As of 4th August, 2022, Sony owned company, Crunchyroll, which specializes in anime streaming just announced the purchase of RightStuf Anime (formerly The Right Stuf LLC). Following the Funimation-Crunchyroll merger that occurred in the past year, this is bad news for the North American anime and manga industry as a whole, here is why:
In the late 2000s and early 2010s, when the economy was still recovering from the Great Recession of 2008, Funimation was in the process of squeezing out its competitors by purchasing dubbing rights to almost every series out there, sometimes under questionable circumstances. Among these titles acquired, was all of the Shounen Jump line (a large part (more than 50%) of Viz Media's and Discotek Media's catalogue, as well as part of 4K!DS and Saban's catalogue), as well as Sgt. Frog, an anime which already had been licensed by A.D.V Films and was set to air on Cartoon Network, both on daytime slots and on Toonami. The question about how this came to be is uncertain at best, the most famous Funimation prjects prior to 2010 was Dragon Ball in 2002, the infamous Dragon Ball GT in the late 1990s, an highly edited version (mainly to be more inappropriate) of Crayon Shin-Chan in 2006 and Miffy and Friends (I am serious here). So, four dubs, two of which were recognized as being poor. So, something happened along the way that made Funimation so big, what turned Funimation into a giant of the industry, however, its nature was less than legitimate. While details are fuzzy here, Funimation sued every other anime studio in the 2010s (no one was safe) for "breaching contracts and agreements", what this implies is that Funimation had some sort of control over anime dubbing as a whole, a clear sign of horizontal integration, though not quite in ownership of the anime industry. This alone could have had Funimation under scrutiny for monopolistic practices, but that did not happen. The lawsuit was one and the anime industry became the Funimation industry, with new anime being licensed out by Sentai Filmworks (Lupin III) and Nozomi Entertainment (owned by Rightstuf) (Dirty Pair) either being decades old franchises with rights that had been acquired decades ago or being virtually unknown anime which gained almost no interest by the community (titles such as Mouseman and Kenda Master Ken are recent examples).
In the meantime, Crunchyroll, a site, that started off as a piracy platform with a fansub/fandub group, which had such classics as Naruto, where whenever Naruto is supposed to say "believe it", he uttered profanities instead (translation error) and JoJo, which Crunchyroll hates beyond compare (check out what they did to the Russian dub of JoJo for some background). It is partially because of Crunchyroll that the sub versus dub debate occurred. That said, Cruncyroll reinvented itself into a legitimate streaming service eventually gaining a lot of attention, partially from the large piracy community in the 2000s, but also from common people/anti-piracy interests, since Crunchyroll now had the ability to market and advertise. During the mid 2010s, Crunchyroll was at an all time height in popularity and begun to have advertisements on their site, with a premium account option in order to remove advertisements, the money was said to go to paying for new animation projects. Crunchyroll had lied, in one way, shape, or form and started to become greedy too. Premium membership was $10.99/month in the United States and without it you would be faced with unskippable advertisements of up to three minutes in length. Additionally, most of the money went to profit, with some going to Japan, often to new, fly by night studios, who produced a poor product: Captain Tylor (2014), Gibiate, EX-ARM, Big Order, Dies Irae and the last few episodes of Tesla Note (during the merger) and the list goes on, but the worst offender was a production that was not even from Japan: High Guardian Spice. Everything about it was wrong, poor dialogue and storytelling, uninteresting visuals, terrible stroyboarding, which led to cheap animation, which cut corners to the point of using stock images, just about everything had something that could be improved upon. Despite this, High Guardian Spice got praise on anime/manga/comic journalism sites, like Anime News Network (ANN) and Comic Book Review (CBR). Audiences saw through this and High Guardian Spice was one of the worst animations on Crunchyroll. Around the time of High Guardian Spice's, release EX-ARM was starting to become available and everyone had a similar reaction, what was worse though was that after a few months, Crunchyroll censored all negative (1 and 2 star) reviews. This is in of itself is dishonest and made some of the userbase lose trust in the service.
