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As the Funimation era officially ends, the company's legacy looms large in the anime industry

Anime doesn't look the same without Funimation's dubs

All Might smiling
Image credit: BONES

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April 2, 2024 was a bittersweet day for the anime community. Funimation, the anime distributor turned dubbing studio turned streaming service, shut down its app and set its website to redirect to Crunchyroll, effectively ending its services once and for all. For nearly 30 years, Funimation was at the forefront of bringing anime to the West, earning it an important place in animation history.

It is hard to imagine anime in the US without Funimation. The company was founded partly as a means to localize and distribute the Dragon Ball franchise for Toei Animation, but it would go on to become synonymous with the increasingly popular medium as it slowly gained a foothold in the West. As Dragon Ball became an unstoppable pop culture force, Funimation’s connection to the franchise positioned them to help spread anime in North America.

By the early 2000s, it was their English dubs that would set Funimation apart from most anime distributors. Dubs at the time had a spotty reputation, but Funimation managed to build a reputation with a talented group of voice actors who gave a sense of quality to the performances. Actors like Christopher Sabat, Cynthia Cranz, Sonny Strait, and Justin Cook quickly became familiar voices to fans, popping up in multiple shows as some of the era’s most iconic anime characters.

Related: My Hero Academia watch order: Explore the superhero anime and manga saga in order with our easy guide

The result was a reputation for quality anime dubs that genuinely didn’t otherwise exist at the time. While not every performance was perfect and the studio’s overreliance on the same handful of actors didn’t do the industry many favors in encouraging new talent, the fact that we suddenly had English-language anime that weren’t objectively terrible on our TVs made it that much easier to be a young anime fan at the time. Shows like Yu Yu Hakusho and Fullmetal Alchemist were suddenly so much more accessible and got a whole new generation hooked on anime.

Funimation Logo
Image credit: Funimation/Crunchyroll

Funimation would go on to be the biggest name in anime localization for over 20 years, producing dubs for mainstream hits like My Hero Academia and One Piece, as well as more niche shows like Love After World Domination and Cat Planet Cuties. Their magnum opus, in many ways, was the English dub of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, a production that captured the spirit of the anime so well that the Japanese studio hailed it as the de facto version of the show.

Despite their shortcomings in many areas, such as the critical undervaluing of their voice talent and refusal to hire actors outside the Dallas area until the 2020 pandemic forced their hand, Funimation has been a net positive for the anime community. Their efforts to bring not just the sure-fire hits but also the weird titles that fill Japanese airwaves every year to international audiences gave us all a fuller picture of what anime truly was. Without Funimation, anime would barely be a blip on the pop culture radar in the US.

With the closing of their website and their streaming app shutting down, the name Funimation is disappearing from the world of anime. The company isn’t exactly disappearing – its dubbing duties have been rolled into Crunchyroll, thanks to the 2020 deal that saw the two companies merge under the Sony umbrella. Still, we’ll no longer see that familiar logo at the start of shows or hear the words “You should be watching” whispered just before the credits roll. It is the end of Funimation, but their place in anime history is undeniable.


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About the Author
Trent Cannon avatar

Trent Cannon

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Trent is a freelance writer who has been covering anime, video games, and pop culture for a decade. (He/Him)
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