Crunchyroll/Sony on a Buying Spree

So I was hoping to publish this faster, so that this think piece was a bit more timely in regards to the recent news, but… yeah, that didn’t happen. Either way, I wanted to share my thoughts on things and also give a bit of an overview on how big of a company Crunchyroll has now become.

But anyway, a bit over a week ago, it was announced that Crunchyroll is buying RightStuf. For those who aren’t aware, RightStuf is an online store operating here in the US and Canada (and maybe other regions?) that specializes in anime, manga, figures, and any sort of physical stuff that exists in our little corner of the world. One could always hop onto Amazon to buy anime DVDs and other stuff if desired, but RightStuf was usually comparable in price and tended to have a slightly larger selection (especially when we got to things like merchandise), and you also had the warm feeling of knowing you’re supporting some small business rather than a mega-corporation. For all intents and purposes, RightStuf is the online anime store.

Crunchyroll also operates its own online store too, also selling merchandise, anime DVDs, manga, and more. Since Crunchyroll holds the rights to a number of shows, they also occasionally have exclusive merchandise not available on RightStuf or Amazon.

But, this is just the latest in a string of acquisitions and mergers involving Crunchyroll and Funimation.

Buying and Growing

Sooooo let’s do a little overview of what all companies and stuff are now under the Crunchyroll brand. Or more specifically, the Funimation brand before Crunchyroll was purchased by Funimation.

Firstly, backing up a bit, let’s recall that Funimation was purchased by Sony back in 2017. Specifically, Funimation was under the Sony Pictures wing; and under the Sony Music wing is Aniplex, one of the biggest names in the anime market in Japan. Funimation was one of the largest anime distributors here in North America, and the biggest thing to rival Crunchyroll (which was a separate company at this time). Funimation already had the licenses to a loooot of popular shows, including Attack on Titan, Cowboy Bebop, My Hero Academia, Tokyo Ghoul… the list goes on. Funimation also licensed a lot of Aniplex’s shows, such as Fullmetal Alchemist, Black Butler, Baccano, Soul Eater, and more; one could dive into the minute details of how the licenses and availability of these shows changed over the years, but because Aniplex and Funimation are now under the same parent company Sony, it doesn’t really matter.

That being said, since Funimation and Aniplex are technically under separate wings of Sony, they still operated independently; it was pretty much assumed that Aniplex-produced shows would end up on Funimation’s streaming service here in the US though, and then after 2019, Sony rearranged these companies so that Aniplex technically co-owns Funimation (with Sony Pictures being the other co-owner… so Funimation is really co-owned by Sony and Sony, but although they’re the same Sony overall, it’s different Sonys)… uhh, this can start to get confusing, so for the sake of simplicity and moving on, we’ll just say that now Aniplex owns Funimation.

Funimation isn’t the only purchase that Aniplex/Sony made in the past few years though. Outside of North America, other purchases have been made:

  • Wakanim: a European anime streaming service (kind of like HiDive here in the US). Purchased by Aniplex in 2015, its own website is still up and running, but that’s going to change soon enough.
  • Madman Anime Group: the anime arm/division of Madman Entertainment in Australia/New Zealand. By February 2019, Aniplex had gained full ownership of this, and this was kind of big. Madman licensed a loooot of anime in Australia, probably even more than Funimation had licensed in the US, and they also had their own streaming service (AnimeLab), sold anime DVDs and merch, and ran an anime convention called Madman Anime Festival. After this purchase, Madman Anime Group was folded into Funimation, and AnimeLab was shut down in 2021 (with its content being moved to Funimation). Madman as a company still exists, but doesn’t deal with licensing anime anymore, although you can still buy anime DVDs and merch from their website, strangely enough.
  • Manga Entertainment: also purchased by Funimation/Aniplex in 2019. Despite the name, Manga Ent. mainly handled anime licensing and distribution in UK and Ireland. They were pretty quickly folded into Funimation UK, although it’s said that Manga Entertainment’s brand will still be used in certain places in this market (sounds familiar?). At the current time though, Manga Entertainment’s website straight up doesn’t load for me.
  • Viz Media Europe: also during this same year (2019), Crunchyroll purchased Viz Media’s European business. Reminder that at this point, Crunchyroll and Funimation/Aniplex are still separate companies. Viz Media Europe gave Crunchyroll a foot in the door in the European, Middle Eastern, and African markets in regards to anime Blu-Rays and manga volumes (rather than just streaming). Kazé (a French anime distributor) was also included as part of the purchase.

