There is an odd dichotomy that exists between the viewing habits of the average person and those of what instant access streaming TV has created. Sure, it is great to be able to have a lazy Sunday doing nothing but watching the first season of Cheers but in the same instance there are definitely times that I simply don’t know what to watch and end up watching nothing instead of exploring and finding something I might enjoy (or worse, watching Reality TV). Neon Alley seems to exist for the sole reason of filling that niche for an anime viewer, the person who knows that they would like to watch something from Japan but doesn’t really know what.
The streaming app channel can be accessed from either a PS3 or 360, although from what I have seen it cannot be accessed from the web or by using a computer. While using it on the 360, like almost every other streaming based app, Xbox live Gold is required—there is no such restriction placed on the PS3 version. For the most part the app starts relatively quickly on both systems, with no noticeable differences, and after the user logs in the anime simply starts up.
The interface is very minimalistic; basically dumping the viewer into the currently on anime with a small schedule below it. This can be expanded for a description of the show, but depending on the TV it seems that this font can be rather small and difficult to read at times. There are some setting in the app, but most of them either can’t be changed or aren’t something that is really worth playing around with. The video quality seems like it mainly depends on the source, as some of the older shows were only ever made in standard definition, but it seems to stream some of the higher quality things at the very least as well as Netflix does.
The real problem with the app is that there is no option to watch anything on demand. Of the handful of times that I used it there was randomly something on I would like to watch more of and was unable to. I understand that some of the shows have not been completed, thus making the request impossible, but some of the shows have been completed for years. Also considering the nature and plot driven structure of most of these shows it is a bad idea to start watching mid-season on anything, so this isn’t really conducive method for show discovery either. Mix in the fact that I can’t use my computer to stream so I can’t watch anime while playing a game or if the TV is in use; there is a lot going against this.
I really like the idea of a channel that is constantly showing anime. In all honesty if there was a way that I could watch any of the back episodes of shows to catch up to something that was on it would solve most of the problems that exist with it. But considering that there is a monthly fee involved and the strong possibility of entirely missing a key episode of a favorite program it is hard to recommend. If there is ever a time that this stuff gets fixed Neon Alley will totally be an easy recommendation.