Legal Anime Download Service Review: ADV Universe

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After doing a post on one of those direct download anime sites, I figured it’d be only fair to do some reviews of the sites that offer legal anime downloads. A few of these have popped up over the past few months, though not much has really been written about them.

Today I’ll look at ADV Universe. ADV Universe is ADV Films’ own anime download service. They offer DRM protected windows media files of their anime for download.

adv-universe.jpg

After doing a post on one of those direct download anime sites, I figured it’d be only fair to do some reviews of the sites that offer legal anime downloads. A few of these have popped up over the past few months, though not much has really been written about them.

Today I’ll look at ADV Universe. ADV Universe is ADV Films’ own anime download service. They offer DRM protected windows media files of their anime for download.

Selection:
ADV Universe only offers anime from ADV (duh). Right now, the selection is somewhat small compared to the total number of licenses that ADV actually has. Also, there don’t seem to be any full series. You can download Gilgamesh, for example, but only 11 episodes are available. The series that are available right now are:

  • Air Gear
  • Area 88 TV
  • Comic Party Revolution
  • Coyote Ragtime Show
  • Diamond Daydreams
  • Divergence Eve
  • Ellcia TV
  • Gilgamesh
  • Godannar
  • Guyver
  • Jinki: Extend
  • Lady Death
  • Le Chevalier D’Eon
  • Magical Play
  • Mezzo
  • Nurse Witch Komugi
  • Panyo Panyo Di Gi Charat
  • Parasite Dolls OVA
  • Princess Tutu
  • Saiyuki TV
  • Utawarerumono
  • Yumeria

Price:
Each download at ADV Universe costs $4.99. This is relatively expensive for a single episode download. In the case of Coyote Ragtime Show, it’d cost about $20 for the first four episodes. But you can get the first 4 episodes on the 1st DVD for about $26…

What makes the ADV Universe price somewhat better is the inclusion of ADV Bucks. For every $5 you spend, you get 5 ADV bucks. Perhaps this is why videos are priced at $4.99? ADV Bucks can be used at ADV’s own store to buy real stuff. So if you’re going to buy something at ADV anyway, you could just get some anime downloads for free. Or if you buy some episodes and end up liking the series you can use the ADV Bucks you earned to purchase the actual DVD. It’s a really cool concept and I hope that other companies try the same same thing or at least something similar.

The episode I ended up downloading was a promotional free one. Hopefully ADV offers more epiodes for free. I’d imagine it wouldn’t hurt to provide all the 1st episodes at no price in order to get people used to the idea of DRM and legal downloads.

Speed:
Wow, the download speed for ADV Universe is really slow. I got around an average of 150KB/s download on the first episode of Le Chevalier D’Eon. It took about an hour to finish because of the large file size (~470MB). This is totally unacceptable. I could run to the store and buy Le Chevalier D’Eon faster than it takes to download it! One of the selling points of downloading anime is that it should take less time than actually going to the store…

Episode Quality:
I had some problems getting the video to work with Windows Media at first. There was some weird issue in obtaining the license. Installing version 11 fixed things, but I wish it would’ve worked the first time. I know that some people will see an error message and say “forget it.”

The Le Chevalier D’Eon video was 632×480 and was encoded at 2.62Mbps bitrate. It looked fine to me, though the ADV Films watermark at the bottom of the picture was kind of annoying. Also, if fansubbers can release this anime at 1280×720, why can’t ADV? I’m probably thinking for easier system requirements. It’d be cool if there was an option though.

The audio was the English dub version. I don’t know if wmv supports multiple audio streams, but I know mkv does. It’d be nice to see a download that had the versatility of a DVD.

For fun, I tried watching the anime in VLC. This is what I got. Yep, DRM works.

Conclusion:
ADV Universe has quite a bit of work to do before it becomes desirable to use, at least for me. The high price and the slow download speed really kill it. I think the ADV Bucks system is really cool, but ADV will have to fix a few of my gripes before I start downloading anime from them. I’d rather just buy the DVD at this point.

13 thoughts on “Legal Anime Download Service Review: ADV Universe”

  1. I have a suspicion the licensing contracts are going to get in the way of American anime companies providing downloads in a nice DRM-free way.

    The ADV bucks system sounds interesting. I’m pretty solidly in the school of thought that giving away digital episodes would not hurt DVD sales. This is about the closest anybody has tried, but with DRM, dub-only (well that might or might not matter), and slow download speeds…yeah not good.

    Thanks for the reporting!

  2. Well it is a start but I think ADV need to consider in the fact that fansubs can be near of a higher quality. I’m not up to date on the DRM technology but I think ADV have to consider the use of other technologies which will support dual-audio. Although $4.99 is a cheap price to pay, I’d rather spend that little extra and get a product that has dual audio. Also the watermarking is indeed annoying.

  3. Dub-only just kills it for me…but if they offered subbed versions, and if we lived in a world with no fansubs–I might be tempted to buy the first episode or two of a series from a service like this rather than wait for Netflix. But realistically, I can watch the fansubs to tell if I like a series or not, and that’s how I decide if I’ll buy the DVDs.

    I can’t see this service replacing buying DVDs either–I don’t care about the packaging, but doing the math it’s just not sufficiently cheaper for me to pick a downloadable DRM’d version over just buying the physical DVD. Especially when I know DVDs are a proven standard I’ll still be able to play 10-20 years from now, while the 2007 iteration of Windows DRM is a different story. If they brought it down to $1.99 per episode I might put more thought into it.

  4. I’ll never buy it unless I can burn it to DVD and play it on my standalone DVD player with Japanese audio and English subtitles, the fan subs work great on my 46″ TV. DRM is really a dumb way to go, especially if a show has already been released on fan subs why pay for something restrictive if the free version is already DRM unrestricted. Just wait for the DVD to come out and support the company that way.

    I feel the same way about downloading American TV shows like Battlestar Galatica, I’d love to pay $1.99 and download it legally but I’m not paying for something that is crippled by DRM when I can get it uncrippled for free. DRM sucks and I won’t support it. Every time some one buys a DRM product they are supporting DRM indirectly. Sorry for DRM rant.

  5. I do agree that the DRM sucks. The ADV Bucks thing would be enough to convince me to pay for these downloads (since your purchase sort of goes to buying the dvd) but until they get those other issues I mentioned taken care of, I can’t really recommend ADV Universe.

    I also think that they should offer all of the 1st episodes for free. I have no idea why they wouldn’t do this.

  6. @Hung I also think that they should offer all of the 1st episodes for free. I have no idea why they wouldn’t do this.

    Wasn’t it the ADV exec that said “If you quit watching an anime after watching only one episode, you should find another hobby” Which I kind of agree with some shows take a bit to get rolling. How many people quit after the first Suzumiya Haruhi episode I wonder? A show that I absolutely love but had me scratching my head after that first one.

  7. I’m pissed off…

    The error message fooled me so I tried entering my credit card info in IE instead of Firefox. I’m being billed for 50 bucks for 5 orders of 2 episodes. I’m pissed off. ~_~;;;;; Oh well, I’m the fool… I should’ve known. Of course, it is pending and I sent them SEVERAL emails and even called them to no avail. XD I’m so stupid… at least I have the money to cover this and not worry about it.

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