Anime Boston 2007 FUNimation Entertainment
by Mikhail Koulikov,
Anime Boston's first industry panel was conducted by Adam Sheehan, the senior events manager of Funimation Entertainment. Adam opened the panel with a presentation on how Funi's share of the US anime DVD sales market has grown in the last several years. Starting in 2004, the company has been the market leader (according to Nielsen Video Scan), with just under 25% of the market. And in the first three months of 2007, Funimation's DVD's accounted for over 31% of the total anime DVd market in the United States.
Funimation is continuing to develop new ways of bringing anime and related content to fans. Despite some reluctance from Japanese studios, episodes of several Funimation series are now available for individual purchase on iTunes. This program started with Desert Punk, Samurai 7 and Speed Grapher, and has since expanded to also include Gunslinger Girl and Basilisk.
In its Spike TV airings, Afro Samurai gathered an average audience of about 700,000 viewers. It will be released on DVD on May 22 in two versions: edited (as broadcast) and uncut. The uncut version will feature about fifteen minutes of additional footage, exclusive manga-style artwork drawn by Takahashi Okazaki, the creator of Afro Samurai, interviews and character profiles, and the "RZA Music Production Tour" documentary.
After describing Funimation's immediate plans, Adam moved on to talk about some of the biggest series the company will be unveiling over the summer months. The first of these is the second Dragon Ball Z season box set (May 22); this will be the first time the complete Namek Saga will be available on DVD. The first volume of Beck will be released on July 10 with a range of extras. The limited-edition version of the release will include a faux-leather series box designed to look like a guitar amp, as well as a vinyl sticker sheet. Each DVD volume will also contain an exclusive Beck guitar pick and a music video.
The first volume of CLAMP's Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE will be released on May 22. Funimation is still developing some of the ways in which it will be promoting the series, but the DVD extras will include video recordings of cast auditions, a character and world guide, and a special "Faces in the crowd: Cameos from the CLAMP Universe" video that will go over the many and various characters from CLAMP's other series that make their appearance somewhere in Tsubasa. Funimation is also going to be producing convention-exclusive Mokona fleece hats. Finally, Funimation is working to promote Tsubasa on the Gaia Online interactive community. Details of how exactly this promotion will take place will be released by the beginning of June. At this point, the Tsubasa license only extends to the first season and the movie.
As announced on AnimeOnline, Funimation will be producing two different versions of One Piece. The version that Cartoon Network will broadcast will be edited to a significantly smaller extent that the original version that 4Kids produced was. In particular, use of guns will not be edited out. However, because of FCC regulations, Funimation is still not able to show character smoking cigarettes on screen. The violence in the series will also be toned down somewhat. An example Adam brought up specifically was that during fight scenes, the actual impacts may not be depicted. Also, because of both legal reasons and the specific requests of Toei, the Japanese licensor, character names will be kept as similar as possible to those used in Viz's editions of the One Piece manga. At the same time, Funimation will be working on completely uncut 13-episode sets, which will be released at a rate of two to three per year, starting in late 2007 or early 2008. The same actors will be used to voice the characters for both versions. And a major announcement about the future of One Piece will be made at Anime Expo.
At this point, the panel was opened to questions for the audience. While most of the questions asked to clarify some of the points made previously, others dealt with a few more Funimation titles that have been announced over the last two years. In particular, while Slayers and Revolutionary Girl Utena are now finding their way to cable broadcast, Funimation will also be releasing season box sets of Slayers season 1 in July (CPM still maintains the DVD rights to Utena). Mushishi will be another July release, and Sousei no Aquarion is tentatively scheduled for late fall, although no official release date has been announced.
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