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Crunchyroll – From Hate to Admiration

December 07, 2011 By: Nopy Category: Anime

There was once a time when the majority of online anime was obtained from XDCC bots in anime channels on IRC. All of that changed when Crunchyroll entered the scene in 2006. I absolutely despised this group back then. With the extraordinary rise of Youtube in a matter of months, Crunchyroll saw an opportunity and tried to duplicate their success. The problem was that they didn’t own any anime, so they got it the way everyone else did, through fansubs. Now, if you were watching anime 10 years ago, you will surely remember 2 disclaimers that were present in nearly every fansubbed anime episode and went along the lines of:

“This is a FREE fansub. If you paid for this, you were ripped off!”


“Stop distribution and delete this anime when it becomes licensed in your region.”

This is what old anime looked like.

Fansub groups had a purpose: to spread the joy of anime and garner enough attention to get most of it released outside of Japan. I can’t say the same for groups today, but that’s for another time. On the other hand, Crunchyroll only had one goal in mind: making money.

The thing about fansub groups was that they did everything for free. Want the latest Ranma 1/2 subs? Just pay for blank tapes and shipping and a fansubber would mail it to you. Don’t want to sleep before catching the latest Haruhi episode? Fansubbers would stay up late at night to get their releases on an XDCC bot before morning. While some groups were threatened with legal action, at least they weren’t trying to profit off of their work.

On the other hand, Crunchyroll had almost every anime you could find on the web on their site and were making tons of cash off of it. Assuming they already had a server and lots of bandwidth, it would’ve been like making money out of thin air. Who needs the philosopher’s stone?

You guys are in the wrong business


With Crunchyroll’s continuing rise, it was only a matter of time before the big anime companies sent their lawyers after the owners. The lawyer tactic, which proved highly successful with fansub groups, was destined to fail with Crunchyroll for two reasons:

1. They had a huge (and loyal) audience built up after over a year online.

2. They were swimming in money.

Crunchyroll did eventually remove all of the fansubs from their site, but they also bought the rights to distribute some anime, which was shocking to say the least. This was a turning point in the western anime industry, and also when my view of them started to change.

A couple of things that fansubbers had been trying to get anime distributors to do for decades was to release more anime at least within a year or two of it coming out in Japan. After Crunchyroll turned legit, they managed to do what decades of subbers and dozens of anime distributors had failed to do; they not only released anime that would normally have never left Japan, they did so on the same day it aired (faster than most fansub groups). Since people only needed to find an episode and click play, it was also much easier to use than IRC and even Bittorrent.

In the few years that Crunchyroll has been operating as a legitimate company, they have created a new generation of anime fans due to ease of access and availability. They have also abolished the rift between anime companies outside Japan and anime fans. Some of you older fans may remember when anime companies blamed their poor sales on anime fans for pirating anime. Fans pointed the finger right back, blaming companies for taking years to release anime and selecting “bad” titles. Not to say it doesn’t exist, but you don’t see much of that anymore as some companies have gone bankrupt and fans no longer need to pirate anime.

Thanks to Crunchyroll’s actions and the appearance of similar sites, most airing anime in Japan is now legally accessible to anyone with an internet connection in North America. This was unthinkable just 5 years ago, and I concede that despite Crunchyroll’s legally questionable beginnings, they have done more than enough helping the anime industry to make up for that. I guess that a bad thing can become good in the end.

If you have some thoughts on how anime in the west has changed over the years or want to voice your opinion, feel free to share by leaving a comment.

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30 Comments to “Crunchyroll – From Hate to Admiration”

  1. I’ve always gotten my anime through some shady way in the internet and here comes crunchy roll.” What? You mean you actually expect me to pay for my anime? absurd”, I said to myself. That coupled with crunchy roll’s questionable origins really make me not want to give these people my money.

    I want to support the anime industry in some way but some sort of twisted morals prevent me from giving the money to crunchy roll. Even if they offer exactly what I want out of an anime publishing company, i.e. same day airing. But hey, they get royalties from the figures I buy right?… right?
    exilehero recently posted..Iron Man Vs Danbo – The Revenge of Tony Stark

    • I can understand how you feel, especially when Crunchyroll has proven that they are willing to steep to very low levels to make money. Then again, there are very few or no other legal alternatives, so that does put people in a bind.

