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  • Look, Crunchyroll's got some problems, we can all agree on that, right? A strange number

  • of leftists feel the need to defend them, which I suppose is an understandable impulse

  • given the kinds of people who most often pop up against them, though that doesn't justify

  • all the vaguely progressive people who somehow feel the need to die on the hill that is radical

  • anti-piracy. Lies are frequently told about them and even my lovely wife has made a video

  • rebuking some of the false claims CR faces, something I absolutely get it. It hurts to

  • see misinformation even when it's against someone you dislike and it only makes your

  • side's arguments look worse. But we can't just correct these errors without an attempt

  • to tackle the issues the company does have, because they've got a lot, and I'm tired

  • of how little that's been addressed. Companies aren't our friends, they're our enemies.

  • You wouldn't trust an international arms dealer just because they're selling to you

  • right now, would you? No, I don't think you would. So listen, Crunchyroll, it's

  • time to talk. Part 1: Workers

  • Let's get some initial facts out of the way, put the real issues on the table asap

  • shall we? Crunchyroll has not consistently treated its employees well. They're a Silicon

  • Valley company under the control of broader investors after all; they don't exactly

  • exist in an environment where workers rights are all-that-valued. Ever thought that CR's

  • translations are sub-optimal, especially given that you're paying for them? Well, that's

  • because they're hardly paying for them. Former translators who I talked to described

  • the pay asway below industry standard”, somewhere around a third of what other anime

  • companies pay. That's made even worse when you take into account the fact that anime

  • and manga translators already get significantly lower rates than those doing technical work.

  • Does underpaying translators sound absurd given that they've got over 2 million subscribers

  • who use the service specifically for translations? Well, you'd think so, but as all the details

  • in regards to CR demonstrate, companies are not moral entities, so if they can profit

  • more, they will. So if the translations feel a bit slapjob then yeah, the pay is a factor.

  • As one of those I interviewed said, “you only get as much caring as you pay for”.

  • While there are still plenty of talented, dedicated translators who work for the company,

  • bad pay will only encourage shoddy work. But hey, that's not all! Not only are the

  • translators paid poorly, the entire system has serious issues! Managers who make the

  • ultimate subtitling decisions often aren't translators at all, according to one of my

  • sources. At the same time, almost all of the translation staff are contractors, a situation

  • described by one translator as being part of thegig economy”. I'm not one to

  • praise traditionally-employed wage labor but when you look into past periods, there was

  • at least a job security that's utterly absent from these conditions. And while these aren't

  • the only causes for poorer translation work, with audience apathy and tight deadlines due

  • to the anime industry's notoriously poor planning being other causes for sloppy subs,

  • it can't be said to help. And, more importantly, it's simply a bad thing. Translation is

  • hard work and like for any other form of employment, those engaging in it deserve to be financially

  • secure. There's this tendency in our society to veneratedeserving laboras that

  • which should be paid well, something which excludes creative work and more menial tasks,

  • but that's a wrong-headed approach, one which ignores the importance of all these

  • tasks and more significantly, these people. Everyone deserves to be secure and the amount

  • translators receive does not enable that. This is absolutely made possible by an audience

  • that typically ignores the work that goes into translation, treating the final product

  • like some kinda candy from Willy Wonka's factory, an ignorance that's aided by Crunchyroll's

  • continued lack of crediting for translators. And that's not to mention the simple fact

  • that this is how these kinds of Silicon Valley tech companies work, chewing up and spitting

  • out workers as they like even in this highly specialized field of labor, because folks

  • need jobs and will do what they gotta in order to get them. And let's remember, when you're

  • a contractor, it's a hell of a lot harder to unionize. It's not impossible, though,

  • and I'm just gonna leave that fact on the table.

  • And if you think this is a situation which has only afflicted their translators then

  • oh boy have I got a bridge to sell ya. A couple of years ago, the engineering section saw

  • significant layoffs, with the jobs being replaced by workers in, drumroll please, the Republic

  • of Moldova, which just so happens to be the poorest country in Europe. And why was this?

  • Well, I can't read into the minds of execs but I will say that former employees indicate

  • it's from head company Ellation's goal of working on VRV over CR. And let me just

  • drop one other bit of useful info: the median salary in the country is, let's see here,

  • less than 400 bucks a month, so, have a guess why they might want to drop the employees

  • they needed to pay in San Francisco, where the pay would need to be well above 4000 bucks

  • a month. And even when the staff was at Cali, there were plenty of dreadful stories that

  • you can easily find on their GlassDoor page, including the always fun topic of sexual harassment,

  • coupled with a management which actively redirected work from CR to VRV. Talk about bad bosses.

