The Crunchyroll sale

HSTs at Paddington Station, London, in simplified pre-2015 First Great Western livery; Kin-iro Mosaic (2013)

AT&T’s sale of Crunchyroll to Funimation (well, to Sony) offers us a chance to talk about the industry. Or perhaps about The Industry: the phrase often appears in this monolithic mode, after all.

The sale makes The Industry’s Anglophone sector yet more monolithic. A falling number of actors seems bad for us.

Then again, I take some consolation from the fact that, for many, Crunchyroll and Funimation didn’t compete much in the first place. If A has a show you want to watch and B doesn’t have that show, it doesn’t matter that B has a better interface or nicer image quality.

This ‘competition’ is like the ‘competition’ which, until recently, governments claimed we enjoyed in the British railway network. True, the UK has several separate railway companies. However, if company A has a train to Penzance and B has a train to London, and you need to go to London, then A and B don’t compete for your custom. Indeed, B can treat you like dirt.

In both situations, licensees do compete, but they compete when dealing with licensors, not when dealing with consumers.

Few people just want to ride a train, any train, and I suspect that few in the audience for dedicated anime streaming services just want to watch an anime, any anime. As Brian Smith pointed out to me, there might be plenty of people who are happy to watch anime, any anime, but they’re perhaps more likely to be found watching anime in venues which handle much more than anime, venues such as Netflix.

I speculate: I’m no pundit. Even if that speculation errs, though, even if many streaming-site watchers are there for an anime, any anime, that’s still a wearisome attitude to have to art.

Yes, anime are products, and yes, plenty of them resemble each other and functionally perform the same role in an ecosystem. Granted, if I worked inside a company in the business, I suppose I’d have to think this way at points. True, I’ve often written here in very material, basic terms about the processes rather than the artistry.

But even to fans of the manky light novel adaptation of the day that manky light novel adaptation isn’t interchangeable with any other thing. They feel that they love it for its specificities, for its quiddity. We might disagree, of course, but disagreeing with all anime fans about all anime on this point seems, at best, unwise.

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