And again, it’s important to reiterate that Aniplex is a big name in Japan, being one of the biggest production companies behind a lot of shows: Fullmetal Alchemist, Anohana, Bakemonogatari, Sword Art Online, Cells at Work, Demon Slayer, Madoka Magica, Soul Eater, the list goes on and on. They own entire anime studios: A-1 Pictures and Cloverworks. Now, this doesn’t mean Aniplex itself directly animated many of the shows they produced, but they were the company that helped foot the bill, get ideas off the ground, and had services like musicians (for OPs and EDs), a merch shop, a distribution network for getting DVDs and Blu-Rays out there, and a team to put on events and concerts to promote the shows in Japan. Aniplex was pretty much a one-stop shop for an anime production in Japan… if they felt a production was worthy of their time and business.

Anyway, finally, we come to the big purchase: Funimation/Aniplex purchased Crunchyroll in 2021 (buying the company from its previous owner, AT&T). Although Funimation and Crunchyroll did work together for a time before this, it seemed destined the two companies would be the two big rivals here in North America, forming a large duopoly (while Sentai and other companies got table scraps or stuck to their niches). That’s not so much the case anymore, huh?

It’s All Crunchyroll Now

No matter where you live in the world, I shouldn’t have to explain Crunchyroll to you if you’re in the anime scene. They have pretty much taken the anime world by storm as the big king anime streaming service, operating in dozens of countries and a large handful of languages. Even if Crunchyroll wasn’t the biggest service in your particular country, you were at least aware of it and they definitely had a number of shows available to you in your area.

So yeah, the purchase of Crunchyroll by Funimation/Aniplex/Sony was kind of a big deal. Reminder, Aniplex already owned a lot of anime licensing and streaming companies around the world at this point, but now they’ve gone and purchased the biggest one of them all.

And what’s the next thing they do? Start renaming everything to be called “Crunchyroll”.

It’s no longer Manga Entertainment, it’s “Crunchyroll Manga Ltd.”. No longer Madman Anime Group, it’s “Crunchyroll Pty” Australia (and also no longer Madman Anime Festival, now it’s “Crunchyroll Expo Australia”). Viz Media Europe, Kazé… now it’s “Crunchyroll EMEA”. Even Funimation, the brand name that helped kick off and expand the anime market in North America, will soon be no more: Funimation in its entirety has been renamed “Crunchyroll LLC” and Funimation’s name will no longer be used for new dubs and new Blu-Ray releases.

On a low-key level, this disappoints me. For thousands upon thousands of people, these are the brands that helped introduce people into anime and became well-known names in the countries they operated. Here in the US, the name Funimation brings nostalgia from when Dragon Ball played on Cartoon Network on weekday evenings, this being one of the shows that brought a lot of Americans into anime.

And by the end of 2022, all these names will just be… memories.

Now, I do love Crunchyroll. It’s hard to deny the positive impact it had on the world of anime. It introduced a level of availability and discoverability to anime (with the added bonus of being a fully legal avenue to consume this media), allowing it to reach a muuuuch larger audience than ever before. I can certainly say I wouldn’t be watching anime now without Crunchyroll, and I feel that isn’t a statement unique to me. It introduced the idea of anime being available to watch in English (subtitles) within a week of it first appearing on Japanese TVs. This was mostly unheard of beforehand, and introduced the concept of seasonal anime to the West. Even today, when I want to watch anime, Crunchyroll is the first place I turn to.

Crunchyroll definitely doesn’t have a clean track record though. It did start off as yet another anime piracy site, for goodness’s sake, but beyond that, it does have its fair share of logistical and design issues, being behind on the times, and weird/bad business decisions over the years. I certainly can’t call it perfect, but I can certainly call it successful. It’s definitely a global brand, and it makes sense why Aniplex is moving forward with this being the name of all these companies.

Dominating the Market

Now, here’s where we run into the big issue that I have though. (And this is also where the purchase of RightStuf comes back into play.)

We’ve certainly seen a number of headlines over the years of media companies being bought out by even bigger media companies. Disney is the big culprit that comes to mind, and arguably now Warner Bros Discovery is just as big a conglomerate.

