Author: Gabriel Persechino-Forest Published: February 6th, 2020
Funimation has decided to remove Interspecies Reviewer from its streaming platform (And presumably from potential physical release although this has not been confirmed). As for the reason why, Funimation gave an official statement to Anime News Network:
After careful consideration, we determined that this series falls outside of our standards. We have the utmost respect for our creators so rather than substantially alter the content, we felt taking it down was the most respectful choice.
Wakanim announced they would continue streaming the series, just not in Nordic countries anymore. Anyone looking to watch the series legally should know that AnimeLab has announced they would keep streaming the show. However, their service is only accessible from Australia and New Zealand so anyone looking to make use of AnimeLab will have to use a VPN. They are also experiencing a slight delay until they clear up their sources for the content going forward.
There are many things to consider here and many possibilities so lets review and see where we stand. Too many people have either assumed the worst or given too much of a benefit of the doubt to the company based on what they want to believe. So, without further waiting, the possibilities:
-Funimation didn’t know how extreme the content was going to be: Unlikely. The company had access to source material in addition to being in contact with the Japanese company and likely having had access to early materials.
-The Japanese side of things took the decision due to Olympics shenanigans and increasing Western pressure on ecchi content: Possible (It did happen with Ro-Kyu-Bu!) but also unlikely. We would likely have heard about it, like during that instance with Ro-Kyu-Bu!, and presumably, the Japanese would have made that decision before it was even released, given the degree of the content.
-Funimation realized they would have to censor the series to the point of being unwatchable: Possible but unlikely. If it is the case, I would anticipate the uncut version to show up eventually in addition to a proper home video release but I put the likelihood of this happening in the very low end of probabilities.
-Sony stepped in after seeing the show: This is possible. Sony is a heavily censor-friendly super-corporation and it is very possible that Funimation licensed the series, in the same way they have countless other series of a similar nature, only for Sony to later get a glance at it and then give Funimation a quick call to tell them this type of content won’t be tolerated anymore. It is still a theory though but the official statement referring to Funimation’s “standards” certainly seems to confirm this (Especially given that these so called “standards” were also at play when the Playstation was censored massively last year).
-The series was licensed with the intention to cancel it to establish a precedent: Possible but not enough proof to truly claim. We do know that the Western establishment is in the process of implementing a cross-media and international standard of censorship, better referred to as woke culture or political correctness, that aims to control and regulate content. We also know from precedent in video games and comics that they are not above underhanded operations whose purpose is to create a precedent or a manageable controversy they can use to set “new rules”; see my series on how AnimeGate would start for further information on how such tactics work. But there are no definite pieces of evidence or indicators that would point to such an endeavor at this time. It is worth keeping in mind though as we move forward and the drama unfolds further.
Depending on what really happened (And that is not actually clear right now, even if we have decent guesses), they are some interesting implications here, such as whether more ecchi content will be banned from Funimation’s acquisitions in the future and what degree of ecchi will now be considered acceptable. Depending on how involved Sony is with Funimation’s management and how they want the company to be publically portrayed, that answer can vary. We will certainly get a good idea of what the future of ecchi at Funimation looks like when the acquisitions of next season are announced, or when the next entry of Highschool DxD comes around. Even more thought provoking is if another company such as Sentai could step in to license such series in the events that the ecchi market suddenly finds itself without its main sponsor in the West, especially with a producer in Japan highlighting that there is a growing Western market for such content.
It is interesting to note that the series’ problems didn’t start with its cancellation but with the degree of censorship that plagued the streams. Earlier, Wakanim had stated that they would air the censored version, after promising the series uncensored, due to the uncensored version being “incompatible with laws and policies around the world”. This, of course, was a lie. As pointed out by One Angry Gamer, there is no one global standard for content distribution nor was Interspecies Reviewer deemed to go contrary to any existing French laws. Taiwanese streaming outfit Bahamut’s Insane Animation stated that they were also forced to pull the uncensored version, but this time due to the rights’ holders; Presumably, for BD sales, but it does make Wakanim’s decision to blame the “law” rather questionable. Bahamut’s Insane Animation later announced they would provide the series uncensored under the conditions that they age-gate the series and put in age-verification measures.
While this controversy is not necessarily a red flag, not anymore than any of the other Western controversies that popped over the years, it does bare monitoring for a few reasons. First off, Sony has acquired Funimation and Sony is heavily censoring the Playstation platform in addition to being a mainstream Western company (They are operated from California now) that promotes the current agenda of cultural sanitization, suppression of artistic freedom and elimination of freedom of speech.
Interestingly enough, Funimation had promised to air the show uncensored but had switched it to the censored version at the last second (Much like Wakanim). This shows they already had a dicey history with the series and seemed to have problems with its content since the very beginning. The images below show the series was promised uncensored with the series’ description later updated to remove the mention of the uncensored promised content:
With all this in mind, it would be foolish to simply dismiss this controversy.
Funimaiton also has a history of questionable practices including their attempt to censor Dance in the Vampire Bund (Which failed because of backlash), Haganai‘s second season having the broadcast version of episode 2 to avoid loli content again, the release of Tsugumomo being billed as uncensored in spite of the fact that it was the broadcast version (Partly the broadcast version; loli content was specifically targeted) and very questionable dubbing decisions that pushed a feminist and anti-fan agenda.
With all of this into consideration, it does bare monitoring as to whether the situation is “normal” shenanigans or the start of widespread censorship. With the Olympics approaching, major Western corporations establishing a monopoly in the anime industry, an increasing global trend of censorship and authoritarianism and Funimaiton under new leadership, I would be very careful to keep an eye on this situation and see how it develops.
A reminder that in my opinion, we have been in the middle of a developing AnimeGate since the entire Vic Mignogna affair occurred.