Saturday, July 31, 2010

Is Funi putting all it's eggs in one basket?

Next year seems to be a big year for R1 anime fans. Thanks in no small part to Funimation. They have time and time again blown fans away this year with the myriad of licenses they have revealed. While this is all well and good it has me wondering if perhaps they may be risking to much by licensing this number of shows and movies before they even get return on them. It got me thinking.

For those that don't know over the past 2-3 months Funimation has announced nearly 50 new anime licenses(including rescues) most of which could not have been cheap. A partial list includes: A certain Magical Index, A Certain Scientific Railgun, Black Lagoon Roberta's Blood Trail, Shakugan No Shana II movie and OVA, Dance in the Vampire Bund, Trigun Badlands Rumble, Both Eden of the East films, Hellsing Ultimate 5-7, Darker Then Black 2, Strike Witches 2, Hetaila World Series + Paint it White movie, Okami-san, Everything Tenchi, Haibane Renmei,Rosario + Vampire 1&2, Rideback, Chrono Crusade, Peacemaker, Serial Experiments Lain, Texholyzhe, Moyashimon live action TV series, Summer Wars and perhaps the biggest license Evangelion 2.22 You can (not) Advance. Trust me this is only a partial list and doesn't even come close to listing everything Funi has licensed these past few months. Oh and did I mention the list doesn't count the simulcasts?

After looking at a list like that one may wonder if perhaps Funimation is over extending themselves and grabbing up more then they can handle. Or perhaps are even jumping the gun on some of these series.

There is no doubt it will take an enormous amount of resources to translate and dub that volume of shows and films(and that's not counting money spent on promotion, packaging, printing, shipping and what not). However we have seen Funimation perform well on doing slightly smaller volumes of shows in the past so I can conceive that they could pull this off.

But what about the whole jumping on sequels to soon? While fans are still waiting for the sequel series to shows from a few years ago like xxxHolic Kei and Higurashi Kai new shows are getting sequels nearly instantly(at least as far as anime licensing goes). We are talking Spice and Wolf 2(forgot to add that to the list), Stike Witches 2 and now the Hetalia movie and not even in production yet 4th season. Could funi be jumping the gun on these series? While I loved Spice and Wolf and am VERY happy to be getting the 2nd season I have to wonder if it really did well enough to warrant a sequel. After all it is basically a show about economics. I somewhat enjoyed Strike Witches and of I'm sure it did well thanks in no small part to all the fan service and funi's incredible ad campaign(winning the war on pants anyone?) Hetalia in particular has me worried. While there is incredible buzz online for the show's US release we have yet to even see the DVD's and Funi has already licensed the movie and newer seasons. What happens in the show bombs despite it's online buzz? We have seen in the past that online buzz doesn't equal massive sales. Bandai learned this with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. While the show did well enough to warrant licensing the movie and 2nd season it didn't break any sales records as many thought it would based on the online buzz. It makes me wonder if something similar may happen with Hetalia.

Of further worry is that Funimation is planning a theatrical run for both Summer Wars and Evangelion 2.22. These runs are far from cheap and more often then not cost the distributor money. We never got the numbers from Eva 1.0's theater run but we do know that it was a demand from the Japanese studio that it get a theater run. There is a good chance Funi could lose quite a bit of money on these runs. Unless they are able to get the movies into more theaters which costs far more money and normally doesn't equal the risk.

It will be interesting to see over the next year or 2 how Funi handles the volume of shows they have right now. It will also be interesting to see what else Funi has up it's sleeves as we still have a few cons left this year such as New York Anime Fest. I guess time will tell how well Funi handles the pressure of the sheer volume of shows they have licensed. If they can handle it properly they can make a massive profit and if they don't handle it right they could be the next Geneon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Is Aniplex already fixing it's Mistakes?

So not to long ago I wrote about Aniplex's foray into the US anime market and how it seemed at least to me that they were doing everything wrong and it seemed they were doing everything in their power to fail. However Anime Expo has just recently passed and we saw some encouraging things from Aniplex and after the show even more positive progress was quietly let out.

Going back to my original article there were 3 points that were of major issue. Distribution, Pricing and Lack of dubs or Localization. 2 of these issues seem to be corrected or will be in the near future.

During Aniplex's Industry Panel at Anime Expo the company announced they would be releasing Durarara!! In and of itself great news. However in the announcement came news that they would be dubbing the series as well. Set for release early next year the series will be the first of Aniplex's releases to receive a dub. The question now is why are they dubbing the series? There are a few possible reasons that I can think of.

First is that considering alot of people are cross over fans of the series Baccano!( A series that's always mentioned whenever Durarara!! is) Aniplex may have deemed it a good idea to dub the series as Funimation released Baccano! a year or two ago with a dub. This scenario however is highly unlikely to me for one reason. The Original Gurren Lagann TV anime had a English dub and it's movies still never received a dub.

The other more logical scenario is that Durarara!! is going to be aired on TV. If you remember when Aniplex announced their entrance into the US market they said they would never dub something unless it was intended to be aired on TV. The question here is if that was the case and if they were dubbing it for that reason they would already know it was airing on a TV Channel and it would make sense to announce that along with the series. But they didn't.

So that leaves the question. Are they doing a dub because they have come to realize it will help the show reach a wider audience? Ironically enough during Anime Expo Funimation showed that via their own customer survey that the majority of consumers are dub fans. Is it possible Aniplex figured this out and is dubbing for that reason? It's certainly possible. The answer to this will be if the upcoming series they release have a dub as well. They have already said they had 4 licenses to announce by years end and so far we have only gotten 2. Durarara!! and the Gurren Lagann movies. Regardless of what the future holds one can only hope that they have come to the realization that they need to dub to reach a wider audience and that their future efforts will contain dubs as well and that Durarara!! is not a isolated incident.

Another nice surprise was quietly slipped out after Anime Expo. Aniplex properties are getting wider distribution. Previously the only way to get them was from Bandai's own online website which is notorious for not being very easy to use. However now it seems as if Right Stuf and Amazon will also be selling these products. This move of course gets the products into more hands as these are 2 widely used web sites for Anime fans. Although one has to wonder if this was Aniplex's move or Bandai's as the Gundam Unicorn OVA was also recently listed on Right Stuf when it was previously a Amazon exclusive. Of course this is a Bandai property so it's possible this was Bandai's call however I have a hard time believing that is the case.

So at the end of the day Aniplex has corrected 2 of the biggest complaints people had with their first releases. And considering we have yet to receive pricing on Durarara!! it is also possible they may correct that problem as well. Although the inclusion of a dub in that release will soften in the blow should the price remain similar to previous Aniplex releases. Regardless Comic-con and Otakon are coming up very soon and Aniplex will more then likely have stuff to say so definitely keep a ear open for more news.