Crunchyroll (and Aniplex) is now kind of the same boat as those… but it’s actually also kind of worse. See, with Disney and Warner Bros Discovery, although they definitely do license a decent amount of content, they have enough studios and people to pump out original content of their own constantly in various forms of media. Aniplex (and thus, Crunchyroll) definitely does have a fair share of original content as well, through the various shows it produces and funds. (Let’s set aside that the big differences in how anime is produced and funded in comparison to most Western media.) But Crunchyroll doesn’t just have all of Aniplex’s shows available to show… it also licenses all kinds of other anime too, produced by all kinds of other companies.

Even as of right now, if they don’t license another anime show again, Crunchyroll has an absolutely massive catalogue of anime shows it holds the licenses to. Here in the US, I’d venture that 4 out of every 5 at least mildly popular anime from 2016 and onward are all licensed under the merged Crunchyroll brand. That is a lot of the available market of anime controlled under one brand. This isn’t just streaming online either, but also producing the DVDs, Blu-Rays, merch, getting them on TV, and now (with the purchase of RightStuf) one of the largest direct avenues for Americans to get their hands on said Blu-Rays or merch.

From licensing to streaming to dubbing to Blu-Ray-ing to selling, Crunchyroll now it’s hands on every part of the anime market here in the US (and is also set up similarly in the UK and Australia). Sure, Crunchyroll and Funimation both had their own online stores before this, but RightStuf (and Amazon, I guess) were always available to purchase shows and stuff from all North American anime companies.

Now, of course, Crunchyroll doesn’t have an absolute monopoly on anime distribution, at least in the larger Western anime markets. Here in the US, there is still Sentai and Hi-Dive, which both get a decent amount of shows each season (last I checked, although they’re often not the most hyped up shows in their season), as well as other smaller companies like Discotek and the occasional show or two which gets scooped up by a larger media company like Netflix or Disney. In Australia they have Hanabee, and I’m sure they have other similarly-sized companies in the various European markets too.

But with how much money Crunchyroll already had, plus the financial backing from Aniplex and Sony, I’m sure Crunchyroll will keep shelling out all this money to continue picking up licenses to most shows (including – of course – all the popular, big ones) every season, and probably for every market outside of Japan (and East Asia). It’s hard to deny… Crunchyroll is pretty much the anime distributor. If you want anime, you go to Crunchyroll. That’s it.

All this being said, it’s also hard to deny that (beyond what gets scooped up by the other companies I listed a bit ago) it’ll be nice to just have one website and service I can go to to watch all the new anime that comes out in a given season, along with so many of the popular shows from past seasons and years. This has been a big complaint a lot of us have had with so many streaming services popping up is that one has to subscribe to six different services just to watch all the various shows being talked about; in the world of anime, now that problem’s been greatly reduced.

But it still does kind of feel weird and frankly a tad spine-shivering-y to have so much of this one particular market under one company… in practically every Western country in the world. I’m not as much of a vocal “these companies are too big and should be broken up” type as others are (not to say I’m disagree with that though, otherwise why would I write this entire piece?), but the knowledge that “anime” is likely to become synonymous with “Crunchyroll” outside of Japan doesn’t sit quite right with me.

Part of a Larger World

There is another angle to look at this though.

For millennials like me, it can sometimes be hard to remember that anime isn’t as niche and small of a thing as it once was. If you got into anime, you’d have to seek out other people who watched anime (not even mentioning watched the specific types of anime you do) to even have someone to talk about it with. Anime and manga were relegated to quiet conversations in the corner, a single shelf at bookstores if you were lucky, and specialty clubs and meetups.

Nowadays anime isn’t quite as mainstream as the major hit shows that Netflix, Disney, or HBO come out with, but it’s not nearly as hard to find someone who’s at least watched an anime show or two, or at the very least know what anime is. A number of celebrities and others have talked about having watched a few anime shows. Again, anime isn’t popular, but it isn’t unpopular either.

Major streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, and Hulu now have a prominent anime section, and that’s where we come to the point of this section: under these streaming services, anime is shown as another category, another genre, from the list, next to “Drama”, “Horror”, and “Romance”. For these larger services and companies, anime is just another type of audiovisual content.

So in the grander scheme of media and streaming and what-not, anime can be seen as just another genre. A subset. Which… probably isn’t an incorrect way to look at it. For those of us who have really fallen into anime, we know that anime itself has a lot of genres, like “isekai”, “action”/”shonen”, “magical girl”, “slice of life”, and also more traditional genres like “romance” and “comedy”. So it may feel weird to consider anime itself a genre of its own… but at the same time – although some anime shows can definitely differ heavily from other shows – anime does kind of have a similar style; not just in appearance (character design), but also just the… vibe and just how a production is done, a lot of anime start looking like they’re cut from the same cloth. And for these giant companies like Disney, HBO, and Netflix, which have such a large catalogue overall, it’s easier to just lump all anime together rather than further dividing and specifying.