  • There are obviously employees who enjoy working at the company and some may well respond to

  • this video. Of course, I'd like to say that if the front-facing PR parts of CR are the

  • ones which treat their workers best, and employees from other sections report that as being true,

  • then the anecdotes we do easily get are going to be the best-looking ones, but I'm sure

  • people like Miles and Cayla are genuinely happy with their experience. It'd be absurd

  • to claim no one enjoys working there even some translators and engineers. But that doesn't

  • erase the number of poor reports that exist on the public Web, freely available for anyone

  • to look at, or the multiple employees that I was able to track down who had serious issues

  • with the way the company was run and how they were treated. Crunchyroll is not some massive

  • diversion from the status quo in Silicon Valley, but when the status quo is as nasty as it

  • is, that's just damning them with faint praise. And of course, while you should care

  • about the plight of the workers purely for the sake of it, I understand that many end

  • users simply don't. I can't share that approach at all, but I've got to accept

  • it. So, let's get another thing straight: if CR treats many of its workers poorly, you

  • can't expect perfect behavior towards its customers.

  • Part 2: Consumers Hey, so do any of you remember how in 2017,

  • CR was caught having replaced literally every video on their website with ones of far worse

  • quality, something that was initially dismissed by many as the whining of pirates, until there

  • was a large enough critical mass that they were forced to address it? Just me? Well,

  • according to their official reports, this was legitimately all just a big mistake. Let's

  • accept that as true for a moment, as while it sounds suspicious, I hardly have the technical

  • know-how to accurately evaluate if it's true or not, I'm just an English major.

  • Even being as generous as possible to CR here, this was a strike of massive incompetence,

  • one that followed not all that long after the layoffs and shift to Moldovan development.

  • It also occurred shortly after VRV's debut, a fact I'll just leave right there. Of course,

  • this has been fixed, mostly. CR's encodes are still significantly worse than, let's

  • say, Amazon's, but they aren't actively atrocious right now, barring the issues that

  • still crop up occasionally. However, that's not to mention the fact that many of their

  • backlog shows still have the botched video, despite promises they'd fix all of it. When

  • their tech blog said regular updates would come, well, that didn't happen either. Again,

  • employees from the company are sure to be watching this video, and I really mean to

  • ask this in good faith: why haven't these posts continued coming? I've gotta be honest,

  • it reads to me like they stopped as soon as the pressure relaxed which makes the whole

  • mea culpa look pretty disingenuous. A specter is haunting Crunchyroll, the specter

  • of their own PR. The history of all hitherto existing CR promises is a history of delays

  • and undelivered updates. Let's ignore the scummy ways in which they began by charging

  • people to watch fansubs they stole, because as gross as that is, it has little influence

  • on the company right now, and there's no meaningful way to make up for it. Instead,

  • let's look at the ways in which they still fail their paying customers.

  • HTML5 streaming was promised for years and only arrived in 2018, possessing significant

  • problems in spite of that for quite some time, including such obvious ones as not being able

  • to get rid of the timeline bar and being incapable of changing languages or removing subs without

  • reloading the page. This is shockingly incompetent given that it had been in beta for well over

  • a year before it launched officially! Furthermore, such essential features as offline downloads,

  • promised for 2017, still haven't released! Let's be honest, there's no excuse for

  • this. I'm sure the Japanese side of things has placed plenty of hoops for them to jump

  • through but if it wasn't viable, they shouldn't have said they'd do it in the first place.

  • And yes, this comes back to the issues with workers. I'm sure those in Moldova are trying

  • their best and of course they've still got some staff in California, but when you aren't

  • treating your workers well and are actively assigning many of them to work on your company's

  • other streaming platformone which, in not being tied explicitly to anime, looks

  • a hell of a lot more appetizing to investorsthen you aren't going to get new features

  • quickly. And frankly, that only makes things worse for consumers. Of course, I'm not

  • going to pretend that most people pirate because they can't download their episodes, after

  • all, illegal streaming services beat out torrents by something like 100x, if not more, but it

  • certainly has an influence on my decision-making process, though I'm willing to admit that

  • much of why I torrent is a lingering mentality from my time on /a/ rather than any principled

  • decision on my part. Regardless, as the rage towards the lack of HTML5 shows, viewers do

  • care about these issues when made aware of them, and the company will be forced to capitulate

  • if enough of a stir is made. So remember folks, VRV has offline streaming downloads and CR

  • doesn't, despite the fact that they have the same videos available. Might wanna let

  • them know how that makes you feel, especially for those non-Americans in today's audience.

