UK Anime streaming service Animax opened its doors in late October 2013, filling the void left by its predecessor Anime On Demand. Website-only since its beginning, it has been promising a PS3 app “really soon” which arrived. Today. With no announcement.
At the time of typing this (just before 8pm) there is still no word on their official Facebook or Twitter feeds. Although one fan thinks a premature announcement may have gone up last night, before getting hastily pulled. And there was nothing in the EU Playstation Blog in the list of this week’s releases that went live this afternoon. I know Animax tend to put their announcements out in the evening, but after the app has gone live is a little late for something they’ve been promising for months.
The Service Itself
Before I talk about the PS3 app, there are a few things I need to mention regarding Animax’s service itself. If, like me, you were waiting for a TV-compatible app to go live before subscribing you may not be aware of these things.
- Firstly, yes, it’s a legal Anime streaming service. So fluctuations in quality are to be expected, depending on available bandwidth. And subtitles translating the opening and ending theme songs are likely to be the exception, not the rule. It’s not that these aren’t problems, more that they’re common problems to most streaming platforms.
- You need credit/debit card details when signing up for the free trial, also they don’t currently seem to have PayPal as an option. Again, this is hardly unique to Animax but it is something that can vary between different subscription services., so it is useful to know.
- When you sign up, they promptly email you your password in plaintext. Not exactly off to a strong start, here.
- Simulcasts are free, to subcribers and non-subscribers alike, for two weeks. This isn’t unheard of.Before the episodes go behind the subscription paywall, though, they stream ads to all viewers. Yes, they force their paying subscribers to sit through adverts. For a service they are paying to access. This is something I hope they change because, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, I send to pay to join site and services specifically to get rid of the advertising BS I have no interest in seeing. i’d rather pay for a service directly. I don’t like paying to be advertised at, however.
The PS3 App
I’ve given is a quick look through and my initial opinion is mixed. Very early on it becomes apparent that the app is designed to be run through the PS3 gamepad. I use the official media controller and I wasn’t able to get any reaction from the ENTER button on the remote. Worse, it is the only thing on my PS3 so far that positively refuses to work with an external keyboard. I have a wireless one currently connected for using with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn because I find trying to enter a password with a gamepad is an exercise in frustration. For Anime, however, my “Password Keyboard” is rendered completely unusable.
In its defence, though, once you log in it will log you on as the same user each time you load it up. So you only have to go through this pain when you first install it, or change your password.
Even with the media remote, you are forced to select items with the X button and to go back with the O button. None of the nice useful shortcut keys here.
Like the website, the Animax PS3 app is a little clunky to browse. The opening “page” lists some of the available titles, followed by some of the latest episodes and anime movies. Sadly, these are listed by episode number or title, or by movie subtitle. The series name is not listed at all. So if you recognise one of the characters, you’re fine. if you don’t, it’s impossible to guess whether it’s a show you don’t follow or a thumbnail of a scene with someone new in it.
Once you start getting into the “Shows & Movies” or “Free Simulcast” sections it gets a little easier. you’re now presented with series names. Not being able to use the remote as a normal remote is odd, though. I keep finding myself wanting to hit ENTER. Getting to the genre bar also feels a little fiddly.
It starts to fare a little better here. Well, apart from the adverts on the newer episodes. But, once the episode gets going, it very quickly adjusts to the best quality your connection can handle. Although the first second or two can sometimes be a little bit too low definition for the subtitles to be easily readable.
The controls are counter-intuitive, though. There is no getting around this. The Triangle button is the pause/resume key. Start doesn’t do anything. And if you have the media remote, the play and pause buttons do nothing more but bring up the OSD that tells you what buttons you’re supposed to be using. Fast-forward and rewind are done by holding down the R1 or L1 buttons, and the timeline jumps in ten-second increments until you let go, at which point it seeks to that part of the stream.
For a “Version 1 release” it’s OK. It works well, if not very elegantly. The quality is comparable to other legal streaming services and i’m hopeful that improvements (and apps on other platforms) are forthcoming.
I can’t help being a little bit disappointed, though. Compared to Crunchyroll, which has been a streaming service for much longer, it just doesn’t hold up as well yet. Not the website and certainly not the one solitary console app. I’m sure things will improve but at this exact point in time it’s a little lacking. Actually having a PS3 app is a major incentive to people like myself, who will only watch on a TV and really dislike web-viewing. But there is still a long way to go.
And, for a service whose small catalogue has a rather high percentage of exclusive titles that other regions have via Crunchyroll, it is all distance that really needs to be closed sooner rather than later. This app is a very important first step. Going forward, though, being “like Crunchyroll, only not quite as good, and costing more per month” isn’t going to cut it. Especially if they continue to get the exclusive UK rights to come of Crunchyroll’s catalogue, rater than acquiring the titles that CR doesn’t have (and hence are less liekly to get out over here), they are going to get held to CR’s standards.
And as much of an important step the PS3 app is, it is also another thing where it still can’t match up to what Crunchyroll has to offer.