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Anime Boston 2008
Funimation Entertainment

by Mikhail Koulikov,

FUNimation Entertainment's events manager Adam Sheehan hosted the Anime Boston panel of North America's largest anime distributor. Incidentally, Anime Boston 2008 is the 400th anime convention he has participated in as an attendee and industry rep.

As he has at other previous panels, Adam began by going over some of Funimation's ongoing sales and promotional initiatives. 12 different series are currently available for digital download on iTunes and the XBox Live Marketplace service, priced at $1.99 per episode or $38.99 for a full series, while subtitled episodes of Black Blood Brothers can be downloaded to own from Funimation's own website. Funimation is treating digital distribution first and foremost as a way to get fans interested in new series that they may not want to immediately buy DVDs of, and to introduce non-fans to different anime. Nonetheless, the end-goal of any digital distribution initiatives will be to drive the sales of the series DVDs. Funimation's website has also recently been redesigned, with features like an enhanced video section and a list of broadcast of Funimation titles.

The cable FUNimation Channel continues to feature new series from both Funimation and other companies. Funimation's Black Cat, Moon Phase, Peach Girl and Suzuka have recently premiered on the channel, with Ninja Nonsense, Record of Lodoss War and Shingu set to start screening in the coming weeks.

The company is also continuing to promote its Operation Anime club assistance program, the budget-priced Viridian Collection of $14.98-$19.98 single DVDs and $29.98-$49.98 full-series box sets, and the Funimation Green initiative. All DVDs featuring that logo feature packing that uses recyclable materials, printing technologies that use renewable energy sources and cleaner production practices, and paper from forests grown with sustainable techniques.

Of the shows Funimation is currently releasing, Sheehan highlighted Shuffle!, Black Blood Brothers, the One Piece movie, and Aquarion. That show is being used to test how the North American anime market will respond to releases of multi-episode sets instead of four or five-episode individual disks. If it works, Funimation intends to release other future series the same way.

Spring plans include the May 20 street dates for the single-volume BALDR FORCE EXE Resolution series and the computer-animated movie Vexille. These will be followed on May 27 by the standard and Blu-Ray release of the Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone and The World's Strongest movies, packaged together in a single collector's tin. Both films will be remastered in high-definition, digitally restored and with a wide-screen transfer. On the same day, DBZ's Season 5, the complete Imperfect Cell and Perfect Cell sagas will also be brought out, with both Japanese and "newly revised" English-language dialogue. And for a one-two-three punch, the first of Funimation's DVD release of the uncut, Japanese-dialogue One Piece is scheduled for that date as well. One Piece, Season 1: First Voyage will be a two-DVD, 13-episode set, and further releases of the pirate adventure series will follow the same pattern of availability as sets only. The School Rumble OAV (scheduled for June 17) will be the last release of Spring 2008, and the second season of that series will be brought out over the second half of the year. The summer will also see the Blu-Ray version of the Dragon Ball Z: History of Trunks and Bardok specials.

With Sheehan's presentation taking up most of the panel's allotted hour, the audience questions at the end touched upon several older Funimation series. The license for Kodocha was not extended past episode 51, as the company chose to focus its resources on other, more popular series. On the other hand, while it did not work as well as expected in its Cartoon Network broadcast, more Case Closed season box sets are in the pipeline. Finally, while Funimation is extremely interested in acquiring the first 13 episodes of the original Dragon Ball, that license is not currently available.

Update: Peach Girl spelling corrected. Thanks, cetuskun.

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