A few weeks back, Viz Media released a new anime streaming app for the PS3 named Neon Alley. Unlike its competitors on the system, such as Hulu, Netflix, or more directly CrunchyRoll, Neon Alley takes a different approach to streaming media: it acts like a traditional television channel, with content streaming 24/7.
There are, of course, some benefits and negatives about this. For those interested, you can automatically get a free week trial of the service just by downloading the small 15MB client. The question is, is it worth subscribing to in the long-term for $6.99 a month? Read below for our perspective!
Neon Alley is almost in its own super-niche category. It caters specifically to anime lovers with some sprinklings of kung-fu between, and also doesn’t allow you to specifically choose what you want to watch, rather abiding to a programming schedule. Thankfully, this specific targeting doesn’t hurt the app at all, and it’s actually put together nicely.
The shows are all uncut and uncensored—as you’ll find out when you first start the app up, and it makes sure you know it’s intended or adult audiences. This is great news for fans of anime, as various cuts have wiggled their way into many of our favorite series. On the flip side, every single show has English dubs, which could be a problem for some super-serious subtitle lovers. Most people shouldn’t have a problem with that, though.
I can see a lot of people shrugging Neon Alley off because they’re used to the “on-demand” nature of other programs and the internet, but it had the opposite effect on me. For one, I have a huge problem when going to select something to watch on apps like Netflix. I usually spend more time trying to find something to watch than actually viewing a show! Neon Alley takes care of that by broadcasting a set schedule—and you never have to worry about quality control, because everything they air is pretty highly regarded.
Just being able to tune in like a normal TV channel is such a cool feeling, and though you may miss being able to select your show of choice, a whole new realm of benefits are awaiting you. For one, you might get introduced to a great new show or movie you otherwise wouldn’t have bothered watching. Another benefit is how the programming can be structured: a marathon of Death Note or Inuyasha out of the blue could be a lot of fun just sitting back and enjoying.
Of course, if you’ve seen most of the catalog on offer, you might feel a little bit apprehensive of subscribing, understandably. Thankfully, new shows will continue to be added, and content that Viz finds appropriate for their demographic is always being considered. On the flip side, if you ever miss out on an episode of the show you’re currently hooked on, there’s a good chance they’ll re-air it on another block in the schedule, since it goes all day and night.
One thing you might not be expecting? Commercials. However, they’re not as bad as you think—they often show off what’s airing next, a schedule of premieres, or movies and such that are airing soon. There is some actual advertising, though, so be warned, though I wouldn’t ever call it intrusive, as it kind of fits the flow of the channel and always targets anime fans.
Another thing that may be annoying is the difference in broadcasting quality. Sometimes shows would be in HD, but others would be standard definition. It’s kind of negligible in my opinion, since animation always looks sharp enough for me, but some could be upset by this.
Being run by Viz Media, you’d assume that only content from their library will be available, but this isn’t the case—the company will be airing other distributor’s material and is actively signing more shows and programming, as we found out in an exclusive interview earlier this month. This aids the feeling of the channel, with new stuff constantly cycling through, and is good news in case you ever finally see all the stuff they currently offer.
The app itself is fairly bareboned. It basically is just a one-off stream, with the only possible action being able to check the schedule by hitting square. If you think about it, though, what else does it need to do? It loads nearly instantly, and shows are constantly running for you to enjoy. I’ve heard rumors of the broadcast stuttering or freezing, but that hasn’t happened for me, even on a super-slow internet connection. If you don’t feel like checking the app for the schedule, you can always hit Neon Alley’s website instead.
If you’re not in the good old United States or don’t have a PS3, you’ll be waiting to hear if you can use this app, but it shouldn’t be penalized for these things. If you’re a fan of anime I don’t see why you shouldn’t give this application a try. Neon Alley might have a few potential flaws as I noted above, but I also pointed out a lot of good—and it’s got plenty of room to grow.
Neon Alley is charming enough on its own, trying something different and acting as a compliment to other, similar apps, rather than a competitor. I would love to see it work on my PC (or my Vita for some stealthy night-time anime), but it works great like it is on the PS3. Why not take advantage of that free week trial? You might like what you find!
- Neon Alley Lights Up PSN Next Week