      I’m pretty sure the companies do get royalties from the figures.

  2. Oh I didn’t knew about their backstory, to be honest ^^
    Personally I strictly divide “anime time” and “pc time”, so streaming anime never was an option for me. As long as there are fansubber I won’t use things like Crunchyroll. It’s not that I want to have all my anime for free, but if it’s possible…
    Wieselhead recently posted..Sonicomi limited edition – Whats inside?

  3. I’ve heard stories about Crunchyroll, but like them or hate them, in a way they do introduce anime to people and provide access to those who are already fans.

    Living on the east, I actually have access to Crunchyroll. Only that it was way too slow. Come to think of it, I would want to watch anime legally as a mean to support those who’ve actually put great effort in making them, but I prefer to buy the original DVDs than paying online streaming services. That’s because I can watch it anytime I want without depending on Internet availability and possibly loss of files at their end.
    Hoshiko recently posted..My Oh-So-Short List For Winter

    • I like having DVDs of my anime too, but they usually take a long time to be released, whereas streaming anime is usually out within a week of it being aired on Japanese TV. In the cases where I can’t wait for the DVDs, I just turn to the internet.

  4. While I disagree with a few of the statements in this post I get what you’re trying to say – so let’s not get into that.

    I don’t necessarily like crunchyroll, I like what they’re trying to do. I like that they’re creating a service where you can stream current anime legally on demand. Sure crunchyroll makes money – but by showing there is a market with paying customers the chance of getting more shows the next season is much greater.

    It’s too bad that they’re heading down the “region blocking” route – much worse this season than any others. I have to pay more than a US subscriber to watch less. This matter isn’t helped by the recent “Anime (not) on Demand” streaming service that’s been rolled out for the UK. I say rolled out – I think thrown out the door and abandoned would be a more accurate descriptor. Now there is less incentive to reach outside the US since “they’ve got their own service now”. Granted the UK market is tiny compared to the US and it has been stated by crunchyroll they do not make a profit from UK subscriptions, can’t really blame them for not being interested.

    What I’m not too keen on with anime streaming and ‘subscribing’ (in fact any form of media streaming) is more and more little sites are popping up, take one or two shows each season and effectively hold them hostage. You therefore need to go subscribe to their site and in most cases the videos are region locked. It just makes the whole process convoluted where you hope each season the sites you’re subscribed to get what you want and don’t lock them away. I guess no one wants my money :(.

    • I’m guessing you’re refering to what I said about fansubs?

      I think not liking Crunchyroll, but liking what they’re doing describes most anime fans from before they appeared. Their methods may be questionable, but at least they’re helping to bring anime to more people.

      I wasn’t aware that they were blocking UK visitors from streaming some series. My impression was that anyone outside of Japan and other Asian markets that broadcast anime would be able to watch it.

      Having anime series split between different streaming sites would be more than an annoyance. Hopefully it doesn’t get too bad.

  5. I wrote very shortly about my thoughts in the post you’ve read (see below), but I agree that it is better than nothing. It could be a lot better though and I rarely use the site.
    Marow recently posted..About Region Locks

    • Ah yes, I remember that post. Region locking does become bothersome when you can’t watch something just because of the part of the world you’re from. Even with that restriction, I think Crunchyroll has helped spread anime to new fans.

  6. Region blocking is indeed a problem, that’s why I dislike streaming. Not just crunchyroll but I dislike all kinds of streaming medias in general. I’m not sure if it’s the same for every country but for mine here, it nearly blocks more then 3/4 of the shows in crunchyroll.

    And yes, I do respect what crucnhyroll is trying to do.. or done for that matter. By streaming anime online the same day it is released as Japan, viewers can enjoy them very easily with just a click of a button. It shows everyone that money can be made in the net as well and anime companies would actually stop complaining about the internet for their bad sales.

    Either way, it’s not like I stream anymore now, in fact, I think streaming’s anime kind of troublesome. I get most of mine from downloading now. I guess I can quote what exilehero said:

    “What? You mean you actually expect me to pay for my anime? Absurd”
    Kai recently posted..Jay Chou, Exclamation Mark, Advent Children, Devil May Cry and Facepalming

    • I guess streaming isn’t for everyone, but at least it’s helping the anime industry and the flame war between fans and companies has quieted down a bit.

