Crunchyroll Under Fire For Using AI For The Most Important Thing To Fans

By Christopher Isaac | Published

While the use of AI can lead to some pretty incredible creations and streamline some repetitive tasks, its usage has come under fire in all sorts of industries for usage that many do not agree with. This includes taking work away from artists and writers, replicating actors without their permission, and in this case, delivering a subpar product. Anime streamer Crunchyroll has been trying to save time on subtitling their shows by delegating it to AI, but the results are so lacking that they are coming under criticism for the tactic.

Crunchyroll Isn’t Hiding AI

spy x family

To Crunchyroll’s credit, unlike other scandalous uses of AI, they are not trying to hide that they are implementing it. There have been plenty of recent news stories about companies trying to utilize AI without anyone catching on, denying it when found out, and just generally digging a deeper hole for themselves. But Crunchyroll is at least being forthright about their strategy.

Turnaround Time

In essence, Crunchyroll president Rahul Purini has stated that he believes part of why so many people resort to illegally pirating anime is due to the turnaround times from when episodes are released in Japan to when they are subtitled for an American audience. Purini stated that the company is trying to use AI to speed up the subtitling process to thereby deliver episodes accessible to English speakers much more quickly, so they do not feel the need to watch pirated streams with fan made translations. It can be difficult for fans to have the patience to wait for official releases if they know the episode is already available and someone else has done their best to subtitle it.

Anime Episode Removed

While this reasoning sounds logical on paper, it unfortunately falls apart because AI is currently just not advanced enough to accurately subtitle episodes of anime, leading to wildly mistranslated subtitles. This became so bad that Crunchyroll actually initially removed the first episode of The Yuzuki Family’s Four Sons last year due to fans complaining that its obviously AI-generated subtitles were incomprehensible. And yet Crunchyroll is not giving up on the strategy, but rather just hoping to refine it. And there is not a whole lot fans can do about it, with Crunchyroll increasingly becoming the big name for anime, especially after buying up Funimation in recent years.

Losing Jobs To AI

attack on titan

However, that still leads to the ethical dilemma of AI putting actual human beings out of work. This kind of task has long been the domain of translators and caption writers who were paid for their time, talent, and diligence in providing accurate subtitles for audiences beyond the anime’s original country. If it becomes the norm for this to be delegated to AI, even if it is done well, it is still inevitably taking away many people’s jobs. It would no doubt save companies money, but it is a tough sell to ask people to get on board with taking away work opportunities for people so that rich companies can become richer. But Crunchyroll would be far from the first company not to care about such issues if that does wind up being their stance.

AI Struggles To Translate

AI is continuing to advance at an alarming rate. Even just over the last year, it has become so much more refined than what it was. Laws and policies on the matter are already struggling to keep up regarding protecting people from misuse of AI. But for Crunchyroll and anime fans, that issue is far more simple currently: AI is just leading to worse quality shows by mistranslating them.