October 11, 2016

MANGA MONDAYS | Crunchyroll x Funimation: Partners vs Pirates

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Photo Courtesy of CrunchyRoll

For those that missed the news (it was quite a while ago at this point), Funimation and Crunchyroll have, at long last, announced a formal partnership. Essentially, Crunchyroll is begining to stream some of Funimation’s older, well-known titles like Cowboy Bebop. Meanwhile, Funimation is working on English dubs for some of Crunchyroll’s titles, such as Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, and Mob Psycho 100. The premise is basically to make it easier for viewers to decide where to watch anime. Crunchyroll can focus on subs, and Funimation can focus on dubs.

Photo Courtesy of Studio Bones

This is, to put it simply, a very big deal. Before, deciding which website to subscribe to was a tough dilemma for anime fans. After all, subscribing to even just one site, much less two, is a pretty big deterrent in a community essentially founded on piracy. Why pay double when you can pay nothing?  It’s important to remember that bootlegged VHS tapes and such were a big part of exposing western audiences to anime back in the 80’s and 90’s.  This eventually evolved into illegal streaming sites because no one other than unofficial fan-subbers were taking the time to subtitle and stream shows outside of Japan.

However, as the community grew, officially liscencing the rights to stream anime became more viable. In fact, Crunchyroll was originally an illegal streaming site, before it eventually decided to begin acquiring legitimate liscences for the anime it was broadcasting. Moreover, many of the people writing subtitles for Crunchyroll and Funimation simulcasts are former fansubbers because they already had experience in the process.

But I digress. The point is, piracy is a fundamental reason for the very existence of both the anime fan community and current legal streaming sites outside of Japan. Thus, it’s quite hard to convince fans to view anime through legitimate channels when they have to pay for two different subscriptions just to watch everything they want to see.

However, with Funimation and Crunchyroll’s new partnership, that tough choice has disappeared. Most people are quite committed to either “subbed” or “dubbed” anime, and now they can get it all from one source for a relatively inexpensive subscription (or for free, if you don’t mind ads). Thus, the excuses for resorting to piracy are dwindling fast. As an added benefit, the new partnership will likely improve the quality of both subtitles and dubs, since Crunchyroll and Funimation can each focus on a different aspect without expending time and energy on the other.

Photo Courtesy of Funimation

Personally, I’m quite excited to see how this new situation will affect the landscape of the the anime community and industry in America. After all, this could be a big step in extricating anime from its inherent involvement in illegal streaming, and presenting the medium to a broader audience.