In spite of originating in the Far East, Anime gained immense popularity in the West. But even though the fame grew so rapidly, supply was far less than the demand. Whatever little dose of Anime the Westerners got was all thanks to some TV networks and fan-subbed content uploaded illegally (on free english dubbed/subbed anime sites). A few years ago, media distribution companies like Crunchyroll, introduced online anime streaming services and transformed the whole anime-watching scenario. Though many of these services were accessible worldwide, there were quite a few limitations due to licensing restrictions in certain regions; this included Australia and New Zealand.
An Australian-based media company called Madman Entertainment recognized this weak spot and launched AnimeLab in 2014, for the audience in the aforementioned countries. In case you didn’t know, Madman Entertainment distributes Australian as well as foreign content including TV Series, kids’ programs, anime, manga, sports, and graphic novels in Australasia (Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea). Initially, AnimeLab kicked off with a library of only about 50 series (700 episodes) but it quickly gained momentum and expanded the content catalogue to about 260 titles (6,000+ episodes). Today, their success can be measured on basis of their wide user base of close to 450,000 subscribers; that is big!
Plans and Pricing:
Aside from offering a free membership (with limitations), AnimeLab also offers a premium membership, with better features. Let’s take a quick look at the pricing and inclusions under both, free and premium membership plans:
- Free Membership: When it comes to such services, “free” usually translates into a marketing gimmick; but that’s not the case with AnimeLab. If you’re low on budget, you can sign up for free and get access to a lot of titles (popular ones included) in 480p resolution, which isn’t so bad on smaller screens. The only drawback is that you’ll have to deal with pre-roll ads and may have limited access to the back catalogue. There’s also a week’s delay as far as simulcasts are concerned. However, you’re still getting a lot of value without partaking in piracy or shelling out a single buck!
- Premium Membership: For those who want unlimited access to titles in the best video quality possible, upgrading to the Premium plan is the way to go. At $7 per month (quite reasonable), you get to stream all the content available on the platform, without being bothered by commercials. Furthermore, you also get access to the entire back catalogue, the subbed and dubbed series, and you get to watch the simulcasts only an hour after they’ve been broadcasted in Japan. Majority of the titles can be viewed in HD/1080p. What’s more? Users will also be provided with other membership perks and priority customer support.
If you’re not very sure about upgrading, you can always try it out for free, for 30 days, and then decide whether to continue or not.
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What Can You Watch on AnimeLab?
As we mentioned earlier, AnimeLab treats you with over 260 anime series. This may seem a little scanty compared to Crunchyroll’s colossal catalogue of over 800 titles but let’s not forget that AnimeLab is fairly new and caters to the Australasian audience. Moreover, the latter may have fewer titles but they’re all quality stuff.
AnimeLab’s content is classified into more than 25 genres including some really unique and authentic ones such as Reverse Harem, Moe, Yuri, and Bishonen/Bishoujo focusing on themes like LGBT relationships, romance, and action. To be honest, it is kind of difficult to translate these genres to English. The only thing that you need to know is that have a genre that would cater to every type of anime lover.
Some of the most popular titles on the platform are “Death Note”, “One Punch Man”, “Attack on Titan”, “Naruto Shippuden”, “Dragon Ball Z”, and “Blue Exorcist”. They also have some really good simulcasts; few of the recently added titles include “Atom the Beginning”, “Boruto” Naruto Next Generation”, “Battle Girls High School”, “One Piece”, “Vatican Miracle Examiner”, and “Grimoire of Zero”. While they have a huge selection of well-known series, there are some titles which aren’t as popular but definitely worth your time. These include, “Ping Pong”, “Robotics”, “Waiting in the Summer”, and “Rideback”.
The User Interface and Video Streaming Quality:
At this point, you’re probably wondering why someone would sign up for AnimeLab when Crunchyroll has a much larger library and is available worldwide, including Australia and New Zealand. While testing the AnimeLab app, we found out that the user interface, design, and the overall experience was miles ahead of Crunchyroll; quite surprising actually. In our opinion, the service has an extremely clean and smooth interface with an excellent search function. Browsing and ultimately getting down to the desired title was definitely very easy.
The homepage displays the trending series in the form of sliders. On the top, you’ll find several navigation bars including “Shows”, “Simulcasts”, “Genres”, “My Shows”, and “My Queue”. It’s also where the search bar is located. As you scroll down, you’ll see that the titles are neatly arranged in rows and if you hover your mouse over the thumbnail, it’ll show the community rating, number of episodes, year of release, and a plot summary. You can either watch it instantly or add to your queue in order to access it quickly the next time you log in and watch it at your convenience.
As far as video quality is concerned, users can enjoy the content in up to 1080p resolution/HD, unless they’re using the free version in which case the quality caps out at 480p. We did not face any major buffering problems and the content loaded almost instantaneously. It all depends on how slow or fast your internet speed is. However, there are a few users who have posted complaints regarding the streaming speeds but that’s most likely a user specific issue than a bug on the platform itself.
Lastly, AnimeLab’s interface is more or less uniform across devices, unlike most other services whose app interface is usually more elegant compared to the web platform.
Supported Devices and Country-Wise Availability:
AnimeLab can be accessed across a vast range of devices such as Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Apple TV, all iOS devices, all Android devices, Sony TV, Blue-Ray players, Google Chromecast, and laptops/PCs. Unfortunately, the service is currently available only in Australia and New Zealand. You can always use a VPN service if you live anywhere else but there’s really no point in doing that because there are other services in the market which cater to audience in other parts of the world.
A Final Word:
AnimeLab is a brilliant move on Madman’s part because who wouldn’t like a reliable service that is dedicated to a specific country/region? It boasts of a superlative interface and an eclectic content selection, beating its competitors in several aspects. Its an ideal anime streaming service irrespective of what you prefer, subbed or dubbed series. The best part about AnimeLab is that it also brings simulcasts right to your screens the same very day, post its release in Japan. So if you live in either Australia or New Zealand, look no further; but if you live anywhere outside, Crunchyroll would be worth a try.