In the world of anime fandom, this is really big news.
I hope that it is also good news, but that remains to be seen. I don’t follow the politics of fandom, but I sometimes hear murmurs of discontent with FUNimation. However, I personally have been generally happy with Crunchyroll, the anime streaming service, though I recently let my subscription lapse for economic reasons. A few years ago, Crunchy seemed to be mostly a motley collection of obscure titles and hentai crap, but more recently, I’ve been really impressed as they’ve added more and more classic titles to their catalogue.
In fact, I finally bought my subscription when they picked up a complete set of Cardcaptor Sakura, the inexplicably popular and undeservedly influential magical girl story from CLAMP about an innocent little girl trapped in a world full of perverts. But I’ll talk about that show and why I detest it with a passion at another time.
Anyway, according to the announcement from yesterday, Crunchyroll and FUNimation are partnering up. It remains to be seen exactly how this will play out, but if I read it aright, Crunchyroll will offer subtitled versions of some, maybe all (?) of FUNimation’s catalogue, whereas FUNimation’s own streaming service FUNimationNow will exclusively offer dubbed versions.
How this affects viewers will depend on whether they prefer subs or dubs. I am, with few exceptions, a sub man myself, though I’m not the kind of anime fan who gets snooty about it. So for me, this mostly means that the catalogue on my favorite streaming service gets larger. On the other hand, for people who liked the handful of dubs on Crunchyroll, or whatever subs were on FUNimation, this is probably a nuisance. Anybody who wants both would now need to subscribe to both services.
Also, FUNimation is now Crunchyroll’s distributor for physical copies, so if you want a DVD of a Crunchyroll title, it will come from FUNimation. I’ve never bought a DVD off Crunchyroll, though I have a few FUNimation DVDs, so I don’t know what difference this might make.
We’ll see how this plays out. They are for the time being separate companies, but my fear is that Crunchyroll is going to get devoured by its allied corporate juggernaut.
UPDATE: Anime News Network explains the likely economics behind the partnership. tl;dr: the increase in licensing fees probably convinced FUNimation and Crunchyroll to stop competing with each other, but instead to divy up how they do business (FUNimation does dubs and DVDs, Crunchy does subs). This may be good for customers, or may chill relationships between the companies and the licensors they work with.