Author: Gabriel Persechino-Forest Published: October 18th, 2018
Earlier this year, shortly after Sony acquired Funimation, I made an article highlighting the different possibilities as to how it would ultimately play out. I said we would have to wait and see, that these changes weren’t going to be immediate. Well we waited, and it seems the first of the changes is now becoming apparent: Funimation has ended its partnership with Crunchyroll. As much as all of us had hoped that Sony would be smart and handle this in the best business/consumer-friendly way possible, it seems they have decided to go for one of the lesser options available and we will likely see the true depths they are willing to sink to as time moves forward. A little bleak an assessment? Keep reading.
The agreement will end on November 9 of this year and following its conclusion, several hundred titles will see subtitled versions appear on Funimation Now; this will result in the loss of a few dubbed series, however. Crunchyroll has also alluded to losing a few titles as a result of this development. Home video releases are still planned to be released as scheduled and titles licensed during the partnership will continue to be shared by both companies. Funimaiton will begin offering subtitled simulcast once again as early as winter 2019 but has no intention of relaunching its subtitled-only subscription tier.
Also to note, Funimation Now will no longer be part of the VRV streaming bundle service. And in another bit of development, it seems HIDIVE will replace Funimation Now and join the VRV service.
Funimation did mention that they plan to continue both “Quantity and quality” in future seasons in regards to licensing of series but whether or not they follow through on that is another matter entirely.
This is the memo that was supposedly circulated by Fukunaga to the Funimation staff:
I am writing to share some important news. Effective immediately, Funimation will once again independently acquire, market and distribute anime to the entire community – to both sub and dub fans. This new future is a result of our acquisition by Sony Pictures Television and additional investments Sony is making in our business to make Funimation a global sub and dub anime brand. As such, we’ve made the decision not to renew our collaboration with Crunchyroll, a relationship that ended amicably this month.
Our goal has always been to improve the fan experience and expand the reach of anime. We exceeded our goals in the past couple of years and have established ourselves as the anime industry’s most advanced streaming platform, expanded our global footprint, and accelerated our dub speed to market for new episodes coming out of Japan. While our partnership with Crunchyroll is ending, we are excited about the future, the support of Sony Pictures Television and their commitment, alongside ours, to build the best experience for anime fans globally.
We have enormous respect for the relationship we forged with Crunchyroll and will be working with them closely over the next several months to ensure a seamless transition in terms of our respective catalogs and offerings. That said, there will be some immediate changes ahead as we unwind the partnership. On November 9, 2018, our subscribers will have access to several hundred subbed titles when our catalog reverts to Funimation, while a handful of dubbed titles will no longer be available on FunimationNow. All the titles licensed during the partnership will continue to be shared with Crunchyroll and available to FunimationNow subscribers.
Thank you for your tireless work and dedication as well as your unwavering commitment to bring the best anime to the most people possible.
Please join me and the senior management team for an all-hands meeting. We will be able to address any questions you may have then. In the meantime, I would direct you to the special FAQs created for fans and subscribers that are now live on the Funimation blog.
Crunchyroll made it clear that it was indeed Funimation that made the decision to end the partnership and Funimation specifically highlighted that the decision was a direct result of Sony’s acquisition. Sony apparently desires to make Funimation a global sub and dub anime brand; an ambition which carries some rather disturbing mainstream implications.
To be fair, since Sony took over Funimation we have seen the average price of certain series go down a bit and other than this, it doesn’t seem Sony has drastically acted to undermine Funimation’s business model, yet. Considering what’s coming in the next two years, we’ll need to stay alert and be ready to defend our hobby with everything we have, Japanese and Western fans.
But on the side of warning as to what Sony’s next move might entail, remember that they are currently running an initiative to release censored versions of their own catalogue to remove “Graphic violence, offensive language, sexual innuendo and other adult content”. All of this is a result of big companies seeing online streaming increasingly as the “Next TV”; meaning: They want to censor it and put ratings and paywall and endless ads until it can truly be “For everyone” and shared with “A wider audience”. I’m not saying they’re going to ravage their anime titles going forward, I’m just highlighting what initiative they are looking at for their other divisions and pointing out that if successful, they could decide to implement the same tactics to other divisions. Remember that we live in the era of political correctness and #MeToo, which seems to mean a return to old fashioned puritanism and conservative-style media censorship, now ironically shepherded by the liberals.
It is also worth noting that Sony has been implementing censorship on its Playstation 4 console, which has already resulted in a toned down version of Senran Kagura and Omega Labyrinth Z as well as Super Seducer being banned from the console. So yeah, they’re handling our anime now.
So to recap the North American anime industry: Amazon has bought two whole blocks and does not dub nor put out any of its titles on home video, Netflix is producing series which they only release in bulk and never puts out home video releases themselves, Funimation is now owned by Sony and adopting some of its wonderful business practices and Crunchyroll is now owned by AT&T and has already censored a game and is investing into SJW, Western cartoons. But hey, that’s the West; Japan’s okay, right! No, not really. Political pressure is mounting up in Japan from activists groups inside their own country and outside (Feminists, conservatives and others seem to have renewed interest in attacking anime lately), Netflix is now producing and helping to dictate the content of anime series and is working hard to establish new western-friendly trends and streaming, which is more important to Japanese companies than it ever was, is being monopolized by American super corporations. If you think anime can remain isolated and independent forever, then it’s just because you really don’t want to see this coming.