Looking through the perspective of anime just being another genre of the larger world of media, you can argue that Crunchyroll/Aniplex doesn’t really have a monopoly or a large portion of the market… they’re just a company that really caters to a particular genre or niche. Similar to, say, Shudder, for horror films or Curiosity Stream for documentaries… or YouTube for online indie productions. Each of these companies have a specific genre or style, and have a looooot of it, but although they’re big in their specific circles, they’re still just a part of the overall piece of audiovisual media. I think a big difference with anime is that it has a large, vocal, and dedicated fanbase (not that other genres don’t, but, well… the reputation of collective fanbase of anime precedes us).

In this larger world of media, Disney and Warner Bros Discovery are the mammoths. And Sony is definitely also a pretty big company itself, but Crunchyroll/Aniplex specifically? Not quite as much. So I think this might be the counterargument used when it comes to accusations of being a monopoly or anything like that.

Where Things Go From Here (The Future…)

So what do I, some random guy on the Internet, think is going to happen from here?

Well, Crunchyroll is already underway with renaming all the various companies and bringing everything together under the Crunchyroll banner. So it’s only a matter of time before sites like Funimation Now, VRV, and Wakanim are going to be fully shut down, and all their catalogues will be on Crunchyroll. (Plus also now the catalogue of RightStuf’s Nozomi Entertainment.)

I suspect the same will eventually happen to RightStuf itself, where RightStuf will be shut down as an independent thing, and either renamed to “Crunchyroll Store” (or something) or subsumed into the existing Crunchyroll Store. It’s possible the opposite might happen where the Crunchyroll Store and other various online stores get shut down, and RightStuf becomes the “store” part of the whole company, but given the trend so far has been to collect everything together under the Crunchyroll name, I don’t see this being as likely. We’ll start to see this transition happen slowly, as RightStuf will probably lose its identity and unique flairs or quirks as it’s absorbed in (for better or worse). I’ll also note that I don’t think this is a scenario where Crunchyroll is buying RightStuf simply to remove this storefront/avenue; selling physical media and such is still a potential source of revenue, and I think Crunchyroll is more likely to just take the systems, processes, and relationships that RightStuf has and just incorporate them into the larger company. Note that I didn’t say “staff”; I suspect there will be a lot of redundancies, and a lot of people back on the job market in the coming months.

Also, as a side note (I didn’t know where else to fit this in), in regards to RightStuf removing all 18+ and hentai stuff, and distancing themselves from those things, post acquisition… once I had heard this, I honestly wasn’t surprised that happened; it’s a little disappointing, for sure, for those who purchase such products, but I suspect some other smaller company will pop up to fill the void that’s been left by that decision.

I don’t know where Crunchyroll would go next in regards to more acquisitions, at least here in the US. They could continue purchasing up other anime distributors and streaming services, like Sentai / Section 23 or HiDive, but Crunchyroll also could just strong-arm these companies out of business instead. Here in the US, I think this will end up being the last big purchase in the anime scene out of Crunchyroll. (There may be more purchases, but they’ll either be 1) relatively smaller purchases by Crunchyroll, who’s already the de facto “winner” in this market or 2) an outside company pushing itself into the scene by purchasing up Sentai or something.)

Given that Crunchyroll is owned by Aniplex, which is owned by Sony, I also don’t suspect the brand and company is going to change hands anymore, unless Sony decides they really want out of the anime business.

And from there… I don’t think there’s going to be enough public outcry or other issues to dissuade Crunchyroll or Aniplex to reverse course in any fashion. In general, people are looking for a hassle-free way to watch and buy anime, and Crunchyroll is handing that to you on a silver platter, no matter where you live. So barring any major scandal or shift in the market, I think things will keep keeping on like this. Crunchyroll will become an even bigger name in anime than they’ve already been, and pretty much become the one site you go to for anything anime-related. (Minus the few shows that are either picked up by the smaller niche companies, or by the larger corporations like Netflix or Disney.)

