Just a fair warning, I’m going to be going off on a rant here. Buckle up.
I have been learning German, rather passively, for about two years now. My level is A1, maybe A2 on a really good day. What does that mean? Basically, I have elementary knowledge-ish. So imagine a 3rd or 4th grader’s knowledge of English, and that’s probably where I am with German. I can read it better than I can listen, mostly because reading gives me time to think about it.
In an effort to bring the German language more into my life, instead of only in the language learning apps I use, I decided I would start watching anime in German. Netflix and Crunchyroll both have German audio options. I looked through Netflix, and, out of the 4 or 5, I didn’t particularly want to watch any one them. Enter, Crunchyroll. Oh, Schwarzes Marken has a German dub, great! I’ll watch that.
Let’s Go PS4
It was about 9:30 at night, and I hopped onto the couch to relax and watch a couple of episodes after a long day. I fire up the PS4, open Crunchyroll, and navigate to the show and its German dub. I am then greeted with a very unhelpful error stating that I have no internet. Well, that’s a lie, I’m on the internet, and so is my wife. I try the sub version, loads fine. Weird, let me try again. Oh…same error. In fact, this error happens on any dub that’s not English.
Maybe it’s a bug, I’ll delete and redownload the app. Nice, new icon, so maybe it was a bug and…nope, still broken. Alright, time to try the iOS app. I pull it up on my phone, loads in no problem. Okay…so is it a PS4 app bug? Time to do some Googling.
That’s when I came across an FAQ post, FROM 2 YEARS AGO, “addressing” the problem. They acknowledge there is a problem, and also show the very unhelpful error message that gets displayed, and then follow it up with “shrug”. Their solution seems to be to “…check your language settings and make sure your preferred language matches the dubbed language”. That’s…odd. Okay, let me change… Oh. The only options for me on the PS4 app are “English” or “Default”.
Many questions pop up in my head. Why does my language setting matter? If I can see the German video, and I can click it, why can’t it just play? Why are the videos I can watch being restricted by my default language? If this is a known issue, why aren’t non-default languages hidden by default, since they can’t be played anyway? QUESTIONS!
I’ll Try iOS
FINE! I’ll just watch it on my phone, it worked there. Which, in the same Crunchyroll post, they said it “may not” work, but it works, so…yay? I open the app on my phone, navigate to the show, click the German dub, get ready to watch the show AND…oh let me put on subtitles since I’m not fluent in German. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! The only option for subtitles is German, no English.
How can English NOT be an option? The sub version has, like, eight different subtitle languages…why aren’t those available here? Am I missing something? Dubs only change the audio, right? They don’t change the animation, right? So then why in the hell are all subtitle languages NOT AVAILABLE on every dub?! Why?! It makes no sense!
Alas, defeated, I cry myself to sleep.
The problem I want to address here is the blatant usability issue. The underlying problem is that Crunchyroll lists every sub/dub as separate videos, instead of being in a single video player with audio/subtitle options for the available languages. Why do they even do that? Even in their BETA app, they still do it. As a side note, it also makes their episode “counts” way off.
My first thought is: well, copyright? But…you can easily show/hide the audio options based off the copyright limitations, right? It’s literally the same thing as showing/hiding the videos that are available. Wouldn’t it also be more efficient? Now you don’t have to load video elements for every single episode of every single dub. It truly boggles my mind.
They have to have a reason, right? There must be. This is a company that was just bought by Sony for over a billion dollars. Clearly, there has to be some explanation to this madness.
Anyway. Rant over. That’s all I got.
PS. Crunchyroll…I’m not mad, just disappointed :'(