I have been overjoyed recently, seeing Anime become even more popular here in the west and I believe the main reason for this is the involvement of two companies. Firstly, Funimation, the Houston-based Distributer that licenses, dubs and distributes Anime while also providing a streaming service. Secondly, Crunchyroll, a primarily streaming platform giving people access to hundreds of Anime, Manga and Japanese drama. The unification of these two companies has made the power of these two companies even stronger. Just recently Crunchyroll got all 64 episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood onto their site as one of the benefits of this deal and there has been a promise that this partnership will help get more Blu-ray releases for even more anime.
But for some reason when I talk to a lot of friends about Crunchyroll and Funimation, there seems to be a lot of hate surrounding the two that I simply do not understand. So I figured I’d give my two cents on why I think the hate is a bit ridiculous and suggest what we SHOULD be complaining about instead.
I won’t pretend that either of the two hasn’t made some odd choices. For example, the first Crunchyroll Awards in 2016 were complete bullshit and most of the awards were given to Yuri on Ice, even though it didn’t deserve many of them when compared to its competition in different categories. Funimation as well has made some questionable decisions in terms of marketing, its website, and customer service. None of this quite justifies the disdain for the two companies, however. When you think about each of them and their impact, they are pretty phenomenal.
Crunchyroll is primarily focused on the streaming on Anime and has an enormous library covering every genre presented in a clean, easy navigate format, with a video player that has very limited issues. Funimation’s strength is a business model that covers a lot more ground to make up for a smaller, but still impressive library. The reason the hate doesn’t make sense to me is because there are companies trying to cash in on the Anime fandom without an understanding of the community, and insultingly so. The biggest example is Aniplex.
Aniplex is one of the most egregious distributors of Japanese Animation I’ve ever seen. To sum it up, they license incredibly popular shows so they charge ridiculous amounts of money for the Blu-rays so they can support the industry through only the most loyal of fans, all while simultaneously licensing more niche shows like Darker than Black with no intention of releasing them on Blu-ray.
If you want to buy Bakemonogatari– which is 15 episodes, by the way- you need to spend 150 FUCKING DOLLARS. And that’s just when Aniplex feels kind enough to give you the entire season in one package. Nekomonogatari Black is only four episodes but costs $50 and Monogatari Second Season is divided into six volumes for each arc with costs ranging from $50-$60 each. They do this for all of the Anime they have licensed. The joke I always tell my friends is “Aniplex: Where every edition is a special edition.”
Sure, Funimation splits 24 episode series into two parts and sells them separately and I was annoyed when they sold all of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood in two different sets but has the audacity to call each one the complete collection, but even that is a fucking steal compared to anything Aniplex offers.
The rest of the anime services online don’t do too much better either. Netflix usually has the same shows and occasionally a CG Anime I’ll never get around to watching, Hulu is… Hulu and finally, Amazon wants me to pay five bucks IN ADDITION to my Prime subscription for their Anime Strike service, which just tantalizingly enough has Darker Than Black and Re: Creators, two shows I can’t see on any other legal streaming platform.
Here, check out this cool video by EnzotheOtaku on YouTube about Aniplex.
What were we talking about again? Oh right, Crunchyroll and Funimation. Don’t they seem so much better in comparison now? “No Sakura, their dubs suck!” Well, I agree they have an issue with consistency and direction when it comes to their dubs, with only a few good dubs in recent years, such as Akagami no Shirayukihime. That doesn’t change the fact that you can turn on subs in the settings.
“But Sakura, they promote casual shows like Re: Zero or Sword Art Online.” So? Yeah, I’m not much of a fan of those shows either, but you know what’s great about those shows is that even if they are lacking in quality, they still may draw in younger audiences or people new to Anime. If it wasn’t for shows like SAO or Attack on Titan, I would never have gotten into all the artsy shit like Monogatari or any of the amazing Bones shows I like so much. I get that hardcore anime fans don’t like the idea of “dirty casuals” crowding this cool niche clubhouse called Anime, but for an industry to grow, the fanbase needs to expand.
Look at Funimation Film’s website, for example. Funimation has brought numerously animated and live-action films straight from Japan to the US. Sure many of these were limited releases and some got longer time in theaters than others, but knowing that Your Name got a solid two weeks in US theaters and managed to gross $1.7 million in its opening weekend is incredibly impressive.
“But why would I pay when I could watch it for free-” Stop right there. This is where we part ways philosophically. You don’t have an obligation to support these companies, but these companies do allow Anime fans the opportunity to aid in the production of Anime through paid subscriptions and merchandise.
Don’t think I’m judging, cause, believe me, I’m not, I watch stuff for free on Kissanime or 9anime all the time. My point is that I personally get satisfaction from knowing that my money is helping to support the western Anime industry. When western television and entertainment wasn’t really grabbing my attention, Anime came along and helped introduce me to entire genres, modes of storytelling, and creative minds that have made me far more appreciative of the finer points of visual mediums.
So just remember, there are worse things affecting the Anime community than Funimation and Crunchyroll. Additionally, the effect those two do have may be more positive than you think. Food for thought… But in fairness, the Crunchyroll Awards were complete shit.
Is there something about Funimation or Crunchyroll that you don’t like? Please share so I can understand the hate a bit better. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.