There may be the chance that other anime producers in Japan (like Kadokawa or Square Enix) might want to switch things up, and start building their own alternative(s) to Crunchyroll to stream or sell anime in other markets, but Crunchyroll may also have enough cash in hand and enough incentives to just keep these companies selling licenses to them. Time will tell with that, but I’m not holding my breath.

But yeah. Anime isn’t just some weird small market anymore, filled with a handful of independent companies in small offices dotted around the country. Anime is a big thing now, and now the companies behind it are big things too. Ultimately, this may just be another page or footnote in the chapter that is the recent “media conglomeration” trend, but it’s still notable news of the times regardless.

And I feel… well, not the best.

I’m Back into Anime! (What’s been going on with me?)

Hello! It’s been a while again, huh?

(This is going to be super lengthy, so I’ll post a TL;DR at the bottom.)

Since the Last Post

My last post featured an outlined plan that I was going to follow to get back into posting on this site, starting with a review as a part of a block called “Funimation February”. I even hinted at one of the shows I was going to be reviewing as a part of that post… obviously, that didn’t pan out.

Sooooo there’s been a couple things that happened since then. Let’s talk about this, and then try to take a frank look at what I’ll be doing from here.

So that last post, I published in December of 2019. There’s… something major that certainly occurred since that day. Still kind of ongoing in a sense, but yeah, there was this whole pandemic thing.

My experiences with the pandemic was not great, but not nearly as bad as others had it. But suffice to say, the job I had back then (in December 2019) is now two jobs ago for me. I’ve had other major changes in my life too, such as moving to a new place and getting a dog, and I’ve been thinking a bit about where I want to go with my life, given that I’m nearing the end of my 20s.

Those things alone are enough of a distraction for me to not really want to put time and effort into this blog. I’m sorry I didn’t come here to post more about it, but frankly, I had other things on my plate and I was worried about filling up the front page of my site with just update posts, rather than actual reviews (especially if I set a new date for returning in an update post, and then missed that date, prompting another update post, and… yeah). There’s already a number of update posts like these on my front page, and that’s after I went back and hid some of them. It doesn’t really look good for an anime reviewing website’s front page to… not have anime reviews.

Falling Out of Anime

Anyway, that’s not all. There’s also the ongoing issue of… me just kind of falling out of anime for quite a while. Looking back, that post I made about the Spring 2019 anime season, that was the last anime season that I actually tried to sit down and keep up to date on the new shows. And of those shows that I talked about there, guess how many I actually kept with all the way to the end… 0. (And some of them, like Ao-chan Can’t Study, I really enjoyed too!)

This has been an issue for me since like 2018, maybe even a bit earlier. Part of what kept me engaged in anime was the college life, where I had friends with me to talk about anime and enough openness in my schedule that I could sit down and watch these shows. And at the time, for me, anime was a relatively new thing too; I only really got into anime just before college.

By 2018, I was out of college and moving on to other things in my life: getting a job, finding a place to live, paying for things… you know, fun adult things. I was also running into the issue where a lot of the anime I was looking at, the new stuff coming out… didn’t interest me as much. There were some excellent, stand-out, and unique shows for sure, but there were also a lot of shows where I read the synopsis or even just saw the title, and I was like “okay, I don’t think I need to delve more into that one”. A lot of repeats, rehashes, similar concepts done again but with small twist that I’m sure made it suuuuuper unique (also a number of sequels to shows that I never watched the original season of, sooo yeah). There’s been a big influx of isekai-style shows in the past few years, for example, with lengthy and ridiculous titles, taking a page out of the book of Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon and others. Which made for a kind of funny, unique thing when done once or twice, but when it’s every other show…

Anyway, I’ve ended up turning to getting entertainment from elsewhere. The Nintendo Switch came out in 2017; I was a casual fan of video games at that point (and still kind of am), but I’ve spent more time on the Switch than I have pretty much any other game console since, like, the Wii. That’s taken a decent amount of time.

I’ve also been watching Western animated shows, like Steven Universe, Adventure Time, She-Ra: The Princesses of Power, Amphibia, The Owl House, and more. I was hooked into one of these shows (Steven Universe) and from there, realized there was a whole slew of stuff coming out here that I hadn’t caught up on. I ignored Western animation for quite a while, as a number of shows coming out for a handful of years didn’t interest me (and many still don’t), but there’s been a number of gems to appear as well. So I slowly dropped more and more anime and instead started watching more and more Western cartoons.

