The aim of this post, much like Naja’s Ballin’ on a Budget posts, is to promote deals. However, as you might know from browsing eBay, Amazon and the like, deals vary by currency and whatnot…so what’s a virtual con to do…?
Since all our favorite conventions are canceled this summer because of the pandemic, OWLS plans to host a special project in honor of all the anime fans out there this July. (Full schedule.)
The answer I came up with is to promote the ways to find deals and the local places which might have those deals, not necessarily the deals themselves. As a self-proclaimed cheapskate (for better or worse), I know how to dig out a good deal…regional deals, availability and other factors permitting, of course.
Disclaimers: 1) Be careful with personal information – don’t fall victim to scams and make sure you check if there is a valid HTTPS certificate on forms that require things like bank account details (to do that, you can normally check for a lock in the address bar, to the left of the address).
2) As stated, the options listed largely depend on regional availability, licensing etc. Make sure to check carefully all the options that might suit you to avoid disappointment – for instance, I know subscription app Mangamo is, as of the time of writing, US/Canada and iOS only, but they are working on an Android app. Also note this post isn’t definitive, but covers a lot of ground in its categories – always keep your eyes peeled for new deals and ways to get stuff cheap and legally!
3) Generally, you can figure out if your anime/manga is genuine or not by checking out the item (if possible), licensor and store/source or using common sense (e.g. if there is Chinese on the disc cover when you thought you had an item from Japan)…I can’t be held responsible for any of the legal stuff or any bad decisions on your part (including if you use all your money on trying the methods listed here). Sorry.
With this, I’m basically laying out my secrets for how I obtain stuff to fill out my list, so hopefully you’ll like this glimpse behind the scenes.
Subscriptions and Samples
The bane of any anime blogger…those who can afford to keep themselves afloat while sustaining one, that is, so this is the category where you have to be the most conscious of any budget you assign yourself.
There’s Netflix’s array of anime and Amazon’s anime offerings if you also want non-anime shows and product deals/shipping respectively, but when it comes to the bigger anime-only subscriptions, Crunchyroll’s subscription has various tiers, Funimation has a limit on one device streaming at a time while free, which is lifted when you have a subscription, and AnimeLab has movies as well as ad-less, high quality anime. Most of them have a trial period (generally 30 days, although Crunchyroll’s is 2 weeks) if you just want a few things that are locked behind the paywalls though. I say this because Funimation, AnimeLab and Crunchyroll have a one-week wait until most things become free, in my experience, but this might not be true depending on content and region. HiDive has some exclusives, although only the trial is available for free before they start billing you.
Availability of Some Popular Services (to my knowledge):
- AnimeLab: AU/NZ (shares licences with various other services)
- Funimation: US/CA/AU/NZ/UK/Ireland (as of the time of writing, looking to expand to Mexico/Brazil) – note Funimation, AnimeLab and Wakanim are in an agreement with Aniplex and Sony as of the time of writing, and so will share a lot of the same content
- HiDive: generally English-speaking countries
- Viz Media: US/CA
- Crunchyroll/Netflix/Amazon: content varies by region
For manga, the most well-known one is the Viz manga subscription – a subscription that offers you access to the entire backlog of series – predominantly hot titles originally from Shogakukan and Shueisha, give or take a few series where only partial backlog is available (such as Act-Age). There’s also the first 3 and latest 3 chapters of everything available for free, if it’s a currently-running series for if you can keep up. Viz also make certain chapters of the backlog available for free from time to time, mostly to service hype or boredom (such as during lockdown). Manga Plus acts as Viz Media in some places and/or brings access to new series in others and most of the series are duplicated on the Shonen Jump app.
In much the same vein as Viz, Kodansha USA makes most of their first chapters available on their website and regularly runs sales via Comixology and other retailers. At rare opportunities, you can find manga outside those sources – I have a PDF two-chapter sample of JIN from a Kickstarter, for example, and found Arte before the anime via the Silent Manga Audition site.
Of course, if you’re a blogger, you could always get an ARC instead…
Online Stores and Discounts
If you don’t mind digital copies or buying online, then this may be your current bane of existence because eBay, Amazon and the like are probably struggling with restrictions for physical manga anyway. I know for sure Seven Seas does digital-first releases, while RightStuf in the US does the occasional sale. From several bloggers’ discussion, there are also LootCrates, but apparently the one I linked doesn’t exist in my region…
Earlier this year, I bought a Humble Bundle for manga. Humble Bundles, when they sell manga (or even comics, as I discovered later) instead of games, work a treat because you pay what you want for several “tiers”, up to the maximum payment for everything. It’s digital, so it’s significantly cheaper than physical and you get a lot.
