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Satellite TV Anime (Europe)


This article was written in 1999, analog references removed Jan 2013.

Historic Perspective

Satellite dish pic.


There was quite a lot of anime shown on TV in the UK and continental Europe (both satellite and terrestial). This could come as a surprise for the UK terrestial viewer, for in the UK almost all the anime is on satellite pay channels. A similar situation prevails now in France, where much anime appears on the "Mangas" pay channel. Other countries, notably Germany, Italy and Spain, have anime on free to air channels. As a sampler of what was available, in average Y2004 weeks the UK had Beyblade, Evangeleon, and Bubblegum Crisis 2040, Germany having Ajuna, Noir, Attack no.1, Italy having Last Exile and Inuyasha, and Spain having Doraemon and Fushigi Yuugi, to name just a few. At other times France has had Ranma 1/2, and Italy has had Kimagure Orange Road, and several countries had Escaflowne. Evangelion was shown in France, but only on a digital pay channel, alas.

A Historical Perspective

These countries and others have aired lots of well-known anime at some time or other. In the 1980s and early 1990s a small and tantalising trickle of tapes came over the Channel to the UK, traded by a handful of fans interested in fantasy and cartoons. These included the then-new "Ranma 1/2", shown in France on national TV, and from Italy the well-known "Lady Oscar" a.k.a. "Rose of Versailles".
Prompted by these rumours, and an assumption that if there was anime on European terrestial TV there might be anime on European satellite TV, and that it might be leaking over into UK airapace, I erected a cheap satellite receiver sometime around 1995. Having spent a weekend erecting and adjusting the equipment, the very first thing I saw on the Monday morning was an excellent anime from Germany that I'd never heard of before, and in the following days I discovered a treasure trove of anime broadcasting amounting to several hours every day! So far as I had been able to discover, British anime fandom knew nothing of this. For years after, I found it a great thrill to stumble on some unknown anime, watch it and try to identify it.

There has been change over the past few years. The coming of digital channels has seen the movement of French anime into a number of pay channels, rendering it invisible to viewers outside France. In the UK, formerly an anime desert, much anime now appears on pay channels. On the free channels in Europe, the older anime such as shoujo and World Masterpiece Theatre titles has largely disappeared, replaced by newer anime including the hugely popular Pokemon/Digimon stable of kiddy anime, and titles that are also available in the form of fansubs and imported US releases, such as "Hellsing". Another notable trend is for the "music video" chanels aimed at teenagers and young adults to show the more mature and recent sort of anime like "Agent Aika", "Noir", "Last Exile" etc. The screening of anime still continues today; Spain for instance has several TV channels which regularly show anime, and a staggering number of anime shows (over 500!) have been dubbed into Italian. Italy continues to be well served.
On the whole the offerings on TV today are much more similar to those available by other means than seemed to be the case in the mid-1990's. At that time typical offerings were the "World Masterpiece Theatre" anime, and shoujo like "Sandybelle" and "Magic Girl Meg" which one could have defied anyone to fine elsewhere at any price. Now one sees "Escaflowne", "Noir", "Earth Girl Arjuna", "Pokemon" etc, which are relatively recent, and also readily available as DVDs. It's also possible to view the old World Masterpiece Theatre titles and sundry other old series on DVD now - if you have deep pockets and understand Japanese.

Digital streaming services like Crunchyroll now offer a more accessible legal source of anime.

How to find it and get it.

Free-to air reception info can be found in the sites and magazines dealing with the subject.
Briefly, you could investigate the BSkyB pay service in English (or your equivalent national services.) For an alternative, in the UK there is one route for the hands-on enthusiast who likes foreign languages - have installed a new satellite enthusiast's Euro-style digital receiver, which is something you are more likely to do if you see satellite DX-ing as a possible hobby in itself or if somebody in your household is an expatriate. As for finding out what's on and when, if your TV magazine doesn't suffice, you can find the principal channels named in my "Channels" page and then check their websites.
When the broadcasting was analog only, it was quite possible to take a guess at where and at what time some anime might lurk, and go looking for it. This way I found "Magical Girl Tickle", an old shoujo anime. Has anyone else seen this? I don't think so. Nowadays the number of digital channels has exploded, while the amount of anime has not changed that much, so one is totally reliant on listing services and web sites to fnd it. It has never been cheaper to start looking at anime on satellite than today (Oct 2000). Despite the changeover to digital services, there is still more than enough anime on the analog channels to keep an anime fan occupied. The analog equipment has never been cheaper: new receivers are no longer being manufactured and are on offer at bargain prices, and used receivers displaced by Sky Digital are available for a few pounds, as the supply (hundreds of thousands) vastly exceeds the demand. A Sky Astra (analog) installation will receive a significant amount of anime (mostly in German) without modification.

