Anime Central 2008
by Jason Green,
"We're not going anywhere!" That triumphant statement, courtesy of Funimation events manager Adam Sheehan, came about three-quarters of the way through Funimation's Anime Central industry panel, in response to a question regarding the recent meltdown of Geneon and what former Geneon licenses, if any, Funimation might be pursuing. While Sheehan artfully dodged specifics in his answer, it was clear both from his optimistic tone and the big new license he later revealed (the company's sixth in as many days) that the company is confident in the future of the R1 anime industry and its place in it.
With Bandai delaying its planned announcement and both Viz and ADV deciding to pass on holding a panel, Funimation had the monopoly on big news at Anime Central. But before diving into the big stuff, Sheehan first pushed some of the company's new promotional initiatives, the biggest push going toward its new digital download service, which offers dub-only episodes and complete season packages through iTunes, Xbox Live, Zune, and Funimation's own website, as well as subtitled preview episodes in advance of DVD. Sheehan also touched on the expansion of the Viridian Collection line, stating that future releases would see more robust packaging due to fan complaints, and the company's “Operation Anime” support network for anime clubs.
That was followed by a laundry list of recent and imminent releases from Funimation, many of which — Aquarion, xxxHOLiC, Baldr Force EXE Resolution, the School Rumble OVA, and the Blu-ray Disc release of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles — received little more than a momentary mention. Full trailers were shown for the newly released Shin Chan season 1 box set (a hilariously off-color trailer featuring a surprise cameo by Shin's penis) and the CGI-loaded trailer for the film Vexille.
Sheehan then launched into a hard sell for his company's two big action centerpieces. The mainstay Dragon Ball Z is getting the Blu-ray treatment for the franchise's movies, with the first 2-in-1 release featuring Dead Zone and World's Strongest bowing before month's end. A trailer for Funimation's upcoming do-over of One Piece received one of the day's most enthusiastic responses, the crowd hooting in approval as the words “all-new Funimation voicecast” and “uncut and unedited” were shown. Then, in an odd-bit of new news to announce, Sheehan related that the series Shuffle had been an unexpected success for the company, resulting in an upcoming ender set for the series' sixth volume. The set, it was announced, will feature an unusual bonus feature: a pair of panties emblazoned with the word “GOD.”
It was now time to get to the big news, but first Sheehan walked the crowd through the other five new titles that had been announced earlier in the week. The coming winter sees the release of the all-ages Save Me! Lollipop (based on Michiyo Kikuta's shojo manga, published in English by Del Rey), the more action-oriented Kenichi the Mightiest Disciple, and the single-season boxset of the Gunslinger Girl sequel Il Treatino. Spring of 2009 then follows with Strain: Strategic Armored Infantry and Shigurui: Death Frenzy, a series Sheehan described as “Basilisk on crack” (and given the blood-soaked, downright disturbing trailer that was shown, he doesn't sound far off).
Then came the big announcement: Funimation had secured the license for Studio Gonzo's Romeo X Juliet, which will be released in the spring of 2009 in a pair of half-season box sets. Sheehan had even more up his sleeve, stating that a website, funimation.com/announcement, had been created for fans to enter a contest to guess the company's impending seventh announcement. While fans in the room buzzed with excitement over what else the company could have in the pipeline, those with internet access would discover the not-so-well-kept secret that the company had added the hotly anticipated D. Gray-Man to its lineup.
The Q&A session followed, and the first hot topic of conversation was last year's big license, Ouran High School Host Club, which has yet to see an official release date. While Sheehan stopped short of saying what the release date is, he did say that the show had been put officially put on the schedule, and its release date would be announced at a “special event” on May 30th. Other audience questions included the aforementioned Geneon discussion as well as the fate of Case Closed, which will be continuing in full season box sets of future seasons once the already released material has been compiled.
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