Stores and Physical Sales
This is probably more off-limits due to COVID-19, but if you browse carefully in brick-and-mortar bookstores (very carefully, with social distancing, in this time of COVID-19), you might find manga – the first spot I knew I could purchase manga from was an educational supplies/bookstore and even then, the manga were found on one specific part of the shelf near the children’s books.
Likewise, I know my closest regional haunt for anime discs is an electronics store in name, so pay close attention to the shelves in any store, not just pop culture stores – you never know if something you want (which is licensed, of course) will appear at a reasonable price! Make sure to check if they have online options, too, because that would be massively helpful in this time.
Of course, you can find stuff second-hand at sales and charity stores at cheaper prices – as a volunteer at one charity store, I could abuse extra loopholes such as a staff discount, but I don’t think most people have access to that…One library sale I dropped money for before the lockdown was really cheap and if you bought 5 books, they came very close to being free – I got manga, non-fiction and even some light novels (and a Chinese copy of Exit Game – the 1st volume of HaruChika, which is apparently an “actual novel series” by AniList standards) through that.
…Then again, I know the charity store I mention is deemed a “non-essential service” in lockdown terms in my area and it doesn’t have online options, so you might lose access to those as well.
Libraries and Old-Fashioned Methods
My bane of existence before digital manga. The library I normally frequent allows you to only borrow via the online reservation system due to COVID-19 measures and from talking with some bloggers, it seems not everyone has access to a library which is as big or as dedicated to manga/anime as the one I’m talking about…Of course, I also happened to have access to a manga library which I volunteered at and at the price of cleaning out the database for a few hours each week, I got access to all the old manga (and then some) I wanted, so I was a massive exception. (Note the past tense: I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back there before I lose access to it altogether.) Some libraries have an e-book borrowing system, which I believe can be called several things such as “Overdrive”.
Likewise, if you have friends that have manga or anime, if you can trust each other with physical copies (I know a lot of my collection doesn’t see the light of day much because I like to fiercely protect it!) and you don’t live too far away from each other, you could arrange a swap meet, like you would with novels.
If you know another language to the point of fluency, then you might be able to get your hands on some manga/anime you can’t get in English. Obviously Japanese is the best choice if you want the real deal, but (Simplified/Traditional) Chinese and French are also big languages for translated manga – I think Tokyopop is active in Germany and from Lina’s posts, Sweden has an active market as well. Netflix apparently has Chinese subtitles for some shows and Japanese/English audio options, but I dunno about other languages.
If you’re specifically looking for Japanese-language manga, Magazine Pocket is my go-to – it’s Weekly Shonen Magazine, Monthly Shonen Sirius, Bessatsu Shonen Magazine and Monthly Shonen Magazine (all Kodansha magazines) online. There is a (green) point gacha system, which allows you to permanently “purchase” the chapter (or part of chapter) if you have an account (and/or money to give away), available in the app – you can get 1 pt, 5 pts, 10 pts, 20 pts or 50 pts (which I’ve never gotten, but it’s advertised) by coming back every day, watching some ads and selecting a treasure box for up to 3 tries and by reading assigned chapters. There is also a 48-hour rental system available for some chapters (orange tickets) and a “batch purchase” system (blue) where you can spend a bunch of gacha points in one shot. The points part of the system which involves paying is also part of the website, but sadly the gacha system isn’t.
Shonen Jump Plus is a more limited version of the Viz Media/Manga Plus lineup in its native language and it runs on a similar system (but restricts usage of points to only money for some chapters).
Direct From the Source
Again, this is something you might struggle with due to restrictions on mail and the like, but manga and anime from Japan is cheap because it hasn’t passed through a translator’s /licensor’s hands and if you can understand it without scanlations, then even better. Alternatively, you can get it from other countries if you can abuse the “other language” loophole, but you still have to deal with licensors and translators driving up the fees and wait time.
If watching anime while in Japan, you’ll want to check your anime’s website, because the schedule and/or streaming sites may be declared in an “On Air” (or similar) tab and, unless you want to watch something which airs at “family TV time” like Boruto, TV airings normally occur at unreasonable hours of the late night/early morning.
Sometimes, you can combine some of these tips – you can purchase Japanese-language manga online from Bookwalker, for instance.
So did you learn anything from this post? This is basically how I’ve managed to sustain myself over what is approaching (a proper) 10 years of manga and even longer with anime. (Note merchandise is a separate bundle of secrets, although some merch may be found in these places I’ve listed.)