Legally streaming anime has inspired discourse so polarising that the idea is either loved or despised in equal measure, but that’s not a problem with Crunchyroll. It’s either you feel strongly about legally streaming anime or you feel just as strongly for pirating it. Neither side is wrong in particular, but I have to wonder if legal streaming is done to genuinely support the anime industry or just merely out of a sense of duty by those on the industry’s payroll.
In the cutthroat capitalist society which we propagate, the aesthetic appeal of art is only second fiddle to the monetary value that said art provides. Beauty is less on the eye of the beholder and more on the pocket of the consumer. The problem with Crunchyroll is in how very little value they place on the product they provide. Because anime is, by its very nature, a niche medium, the service always hedges their bets on everything else surrounding the product and less on the strength of the product itself. Instead of just giving me anime, their website always seems to scream in my ear, “look how cool anime is! Even these cool people like it!”
I don’t need to know which “celebrity” watches anime in their spare time. Watching Dragon Ball Z, Naruto and Attack on Titan isn’t special. What is this, 10 years ago? I don’t need anyone to tell me how ‘awesome’ anime is; I wouldn’t have been on the site if I didn’t already know that. I understand that they have to market this product to as large an audience as possible, and that such marketing isn’t targeted to a winded viewer who already knows the strength of the medium. But is word-of-mouth from your favourite celebrity better than actually making the product better?
But just because I have issues with the service, it doesn’t mean I advocate for piracy. I’m neither anti-Crunchyroll nor pro-piracy, and vice versa. The Crunchyroll landing page feels more like a news blog, but that isn’t necessarily an issue. I like to keep up with the industry and I commend the service for making sure that anime and manga is both legally and easily accessible. Crunchyroll seems to be building an image of the anime industry that I have no interest in participating in. I have no interest in testimonials that seem to paint the industry as “just the coolest thing ever!” As someone who knows how special the medium is, I don’t want the brand to pander to western values to the point of creating original shows that resemble anime but feel more like a western production in spirit (looking at you, High Guardian Spice).
Crunchyroll is not the endgame, but just a means to one. Being an agent of complacency that sees not beyond the woven veil will lead to a stagnant industry that neither grows to its full potential nor dies trying. As it is, Crunchyroll is a corporate shill more than it is an advocate for the future of anime. This is evident in how they censored JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure to the point where the music references were removed just so they could avoid copyright drama. They’d rather interfere with the art if it means they could profit from it, and for a niche medium, anime lives off its niche appeal. Without that niche appeal, anime becomes a mere cartoon. I really want Crunchyroll to succeed, but I won’t not watch old anime that they have no rights to, just for the sake of a moral high ground that means very little to me in the first place. If your service doesn’t have Revolutionary Girl Utena, do I let that show die just because “it’s wrong to pirate anime?” Should we deprive people of that experience just for a largely meaningless gesture of feigned morality? No!
In conclusion, if legally streaming anime gives you what pirating anime fails to offer you, then by all means, enjoy it. And if you can’t afford to pay for the streaming service and also don’t feel like ads, you’re welcome to do what feels right. I won’t tell you what to do but if I were to offer advice, I’d say do with anime what I do with anime – whatever makes you happy.
Keep up with my other content:
YouTube – The Geek Writer
Blog – The Forge