KissAnime Is Dead - and It Deserved to Die
Reuben Baron
KissAnime, the most popular anime piracy site, shut down on August 15. All that remains on the site's URL is the message: "All files are taken down by copyright owners. The site will be closed forever. Thank you for your supports [sic]." This closure comes as a result of strengthened copyright protection in Japan. While many who used the site might miss it, shutting KissAnime down is ultimately a good thing for both the anime industry and anime fans.
The popularity of piracy among American anime fans has understandable historical roots. In the early days of fandom, the vast majority of anime was completely unavailable legally in the States, and the few officially licensed anime were either heavily edited for TV or on prohibitively expensive VHS releases (often selling for $20 an episode or more). In this setting, fansubs had some clear advantages, and many of the professionals involved in official anime translations today got their start as fansubbers. Crunchyroll started as an illegal fansub site before becoming a legal streaming service in 2008.
However, anime today is in a wildly different place than it was 30, 20 or even 10 years ago. Between Crunchyroll, FUNimation, HIDIVE and Netflix, almost every single new anime made in Japan get a legal streaming release in America, and aside from Netflix's delayed releases, new episodes stream almost immediately after they first air in Japan. The few shows that don't stream in the US are mostly young kids shows and long-running family sitcoms that few American fans are interested in. The cost of a subscription is negligible compared to what it once took to collect a single series on physical media, and even if you can't afford subscriptions, the vast majority of Crunchyroll and FUNimation's catalogs are available for free with ads.
If you're an American fan interested in supporting current and mainstream anime, there was zero reason to use KissAnime over the many official legal streaming services available. But what if you wanted to watch those unlicensed kids shows, or some obscure gem from the '70s that never came overseas officially? There's some debate to be had over whether or not piracy is acceptable in such cases, but regardless of what side of that argument you fall on, KissAnime failed even a pirate's standards of ethics.
For one thing, those obscure unlicensed shows certainly accounted for a tiny minority of KissAnime's traffic. Whereas most fansubbers these days try to follow an ethical guideline of only subbing unlicensed anime, KissAnime was blatantly trying to steal views from legal sources. KissAnime didn't have the fansubber's defense of translating anime purely as a labor of love. KissAnime in fact stole translations from both fansubbers and official sources, and filled its website with ads. When you stream anime on a legal site, you know the money's going to support the anime industry, but who knows where KissAnime's ad money was going. Many have reported on ads on KissAnime containing viruses, so it was not even a user-friendly experience.
KissAnime is dead, and anime is much better off for it. This is not to say the legal streaming sites are doing everything perfectly; Netflix definitely needs to catch up to simulcasting, Crunchyroll could stand to pay its translators much more and all licensors should be working to get more shows streaming in more territories around the world. However, all these official sites support the anime you love while offering an experience vastly superior to a virus-filled pirate site.