Nico Nico Video: Of Streaming Video and Scrolling Comments


Most of us know the thrill that comes with seeing an exciting movie or television series as part of a crowd–it’s what drives us to invite our friends over to watch something we already have, and a large part of what causes us to shell out eight bucks and pay outrageous concession prices at the theatres over and over. Even as the movie-viewing experience becomes more and more personalized with portable DVD players and digital media, nothing can quite compare with the feeling of being a part of a unified mass exploding in excitement or booing in scorn at what’s just happened on the screen.

Most of us are also familiar with the streaming video phenomenon, allowing just about anyone to upload their videos online. Many anime fans have taken advantage of to post homemade music videos, parodies, and even entire episodes of their favorite shows to share. The most prominent site featuring streaming video is, of course, Youtube, but there are a fair amount of alternatives, such as Daily Motion or Crunchy Roll. With the ease of access comes the thrill of ease of sharing, but a more recent incarnation has cropped up that takes the interactivity to the next level.

Nico Nico Video, based in Japan, is yet another offshoot of streaming video, where users can upload their own movies and go on to comment on other peoples’ submissions. This sounds run of the mill, but there is one small, but critical difference between it and the rest of the bunch: the comments scroll.

It sounds silly and incredibly simplistic. But Nico takes the idea of user feedback to an entirely new level–comments are left, and timed, to the part of the video the user is responding to. This makes the experience far more dynamic and involving than the static comments employed by Youtube and similar sites–watching a show where something hilarious just happened, the screen will explode in laughter from other users who have shared the same experience with you. Bursts of appreciation will come at appropriate points when watching a particularly well-done music video.

The responses are as varied as the broad range of content; it’s as heartening to see enthusiastic praise for a well-made show like Baccano! as it is nostalgic to see reminiscent chatter set against someone’s posted playthrough of old SNES games, as hilarious as it is to see the commenters rip into a few of the more contrived plot developments of Romeo x Juliet. The feeling of interactivity and community, illusionary though it is, is infectious. Accompanied by a cluster of fellow anonymous users, free to say whatever they like, even what would be an otherwise dull video of a user–say, level grinding in a video game is often made into an amusing experience. The spirit of community pervades the entire site; it’s not uncommon to see closing comments thanking their fellow audience members for the shared laughs and good times.

It also manifests in other ways. Many videos are deliberately crafted for the sake of feedback through the comments; there are several “Q&A” videos where the poster presents an (often graphically simple) quiz and the viewers see if they, and everyone else, are up to snuff. Other times viewers are encouraged to rate a medley of music tracks, relying on the aspect of timing to make things more interesting and organic.

Nico’s offering of content, naturally, isn’t just limited to anime, anymore than Youtube or Daily Motion’s is; and one can switch the onscreen comments off if they so choose. But in many ways Nico seems like an offshoot of the culture of 2ch; comments remain anonymous and much of the same slang is employed (expect to see a great deal of “www”, the Japanese equivalent of our “lol”). Its popularity is on the rise; enough for the maintainers to create a Taiwanese branch-off to accommodate that section of its user base. The site also offers a premium account to users at about the rate of five dollars per month, which opens up more uploading space, a wider range of colors available to comment in, and twenty-four hour site access.

So if you’re curious (and at least a basic grasp of Japanese would help) go ahead, check out the site, and do a search of your favorite shows and games–see how other people are responding to them, and maybe even join in if you’re capable. It’s far more addictive and fun than it has the right to be–just make sure you don’t get too sucked in by this sudden swarm of old friends at your house, watching late night movies with you and cheering at all of the right parts. And maybe, with some luck, an English language counterpart will eventually be crafted so everyone on this side of the pond can join in.