A still from The Yuzuki Family's Four Sons, showing the low quality subs provided by Crunchyroll.

Um, Did Crunchyroll Use AI For This Anime’s Subs?

These subs are truly awful.

Crunchyroll is one of the most important localization companies in the entire English-speaking anime industry. Owned by Sony, most anime fans have used Crunchyroll in some shape or form before — especially given series like Chainsaw Man are exclusive to the platform.

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Anime fans have long had an awkward and uncomfortable relationship with Crunchyroll. For one, the company has faced multiple lawsuits over the years, including a data privacy case regarding users’ data being shared with Facebook. Now, fans are up in arms over subtitles (or “subs”) on a recent episode release, and whether they indicate a move in a dangerous direction for the anime industry.

What is the Crunchyroll AI controversy?

Midday on Oct. 5, X (a.k.a. Twitter) user @LossThief noticed something strange with the first episode of The Yuzuki Family’s Four Sons. The series premiered on Crunchyroll that same day, and its subs were riddled with poor grammar, awkward phrases, and sentences that simply did not fit the action on the screen.

“Although life without parents feels lonely,” one subtitle reads, describing the titular family’s history, “But [sic] there is nothing we can do, after all, there is no resurrection.”

The Mary Sue immediately found glaring issues with Yuzuki Family within the first few minutes of the first episode. In the opening scene, the character Yuzuki Hayato says, “You going to be late.” A few scenes later, a happy and peppy Uta Kirishima clearly asks protagonist Yuzuki Minato if he is upset, but her dialogue reads, “What’s the matter? I’m in a bad mood early in the morning.”

Over 200 comments have been posted on the first episode’s Crunchyroll page, with viewers claiming the subs “are filled with typos and almost seem computer-generated.”

“I genuinely think this might be machine translation,” @LossThief said on X. “Like somebody took each individual line in a subtitle script and ran it through a program. Every line starts with a capitalized word even when it’s the continuation of a sentence in a previous line.”

Since Oct. 5, @LossThief’s thread has gone viral across the English-speaking anime community. In some cases, fans feared that Yuzuki Family spells the future for Crunchyroll localizations: AI-generated anime subs.

“They finally said ‘fuck it’ and shat out a straight-up [machine translated] anime episode on their service that they charge money for,” Twitter user @fspls said.

This TMS writer watched the first episode of The Yuzuki Family’s Four Sons, and I can confirm that the first episode’s subs were not fixed as of this article’s publication.

So, did Crunchyroll use AI for The Yuzuki Family’s Four Sons?

We don’t quite know. Many anime fans remain genuinely convinced that The Yuzuki Family’s Four Sons went through some kind of AI translation program, as the final result is so low quality and janky that raw translation appears to be the only answer. At the very least, the episode’s subs were likely never edited, given the numerous grammatical and phrasing issues seen throughout the entire premiere.

Even YouTuber Otaku Spirit—who is supportive of AI and prefers it over “translators burning the fandom” by making localizations inclusive of marginalized anime viewers—strongly believes Yuzuki Family used AI. He even did a quick walkthrough of the episode, pointing out various nonsensical and incorrect translations provided by Crunchyroll.

An example of a poorly translated scene in The Yuzuki Family's Four Sons on Crunchyroll.

Of course, Crunchyroll has previously used machine learning and AI technology. In 2020, the company discussed machine learning as a core part of video upscaling for viewers, explaining how this kind of machine-assisted feature provides a higher-quality viewing experience for consumers. Similarly, Google and Crunchyroll partnered together in 2022 to “enhance user interaction.” This included artificial intelligence and machine learning for “product and content innovation.”

“Utilizing Google Cloud’s expertise in data management and analytics, AI and ML, Crunchyroll will be able to better use customer and user insights to inform the development of new fan experiences and future development,” a Google press release on the partnership said. At the time, Google and Crunchyroll did not specify what these developments would be.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Crunchyroll is deploying AI-translated subs with technology provided by Google. But AI and machine learning technologies are clearly on Crunchyroll’s mind. Given the shoddy quality of the Yuzuki Family subs, and a clear growing interest in AI technology from the company, anime fans would be forgiven for thinking the localizer is trying to save money by running translations through an AI.

“Imagine paying money for a Crunchyroll subscription and the promise is that the money will be there to support the industry,” anime fan @XyzStriker said on X, “yet seems like Crunchyroll are doing the opposite.”

Update Oct. 6, 5:54pm CT: A Crunchyroll spokesperson responded to TMS‘ request for comment regarding the series’ subtitle quality.

“Crunchyroll is working with the licensor of the series The Yuzuki Family’s Four Sons for updated subtitles, and we hope to have that version on our platform soon,” the spokesperson said.

(featured image: Crunchyroll)

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Ana Valens
Ana Valens (she/her) is a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship, and sex workers' rights. Her book "Tumblr Porn" details the rise and fall of Tumblr's LGBTQ-friendly 18+ world, and has been hailed by Autostraddle as "a special little love letter" to queer Tumblr's early history. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her ever-growing tarot collection.