You mentioned Symphogear earlier, and that has one of the strangest simulcasting histories of any franchise—no simulcasts for seasons 1 and 2. Season 3 got picked up, after which Crunchyroll went back and subbed the first two seasons. Then they skipped simulcasting season 4. Then they simulcasted season 5, went back again to sub season 4, but only finished subbing season 4 two weeks before the finale of season 5 aired.

Symphogear, alongside my fondness for it, will always be a series I remember for taking stuttered steps onto the simulcast train. However, in checking stuff for this column, I found out that the first season was licensed by Funimation and simulcast back in 2012…through Nico Nico.



If anything, that should indicate the Wild West that simulcast streaming was that far back and how rapidly things have evolved to arrive at the current status quo. And it means the point still stands: sure, we love Symphogear here, but there was a period where a series that niche was still considered a risk that streaming services might not want to take a chance on. Even among fansub groups then, I remember only one bothering to translate Symphogear G as it was airing.
And I wonder what the future of anime streaming will look like. With Crunchyroll and Funimation now synthesized together with the full weight of Sony behind them, will they continue to dominate the market, or will the market splinter further as publishers try to avoid kowtowing to a potential monopoly? Heck, in this very season, Oi! Tonbo is in a weird spot with a simuldub available on Amazon Prime.
Please, for the love of everything, tread lightly on that green. I don’t want to summon the vengeful spirit of Anime Strike accidentally.

I dare not speak its name. But I wonder if these licensing oddities and absences will become a new normal. Time was, Crunchyroll would seemingly grab whatever it could get its grubby hands on, including gonzo shorts like my beloved Tonkatsu DJ Agetarō. Not so much nowadays.

You can potentially see some patterns forming already. Touken Ranbu Kai, another gacha game tie-in like Blue Archive, didn’t stream until three episodes in. But it’s arguably more of an oddity, given that past Touken Ranbu anime have simulcasted on time. Perhaps that foreshadows the new normal: the franchise didn’t prove itself? Considered too niche? You’re getting benched like Symphogear AXZ until morale improves.

It’s not just anime, either. The whole streaming ecosystem is cooked. Having sufficiently disrupted the industry, all these services are now adding ads, jacking up prices, removing series, and providing a demonstrably worse experience for everyone except the shareholders and their bottomless avarice for infinite profits. This might be the precipice of the simulcast landscape—and thus a vast chunk of the anime industry—dramatically recalibrating itself. Or it’s a weird fluke. Need I remind everybody that I’m just some guy on a website like many of you?

As guys on a website, though, I think these decisions have a distinctive effect on us. There was a time when even ANN’s Preview Guide was written watching fansubs, simulcasting being a developing luxury. But nowadays, there’s an expectation that series covered in columns like this, or seasonal and annual best-of lists, will only be legally, officially released anime. This can be frustrating if I do watch something like Girls Band Cry “somehow” and think it merits being part of the discussion.

We just had a feature ringing the funereal bells for long-licensed anime set to disappear alongside Funimation‘s brand. Now, we have the opposite problem: anime that can’t get licensed in the first place. But the causes are related, if not identical. Ultimately, these are business deals conducted behind closed doors, with profit in mind. Any convenience on our part is a happy side effect of that—no more, no less. For a while, it seemed like those interests aligned more often than not, but we may already be on the other side of that honeymoon period. For whom does the girl’s band cry? It cries for thee.

Some of these truant anime may pull what Megaton Musashi is about to do and randomly arrive on a streaming platform years later. Still, the uncertainty around so many series this season is enough to make anyone cry, girls’ band or not. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that girls’ cycling anime Rinkai! is yet another show getting passed over this season.



A mid-level niche sports show that not many might miss? Maybe. But it’s still symptomatic of that bubble effect of all that business you’re discussing. Crunchyroll had no problem simulcasting a series about Kabaddi a few years ago.
If you want to talk about feeling blue, nobody licensed Ao no Orchestra last year either.


That one’s even got a second season on the way! Ao no Orchestra lets me lead into one last wrinkle: English simulcasting outside North America. Ao no Orchestra got an English subtitled simulcast through Aniplus-Asia, a Southeast Asian channel. There was a similar situation with boys-only BanG Dream! spin-off Argonavis, and at least ensures that English subs for these shows are out there somewhere, without having to worry about needing fansubbers to pick them up.



It is also useful in cases like Interspecies Reviewers, where a series gets unlicensed for simulcasting partway through, and international English streaming releases are your only alternative.

I believe that’s the situation Blue Archive is in right now, with Ani-One in Southeast Asia providing the only legitimately sourced English subs. I’ve heard those subs aren’t particularly good, and it still doesn’t solve the availability problem to the general anime-watching audience, but they are out there in the ether.

Of course, if you want the authentic anime experience, straight from the tap and unsullied by woke, you can always turn on the auto-generated closed captions and English MTL on YouTube and let ‘er rip. Truly, the days of human translators are numbered.

If that’s the alternative, now I see why anime fans in the VHS era had the patience to wait for their fansubs to arrive in the mail.

Jokes aside, I’ll grant the Blue Archive anime this much: anything with sukeban abs deserves a proper release on US soil.

Guns, abs, guitars, middle fingers, these anime have all the things we Americans can appreciate, so why shouldn’t they get their chance here?



The season is still young, so I’ll be hoping a show like Girls Band Cry can pull off a meta underdog story alongside the one it appears to be telling in the series.

Look, it’s either that, or I start relentlessly posting through another one of my attempts to become fluent in Japanese. Make the smart choice, Toei. Make the right choice. For America.

For my sanity, if I have to put up with that.