If you follow the anime industry (or alternatively are a follower of omoikane) then you’ve likely read about the legitimization of Crunchyroll. To summarize what has happened, the anime streaming site Crunchyroll made a deal with TV Tokyo that at the start of 2009, they would delete ALL anime that they didn’t have permission to show, licensed or otherwise, and only stream shows with legal permission. What has this led to, and what has changed?
In early 2007, I had never heard of torrents and the only streaming site I knew of besides youtube was Crunchyroll. Back then, unless you were a paid user, you could only watch anime in a very tiny window with very horrible quality (as you can see in some of my blog’s early screenshots) that made action scenes impossible to comprehend. The sound was very muddy, and anytime there was a rain effect the sound would warp beyond recognition.
However, in early 2008, Crunchyroll made an interesting deal with the animation studio Gonzo that was near unprecedented. Gonzo started subtitling their episodes and letting Crunchyroll stream them simultaneous to their airing on TV in Japan (known as ‘simulcasting’.) For 24 hours, anyone could watch the episodes for free, and afterward they could pay to see the episode whenever they wanted. Crunchyroll added the option to watch videos in high quality for free to their site as well as the ability to watch fullscreen, but of which had required payment before. They also eventually added high quality options. This plan seemed to have worked, since Gonzo has continued to simulcast their anime on Crunchyroll since.
Later in the year, Crunchyroll made the same deal with TV Tokyo where they would be able to simulcast a lot more popular anime for free as well as allow streaming of some previously aired shows with the network’s permission. In order to do this, though, Crunchyroll had to promise to delete any anime that they didn’t have permission to show. On January 1, 2009, the plan was initiated. On the negative side of things, this meant CR had to delete some classic shows like Ashita no Joe, Rose of Versailles, and Legend of the Galactic Heroes, which they were the only ones streaming. People looking for these rare anime will now have to turn to torrents and IRC.
However, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The free streams are far higher quality than any other streams on the Internet. In addition, all videos are softsubbed so that you can watch them subbed, Raw, or for some videos, with different language subtitles (a feature that is sure to come full force in the future). Naturally, though, a profit has to be made somewhere, so subscribers are able to watch videos in 480p High Definition, watch simulcast episodes instantly (everyone else has to wait a week after airing, evidently), and watch with no advertisements (though these only happen at the beginning of the episodes on regular streams.) Memberships come in monthly, tri-monthly, and yearly deals.
A list of all the shows that are currently available and of those that will be made available throughout January can be seen here. While some series have been completely added, most seem to have around 4 episodes added and the release schedules have been notably confusing. Therefor, we’ll just have to watch and see how they plan to go about uploads. Many of the anime that will be simulcast are already very far into the series (such as Gintama and Naruto Shippuden, both of which are well over 100 episodes) however, only a handful of the older episodes have been released prior to the simulcasting. Once again, we’ll have to watch and see how they intend to go about filling in the rest. Shugo Chara is another example, with 12 episodes currently available and episode 65 to be simulcast on January 9.
Back when Shugo Chara started airing in late 2007, I was initially pretty excited about it. I watched the first 5 episodes before, like most things, falling behind on it for a long time, and I also bought the first volume of the manga. I had always thought about continuing the series, but at one point I ended up learning about an extreme plot twist that happens around episode 34. The twist was something that I knew wouldn’t effect how I enjoyed the show, but it had been done in a way that I couldn’t respect and I decided to put the show on hold until I could get over the twist. When I saw the first 12 episodes available on Crunchyroll and found out I could receive email updates when new episodes were posted, I decided to give it another shot.
The subs that Crunchyroll use are extremely nice. They are easy to read and there are no translation notes added. Honorifics have remained in-place but most difficult cultural references have been localized, and the text has been written without any stupidly direct translations. The maximum free video quality is easily as good as a lower-scale download you might find regularly by torrent.
So far, the show has been a lot of fun with cute, lovable characters, and a story that is mostly episodic but moves just fast enough to never feel very slow. For the most part, the animation quality is stellar, and certain sequences (such as a soccer game in episode 6 and a snowboarding scene in episode 11) have received an extra-loving treatment of amazing detail.
Perhaps the highest quality detail and most notable to me is the amazing vocal cast (as you can see here). Plenty of instantly recognizable big names like Chiba Saeko and Nana Mizuki are there, but my favorite performance is easily that of Kanae Itou in her first ever anime role as the main character, Hinamori Amu. She perfectly captures all of Amu’s emotions and adds that much more to her lovablitiy. That combined with Amu’s superb character design and complex personality make her an instant favorite for me.
I definitely look forward to continuing this show, even though there are a ridiculous amount of episodes left. I’m hoping that Crunchyroll’s controlled releases will give me the drive to keep up to date and finally break the ’60 episode barrier’ that I’ve been struggling with. How do you feel about Crunchyroll’s legitimization, or about the site in general? Also, how do you feel about Shugo Chara?