2017 is when Sony enters the picture and the real monopolization starts. This is when Sony acquired Funimation, this was, in part, a deterrent to have one of Sony's competitiors, Bandai, from re-entering the North American market, from which they exited out of in 2012, as well as having the ability to control Bandai's outreach in North America. In a sense, a savvy business move, but also it prevents the competition that was already limited by Funimation to start off with. Sony managed Funimation for 4 years, more or less having a monopoly over anime on television (the only exceptions being soccer/football anime (Inazuma Eleven, Captain Tsubasa, et al.) and Lupin III), however, when it came to on-line streaming the market was divided almost 50/50 by Funimation and Cruncyroll, with a small minority of anime-watchers using legacy sites like The Anime Network (services transferred to HIDIVE 2022). Thus Sony made its move in 2021 to acquire Crunchyroll and retain the Crunchyroll branding, nothing was changed about the sites, just a rebranding and an acquisition of assets, one which left almost total control of the North American anime market. Over the past couple of seasons on Toonami, which is mainly restricted to what is popular, it is clear who controls the market, with Sentai only getting airing slots for Lupin III, while Funimation/Crunchyroll occupied the rest of the block. If you were like me and mainly resorted to more "underground" ways of watching anime, or if you purchased DVDs, often sold by Discotek Media, then you were likely not too bothered. I personally do not like streaming and would sooner sail the high seas. However, Sony Funimation/Crunchyroll has announced a new acquisition, Rightstuf Anime. This is concerning due to the assets that Rightstuf holds:
Originally a seller of telescopes, Rightstuf started beginning to sell anime and other Japanese imported media and goods in the 1980s, along the way, they started a dubbing studio, Nozomi Entertainment, as well as earned the sole marketing rights for DVDs distribudted by A.D.V Films, Sentai Filmworks, Nozomi Entertainment, Media Blasters (2020 relaunch) and non-Viz Media labelled Discotek Media. This spans across most of the old anime industry, but also Rightstuf have a significant foothold for manga, often carrying titles that have been out of print for years, sometimes decades, from publishers like Tokyopop, Media Blasters, Viz Media (of which some titles are exclusive) and CMX. This is not the least of it, the main reason why Rightstuf is more attractive is that they are a discount store for anime and manga, often having prices that are several dollars less than usual, for example, a Shounen Jump volume, usually priced at $10 would sell for $8 on Rightstuf, which might not sound like a lot, but if you are trying to buy an entire series like Dragon Ball, Naruto or One Piece, then the savings add up.
While Sony's anime conglomerate claims that Rightstuf will carry stuff from multiple producers, what they did not say is if the prices on Rightstuf are going up or not or how the sales will work. I could foresee a lot less sales with Discotek and Sentai in the future, though this is just speculation. Additionally, if the prices go up at Rightstuf, then would it not be cheaper to become a member at a booksotre like Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves and above all, we should be asking ourselves if this is what we want: a monpoly that controls what we watch and tells us what we can and should watch. Is this what you want. Do you want to see your favorite "underground" sites disappear as Sony-backed lawyers begin to usurp this ease of access for their corporate interest. I say not, but it is for you to decide.
As a final plea, I urge for everyone to cancel their Crunchyroll and Funimation subscriptions and delete their accounts and seek alternative instead, as well as to make their Rightstuf orders now, before the merger goes through, then cut off all revenue to Sony by buying from sites and services not affiliated with Sony, as well as checking your products to avoid Funimation and Crunchyroll branded items, like posters and figures, instead opting for the secondhand market for these items, or getting European (excluding U.K, who are in a similar situation), Australian, or Asian (no-Sony) versions of these products. This is necessary in order to stop the machine which Sony has created, intent on destroying our own industry.
I grant express permission to repost and reuse this wherever, the word needs to be spread far and wide and all reproduction efforts are given my express gratitude.