Yes, there often is English-language anime on the English-language subscription channels, and even on the clear British terrestial channels, but it is generally awful (Yu-Gi-Oh) or in awful dubs (Card Captor Sakura. Where OVAs are broadcast, they are generally the same videos you could have bought in British video shops. I maintain my original message, first publicised several years ago, that the anime available from Europe (on clear channels) is more interesting and that it is worth equipping oneself to watch it. As for the English-language anime, there are others giving news on this and I don't propose to duplicate their efforts.
If you live in continental Europe and are interested in this, there are some pages of European TV programme listings, covering many countries and channels, that you can check through. See e.g. Euro TV Database. These listings, I should caution, are far more useful if you already know the local title of the show, which may bear no relation to the English or Japanese title!
Satellites: The advantage of viewing via satellites is that you can view from anywhere in the satellite "footprint" and not just within range of national terrestial TV transmitters. I suspected that the remarks on terrestial TV above also applied to satellite TV, and despite getting almost no information from British anime fans I put up a cheap dish and receiver just so I could check for myself.
The results exceeded my expectations! On just two clear Astra channels I ound hours of world animation being transmitted daily, and a percentage of this is, or appears to be, Japanese-animated. (There is rather less now.)
The broadcast format used on many TV channels is to transmit a "session" of animation for kids in a block several hours long at an off-peak time. Everything is dubbed. A few items are obviously anime, as is confirmed by the credits.
Apart from those with a well-known name you'll also stumble on unknown TV series, that despite the dubbing are as Japanese as sushi. Others have European settings and were presumably made in Japan for export. Others just look Japanese, but you can't be sure because there are no credits.
Since I started watching the satellite channels there has been a notable sea-change in the content, with the broadcasts in English from the UK (albeit encrypted) increasing from a low level to about as much as from any other country. From the Continent, when formerly it was rare to find anything that was known to English language fandom at all, now many of the charming old series are no longer run. Instead, following the success of "Pokemon" and its ilk, it's common to find well-known series two to five years old, or less, being broadcast from several countries at the same time or in the same year. For instance we have had Escaflowne from the UK, Italy, Spain and Germany.
If you want to watch a lot of animation, and don't mind it being in German, etc, then putting up a dish is still the cheapest way of supplementing your viewing! The otherwise rare World Masterpiece Theater (WMT ) anime still turn up and should be checked out as they are quality items and are usually very good. More WMT info and mailing list at: Meisaku
Shows are shown daily, some having an afternoon repeat. Broadcast times vary irregularly. The suggested way of proceeding is to tape the whole session and then search the tape for any series you'd like to see more of.
Archiving a series can be difficult unless you have two VCRs to edit down the session tapes. The timings can vary so much that using timed recordings for single episodes can lead to disappointment.

Polish Anime

Like TV4, this channel often carries some anime. Polish foreign programmes are usually overdubbed, which sounds extremely strange at first hearing, since the original soundtrack is faintly audible, with one Polish voice dubbed over it after each speech, with the same translator doing all the voices in a monotone!
In the case of SAILOR MOON and LUCY MAY, we got the original Japanese episodes, with overdubbing in Polish. You may find this maddening, or conversely, be able to mentally filter out the Polish and follow some of the Japanese dialogue.
If you are timer recording Polish broadcasts, note that the animation starts at the exact time given in the Teletext, to within a few seconds! Technical note: these two channels are strong, so can be received in most places with a 60cm dish.
TV4 offerings included Jenny Jenny (classic tennis anime) on Tuesdays & Thursdays; Rodzina Trapp#w (=Trapp Family Story), period WMT soap anime, Samurai Pizza Cats, Candy Candy - and Mary Bell (magical girl anime). The best-known show was SAILOR MOON. Polsat & Polsat 2 rely much less on repeats than the other anime channels, though Sailor Moon has ben shown several times in its entirety.

Arabic anime

There is a certain amount of anime on the Arabic channels on 13 deg.E and 16 deg.E, also on Turksat at 42 deg.E - but it is impossible to find any advance program information. To make matters worse, the schedules of animation seem to change often and for no obvious reason! For these programmes I am just giving the sighting time; if anyone is interested they can deduce the repeat dates for themselves. Note that Friday, not Sunday, is the Muslim holy day.
It's worth surfing the Turkish channels as there's quite a lot there, and a fair chance that something really good will turn up sooner or later. On Easter (1999) I have found 8 anime a day being shown on Turkish channels! Note: Most Arabic progs. 1 hr later after March clock-change!