Thursday, 7 July 2016

Random Topic: Funimation Now UK Rant

This has been a post that I've been meaning to make for quite some time now. And today I am literally pissed off to the point where I really want to try and get the word out because this is ridiculous. This is more of a rant but I'll try and get my points across.

It's time to talk about Funimation's BETA UK streaming service, once again.

Okay, so a quick recap. Back in January 2016 Funimation have announced they will finally be supporting the UK & Ireland in terms of streaming (and now they're also supporting the physical market with Anime Limited handling the BBFC and distribution). At the time this was awesome news because we have been screwed over many many times now and we can finally have access to the shows that Funimation simply have been sitting on for a couple years. In April 2016 the website was finally up and my thoughts were more-or-less positive. I have written a post with my initial thoughts at the time with some screenshots of the new site if you want to check that out.

Now it's July 2016 and sadly my opinions have rather changed.

Subscriptions are Completely Broken

First things first, let's start off with the most problematic issue I have at the moment. Back in May Funimation would start charging people's subscriptions which is alright because we had a month's worth of free content to try out. However I wanted to change subscription plan to SubPass because I don't want to access the English dubs (I rather save them for when I pickup the Blu-rays instead) plus I wanted to save some cash. Instead of changing the subscription (even though the website acknowledged it), my plan was still on All-Access plus I was charged £6.99 instead of £3.99. I was not happy with this result and immediately contacted support and social media. A day later they finally got in contact with me and refunded my money plus changed the plan to SubPass so that was fine.

A days ago I decided to cancel my subscription as a whole. The main reason was simply due to the lack of interest for the Summer 2016 titles (most of the shows I want to watch are already on Crunchyroll essentially). Today was the day that my subscription would end but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case because they ended up renewing my subscription instead and charge me £3.99 for the month. How did this even get through quality control? Oh, and get this - back in June the site went down due to a DNS server issue and in response Funimation told everyone that they would waive everyone's payment for July plus give trial users an extended two week run. My payment clearly should have been waived but instead it's still the same. You see where I'm getting at here? Yep, it looks as though despite what they promised, it's not happening at all (well for me so far).

In fact this isn't the first time that this has happened, because other people have experienced different issues as a whole. One user was stuck on All-AccessPass but never got charged at all since launch, and another couldn't even change his subscription pass but didn't get charged at the same time, so he's stuck with that respective pass while also technically getting access for free. Another user had a specific account issue where he couldn't even access Pani Poni Dash despite being an All-AccessPass member and the fact that everyone else can access the show without any issues.

Oh and did I mention that you have to make a new account if you want to pay via PayPal instead of using your own card? Or the fact that you can't even delete your own account or even remove your card details. Yeah that's fucked up alright. Crunchyroll doesn't have any of these issues at all in case you're wondering.

The Video Player's Quality Preference

One thing that I want to talk about is the video player. Now this is a pretty difficult part to discuss because this literally depends on your internet connection and device so it will vary across others. For me I do have a superfast broadband plus other sites like Crunchyroll and YouTube play without any issue whatsoever on the highest resolution. What Funimation have done with their player is that they two different settings in terms of resolutions. In the Settings section of your account, you can change the playback details for your video player; stuff like chosen language, quality preference and also Auto-Play. The auto-play part works perfectly fine and I haven't tested out the language part properly but it works fine so far. What I wanted to talk about is the quality preference. There are three setting to this; Low (480p), Medium (720p) and High (1080p). Now this would mean that the player would play to those settings, well it sort of does but that's where the problem lies.

A reminder that these are the settings for Funimation's player.
The problem that I have with the video player is that it's not fixed at all. With Crunchyroll and YouTube the chosen resolution you set for the video stays in that form without changing whatsoever. On Funimation Now the player is not even native to that resolution and simply changes quality numerous times regardless on whether you have a perfect stable connection or not. The worst part is that the buffering is god-awful and I had to pause my video countless number of times to finish a single episode. I know Crunchyroll has this issue as well but that can be fixed with a stable internet connection. I have a stable internet connection and this is literally happening. Oddly enough it managed to play quite fine by using the PlayStation 4 web browser but even that had some quality jumps in the beginning. And the best part about all this is that if you go into the settings on the video, guess what options are available for the quality? Just guess... AUTO. Yep just auto. No 1080p or 720p or even a standard edition option, you are literally stuck with the video automatically changing the resolution no matter what. Who thought this was such a good idea?

Listing the Catalogue

While the big catalogue is strong for the most part, the website's new design isn't the best way to represent it to be quite honest. For starters it only displays 9 pages worth of titles (it used to be 8 before the Summer line-up titles were added) and my big issue with this is that not all of the titles are shown in the catalogue plus there are even duplicates when you change pages back and forth. To add more issues to this, certain titles don't even display on there like No-Rin as an example. In order to find those titles you have to search for them and personally that's not a good way to show off the catalogue as some could assume that they don't even have the title! Heck I didn't know they had some titles until I had to look for them.

As you can see, it's missing a lot of Winter 2016 titles.
Another issue with the catalogue section is the filtering. This has got to me the most rushed part I've ever seen. Not only are there barely any filtering options but it doesn't even list properly! For starters, if you list only the 2016 titles there's only a couple showing up. Why this matters is because I want to able to find out how many titles are available and for that I need various other filters like Alphabetical Order and Newest Addition (this would be very useful because of catalogue titles and seasons getting added for couple shows).

It's worth noting that while the UK won't get every title, there are still a small number that are missing from the catalogue. Perfect examples are Jing: King of Bandits: Seventh Heaven and the Yu Yu Hakusho OVAs; both of these were confirmed to show up on the UK line-up but they're nowhere to be seen at all. North America got the Yu Yu Hakusho OVAs on time while we didn't. Heck we don't even have a schedule section at all so we can't tell what's coming up or what dubs/subs will be available. Speaking of missing titles, it's worth talking about certain titles that are missing a season or two for their respective section. Sure you could argue that they may not have UK rights but here's the thing, they do. High School DxD was one perfect example where the first season was missing while second and third were available, but after many months it's now complete however the others aren't. Titles affected with this issue are Ghost in the Shell Arise (the New Movie movie), Heaven's Lost Property (Season 1 you could argue they wouldn't have UK rights but surely they have the rights for the film), Psycho Pass (Season 1's original run and film is missing but to be fair we do have the Extended Edition), and Selector (with Infected WIXOSS aka Season 1). A bunch of shows that appeared on Animax UK technically should be part of the catalogue as well like Daimidaler: Prince vs Penguin Empire for instance (which is in fact getting a UK release from Funimation themselves).

And My Point?

The point that I'm trying to make here is that the site is not in a suitable position to be made available for the UK & Ireland. Sure the videos work but these issues are not acceptable for the consumers. What Funimation should have done is delay the UK launch and released it alongside the North American version when it hits this September. Yes this is a Beta release but still this ain't a great beta thus far, heck none of us knew this would be a Beta until it launched. They have fixed a few things since but it's not enough personally.

So, if you're a US anime fan and is eager to check out Funimation Now when it launches this September. Just keep your expectations low, and expect some issues.

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Member of the Anime UK News forum, and also once part of the Sheffield Hallam Visual Arts society throughout 2013-2017. Been collecting anime since 2012 and supported the anime distributors ever since. Also been hanging around on the Blu-ray forum and Fandom Post forums.

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