So I’m gonna start this off with a bit of a warning, I’m probably going to be going off on a bit of a rant throughout most of this post. I personally have very strong feelings about how the industry has evolved in the US and where I believe it’s eventually heading. I know some people won’t agree with a lot of my points and I know some people will, this is mostly just to get my thoughts out there and maybe share my thoughts on ways the industry could move going forward.
We’ll start with bullet point one on my list of “I don’t like where this is going”, and that is when Funimation didn’t renew their deal to partner with Crunchyroll on the VRV platform. While there were some other signs from Funimation before this that things were getting a little murky, this on the other hand really triggered a red flag for me. This was also around the time of some legal troubles for some of their staff but I’m not gonna get into that since that’s been documented enough on the internet. Now my opinion on Funimation as a whole has gradually fallen over the years, for many reasons, one of the biggest being the censorship and rewrites they’ve done for a while now. Honestly I can think of no greater insult to the original creators then changing the content beyond the original vision, but that’s besides the point. The point is, something was brewing for a while, and this was the first ingredient. The next was the licensing deal with Viz Media, while not inherently a bad thing, this was another step for what was to come. Now we get to the Funimation deal where they buy Crunchyroll, and my brain lit up like the control room at Nerve when an Angel is attacking. The market in the US is already quite small with little competition. In my opinion, there were only three major players licensing anime for the US market, Funimation, Crunchyroll and Sentai Filmworks. Of course there are smaller companies like Discotek, but their focus is mostly on the classics, I’m also not counting Netflix since they don’t add much to the market in my opinion. So three key players in the market, and now with this merger, we’re down to two. If we take a look at any other market, be it mobile service providers, Processors, Big Box retailers, or even the internet service providers in any area in the US, they all can be used as an example of the direction that this industry is heading. Let’s use ISPs as the example, wherever you live, there is usually only two options for any household to choose from, and that’s being generous. Then if you look at the pricing of that past the initial year that you have service with them, they all have something in common, the prices skyrocket. The reason for this is because there is zero competition or incentive for them to keep prices low. They know if you have a problem or don’t want to pay as much that it doesn’t matter, because you don’t have any other options.
This merger is a problem, and in any other industry the merger would have been investigated much more thoroughly. Just look at how long it’s taking Microsoft to close the deal with buying Bethesda. These are two large companies and this is taking away competition in a market that didn’t have a lot of that to begin with here in the States. I haven’t even brought up the parent company of Funimation that makes this whole thing even more concerning, Sony. The same company that runs a company as lovely as Aniplex, I don’t have a problem with the anime that comes out of Aniplex, what I do have a problem with is their consumer business practices. Pricing releases far out of reach for most people and claiming that it’s because it’s premium when most of the time you get some poorly printed art cards and an okay box. Funimation is also guilty of this, especially after the Sony acquisition, I was appalled at what they claimed to be a limited edition box set for part one of Darling in the Franxx, with poorly aligned art cards on below average card stock. It certainly didn’t seem to be worth the premium price they were charging, and certainly not on the level of box sets from the past. To get back on track though, while having one location to watch both libraries sounds extremely convenient, without competition I can almost guarantee that pricing will be going up in the near future, because where else are you going to be able to watch these series legally? It may seem like this will save people money on subscription services, but it will eventually become the same cost it as having two subscriptions. I would say look at what’s happening with Netflix and their pricing but that’s mostly caused be ignorance from the management running Netflix.
To further my point, the Funimation name is being killed off in favor of Crunchyroll. Completely wiping out any brand recognition for home releases. I know that Crunchyroll has had physical release before, but those were in partnership with Funimation. By doing this they’re giving up a very recognizable logo that people have come to know throughout the years that’s tied to physical releases. This logo is also associated with a release usually having an English dub for a series, while not a deciding factor for me or even maybe you reading this right now, it’s a deciding factor for a lot of people in the US. Now slap the Crunchyroll logo in it’s place, a potential customer might not be certain that it’ll have an English dub or not. Yes they can pick it up and look at the back to check, but how many people will actually do that? Probably more then I think, but I believe more people will buy a series based on the title and the box art. I would say people would buy a series based on the synopsis on the back but we have unlimited access to information through the devices we carry every day. Honestly I know this argument is on the weaker side, but my point of killing off a recognizable brand name being a terrible idea still stands.
My overall point with all of this is ultimately what happens when there is only one option to go to when trying to watch and stream anime legally, with a company that has a long track record of things like censorship and license abandonment. Sony alone is guilty of many examples of censorship in the media they put on their platforms. These are very similar issues that I have with anime on Netflix, I’m not a fan of the changes that were made to their release of Evangelion, and the fact that they turned down the offer from the original voice actors to reprise their roles left a bad taste in my mouth. Ultimately this merger isn’t gonna change things over night, things will be gradual. Currently at the time of writing this Crunchyroll Premium is $9.99 a month, I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next 6 to 12 months that this price goes up to around $11.99 to $14.99 a month when the libraries finally get combined. The only good outcome I see in the future is another company popping up to battle the monopoly that Sony has created in the US for the Anime market. Unfortunately I don’t have much hope of this actually happening, the amount of money and connections needed to obtain licensing deals for seasonal Anime is immense, and only another company with a budget on the level of Sony will be able to truly compete. While Anime has become more mainstream over the past decade, it’s still a niche market for the US, and a company stepping up and filling the gap this merger has created for competition is very unlikely.
I pray that I’m wrong about all of this, and this is just a result of my overthinking, but having seen the same situation play out in so many other industries and seeing how the consumers in those markets are suffering because of the lack of competition, it’s hard to not see the direction this industry very likely will be heading in the next few years. I want this industry to thrive in the US, the community here is very passionate, to a fault sometimes, but we love the content and the culture. This could all be the start of something that’s very hard to recover from in the future, or it could be nothing. I will not be holding my breath for a good outcome though. It’s hard not to see a future where people adorn their eye patch and peg leg to enjoy the content they love.
I appreciate anyone that reads through my rambling, I welcome others to provide their thoughts on the merger and where they see the industry heading in the next few years. At the end of the day, I’m going to continue to enjoy the content that I love regardless of the eventual outcome of all of this, and I urge everyone else to do so as well. I hope you all have a wonderful day, and again, thank you for reading.