  7. tsurugiarashix says:

    I will buy my anime and support the work, creator, studio, etc when it is available in my region, but not sites like Crunchyroll. I can understand their methodology, however it is not much different than what fansubs do, even though they legitimate stamp on their forehead. If companies want to blame fansubs for bad sales, then they need to maybe do research on what titles to release rather than hazardously wasting money on dubbing and localization. However, with the trend I am seeing now, it seems like companies are just grabbing titles just to have them like in SentaiFlimwork case to stay afloat.

  8. I always buy those DVDs and BDs if the anime is good. I always support their work, not only by buying cds I also bought there figures. I hate sites like Crunchyroll which has a monthly fee to watch things that are actually free.
    Rei recently posted..Fate/Zero Episode 11 Roundup

    • I buy DVDs of anime that I found to be good too. My figure collection has also probably contributed quite a bit of money to the original producers. I’m sure the monthly subscriptions on Crunchyroll also pay the anime companies, though not as much.

  9. As for me, I think crunchyroll is bullcrap in nearly every imaginable way.

    Not to mention streaming in general, oh well…
    Ningen recently posted..I too was a villain once, but then I took an arrow in the knee.

  10. @ Nopy
    I know that very well, I guess my previous comment let me sound like a measly pirate :( Well, I buy anime shows on DVD, but only when a show left a big impression on me. Sometimes it is a bit sad that many shows I would really consider to buy aren’t licensed by any western company.
    Wheres my Bakemonogatari for example?
    Wieselhead recently posted..Sonicomi limited edition – Whats inside?

  11. Ah Crunchyroll, the one thing I’m grateful for is that they proved that streaming with both ad supported and subscription based models are viable revenue source. Another thing is that streaming opened the doors for nearly same release for episode where older methods would have not worked.

    As for me, streaming is not something I enjoy for my anime, in the end TV is my preference that’s why now that many shows I watched trough subs before are getting blu ray releases allow me to get just that. My only wish is I would buy more of them more often to give bigger support.
    Miette-chan recently posted..It’s Working!! time Yamada!

    • Watching anime from a DVD or Blu-ray does provide better quality compared to streaming. I guess it depends on if you can wait for an anime to come out on disc or want to watch it right away.

  12. i dont think the studios and company make the bulk of their money off the anime/show. they make the tons money off of the merchandise and licensing fees.

    i am guilty of pirating… reason? i am a cheap SOB. HOWEVER, I do/did buy a lot of merchandise @_@;;….. …. … so that kind makes up for it lol.

    i remember using CrunchyRoll and OneManga at one point. question is… does the end justifies the means? i dunno, it seems its all money motivated. most conventions are slowly being commercialized and western companies buying rights for anime… like Disney buying rights to show Naruto.
    alucard13mm recently posted..Onegai Twins! Karen Onodera dakimakura by Cospa

  13. I think regardless of its earlier days, Crunchyroll managed to really make anime a lot more widespread in the west, just as fansubs did (and still do). For that, I like them.

    It’s super fascinating to read about their history though. It’s a model of success, and I’m actually quite impressed.
    Yi recently posted..Life, Love, and Things in Between – An Usagi Drop Approach

  14. Patrick Haggood says:

    I used to pay $70+/mo for DirectTV to stream craploads of channels I didn’t watch (ESPN, all 90 Home Shopping channels, History (i.e. WWII) Channel) and a handful that I did (Cartoon Network, Discover, Food Network, Nick). Now I pay a fraction of that for NetFlix to stream shows I actually WANT to watch, and now CrunchyRoll for recent anime. Thus, according to my previous ‘TV budget’, I have about 70% of that amount remaining to subscribe to even more of the stuff I *actually* want to watch. Can’t wait ’til more companies ‘get’ this like CrunchyRoll and Netflix do.

    In a related note, I have an Android pad and would appreciate some commercial (i.e. legit) source to subscribe to scanlations of my favorite manga collections. Where’s ‘CrunchyRoll for manga’?

    • It is great that we can get more anime faster and for less money nowadays. Unfortunately, I’m not a big manga fan so I’m not sure if there’s a site similar to Crunchyroll for manga.


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