Recently it was announced that FUNimation would begin streaming English dubbed episodes of Dragon Ball Super on their FUNimation Now service. The first thirty-nine English dubbed episodes will arrive on the site today (December 5th 2017). They plan to upload additional episodes in thirteen episode batches, two weeks after the last episode of the batch airs on Toonami.
— Funimation (@FUNimation) December 1, 2017
This is only the latest situation in which Toonami is sharing a dub premiere window with FUNimation Now. There have been five others and each have been a slightly different beast. Dimension W’s English dub premiered on Toonami and was available two weeks later on FUNimation Now. Attack on Titan season 2 premiered on Toonami and was uploaded just a day after that. Lupin the 3rd Part 4, which isn’t even a FUNimation license, is currently streaming on FUNimation Now two weeks behind the Toonami broadcast. Toonami’s latest acquisition, Black Clover is currently airing six weeks behind the dub premieres on FUNimation Now, making it the odd exception as the only show of the five that did not have its English language premiere on Toonami. Now Dragon Ball Super will be fifteen or so episodes behind the Toonami run at all times, which puts it roughly in line with the home video releases. The Toonami crew have often said every deal is different. These examples certainly give credence to that statement.
You might ask why Toonami is not granted a wider exclusive window with these shows. Theoretically, they could draw more attention to the block if it was the only place to watch these series in English. There are several reasons why that is not in the best interest of FUNimation and other distributors but the main one is probably the fact that our Toonami is only legally available to US viewers. There are several other English speaking countries where these localization companies maintain the rights to distribute these series where nobody is airing them. Streaming can fill that void and they fully intend to fill it because if they don’t then someone else inevitably will. That is why I didn’t bat an eye at Attack on Titan being uploaded a day later on FUNimation Now. That’s one of the few ways that FUNimation can curb piracy. To be honest, I’m surprised they’re holding back Dragon Ball Super by a “season” because that is hardly fair to Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and any other English speaking region where Toei is allowing FUNimation to distribute Dragon Ball Super. If I was a dub Dragon Ball fan in any of those regions I’d be pissed. Though I’m pretty sure Toei has a thing or two to do with how FUNimation is uploading Dragon Ball Super. I also can’t help but feel the recent removal of the 8pm hour of Dragon Ball Super and the sudden plans to offer a backlog of episodes on FUNimation Now are not merely a coincidence, but I digress.
I honestly do not believe that this is any sort of sign that Toonami is losing its spot in the market place, especially when it is my opinion that Black Clover is joined Toonami mainly because the companies pushing it see Toonami as a viable way to introduce a broader audience to the franchise. Likewise, Dragon Ball will continue to premiere on Toonami despite the potential for streaming newly dubbed episodes on FUNimation Now. As a bonus, Dragon Ball fans in the US have another way to catch-up if they get behind the Toonami broadcast that doesn’t require them to shell out twenty-five to fourty-five dollars on the box sets. I for one welcome that option and I doubt I am the only one.
The Toonami crew have said it has become harder and harder to get shows in this rat race for exclusive streaming rights and some shows are inevitably going to be out of their grasp due to that but there is still a wealth of shows out there that are not locked up by one deal or another. It is also very likely that shows are more affordable for Toonami if they agree to share them with a streaming service. Perhaps those more favorable deals are precisely why Toonami currently has eight US television premieres. It remains to be seen whether or not sharing the streaming rights to these shows will or has hurt Toonami this year but I honestly doubt it. Those services are catering to different audiences than Toonami for the most part. Toonami can and has coexisted with streaming services in the modern age and will continue to do so in order for these shows to be available to as many people as feasibly possible. “Only Toonami” always had a nice ring to it but it isn’t practical for third-party content to be chained to just one block in one region when the globalization of animation is becoming the norm. “Only Toonami” will have to be reserved for shows that are actually made for Toonami and that actually will give the slogan more legitimacy than ever. At the end of the day we have to remember that we are lucky to have something like Toonami and fans in other parts of the world should not be barred from experiencing these shows dubbed in English for the sake of one television block.