Site Review – Taking a look at CrunchyRoll


So, for the one person out there who doesn’t know, CrunchyRoll (CR) is digital distribution for online anime. They legally host anime and TV Shows from Japan and Korea, and quite a few simultaneous casts, as in anime that’s available at the same time on CR as it is in Japan. The aim of this was to stop the fansubs of those shows.

CR also has a strong forum, and daily deals section. the forum, i personally don’t like for reasons I’ll go into later. The daily deal section isn’t really as good value for money as it appears, especially for those of us in Europe. I’ve picked up a couple of things from there that were on sale, only to get stung by customs and excise. While even then it is usually slightly cheaper, or at most the same as buying locally, the extended wait for delivery makes it a pointless endeavour.

CR started life in 2006 as an illegal form of YouTube devoted to Asian stuff. It quickly gained fame and ended up in battle with distributors over the anime it hosted. All of it was either fansubbed or bootlegged of the official releases.

They somehow managed to gain venture capital, a move that brought widespread criticism from anime distributors from all over the world. The move, essentially made CR a distributor of anime over night that was raking in vast amounts of revenue without paying licensing fees and royalties.

This lasted for around a year, till they joined forces with TV Tokyo to simulcast Naruto Shippuden. This was the start of the change for CR, as they started to remove all the illegal stuff and replaced it with licensed material.

For a time they offered digital downloads in competition with Boost TV. The community seemed to be split as to which offered the better quality of release, with most feeling that Boost TV was clearly the better. However CR choose to go for a ‘pay what you like‘ for the episodes. As a result Boost TV lost out completely, and probably was what ended the Boost TV service. Ultimately though CR pulled out of the digital downloads and moved to a purely streaming site.

These days they have partnerships with a lot of distributors and other companies, including Sony and Microsoft, allowing them to stream directly to games consoles and tablets. CR are now without a doubt the dominant anime streaming site. While others have come about over the years, none have been able to stand up to CR in the long run, and usually fold.

Yet, despite this strong presence CR is still a rather shoddily built site. The base site is frankly hideous, looking like it was created by a six year old for six year olds. Which, frankly, given the community probably isn’t far wrong.

To be fair, sites like this don’t need to look nice, what they need to be is functional and work. While the site is functional, and easy to navigate and find what you want; it fails miserably on the streaming side of things.

You would think that a site like this would ape the way that YouTube handles streaming, since they are the leaders of streaming. However the streaming is sluggish and frequently stutters. If, your like me, and you like skipping the OP then the stream breaks down and you end up having to refresh the page. This makes it very frustrating when watching entire series. There’s the added issue with watching entire series, you’d think it would be a simple thing of just hitting play, but it doesn’t quite work like that. If you’re in full screen mode it drops you out of that to move to the next, and occasionally just breaks all together.

You’d think they’d spend some of the money they make from adverts and subscriptions to actually improve the service. I know that as a paying customer I’d rather they did that than licensing more stuff.

Sadly though that isn’t the end of the issues. S.A.O, a series i watched recently is a prime example of the other problem they have. Horrendous translations of the shows, some so bad it’s almost on the level of HKSubs. Watching S.A.O i don’t think there was a single episode where i didn’t find errors in the script.

Given they have the official script from the original companies you’d think they could translate the script properly. What’s even worse is that a lot of the staff translators used to be actual fansubbers.

As a result of CR cancelling the digital downloads, the horrible streaming experience, and the horrific translations, fansubs of the series on CR are still rampant. While i doubt anyone believes that fansubs would ever disappear completely, i think it’s fair to say they’d decrease if CR upped their game and made the experience easier and smoother.

The other area that’s horrific on the site is the community. I’ve never met so many fanboys and idiots in one place in my life. If you criticise a series prepare to be lambasted by the fanboys in great numbers. The old adage that a mob is only as smart as it’s dumbest person seems to run true on the CR forums.

While you expect it to some degree, I’ve seen it get to insane levels on the CR forums, what’s worse is that it usually includes the odd moderator or two as well.

Personally I’ve given up on the community aspects of the site and just stick to watching the anime, which is what i recommend others to do. I’d also make use of the month trial, it’s a good way to see if there’s enough series to justify carrying on subbing. I usually let my subscription lapse for a while and then restart when i want to watch a series or two.

Author: Ryu Sheng