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There’s an odd paradox to anime in Japan. There’s no easier place to watch anime completely free, as just about every series of note airs on regular broadcast television. At the same time, fans pay far more for anime TV series’ subsequent Blu-ray releases in Japan than any other market, with prices of 5,000 yen (US$42) and up for individual discs containing just two episodes.

So what’s convincing Japanese fans to shell out so much cash for something they already have access to without spending anything at all? For some it’s a patron-of-the-arts-like sense of pride that comes from financially supporting the cultural works they love, but for others, it’s the shockingly wide gap that’s sometimes present between the artwork in the broadcast and home video versions of the same anime.

Such discrepancies can happen for a number of reasons. Harsher critics might chalk it up to laziness or a lack of pride on the part of the animators, but it’s important to remember that anime production involves long hours, little pay, and extremely tight deadlines. Overworked and out of time, sometimes the result ends up like what happened with Gonna be the Twin-Tail!! (Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu in Japanese). On the left is what viewers saw on TV during the Fall 2014 season, and on the right is how the same scenes looked on the Blu-ray release.

▼ Hey, at least the backgrounds didn’t need to be redone!

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The facial features of the top character might not look so different in the two images, but a closer look at the costume shows that the TV version omits much of the detail and shading of the touched-up artwork. For the bottom character, the changes are much more striking, making it look like the two versions were created by different character designers.

In other cases, the contrast is so pronounced that it seems to obviously have been a deliberate choice on the part of the producers from the beginning. Pictured below are the TV and Blu-ray versions of Act 9 of Mekakucity Actors, and not only do they in no way resemble each other, neither is an exact match for the characters’ in-show appearances either.

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Finally, some production houses claim the decision isn’t really theirs at all. On its website, anime studio Ufotable explains that prior to being shown on TV, broadcast safety regulations stipulate running its animation through something called a paka-checker. The device automatically restricts the brightness and saturation of colors, and also keeps frame overlap in check. The result is far less intensity and pop to the visuals, as shown by the TV versions of Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works on the left and their restriction-free, Blu-ray counterparts on the right.

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Still, regardless of the reasons behind these quality discrepancies, plenty of fans aren’t happy about them, judging from online comments.

“This is t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e.”
“The TV version looks unfinished.”
“Just do it like that from the beginning. This has got me totally depressed.”
“They look like totally different anime.”

Still, this doesn’t have anime lovers so upset they’re boycotting the home video releases. As a matter of fact, seeing all the improvements had one fan more hyped up than ever about Fate, as he gushed “Wow, I never thought there’d be this much of a gap. I totally want to watch it on Blu-ray!

For the hardest of the hardcore fans, these days anime on TV is little more than a free preview, with the home video release being the real deal.

Sources: Hamster Sokuho, Nijimen, Ufotable, Jin
Top image: Twitter (edited by RocketNews24)
Insert images: Twitter, YouTube, Twitter (2), Ufotable (edited by RocketNews24)