Long time fans of anime outside of Japan have always had the issue of obtaining official English subtitles and/or dubbings for their favourite shows, but in an era where content reigns supreme and streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video battle for viewers’ attention, anime streaming giant and pioneer Crunchyroll, goes above and beyond for its audience.
Since its inception in 2006, the service, which started streaming fan subtitled East Asian content and has since grown to be the home of Japanese anime and East Asian films and dramas, has expanded with a library of over 1,000 anime shows and more than 200 East Asian titles, now available in over 15 languages.
And such precision in catering to different languages has been crucial in helping the service grow, especially in Asia where audiences readily consume cross border and cultural content. When the company started introducing Hindi and Tamil dubs in India, it saw significant impact in viewership, with Hindi dubs surpassing English for many popular anime titles, including Jujutsu Kaisen and Chainsaw Man.
“Whenever you offer content in the preferred language, consumption and engagement soar,” explains Akshat Sahu, Crunchyroll’s Director of Marketing for Asia Pacific and India. “We have gotten a lot of love and appreciation from our fans [in India], because they see how we are adding value. We are giving them something which they will not get access to on any other platform.”
This strategy, which mirrors global trends in content localisation, has been a game-changer for Crunchyroll in India and is something they plan to replicate in other regions. Understanding the audience in different regions is key, especially in Southeast Asia, where Crunchyroll is still gauging the market’s preferences for dubbed content. “We’re still trying to understand and listen to our audience in Southeast Asia before evaluating the opportunities, and launching our catalog,” Akshat says, indicating a patient yet strategic approach to content localisation in these markets.
“What the fans wanted, they got,” noted the industry veteran, who started his entertainment career at Star TV, before moving to The Walt Disney Company.
“I think we are in an era where more anime is being consumed outside of Japan than in Japan now,” he says.
Crunchyroll’s strategy goes beyond mere content streaming. It is about creating a comprehensive anime experience that caters to all facets of a fan’s love for the genre. This approach encompasses streaming, merchandising, manga, gaming, and even theatrical distributions.
“It’s almost like trying to super-serve all the anime fans with different touchpoints,” Akshat explains. This multi-dimensional strategy of integrating a Crunchyroll merchandise store not only enriches the fan experience but also sets Crunchyroll apart from other platforms that might only focus on one aspect. Its comprehensive ecosystem offers an immersive anime experience that other platforms lack.
Awareness is one of the major challenges Crunchyroll faces as it expands into new territories, where the likes of Netflix, Disney+, and even Amazon Prime Video get more attention, and it’s up to his team to inform anime enthusiasts about Crunchyroll’s availability and accessibility, and have them become natural amplifiers for the platform.
What it does have for fans is content that is in demand, particularly adaptations including that of South Korean web comic Solo Leveling, and special activities to draw in audiences, such as the Jujutsu Kaisen experience at this year’s Anime Festival Asia (AFA).
Focusing on key intellectual properties (IPs), Solo Leveling emerges as a prominent title in Crunchyroll’s arsenal. “We are launching a new IP called Solo Leveling, which is very popular, and we are hoping that we can do a lot more beyond streaming,” Akshat says, highlighting the platform’s anticipation for this new addition. He also shares his hopes for Solo Leveling, crossing his fingers that the new title will “capture the imagination of anime fans”, similar to the way shows such as Demon Slayer have done globally.
Solo Leveling is a well-loved Korean web comic that is set in a world where hunters battle monsters from other dimensions through mysterious gates. Sung Jin-Woo, the weakest hunter, gains an extraordinary ability to level up and grow stronger through a hidden system. With his newfound power, he embarks on a journey to uncover the secrets of the dungeons and become the strongest hunter of all time.
“Solo Leveling will start doing premieres in December with more territories to be announced soon.” This is exciting news, as it was last reported that only Tokyo, Seoul, and Los Angeles will host premiere screenings.
Crunchyroll’s special Jujutsu Kaisen experience at Anime Festival Asia exemplifies the platform’s commitment to innovative fan engagement, inviting fans to be transported into pivotal moments from the acclaimed manga and anime, where they will encounter iconic characters like Satoru Gojo and get immersed into the captivating world of sorcery and cursed energy.
“It’s a very unique experience we’ve created,” Akshat says, showcasing their dedication to providing memorable and exclusive fan interactions. “You will not be able to experience that anywhere else.”
As Crunchyroll continues to deliver more fan-centered experiences, they also receive as much fan feedback. That, Akshat states, is integral to creating the best experience for their fans. “The only reason we’re here is because we want to keep catering to the demands of our fans,” he explains, citing the addition of One Piece, one of anime’s biggest shows, to the platform as a response to fan requests. He believes that meeting these expectations not only delights fans but also fosters a long-lasting bond with them. “That’s the joy of getting fan feedback. Now that fan is a subscriber for life.”