What did Crunchyroll represent to consumers and producers of Japanese anime?

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Crunchyroll is the premier streaming service for Japanese animation. It allows consumers to view high quality Japanese cartoons in a multitude of other languages. The anime industry has already become a multi-billion dollar behemoth and continues to grow year after year. With such a huge impact on the entertainment industry, Crunchyroll’s emergence on the internet represented either new opportunities or dangerous competition to the millions affected by its establishment.

Before the internet, the anime industry in America hardly existed. During the 1980s and 90s, anime distribution was often conducted through networks of friends and comic conventions. Fans would stand outside of comic stores and Japanese supermarkets, sharing anime amongst each other or buying homemade VHS recordings of untranslated anime from bootleg video dealers. Poor video quality and the lack of english subtitles stifled any growth in the industry. 

With the establishment of Crunchyroll, alongside the emergence of the internet, American consumers found a fast and easy way to watch high-quality, subtitled Japanese cartoons. To previous anime viewers, it represented the new way to watch anime. To them, it meant that they would no longer have to drive hours to comic conventions, only to purchase a single low-quality episode of their favorite show. Crunchyroll was thought of as “cable but for anime” and the pre-existing fans couldn’t be more thrilled.

To the consumers unfamiliar with anime, Crunchyroll was still new and exciting. Japanese cartoons were basically a brand new form of entertainment to them. Unlike American cartoons, many Japanese cartoons were actually made for adults and had mature themes. For young adults in America, Crunchyroll, and the internet at large, represented a new hobby. It was something they could do after school and something they could talk about with their friends. It was, in a way, a replacement for cable television and Spongebob Squarepants.

Although consumers couldn’t be happier with the service Crunchyroll brought to the table, there were many more who were less than thrilled about its rise to popularity. To begin with, the bootleg video dealers (mentioned earlier) were immediately out of business. To them, the internet and Crunchyroll represented a disastrous force that made their services completely obsolete. And they weren’t the only ones who felt threatened. 

The American cartoon industry found Crunchyroll to be just as dangerous. To them, the internet and Crunchyroll represented their newest competition. And even those companies that took advantage of the rise of the internet were wary of the services Crunchyroll provided. Companies like Disney, who had long since looked up to Japanese animation studios, now found themselves directly competing with them because of the internet. It wasn’t long before Netflix started its own streaming service and began adding dozens of anime to its own platform. Meanwhile, the cartoon industries began making more mature cartoons and established their own websites to stream them on. To these companies, the internet and Crunchyroll represented a new form of competition that would force them to adapt to the changing tastes of consumers. 

There was one other group that Crunchyroll and the rise of the internet had a huge impact on: translators and voice actors. With so many new shows requiring English translators and voice actors, the occupations became much more stable and well-paid. To them, Crunchyroll represented both a new potential employer and the trailblazer of a trend that would increase their salaries.

Crunchyroll was one of the first streaming services to emerge on the internet and it brought high-quality Japanese animation to America. As a result, consumers found new interests and new forms of entertainment, while the American entertainment industry found new competition that forced them to adapt to the new platform.

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