  • Part 3: Capital Doesn't Care About You Every company, especially in the modern media

  • landscape, is going to present itself as the best thing since sliced bread, often as better.

  • CR's reps will spare no opportunity to talk about the ways in which they've improved

  • the western anime landscape, taking us from a place where fansubs would often come weeks

  • after episodes airedand that was the better option, as the speedsubs would often

  • be unwatchably badto a world wherein we get almost every anime within a couple

  • hours of its release in Japan. And yeah, that's a good thing, I'm very glad that it's

  • happened. Of course, fansubs are far from dead, there are still quite a few anime that

  • get no official translations, and many are on streaming services but so poorly-done as

  • to need fans to fix things, but let's put that to the side for now. CR's introduction

  • of simulcasts on a large-scale has changed the way anime is consumed in the West and

  • that's unmistakable. However, the company is not content to merely

  • stop there. Let me be clear once again: I have no doubt that every single member of

  • the public-facing departments are genuinely invested in anime and making the community

  • a better place, even if I would disagree with the efficacy of their methods. However, while

  • companies are made up of their members in a certain sense, they also exist for their

  • own sake and the sake of their owners, and the fact that those who work for CR genuinely

  • care about the community does not mean that the company or its execs do. Let's get things

  • straight. Crunchyroll, and more specifically, Ellation, only cares about the anime community

  • insofar as it'll make them a profit to do so. This should be obvious, but sometimes,

  • it feels like it needs restating. So when the company's PR focuses on its importance

  • to the community, no matter how much those who write it may genuinely care, you need

  • to be suspicious. CR Expo's organizers probably do want to make a fun con to attend, but it

  • still serves to pump up the brand recognition and power of the company, only further serving

  • the clear goal of makingCrunchyrollthe first word you think of when you hear

  • anime”. They can only benefit from establishing that mental link, so of course, their PR will

  • explicitly or implicitly attempt to do so. The CR branded Anime Awards are just another

  • example of trying to establish this connection. The issue, here, is that CR is not what makes

  • up anime. Ignoring the many shows which go to their competitors or just aren't licensed

  • at all, CR simply is not what people come to this community for. The service is a streaming

  • platform, not a community in itself, and yet it seems that they'd like to change that.

  • Again, this is only natural, the company will see far more success if it becomes an entire

  • experience in itself. But as someone who loves anime due to the many people who create it

  • most of whom see little-to-nothing from CR, though I can't blame them for the state

  • of the industryand the stories it has to tell, CR does nothing for me aside from

  • the admittedly very important task of subtitling shows. But, let's be real, the translators

  • are not the ones who are getting the dividends when CR doubles in size in less than two years.

  • Money simply doesn't trickle down and it never will, not to the translators, not to

  • the engineers, and not to the staff behind your favorite shows.

  • Anime is obviously going to be a part of capitalist systems as long as capitalism existsfingers

  • crossed on that onebut that doesn't mean we need to allow a company like CR to

  • dominate the entire landscape. However, we should keep one thing in mind: they only care

  • about keeping us happy insofar as it helps them make a profit, but for now at least,

  • keeping us happy is a requirement. If viewers do what they can to hurt the bottom line,

  • be that through mass outrage or through outright boycotting, they could be forced to pay their

  • workers better, or finally roll-out offline streaming, or fund shows people actually want

  • instead of garbage like Kemono Friends 2. They could put their money where their mouth

  • is with the faux-progressive sentiments and actually help marginalized people in a more

  • direct way rather than using the rainbow flag as a cloak while they produce often-repulsive

  • shows. They're always going to be an amoral company, plastering a friendly, “woke

  • veneer over the Kafkaesque interior, but we can at least try and minimize the damage in

  • spite of that. To return to the metaphor of the arms dealer, it isn't wrong to buy from

  • them. Those weapons will help you accomplish what you need them to. But they'll always

  • be ready to sell to your enemies for the right price, so I'd avoid cozying up to them too

  • closely, or you might end up with a bullet in the back of

  • the head.

Look, Crunchyroll's got some problems, we can all agree on that, right? A strange number

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Crunchyroll, We Need to Talk

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    二百五   に公開 2019 年 09 月 11 日
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