crunchyroll president talks about AI generated subtitles

Crunchyroll Wants AI-Generated Subtitles? Yamete!

2 min read

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Anime fans have an intense dislike for AI-generated content. Netflix Japan’s 2023 anime film, The Dog and The Boy, notoriously copped backlash from audiences after it was revealed AI-generated art was used for some scenes.

Last year, to the wrath of anime fans, an LA production studio boasted a fully AI-generated anime series. It received largely negative reviews from fans.

But now, Crunchyroll, the largest English-language distributor for anime films and TV series, has hinted AI-generated subtitles could be an “attractive option” for the company.

Anime subtitles and AI

In an hour-long interview with The Verge, Crunchyroll President Rahul Purini talked about how the company is looking into AI technology:

“AI is definitely something we think about at a lot of different workflows in the organisation. Right now, one of the areas we’re very focused on testing is subtitling and our closed captioning where we go from speech to text.

“How do we improve and optimise our processes where we can get the subtitles done in various languages across the world faster so that we can launch as close to the Japanese release as possible?”

Anime subtitles vs. piracy

Purini’s interview with The Verge comes amid Crunchyroll’s impending merger with Funimation, another giant player in the anime licensing and distribution space.

Purini’s opinion on AI-generated subtitles also arose in the context of piracy in anime distribution. When it comes to the release of anime titles, piracy sites often release episodes much quicker, with subtitles, for free. Thus, the speed in which AI subtitles could be generated is viewed as an option by companies like Crunchyroll to combat that.

Of course, there have been forays made by studios when it comes to the use of AI-generated subtitles. In October 2023, anime fans speculated that subtitles for the pilot episode of The Yuzuki Family’s Four Sons might have been generated by AI.

Crunchyroll removed subtitles for said episode 48 hours after internet uproar.

Simply put: if it is challenging for a human translator to get the nuances of Japanese across to another language, how would an AI system be able to accomplish such a task?


On X, reactions toward Purini’s opinion on AI-generated subtitles are largely negative. One UX developer described the Crunchyroll President’s takes on AI as “baffling”.

“Obviously the real reason he’s interested in AI translation is money. He wants to get TL done even cheaper, even though Crunchyroll’s [staff] is already paid in peanuts. He doesn’t care one bit about quality; he’s probably never even watched an episode of anime in his life,” they wrote.

“The first episode of any anime with AI-generated subtitles uploaded to Crunchyroll and I will cancel my subscription,” wrote another anime fan.