Ryan Wilson

Neon Alley Might Be Right Up Yours

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Viz Media has thrown their hat in the ring of streaming anime services, but is it any good?

Viz Media has thrown their hat in the ring of streaming anime services, but is it any good?

Neon Alley
A streaming service by: Viz Media
Price: $6.99/month
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (Coming Soon)

Reviewer was provided a review subscription by Viz Media. Service was experienced with a wired Internet connection.

Currently a PlayStation 3 only service, Neon Alley is a 24-hour anime streaming service unlike any I’ve experienced before. Instead of the usual on-demand services we’ve grown accustomed to, Neon Alley sets itself apart by being the full-blown television experience. I’m not talking modern television, where you binge on a series on your DVR while blasting through commercial breaks; I’m talking scheduling your life around your favorite shows’ allocated time slots.

As soon as you launch Neon Alley, you’re brought into whatever show happens to be airing at the time. No recording, rewinding, fast forwarding, or pausing is available. In fact, only the  key works, pulling up a list of upcoming shows, episode descriptions, and the TV Parental Guidelines. You’d think that this experience would be jarring, but it’s not as bad as you think. Like any well-designed channel, the shows meant for older audiences generally air during the evening and weekends, leaving the lighter fare (which for this service is shōjo and shōnen animes) for the daytime hours. If you’re itching to watch something violent and gory like Berserk: The Golden Age, they air long after the kiddies have gone to bed.

If you fancy yourself an anime purist, Neon Alley is not for you. While the shows and movies they broadcast are uncut and uncensored from their original Japanese format, the stream is exclusively English dubbed at this time. Also, the channel’s claim of an high-definition stream is a bit of a misnomer; regardless of the quality of your connection, it’s a safe bet that if the anime has only been released in the United States on DVD, you’re going to see some jagged edges.

What impressed me the most about Neon Alley is the quality of the stream. While buffering is an all too familiar experience on Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Crunchyroll (especially on an HD stream), not once did I experience any hiccups with Neon Alley. For a non-stop streaming service, this is an extraordinary accomplishment.

As with any television station, you’re going to have to face the reality of advertisements. Thankfully, Neon Alley keeps these brief during the shows themselves and audience relevant. You’re watching an anime channel, they aren’t going to sell you an ear wax vacuum.

At $6.99 a month, Neon Alley is well worth the price of admission for all but the snobbiest of anime fans. Those without a PlayStation 3 will be happy to know that an Xbox 360 version of the service has been announced for an early 2013 release.

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