I’ve debated a few times about posting reviews of these Western shows on this blog, and I even wrote up an entire review of Steven Universe (mid Season 2), but I never got around to actually posting them. I might go ahead and write up some at some point, but let’s not promise anything.

Life of a Reviewer

Part of the issue that I’ve had too is this internal expectation that when I watch an anime, I’m supposed to then turn around and crank out a review of it to post here. That’s partly because that’s what I’ve been doing for about 2 or 3 years, at least. Finished a show? Okay, let’s get that review over the finish line and into the backlog so it can be posted here in the near future!

Although my writing skills have certainly improved since I began this website, I’m not a quick writer and after starting the site, I was going through my backlog of finished reviews faster than I could write new ones. This, in turn, turned up the pressure for me even more to get a review out for any show I finish, because… otherwise, there just wouldn’t be a review to post. Part of being a content creator online is being consistent, right? Something new every week? What would I do if I didn’t have that something new?

(sigh)

I’ve said multiple times, in multiple places, that I ran this review site as a hobby, not intending to “make it big” or make this my job or anything. I’m not here for the numbers, although I did appreciate seeing people comment and like my posts. … But in a sense, it kind of did become a job. I couldn’t watch an anime without also thinking about “how am I going to word this concept” or “how do I explain my thoughts on this character”. Sentences and paragraphs would flow through my head, trying to formulate a review on the fly, while I was still watching an episode. Watching an anime without writing a review about it just wasn’t a thing. There’s so many anime that I’ve watched over the years that, right now, have half-written reviews. A handful of these reviews likely won’t ever see the light of day.

That’s probably also partly why I turned to Western animation for a while too. It was freeing, watching a well-constructed story with great characters and good animation… and without the expectation that I’d have to take my esoteric, fleeting, hard-to-define thoughts and shove them into words on a screen. The most I’d really ever talk about a cartoon online is a few tweets, which also has a much lower bar of quality to reach too.

Naturally, as I continued to write and write, my reviews got lengthier and my ability improved. But as my writing quality increased, so does the bar I set for myself and the amount of work that goes into it. With my earlier reviews, I could pound out a whole review the day after finishing a show without needing to look back or do anything extra most of the time. Sometimes if I wanted to reference a specific scene, I’d go back and rewatch it to make sure I wasn’t misremembering it.

But as I became more thorough and I set more of a bar for myself, writing a review went from taking a night or two, to taking multiple days, and then a week, and then even more. I created a checklist in my mind, things like “paragraph about the minor characters, discussing the color scheme, sharing thoughts on the BGM”, a review couldn’t be done unless I hit all these points. I’d rewatch multiple scenes or whole episodes, so I could reference them all in detail in my writing. I’d have to track down clips of the dub (or rewatch a few episodes dubbed) if I watched a show with subtitles – and vice versa if I first watched it dubbed. I’d go out and re-listen to the OP and ED songs, I’d pull up the list of voice actors on Wikipedia or ANN so that I could find a few I could “shout-out” in my review. I found myself going back and rewriting the words I wrote: I didn’t explain myself enough, I was too wordy, I didn’t actually get to the heart of what I felt, this paragraph could be written better to flow into the rest of the review more smoothly.

While, again, this was part of me getting better at my craft and me caring more about what I put out, it all added up. And again added to the pressure that this felt like a job, rather than just something to do for fun, because these thoughts were just swirling around in my head anyway, may as well dump them somewhere because… why not? That was why I started this.

But it kept adding up and adding up, and then… my Beyond the Boundary review came out.

I put my all into that review, and threw out any semblance of trying to stay within a word count. I read and reread and rewrote my sentences and paragraphs so much until I was fully satisfied with what was on the screen before me.

The Beyond the Boundary review got a decent amount of attention as well, at least comparatively to what everything else on my website had gotten before (or since). I chalk a lot of that up to being mentioned and linked on Crow’s anime mentions weekly post. Again, I’m not here for the numbers and I shouldn’t read too much into one review being mentioned on a larger blog, but… at the time, I was a bit swayed by the attention I got then and decided I had to push myself just as hard for every review since.

I’ve been proud of that review and every review afterwards. I feel like they all capture my thoughts and feelings exactly – not that I’m not proud of some of my earlier reviews nor that my earlier reviews don’t show my feelings, but these newest reviews felt like I put it all out there, precisely and completely.

