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Crunchyroll removes all comments from its site to create a "safe and respectful community" by burning it to the ground

You can't have a toxic community if you don't have a community at all.

The Crunchyroll Logo
Image credit: Crunchyroll

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For over a decade, Crunchyroll subscribers have been sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings about their favorite anime in the website’s comment section. However, that all came to a sudden end recently when Crunchyroll decided to disable all new comments on the site, then going so far as to remove all existing comments and reviews while they were at it - leaving fans with the ability to rate the anime on the site and nothing more. The removal came without warning and left fans scratching their heads as to why it had happened now.

Crunchyroll added what could pass for an explanation to their website FAQ, stating that they removed all user-generated content to “prioritize creating a safe and respectful community environment.” It still begs the question: Why now? It's not like comments haven’t been the bane of every website since the early days of YouTube – it turns out that giving everyone a megaphone and letting them shout at you without any repercussions creates a lot of problems.

Crunchyroll’s library is massive, with over three dozen shows adding new episodes every week in the Summer 2024 Anime season alone, but that isn’t new. Their library has always been one of the biggest in the anime community, and it is only getting bigger. What made them decide that now was the time to embrace irony with both hands and destroy their community in order to protect their community?

Twilight Out of Focus
Image credit: Studio Deen

There was an incident over the weekend that might have forced the company’s hand. On July 4, the first episode of Twilight Out of Focus, a boy’s love anime about two roommates whose relationship threatens to become very non-platonic, debuted and was quickly review-bombed by the kind of people who use the anonymity of the Internet to let their worst selves out. They obviously failed, as the show continues to enjoy a healthy 4.1-star rating on Crunchyroll despite hundreds of one-star reviews, but the effort itself is why many sites choose to disable comments. You can’t stop people being horrified by the mere existence of gay people, but you can certainly take away at least one platform they use to spread their nonsense. Crunchyroll hasn’t confirmed if this is the reason why they did so, but the timing is certainly suspicious.

With a small percentage of fans flooding the comments with homophobic nonsense and the company getting more criticism for the wildly inconsistent state of their subtitles and closed captions in recent months – leading many fans to speculate that they are using AI to generate both – the easiest option was certainly to get rid of all comments and reviews from the site. Whether it was the right one is debatable; you can’t protect a community that no longer exists, after all. Which is why their statement of doing this to prioritize the health of their online community doesn’t hold much water – it is massively counterintuitive when the option to ban people or remove their comments exists.

As anime becomes more mainstream and pushes more into the forefront of pop culture, moderating the comments will only become more difficult and more expensive. My actual hope is that this is more of a cultural reset within Crunchyroll and they will use this time to build a better moderation system that allows them to remove people who post content that goes against the safe and respectful community environment they say they want to create. Whether that will happen is something else entirely. You can’t expect a billion-dollar company like Crunchyroll to shell out for something as petty as community moderation, can you?

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