While we don’t usually review “services,” sometimes things pop up on radar and demand to be investigated. The promise of a Netflix-style anime-by-mail service is one of those too good to be true ideas. I was dubious, however, as I remembered my experience with Netflix and the way the DVDs came in a great waterfall at first, and then the tap was restricted as I proved to be a voracious Cookie Monster of DVDs. I am very happy to say this was not the case with RentAnime.com, at least not for the duration of my little experiment.
After signing up, the blank list stared at me and I experienced a brain vaporlock flipping through the various pages and pages and pages of all this anime. Their selection proved difficult, not because there was so little, but because there was so much to choose from. I was confronted with an array of possibilities, the likes of which my mind had never seen before, and there was only one thing to do. Pass the buck. Like a medieval king, I summoned FMA Warcry Minion Hawkeye and waved my hand imperiously, saying “Amuse me,” mainly because she knows a lot more than I do, but also because I like waving my hand imperiously. After that, I had to hope for the best.
Once my list was populated, I was delighted to find my selections arriving with a speediness not usually credited to the United States Postal Service. I got my first shipping notice on March 5th and March 9th brought a cheerful light blue envelope with a sweet sweet anime DVD lurking in the center. I figured this was some Netflix-style ploy to sucker you in, but so far my DVDs still arrive in four to six days, meaning I can watch ridiculous amounts of anime. As a disclaimer, RentAnime is based in Tampa and I am located on the East Coast, so shipping times may vary elsewhere.
As I lifted the shining silver disc from its comfortable home in the envelope, I flipped it over to inspect the playing surface and got another shock. While most rental places, mail order and otherwise, seem to take barbed wire covered bats to their rental DVDs, the ones from RentAnime all seemed to be cared for. There were scratches and what you’d expect from a DVD living the nomadic life, but they didn’t make me flinch and wonder if I should perform an intervention to save the poor DVD’s life. It’s been a month and I’ve been through a goodly amount of DVDs and not one has skipped or ground to a halt in a weird place, none of the usual pitfalls of the rental DVD popped up. Kudos.
The site itself is pretty good. There’s a handy Series Lock function that keeps them from sending DVDs out of order, meaning you can reserve 10 of your favorite episodes and have them arrive in the correct order. While the selection is vast, there are some odd quirks. Trigun DVD #4 was the only one in the series not showing up when I was setting up my queue, which I assume means someone decided to keep it.
There are some features lacking. One that really stands out is a lack of a Long Wait/Short Wait/Shipping Now status indicator. I’d put that as a “would be kind of nice” feature, making the rentals feel much less like a lotto, but it may come later. For now, it’s not a huge deal. Searching can also be a little hit or miss, but a willingness to poke around and browse the site isn’t hard to develop. While it’s easy a nine now, adding a few features would make it even better than it is currently.
Support was another bright spot. I’d call it outstanding. I sent in a couple queries and they were always answered in a few hours in friendly and helpful fashion. This is not one of those support systems where your email disappears into some Dante’s Inferno, never to be seen again.
The only downside might be the cost. The 3 DVD option is $19.95 a month, a little on the steep side, but cheaper than quite a few regular anime DVDs retail for. There’s a $9.95 a month plan, but you only get one DVD at a time. The thrifty may be happy with this compromise. Otherwise, you have a service that does exactly what it promises, delivering anime DVDs in good condition in speedy, reliable fashion, with none of those mysterious “suddenly every DVD I want is Long Wait” problems of some of the other services. You can visit them at http://www.rentanime.com