But that review took multiple days, multiple weeks to make. Every review since then has taken multiple days, that whole process I outlined, to put together. And even if there was a show that I just finished watching and wanted to share my thoughts about… if I didn’t go through this whole process and check all the boxes in my mental list It was… then the review wasn’t done, it wasn’t ready, it can’t be posted. It became a bit draining sometimes.

Stepping Away…

The results of this sometimes played out right in front of my readers on this website. I’d make update posts saying that I was taking a break, and maybe sometimes referencing or mentioning a show I was planning to review soon… but then breaks would take longer than expected, and the reviews I mentioned never came about.

And when I did come back, I’d post 2 or 3 reviews and then disappear again.

My backlog was mostly dried up, I wasn’t writing enough new reviews fast enough, and I wasn’t in the mood or mindset to even watch anime, much less write reviews for even those.

After my review of Madoka Magica, I ended up planning a break, where I expected I’d take some time to reset myself, spend time working on some other projects I had, and then come back to anime with a refreshed mind and ready to write some new reviews. I watched shows like Little Witch Academia, Made in Abyss, Typhoon Noruda, and some others. I’ve started reviews on all these shows, but, like mentioned above, they’re still in a half-finished state, if even that.

I do have thoughts on these shows. I’d love to post reviews for them. But I just couldn’t get myself back into the headspace for going through the hoops and process I’ve done before to drag a review along to the finish line. Soooooooo I just continued to sit here, with half-done reviews, and no will to actually do anything with it or with this site.

And the longer I went without posting a review here, the longer that I felt bad about not posting a review and the guilt made me not want to return back to this website. Which then kind of snowballed and snowballed.

But I had 2 yearly reminders, when WordPress would send me an email about renewing the WordPress plan I had, and my domain registrar sent me a reminder to extend my registration for animebird.net. I recall sitting there for a week in 2021, thinking for a short while about what I wanted to do with this website. I could pull the plug on the domain registration and just kind of let this site fade into obscurity. I didn’t want to keep paying for this website if I wasn’t going to use it… Ultimately, I decided that I did want to return to doing something with this site, and so continue paying for it I did. But, clearly, nothing happened in 2021.

It was always a kind of “I want to get back to this at some point” thing in the back of my mind, but I never actually sat down at all and said “yes, I’m going to do this now”.

… And Stepping Back In

I’m not quite sure what changed, really.

I think what triggered it was the recent(ish) announcement that the Funimation and VRV brands and services are being retired in favor of Crunchyroll.

Throughout all these years, even when I wasn’t even using the service at all, I still kept paying monthly for a VRV subscription. For those outside the US (or in the US who don’t recall), VRV was put forward by the same media group that owned Crunchyroll, back in 2016. It was kind of awesome as it was a single streaming service at a decently low price, and it bundled other services with it: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Mondo Media, Rooster Teeth, Curiosity Stream, and more.

The website was attractive (even if it was maybe a bit barebones and occasionally buggy) and it meant a laaaaarge majority of anime released in the West was right at my fingertips in one place. They created original series with online content creators too, like Epithet Erased and Shadowstone Park. It was actually pretty nice, in my opinion.

But a lot changed between 2018 when I stopped with anime and 2022 when that announcement came out. Of course, with an aggregate service like that, services will come and go. Funimation was replaced with HiDive at some point. But when the announcement came out that VRV would be eventually shuttered and those with VRV accounts should move to Crunchyroll Premium, I logged into the site to start that process and was surprised by what I saw.

There was only three services available on VRV when I logged in in 2022. One was Crunchyroll, of course, and there was “VRV Selects”, which was the banner for VRV’s original content and some other stuff… and Mondo Media, randomly lol. The site felt empty, a kind of husk of its former self. I found since-deleted support articles talking about various services leaving VRV, with the vague promise of “we’ll still continue to work on delivering great content” every time. It was a little sad, but it wasn’t really surprising. The streaming landscape has changed a lot since 2016.

So yeah, I cancelled with VRV, and just got myself a regular Crunchyroll subscription. And once that process was done, I sat there, looking at the main site… “You know, I’ve heard people talking about Spy X Family, let’s take a look at that.”

Where I’ll go from here (Welcome back!)

When I originally started with this website, years and years ago, the idea was that I’d post something every weekend, and if I had any additional thoughts or extra things to say, I could put that out sometime during the week. While that worked well while I had a large backlog to go through, that started to sputter out once the backlog started to dry up, and I relied more on stuff I was finishing writing that week.

Even after taking various breaks, and even now, I wanted to adhere to some form of schedule. Not weekly, heck no, but dialing it down to only posting monthly feels really unappealing. That’s only like… 12 posts in a year? What is that? So my goal for a long time has been trying to do 1 post every 2 weeks. It’s probably not wise to come back into this with an expectation of a schedule, but that’s what I think I want to aim for. This could be a review, me revisiting a show I reviewed in the past, or maybe some other kind of think piece or post.

There is the issue of me disappearing without warning from this site for months (or years), and while every time I come back, I’ll say that I’ll get better at reporting when I’ll be gone, the reality is… I still certainly could and am kind of likely to disappear without warning again. For sure, I’d expect there will be times where I’ll skip a month or two (especially when I have real-life stuff to focus on), but, for real, I’ll try to write a short update post when I think that time is coming.

I need to get the expectation out of my head of making sure I have something to post each 2 weeks, because even if I can push myself to get things out, I also don’t want to fall into the same patterns and issues I had before I took this lengthy hiatus. It’d be better to say I’m taking a break when I run out of pieces to post, rather than trying to pull something out of my butt to get put onto here.

I already have in mind what reviews and shows I’ll be posting about first, and it’d be great to build up even more of a backlog before I hit the ground running… so let’s aim for the first week of September for when I’ll begin posting! This gives me all of August to wrap up the multiple posts I’m working on. This will indeed include full on reviews like I’ve done in the past, but I also have plans for revisiting various shows that I had reviewed before. I’m also also considering a newer “quick review” type of thing, where I put out my thoughts on 3 or so shows, without putting in all the time and effort of making a large review. That way, I can try to cover shows that I have a review half-written for, but I doubt I’ll be able to quickly get over the finish line.

One other major thing I’ll be doing: retiring the @AnimeBirdTweet Twitter account. (Or more specifically, rebranding it.)

I originally set up the Twitter account around the same time I set up this blog, back when I thought it’d be cooler to have an alias and alternate identity and you didn’t know who was actually running this site. At some point along the way, I dropped that whole schtick, as I felt there really wasn’t much of a real reason for me to keep it up… and frankly, if this blog actually went anywhere, smart internet sleuths would surely be able to connect this back to me anyway.

Anyway, I haven’t had much to do with that Twitter account, even when this blog was in full swing. I had followed a couple fellow anime reviewers here on WordPress, but I barely went on that Twitter account often enough to actually meaningfully interact in any way. I had considered using the account to live-tweet anime shows I was watching, but putting in the effort to pause the show, take a screenshot, and write thoughts with it… multiple times in a single episode, that got old quick. During my hiatus from this blog, I used the account to live-tweet reactions to various online concerts I watched, like Miku Expo or some Hololive stuff… but otherwise, the account just sat there, dormant.

So I think I’m going to instead transition to having all of my stuff being posted onto my main Twitter account (@JaykeBird), and have that be my main social media base of operations instead.

I do have plans for what I’ll do with the AnimeBirdTweet account, but it’s going to be wholly unrelated to this blog, and so I’d rather have a few months break where that account goes unused before starting to transition it to something else.

Anyway, yeah!

I’m back, I suppose! I don’t know how much of an audience I have left here (how much of an audience did I even have before?), but hopefully people will enjoy once I start posting things here again in September. I’ll keep in touch about any changes I’ll need to make along the way with this blog, but I hope we’ll all have fun together!

For now, though, I’ll see you around!

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

I realize this was a super lengthy post. Here’s a summary.

I had a number of reasons to take a (super long) break away from this blog. Some of them involved becoming an adult and doing adult things, but one big part of it was how I just wasn’t watching anime much anymore. Adult stuff got in the way, anime wasn’t interesting me as much anymore, and the internal expectation I had of “you watched an anime, now write a review about it!” (along with the super high bar of quality for a review that I set for myself) all contributed to me dropping anime, and by extension, this site.

But I dunno, something happened, and now I’m back! I have anime to watch, thoughts to share, and I want to get going on it! I have ideas about what I want to post, and my goal is to start posting in September! Once every 2 weeks, I’ll write a new post, and I’m going to get better and sharing an update when I need to take a break away from this for a while.

I’m also dropping the AnimeBirdTweet Twitter account. I’ll be primarily using my main Twitter account, JaykeBird, from now on in relation to this site.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the stuff I have to share, and I’m looking forward to coming back!